One friend (who wishes to remain anonymous lest her non-boyfriend reads this) explains: “I’ve been seeing this guy for four months now – we’re dating and see each other a couple of times a week.
However, if anyone refers to me as his girlfriend in front of him, the colour drains from his face.
Of course, there’s always the chance that I’m (shocker) wrong – maybe eight weeks is far too early to call it – maybe I’m going to miss out on swathes of wonderful, slightly indecisive men who need longer than a couple of months to decide if they want to be in a relationship.
They’ll end up with women much more nurturing and patient than I, who realised that all they needed was a bit of time and gentle guidance.
Invariably if the person I’m speaking to has been single at any point in the last decade, then yes, they know exactly what I mean, because if there’s one scenario that’s become endemic amongst myself and my peers, it’s our inability to define a relationship after the first five or six dates. Is it too soon to refer to someone as your boyfriend? If you’ve been on 12 dates with someone, you really don’t still want to be seeing other people do you?
But if you’re not seeing anyone else, and you’re seeing a lot of each other what on earth is it if it’s not a relationship?
The thing is, you can make any excuse you like when you really fancy, or even love someone.
“They’re still getting over their ex,” “they just need more time,” or (ugh) “they’re scared of commitment,” but the fact is when someone meets the right person, they can’t propose marriage, or a joint rental agreement quick enough.
So, from now on I’m sticking to my guns – if you won’t call it after eight weeks, then I’m out of there.
“I’ve never willingly called any of the women I’ve been out with my girlfriends – even the ones I’ve lived with.
I always have to be really pushed into making it more serious – but that’s just the way I am, it’s nothing personal.” I’m not sure I buy this – how would his (lucky, lucky) girlfriend feel if she heard him saying, outright, that he hadn’t been too fussed about her when they got together, and that they’re only together now because of her tenacity?
So, let me help you out with some suggestions next time you’re asked to define your non-relationship: “Well Gran, it’s funny you should ask, there is someone on the scene, we’re: sleeping together/seeing each other/dating/friends with benefits/friends (apparently the same as friends with benefits, but twice as infuriating) /having an affair (it’s unfortunate when, after 12 dates you discover that his reticence to define your relationship is down to his previously unmentioned wife) or wasting each other’s time until something better comes along.” I agree that technology – evil, brain-sapping technology – might play its part here. When I asked for further clarification as to what we were doing he said “We’re friends - you’re my friend.” Hilariously, when the article in question came out, a couple of my other exes read the piece and took credit for that particular quote (hint: it was none of them), which is a sorry example of quite how often I've gone down that particular road. My new rule is, eight weeks – if someone won’t call it after eight weeks, then I’m out of there.
We can be in touch with our potential paramours all the time – via texts, on Facebook, on email – and this constant contact can be misleading – giving us the impression that we’re embroiled in something much more meaningful than we really are. My reasoning being that if someone doesn’t feel strongly enough about me after a couple of months, then they’re never going to feel strongly enough for me to spend time and energy on them.