It happens to the best of us; one minute things are progressing nicely, the next you’re hung out to try and left with nothing but your own bitterness for company.
Is that a possibility? What happened? What went wrong? What did I do? Well, there’s nothing for it, let’s start from the beginning. Onward-ho!
Part 1: Budding Relationship Or A Fling?
Initially, there is no clear dividing line between relationships and flings due to the fact that both stem from casual dating. You meet, you get to know each other, and the rest is history.
At some point however, if strong emotions become involved, and there is a desire to escalate the bond into something bigger, commitment will emerge in order to allow compromise and romantic co-existence.
This is where friction can occur, and this is precisely where I’m going to start digging. The question is, how do we measure a partners willingness to commit? And what does that commitment actually mean with regards to erecting a long-term relationship?
Signs of commitment
- Commitment is often selfless in nature: Whereas a fling is almost always a product of satisfying personal criteria. A partner who is only in it for the fun will balk at the prospect of compromising.
- Commitment requires effort: Perceiving and allowing for a partner’s needs (beyond the trivial) means the willingness to take a hit and put in some work.
- Commitment is objective: A fling is usually denoted by a wild, passionate or impulsive set of behaviors rather than a cool, weighted approach to romance. Yes, this is a generalization that may not be entirely accurate, but if the glue that keeps you both together is “excitement” or “getting over our respective exs”, ask yourself what that means once the chemical romance wears thin (and it will).
It is worth noting that measuring commitment is a long-term affair, because making a short-term effort is just too easy to do. As boring as it sounds, and yes I’m aware that I sound like something out of Wuthering Heights, consistency is a hallmark of successful long-term relationships.
In short, just because your partner went out of his/her way to do something nice (that one time), doesn’t necessarily mean that things are getting rosier. But it is a good sign.
It is also worth nothing that I’m not trying to sell the idea that fun means you’re being used. Just that a fling that is looking to escalate will mean both fun and commitment (where necessary).
Not making assumptions
Resentment and blame games often result when we realize that what we understood to be a budding relationship was only a bubbling cauldron of hormonal fun.
From the get-go, it pays to make as few assumptions as possible regarding how our partner views dating in general.
I recall a personal moment of enlightenment, when, still giddy from getting a date from my crush at the time, I was mockingly told that, “you realize dating isn’t an exclusive thing, and that I’m dating other guys as well right now?”.
Yes, how naive of me.
However, the larger point is it never occurred to me that my own set of standards and world view might have been different from the person staring at me from the other end of a coffee table.
How does this translate into answering the fling question? Simply that just because the actions and behaviors of our partner in crime may mean something to us, it may well mean something entirely different to them. For instance:
- Some view being gifted flowers as a sign of commitment, and others as a cheap gimmick to pave the way for sex.
- Some view the goal of dating as a path towards a long-term relationship, others date freely knowing fully well they never intend to commit.
- Some are looking for sex, others for intimacy.
It is important to realize that unless you are being flatly deceived, it is not wrong to define dating the way we personally want to.
With this is mind, it is imperative that we figure out what our partner means when they meet us for a drink, and what their understanding of the situation really is.
Part 2: Decoding Intention
On mind games and mixed messages
Strong communication promotes transparency, and allows us to make critical decisions without resorting to resentment. The problem is, given the stakes involved, it is an extremely difficult habit to adopt. And if you’re reading this article, chances are either or both of these reasons are coming into play:
- You’re feeling insecure because the stakes are high.
- Your partner is giving you mixed signals.
At the end of the day we can’t rely on anyone but ourselves to inject clarity into the proceedings. There is no easy way, no timeless trick, to have someone cough up their intention and lay it all bare.
The only way we can get to the bottom of this particular enigma is by erecting strong boundaries and — unfortunately — taking a leap of faith (let’s call it an educated guess).
Obviously, if you know your partner:
- Lies about dating other people at the same time (being honest about dating others isn’t a bad sign, at least they are being transparent and are allowing you to draw your own conclusions and adjust your own expectations).
- Has a history of being all over the map. Which fundamentally means that are inconsistent and that their level of commitment and intensity varies on a daily basis.
- Has been repeatedly caught in a lie.
- Makes absolutely no effort to make space for your needs.
- Seems to define the relationship one-dimensionally (sex, drugs, etc).
Then your guess is never going to be accurate, and all bets are off.
Part 3: The Good News
Good signs: A cause for optimism
At last. Despite the gloomy tone of the first part of this article, it’s not all hard work or confusion. And there is always cause for a celebratory cheer given the right signals. If you’re hoping for romantic escalation, then look out for:
- A partner who demonstrates the willingness to meet you half way. Literally, or figuratively.
- Seems more than passingly interested in peripheral aspects of your life; getting to know family, friends and your history (they’re not just fishing for future booty call fodder).
- Is generally patient and willing to wait, and doesn’t just disappear or pressure you into “keeping up” with whatever tempo they dictate. Consistency, remember!
- Makes an effort to communicate. They won’t run the risk of being misinterpreted or misjudged. This means both with regards to being clear, as well as being timely (they won’t let that text stew for 8 hours if they know they risk alienating you).
- Your gut instinct tells you so. Don’t neglect our remarkable subconscious ability to suss out romantic friend from foe. While deciphering body language is mostly subconscious, it does materialize into having a general good or bad vibe about someone, so keep that one locked in mind. If they’re giving off an iffy aura, there’s probably a reason.
And there you have it, a hundred different ways to confuse you further! All joking aside, I really do hope this has been food for thought, and if you have any questions or concerns feel free to drop me a line in the comment section!