Once upon a time, in a sorority house far far away, a young columnist desperately tried not to imitate Carrie Bradshaw, her favorite Sex and the City heroine. Week after week she avoided writing about relationships. But as the end of the semester rolled around she was faced with too much material. Too many signs pointing in the direction of beginning her column like Carrie would. A screen panning across her iBook as she typed “are non- relationships the new relationship?”
So yes, this columnist gave in.
Because everywhere I turn these days I watch people in non-relationships with their non-significant-others looking pretty relationishippy to me.
What exactly is the deal?
It seems to me that campus is filled with couples having non-relationships. The kind of partnership that looks, feels, tastes, and smells just like a real couple but turns out that neither person involved wants “a relationship.” In theory this seems like the perfect plan, but eventually every non-relationship will face its share of problems. Just as the following did (names have been changed, not to protect the innocent, but to let the cast of characters finally have the names they always dreamed of).
Lauren and Max had been set up for Lauren”s first sorority date party in September. They had a great time together and really hit it off. In the coming weeks, they would casually hook up on the weekends when they saw each other. Soon the non-relationship began to escalate as they started to learn more and more about each other. They were talking on the phone and chatting it up just like boyfriend and girlfriend. But Max was planning on going abroad next semester so they both knew there was no point in getting too close and too deep into a relationship. This seemed like a good idea until it became difficult to distinguish where exactly to draw the line with this “relationship.”
Were they allowed to hook up with other people? Were they allowed to question each other”s whereabouts on the weekend?
If they weren”t officially going out, the the answer would probably be no. But they both wanted to ask. Their non-relationship had turned into a classic relationship.
Meanwhile, in an afternoon psychology discussion, Casey and Ryan had exchanged innocent flirtations for over a month. Soon their study sessions had turned into more than a vocabulary review. As things heated up, Casey and Ryan really began to fall hard for each other. Both were coming out of long term relationships and agreed that going out would spoil all the fun that they were having just being “friends with privileges.” As the months went by no one, including themselves, could tell the difference between a normal couple and this couple. They were going out weren”t they? Or were they? Casey began to feel frustrated by their non-relationship, feeling that it either had to move forward or end. Their plan to avoid the “relationship talk” had failed and they were both forced to examine exactly what they wanted out of this non- relationship.
Dorielle and Brandon had a different sort of problem. They had gone out for two years in high school and when they both were leaving for college they decided that breaking up would probably help them both to grow as individuals. They wanted to turn their hard-core relationship into a friendship. This wasn”t as easy as it sounded. They couldn”t help but talk on the phone, become jealous of each other”s lives, and say “I love you” as they hung up. Yet, they still denied having a relationship. They had to fess up to the truth in order to see the error of their non- relationship ways.
On the other side of town, Alyssa and Jared struggled with an issue of their own. Alyssa desperately wanted to get out of her non-relationship. It had become too much like her relationships of the past routine and lame something she had tried to avoid all along with Jared. She was faced with a classic problem: How could she break up with someone she wasn”t going out with? She tried “the phase out” a desperate attempt to nonchalantly stop hanging out, calling back, hooking up. But it was too hard. She couldn”t do it. Her tactics that had worked with past boyfriends were failing with her non- boyfriend.
I”ve noticed from my extensive research on these non-relationships that a good idea in theory does not always pan out in romantic reality. Yet, this new take on a relationship is a trend spreading like wildfire in the dating, or non-dating, world. If people would stop being so scared of commitment then relationships would finally be accepted again. Sometimes the struggle to avoid a relationship at all costs is more trouble than admitting to one to begin with.
Rebecca Isenberg can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.