Terms of Dating (or is it “Going out”?)

My friend recently wrote two scripts for a television show, just for fun.  They are both hilarious, but one part stuck out…

KATE: Things not go well with the boyfriend?
ALLISON: He’s not my boyfriend, Chloe called him that too.
KATE: What would you call him then?
ALLISON: We’re just going out. We’re not even dating.
KATE:  What’s the difference?
ALLISON: Going out means we’re just hanging out, could be friends. Dating implies benefits but is non-exclusive. A relationship is exclusive dating.

I read this, and cracked up.  Not because it’s particularly funny, but because it’s so true: When it comes to dating, everyone speaks a different language.  I have definitely tried to explain to my parents after college how I could be dating a girl but not going out with her. I can’t tell you how many variations of this conversation I’ve had.

For the record, I actually disagree with the quoted terminology — as you might have gleaned from the prior paragraph.  And that’s exactly the point.  No one can ever agree on what words mean what.  Boyfriend and girlfriend?  Great, everyone understands.  You’re just dating?  Half your friends will think one thing, your parents will think another, and your grandparents will probably think you’re betrothed.

For some reason, the stages before a true exclusive relationship are confusing as hell to name.  Probably has something to do with the fact that the actual stages themselves can be confusing as hell, but I digress.

Not too long ago, a friend and I realized something: there are clearly stages.  Everyone agrees on that.  It’s the terms that cause the confusion.  So let’s get rid of the terms!

Here we go: three stages, but no confusing terms like “dating”, “friends with benefits” “going out”, “seeing each other”, “hooking up”, etc:

Stage 1:  You have no commitments and are doing whatever you want with whoever you want.

Stage 2:  You have committed to one person, but haven’t talked to that person about it.

Stage 3:  You and one person are committed to each other, and have talked about it.

See?  Easy!

Here’s the kicker.  Let’s pretend Allison is at Stage 1, and has gone to the movies with Steve, had dinner with Danny, and slept with Mike.  If Mike, Steve and Danny are all at Stage 1 as well, there’s no problem.

But let’s say Danny is at Stage 2 and thinks “I’m going to go for it with Allison”, and Allison is still at Stage 1, then there’s a problem.  Allison is still going to have her fun, and it’s going to mean more to Danny, who will likely eventually have his heart broken.

I would also argue that it’s best to progress up the Stages sequentially.  It’s healthier and allows both people to make up their minds, rather than jumping to Stage 3 for the sake of having commitment.

This is hugely generalized, but what do you think?

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