Finding The Right Label
If you think someone is the bee’s knees and they might not even know you exist, you’re crushing on someone. Conversely, they might know they exist. They might like you, too. But other than talking and hanging out, if no one’s made the first move, you’re still just crushing on someone.
If you’re being blatantly obvious that you’re crushing on someone, and they’re talking about other girls or other guys and are asking you for advice or help with landing the opposite (or same,) sex, or call you “bro, man, homie,” or any other generic, genderless term of affection, you’re just friends. You are in the friend-zone. Even if they were stupifyingly drunk, you’re probably not getting any. Also, you could just be friends if they’re someone that you’ve never had a single sexual thought about, and the same is true for them about you. Caveat: If you’re NOT being blatantly obvious that you’re crushing on them, now might be a time to start, because if they DO also like you and you say nothing, you will still get stuck in the friend-zone. Not, as I hope you want to be, in at least the next classification, where sex is involved.
If you’re having sex and he’s never hinted at or tried moving things out of the bedroom or car or motel room (other than to change location for sex), you’re hooking up. Also classified as fucking, or being fuck buddies.
If he takes you out more than twice and drops cash on you, no matter how much or how little it is, and keeps making noise about wanting to keep taking you out and/or treating you— you’re dating. And he’s a keeper.
If you’re spending time together, going out, sleeping together (both sexually and physically in the same bed), in each other’s top 5 contacts lists, and have met the important people in each other’s lives— roommates, friends, parents, etc.— you’re seeing each other. Now, there are two classifications to seeing each other: casually, and exclusively. “Casually” implies that there’s been no exclusivity talk or commitment; that if you don’t see him a certain number of times in a week, it’s cool, and that both of you respect each other’s social lives without needing to be in it 24/7. “Exclusively” just means that you had that chat where you said that you only want to be with the other, and you now have an excuse to castrate him with the closest dull yet pointy object if you catch him with another woman after that conversation.
Another word that you can use in place of “seeing each other” is that you’re together. He knows that you’re together. You know that you’re together. Both your friends know that you’re together. The people that see you out and about know that you’re together. But just like the difference between “casually” and “exclusively” seeing each other, that girl who he’s chatting up at work when you’re not there might not know that you and he are together. So get it confirmed in conversation if it’s going to bug you. Or if it’s been a few months that you’ve been “together.” Then, it’s just time to shit or get off the pot. While relationships aren’t about sprinting through the classifications or steps, they generally do need to progress, though it takes time to get to know someone, and if you’d like to go to the next level with them. Exclusivity is always the next step in the relationship at this point— it just takes some people longer to work around to it than others. And if he won’t give you his exclusivity, or if you’re unwilling to stop trying to get with other people, then it’s time to end it…
…AKA: break up. You can use the term “break up” to describe what happened with anyone at any point after hooking up— it’s just easier and clearer what you mean that way, rather than saying “we’re no longer communicating,” which means you could still be fucking, just not talking. (Hey…it happens.) Even if you were just sleeping together, if you’re not anymore, if you had a nasty conversation about why you won’t be anymore, you broke up.
NO ONE is anyone’s boyfriend or girlfriend until the question is raised and the ok is given to refer to them as such. This would mean that you need to either say, “Hey, would it be ok if I called you my boyfriend?” or he says “I’d like you to be my girlfriend.” Even if y’all have been dating and sleeping together for two or more months, if you haven’t talked about it outright, he ain’t yo boyfran, as my friend Caiti would say. In which case, if he does something above and beyond what he needs to do in your current status, you can tell him he’s the best “not-boyfriend" ever. Or if you do something above the call of duty for him or his friends, you’re allowed to comment on the fact with your friends that it officially made you the best not-girlfriend ever. The “not” is the most important part of this phrase. It shows that you’re aware of the fact you don’t have this label, yet are perfectly capable of and willing to do the things that would come with it. Strangely, I prefer the title “not-girlfriend” to that of “girlfriend.” I think it’s because it means I care about someone enough that I’m willing to do what I don’t really have to, just because I want to do it. Caveat: Sometimes it’s easier not to fight society’s previously conceived conventions and try to explain that someone is not your boyfriend. In these cases, either grin and bear it, as we talked about earlier, or correct them if it really irks you that much, or you feel that you need to our should. If you’re stuck for a term to correct them with, “significant other" covers it well as a blanket term. A "significant other" is someone who is the most significant other person in your life that you’re in a relationship with— be it a not-boyfriend or not-girlfriend, or a not-quite-yet-fiancée, or your baby-daddy who isn’t thinking about making an honest woman out of you yet, but is in your life and supportive.
If you’ve moved on to seeing each other exclusively, and have had the labels conversation, you’re in a serious, committed relationship. You might now be going on vacations together, be invited to each other’s family events, thinking of signing a lease together, or he may have started casually browsing the front window displays of jewelry stores. (Note— this classification is highly age and maturity regulated.)
If you signed a piece of paper together, exchanged rings, and remember saying “I do,” I hate to break it to you, but you’re married. That is the only time it is appropriate for anyone to call your girl “the wifey.”
And now for the toughest term— a relationship. A “relationship” can be taken a few different ways. You have a relationship with your parents. You have a relationship with your friends. You have a relationship (and probably, some sort of understanding,) with your landlord. And you certainly have a relationship with the person of the opposite or same sex in your life, regardless of the fact if you’re just fuck buddies or if you’re in a serious, committed relationship. One of my exes explained it this way, and tricked me into a relationship with him in doing so, which was probably the most clever act a man has ever pulled on me as well as the only way a guy could wrangle me into something: “Technically, we’ve already had relations (read: sex), so whether you like it or not, we’re now in a relationship.” It’s true— sex changes things between two people. So does him taking you out, even if you haven’t slept with each other yet. And if he’s spending nights with you, that’s another step up the relationship pyramid right there— not only are you together, but you also have a different relationship as bed partners. (He steals the sheets, you kick, and you’re both learning how to deal with the other one while asleep.) So, if you have a different relationship with him that exceeds your friendship, no matter what it is, from sleeping together to being engaged, you’re in a relationship with that person. Again, it can be serious or not serious, but dynamics between the two of you have changed.