Why is it that we encourage each other to confront questionable situations in every area of our lives but romance? From what I’ve picked up, there seems to be a stigma around amorous clarification. And after talking to people around me, I’ve realized this stain on communication in our casual relationships is rooted in self-doubt and vulnerability. We prattle about “living in the moment” when the exhilaration is at a high, and then wind up in a mental ditch when we find out the other person doesn’t want the same things as us. Most of the time, we let the risks of redefining our romances trump the potential rewards. Of course riding the wave with closed eyes could appear sexy and impromptu, but ride with eyes shut long enough, and you’re bound to crash. And let me tell you, washing up in the deep end doesn’t feel so sexy.
No matter what side of the relationship you’re on, it’s foolish to assume the other person will know what you want from them if you don’t tell them what you want from them. And when the queries you’ve been keeping quiet start to knit a quilt of cynicism and qualms, the few times they called you beautiful won’t satisfy like they once did. Soon you’ll hear each of their words become one of your doubts; every touch will turn into a question. It’s become so common to assume that publicly holding hands implies a relationship, that a 2 AM booty call implies getting emotional is off limits. But who says? You would think that with all this technology we could at least have some decent communication. We let the fantasy of an implied common ground keep us afloat in the midst of the anti-cathartic chaos our uncertainty is causing. But common ground doesn’t exist unless common ground is discussed and decided on by all parties involved.
Asking for clarification is freeing; it’s also unnerving and extremely hard to do. When is the perfect moment? What if they don’t feel the same way? Will I ruin everything? Of course we’re bound to wonder the inevitable questions, but the only question that really matters is am I willing to possibly trade in my conditional happiness for peace of mind?
This past October, I sat on the 1 train, looking up at my friends, their hands clutching the subway pole a bit tighter than usual. I think at that point, we’d all been through it one way or another, all a little heartbroken from the current confusion or end results of our own situations. All coming out of different circumstances, we had only one thing in common: we were the ones who’d been hurt. The more the girls told stories of picture-perfect days followed by painful, poetic sadness, the more I came to realize that our pretty faces wouldn’t have been plastered with pouts if we’d known what we were getting ourselves into earlier. So why did we wait so long to shoot the breeze and figure out what was really up? Now it was too late and our epiphanic understanding of our bygone flings’ intentions didn’t mean anything, and never would.
“Should I just ask him what he thinks we are?” I asked.
The responses: “You’re joking right?” “You don’t want to be the ‘what are we’ person!” “Absolutely not.”
Honestly, I was confused. What the hell was the “‘what are we’ person”? And if taking that position was so embarrassing, was I just supposed to learn to love being in the dark about the stature of my puzzling situationship? None of it made any sense to me. It still doesn’t.
Where does this smirch on vulnerability even stem from? Avoiding momentary weakness is the weakest thing you can possibly do! These go-with-the-flow facades we’re putting out into the world are misleading and uber-hypocritical. Making believe that you don’t care is simply a double-edged sword: on one end, you’ve given yourself an obligation to keep up this nonchalant “cool girl” act; on the other end, your failure to divulge any raw feelings only makes the other person more hesitant to speak up about their intentions if they feel the need to. Immediately, the lack of disclosure suffocates and eliminates the idea of any real relationship forming.
You know what they say about assuming...
And on that note: if you’ve been busy assuming that you’re in a relationship, but you haven’t taken the time to actually discuss your status with that certain someone, it might be a good idea to face the music and have that dreaded conversation. Truly, it can go either way. You might just end up where you wanted to be. If two people aren’t on the same page, there must be a legitimate reason for that. If feelings aren’t verbalized, the relationship will be forever stuck in a one-sided limbo. You’ll eternally be thinking one way, while your “partner” is consistently thinking something totally different. But how to go about defining the relationship depends on what you want.
FWB (friends with benefits)
Keeping it casual can seem impossible when it comes down to the logistics, but sometimes you just can’t help the desire to ditch the candle-lit dinner and undress. You might be going out with someone for a little while and get the feeling that the sex drive runs high but the emotions lack luster, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If there’s a mutual fancy for a bit of fluky fun, then so be it! But you’ll never find out if you never bring the topic up. If all goes as hoped, you both won’t have to sit through any more awkward coffee dates before getting to business!
Sealing the deal
So maybe, just maybe, you’ve gone and done the undoable: you caught feelings. We all know that when that happens, the appetite for answers becomes invigorating. Mixed signals are the last thing you want to be receiving from the person you’ve been sweet on. If there have been rendezvous, make outs, and maybe more, but no labels of any sorts, you might have to come down from your libido and lust and realize that the two of you aren’t as exclusive as it may feel to you. Can that be acutely vexing and discouraging? Yes, but that doesn’t mean a fairy-tale ending is off the table. Even showing a simple expression of interest in a romantic commitment can spark something in your crush that wasn’t there before. A lot of times we don’t know how to take a hint until it’s forced into our hands.
It’s easy to forget that any relationship, whether it’s strictly sexual or one of soulmates, is two-sided! We also seem to forget that romance is extremely exhausting. And sometimes, the stress relief is worth an ounce of embarrassment. At the end of the day a clear rejection is better than an assumed promise. Don’t wait for the other shoe to drop—kick it off yourself. Then, slip on a prettier pair and pick a different path to walk along.