Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Rules of Attraction: My Relationship Definition Handbook

**amended January 17th (I am expecting a few more, especially as I have yet to chat with one of the most LEGENDARY people I know who has some suggestions. You know who you are ;) )
*amended January 12th

-----This was so popular an required so many amendments and additions that I compiled a second handbook, which can be found here.----

Last night, during a conversation with my housemate, the focus shifted to relationships of the romantic kind. She and I are similiar in SO many ways but the relationship forefront we couldn't be any more different. For example: I can't remember the last time I was truly single. Single meaning not involved in any way. I think it was when I was 15, as I started dating my "first real boyfriend", two days before my 16th birthday (and it lasted two and a half years) She, on the other hand, hasn't had a boyfriend since she was 18. She likes it that way. We make for an interesting mix and perspective.

Let me start this with my goal for 2012, my "New Years Resolution" if you will, is to be single. Maybe not for the entire year, but to engage in some strict "me" time, no distractions from the opposite sex. I wouldn't say I am co-dependent, in fact I don't think I am at all, I just like being in a relationship, I love falling in love, and am a sucker for attention :) But I digress, this isn't about my personal's about what transpired during this conversation.

This conversation resulted in my inventing of a new relationship terminology handbook. The terms may sound familiar, but the definitions are my own, and I think they're pretty logical and should be adopted and followed by all. This list came about because Karen (my housemate) was asking me to explain what I wanted. (uhhh...what?) The first thing I did was list a lot of things I didn't want, and as we explored each thing I began labeling them, and we refined it into this list that I have just written out for all.

Some people may think these are stupid. "Why do I need to define what is going on?" they may ask. Maybe they don't. But I do. I am a control freak, I have to have a direction, and understanding. I don't like the grey area, "not knowing" drives me CRAZY. Literally it leaves me feeling a bit unhinged. I am, by all accounts, relatively laid back and stable, unless I am in undefined territory.

The list may grow and develop new phrases but this is what I've got for now, though receptive to input:

**Friend: Why did I ever leave this one out? I guess it seemed arbitrary to include. Do I even need to define what a friend is? Probably not, but I'll attach an addendum that states that the relationship remains strictly platonic always. There is no romantic attraction between these two people and nothing ever "happens." Those around you will always inquire if you've ever thought about it, why you don't like that person, do you think that person is into you. They may even have some kind of wager that "one night" something will. But really, it won't.

*No Fly Zone (NFZ): This is someone that we want but absolutely categorically can not have. Not because they're "out of our league" (does that even exist?) but because it is morally wrong to get involved with them. It could be as simple as the sister of your ex girlfriend, or your good friends ex boyfriend (though speaking from experience, I have had several of my good friends date my exes and I was ok with it) or it could be something more complicated like your boss, your professor, your friends recently divorced but very attractive parent, or the VERY BAD level meaning someones boyfriend/girlfriend/fiance/e/husband/wife. The fact that you can't have this person makes you want them all the more, it consumes you. You try and justify ways that it could work, how you could be together. Logic escapes you, as does the fact that not only would this never actually work out but your object of affection (in most cases) has absolutely zero interest in you. Hopefully you are relatively normal (apart from your terrible taste in men/women) and that you keep your lustful yearnings to yourself, broadcasting them will just result in disaster...your ego will be crushed and everyone will hate you.

**Unrequited Love (UL): Ah the age old anguish of the Unrequited Love. Person A (The Adoree) is in love with Person B (The Adored) and Person B does not return the affection. We have all probably had a thing for someone who didn't share our sentiments (what an idiot they are!) but what do you do if this person is a good friend? It happens often. Two friends, one looking at the other as their soulmate while the other will never see them as anything other than a friend. Usually the adored is aware of their friends misplaced affection and it can create some uncomfortable situations. The Adored will try their best to extinguish the burning candle while remaining kind and trying to stay friends. The Adoree will either eventually find someone else (but always hold out hope) or cut off contact because it's too difficult to contain their emotions. (Personally, I believe that the big part of UL is the chase. The Adoree has built up this ideal of the Adored and has them on this unrealistic, unnatural pedestal. If a romantic relationship developed, The Adored could never live up to the expectations and The Adoree would be disappointed.)

One night stand (ONS): Not that anyone needs to know, but I've never done this. But I am compelled to include it in my handbook as many people I know do (hello, backpackers!) a ONS is someone you meet out that night (or day I guess) and go home with, hook up with and never see or speak to again. Unless you awkwardly live in a small city and run into them. (From what I'm told, it's better to pick someone from out of town) A ONS is not necessarily someone you've only hooked up with once, but rather hooked up with the first night you met and never hung out again. If you're friends with someone or have a pre-existing relationship with them and you hook up, even if it's only once, then it's not a one night stand. That's just "Yeah, we hooked up once."

**Casual Encounter (CE): You're at a bar/club/party and you run into someone. You kind of know each other, you always found them to be attractive. One thing lead to another and you're leaving together. You either leave after hooking up or sleep over, it doesn't really matter. When you say goodbye it's friendly and casual. A few weeks later you run into them again and the same thing happens. You never call them or text them. You don't make plans to be at the same place, nor do you really even think about them often. It just happens when it happens. You may not even know their last name. This can also be known as an Occasional Shag.

Booty call (BC): Someone you call only to hook up. You call this person for one reason and one reason only. There is no pretense, no dinner drinks or coffee. There's usually not even breakfast the next day because chances are, a sleepover won't happen. The only exception is 1. if you are out late and tell them to meet you at a bar, have one drink and go home or 2. you pass out after hooking up. Though the respectable thing to do is crawl out of bed as dawn hits, no goodbyes necessary.

Fling: This occurs when you have a very short amount of time with someone. It's not a ONS because you hook up repeatedly and it's not a BC or HUB/FWB because it's not sustainable. It usually occurs on holiday, either you're both on holiday and meet, or one person is on holiday in your city. You enjoy each other for however long you can, both on a personal and physical level but there is no question that the fling itself will end when the time is up. Flings aren't necessarily meaningless, you can develop friendships after, and in the rare occasion it can develop into something more serious, but usually it is what it is.

Hook-up buddy (HUB): It was previously F-buddy, but that sounds so crass, and frankly, I still blush when I talk about these things. A hook up buddy is someone you hang out with soley for the intention of hooking up. You think they're (kind of) cool but really your main focus is sleeping with them. You'll do things like go out for drinks or a meal, but after these activities you always-ALWAYS-go home together and hook up. Sleepovers usually occur, but more as a pretense to make it look like no one is being used (although really, they are) Once the physical side of the relationship ends, so do the hang out sessions. You would not be friends without it.

Friends-with-Benefits (FWB): We hear this phrase a lot but what does it really mean? For me, it's just that...a FRIEND that you hook up with. They key ingredient to this is actually being friends with the person, legitimate friends. You genuinely enjoy their company and spending time with them. Some time, after the friendship is established, you start hooking up, however you don't hook up every time you hang out. If it happens, it happens-if it doesn't then that's cool too. The most important thing is to keep the friendship exactly the same, you don't stop going to lunch or watching movies together just because you're hooking up. You keep everything as is, the only difference is that sometimes you end up in bed together. You don't discuss this, or feelings. However, honesty is important. Lines can get blurred easily and if you feel like you're developing "feelings" for your FWB you have to tell them, so that it can stop. It may get a little weird for a while but they're your friend, so it'll be fine. (People say this is one of the most difficult relationships to pull off. I'm not sure I agree. I think people allow themselves to get too freaked out about what it means or how it's affecting the friendship rather than just leaving well enough alone and going with it. Things are only weird if you allow them to be.)

*Inevitable Friendship Slip (IFS): There is an old saying that men and women can't be just friends, and I think that's ridiculous. Of course men and women can be completely platonic. However, sometimes things happen, you're out with your friend, you're partying, you're drinking (hopefully) and one thing leads to another and you wake up in their apartment with a pounding headache and sickness in your stomach. You've never even THOUGHT about them in "that" way. You swear to yourself that it will "never happen again" (a promise that you'll actually keep) You will most likely spend a significant part of that morning and following weeks being extremely uncomfortable around your friend aka "the mistake"...wondering if you've ruined the friendship, if the other person has been secretly into you all this time, or if they're just as weirded out as you are. I think this the INS is a pretty common scenario and it's sad that friendships are ruined over it, because they don't have to be. Yes, things will feel a bit uncomfortable for a while but that will pass. The trick is not to force anything...unlike FWB you shouldn't pretend like everything is the same. Hope that you were drunk (though a lame excuse because if alcohol were really an excuse we'd be hooking up with everyone whenever we were drunk) Acknowledge the situation, laugh awkwardly, and then spend some time being very busy. The next time you catch up, things will be fine. Just don't, you know, repeat your mistake. Or tell them they were a mistake. That's just mean.

**The Distraction (TD): The Distraction is someone you take into your life because you need them to distract you from a much larger issue. TD's presence in your life makes you focus on them instead of whats really bothering you. Usually when you first meet them, you convince yourself that they're some kind of wonderful but it's usually just part of the overall denial you're engaging in. In fact, if you were really honest with yourself you would realize that you don't even really like TD, but you just keep a hyper focus on them anyway as it's easier than being miserable about something else.

Casual Monogamy (CM): Karen laughed out loud at this one. She said, "There's no such thing." I think she is forgetting that this is MY dictionary so if I want this to exist then it will. I'll admit it sounds a little weird, but just work with me on this one. Casual monogamy is another term for "exclusively hooking up"...but without any of the drama that feelings and a relationship can bring. This kind of relationship occurs with someone that you like, you're interested in as more than a friend but you don't want them to be your "significant other." You spend time together, talk about real things, and hook up but just not have it be serious. Maybe it's because you aren't ready for commitment or maybe there are circumstances keeping a serious relationship from occurring, either way this is low key and relaxed, however you are not ok with them hooking up with other people.

Dating: I have always felt like there is a big difference between dating someone and having them be my boyfriend. Dating is just that, meeting someone you like, and going on dates with them. Usually you are into them and exploring the option of a future so won't do anything stupid like hook up with them too early on. Dating is being interested enough and also receptive to the possibility of a real committed relationship. Feelings develop. On a side note: dating is not exclusive. While you are "dating" someone you are perfectly within your rights to go on dates with other people as this is just an exploratory activity to see if you WANT to be with the person. I wouldn't advertise it but I wouldn't lie about it either. (This is also why it's good not to hook up with people you're dating, because it can get gross of you're juggling) Once you and the person you're dating decide to "make it exclusive" then you're in a committed relationship. I'm sorry, people, but it's true. I know many of you (especially men) have issues with the label "boyfriend" but GET OVER IT...if you're into someone enough to only see them, then that's what you are. It's only scary if you let it be. (On a personal note, dating freaks me out. It feels so formal and contrived. Going on a date for me is totally nerve-wrecking. My last boyfriend tricked me into dating him by not asking me out, just saying things like, "I'm hungry, want to get lunch?" he did this for a while before taking me on a "real date", one that I turned him down for until he explained, "We've been dating for a while, this is no different." which didn't ease my nerves at all.)

Committed relationship (aka boyfriend/girlfriend/partner): These are by far my favorite. The definition is pretty straightforward...a committed relationship is when you like someone enough that you want to be with just them. You adore being in their presence and exploring the world with them. You find them interesting, funny, attractive...they bring out a side in you that makes you feel better and be nicer. You make plans with them, meet their family, and actually do things like picture a future. Maybe there won't be a future but still, you start to factor them into your decisions. You let them see the real you, you fight, you cry, you fall in love. You're faithful. You're honest. Within them you discover new things about yourself without losing who you were in the past (maintaining independence is really important---time and time again I see people go from being awesome to being lame because they're in a committed relationship. I understand that priorities change, that you have to balance more than you used to but it IS possible. I had a boyfriend for four years, we lived together, yet we maintained our own lives. I don't think our friends could complain that they didn't see us. We had "us time" but we also had "me" time. You had a life before, so why give it up?) It's no secret I am happiest in this kind of situation, it mellows me out but it's only a positive experience if both people are equally committed and have the same views. Once it goes awry it's best to walk away.)

**BF-EX: Sometimes two incredible people date, and despite being wonderful individuals, simply can not make a romantic relationship work. It's odd how that happens, how you can like everything about someone but yet once you're with them it just...fails. A BF-EX is someone you used to be romantically involved with, who you have nothing bad to say about (despite breaking up) so are now considered among your closest comrades. These make for the most phenomenal people to have in your life because they know you on a level that very few can. They've seen you at your most endearing and at your failures, which means they can not only offer you great love-life advice, but they're also a fantastic support system. They understand you, and genuinely care about you (as you do them) Things don't feel awkward or taboo with them, and inhibitions are pretty much non existent. When you're with them, you have worlds of fun. Sometimes you may find yourself wondering what it would be like to get back together with them, but you like them too much to ever risk it. (Side note: I'm really good at these)

*Ex-Factor: This is pretty obvious. We break up with a significant other but continue hooking up with them for whatever reason. Exes are rarely exes anymore, are they? Whether you share mutual friends or a passion for sleeping with one another, it's more commonplace these days that exes are a part of our lives. Hooking up with an ex is never a smart idea, even if "we're totally over them" because in actuality, if we're sleeping with them then we're not. Some women I know use their exes as "BCs" because "they don't want to add a number" (I think that's pathetic-does anyone ever care about that anymore?) My primary issues with Ex-Hookups are: a) there are deep rooted feelings somewhere and b) engaging in such activity is giving your ex some kind of power, like they can still have you, and I don't like that. (This might be my own personal neurosis) but then again the Ex has a lot of appeal---we feel comfortable with them, we know their likes and dislikes, we are aware of what we're getting ourselves into (nothing worse than a disappointing hook up session) While we might lack the emotional connection that was once there, it is replaced with some kind of raw animalistic nature that gives us the uninhibitness of a ONS with the stability of a committed relationship. Just be warned: this is never sustainable. Someone will get hurt, usually when the other decides to stop this game.

Engaged: I shouldn't have to explain this one so I won't.

Married: Again. It should be obvious. That being said, my personal view is that: a) it's something I want eventually b) I believe in the sanctity of it c) it should be for life. (unless there are circumstances such as domestic abuse) I could go on about how I believe a marriage should be but I am not qualified yet to discuss it. My views would be idealistic and perhaps not practical.

That being said, this is all hypothetical, since I'm, you know, staying single for 2012. Just thought there should be an across the board even playing field for all.

*Thanks to everyone who has messaged me about this blog, it was great to read all of your comments and hear your thoughts. I'm also glad that my interest in the way relationships work seem to resonate with others. One thing I didn't touch on (which I was asked about) was how to upgrade from one relationship to another (ex: FWB to Committed Relationship) the reason I didn't discuss that is because I have no idea Believe me, I wish I did, but I tend to stumble through a series of repeated errors in my own relationships. I can identify, that's about it.


  1. Great post! I especially like the new term 'casual monogamy', I think it covers the tick-box of short-term dating which is often found on dating websites. In fact, the only problem I can see here is when you think you're enjoying one stage .. and your partner thinks they're enjoying another..!

    (Also great to hear you're putting yourself first for a while!)


  2. haha thanks :) casual monogamy is my favorite right now. In fact, I think that's what I'm going for if when I jump back into the dating scene. I do agree, however, that it can be difficult to execute as feelings from each party will surely not be on the same level, but as a concept, I'm attracted to it. xx

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