Don't Get Stuck In The Gray Area: Why Dating Should Be Black Or White

by Erika Huber

You’re having a “thing” with this guy in your building. You’re “seeing” this girl you met at the bar, but you kinda of think she’s “seeing” other people, too.

You go to the movies and get Chipotle on weeknights. You left a few articles of clothing in his apartment, which have remained there for days, and he doesn’t seem to mind.

You ask her if she wants to go to a concert with you that is two months away, and she says, “Sure!”

You’ve been hooking up for months now, so the relationship is exclusive, right?Maybe. Maybe not. One thing is for certain: If you can't define this "thing" you have with the person you're seeing, you're officially in "The Gray Area."

Lingering in the "The Gray Area" will eat you alive. Not knowing where you stand with someone who you want to have a serious relationship with is a form of torture that many of us know, hate and for some reason, continue to endure.

While it’s extremely unfortunate, it’s also very common for one person to dictate where the relationship is going while the other person is blindly dragged along.

Maybe we keep playing along out of fear because being alone seems to be a worse fate than being part of a half-assed relationship (if you can even call it that).

I’ve certainly played my fair share of this guessing game. It seems like I’ve been playing cat and mouse with boys since my preschool days when I’d chase my crush around the playground yelling, “You’re my boyfriend!” to which I’d get the breathy response, “I am not!”

I’ve clearly been keeping it real since day one. If I feel something, I want to tell that person. If I’d rather keep it sans-title and casual, I’ll make that clear to spare us both the pain.

I’d rather not fall down the rabbit hole to Relationship Wonderland. But unfortunately, not every player in this petty little game of love plays by those rules.

Even when the relationship seems to be progressing, sometimes you’re not sure if the person is really yours.

Sure, it feels that way when you’re together, but when he or she doesn’t want to hold your hand on campus, will spend a large chunk of the weekend at parties and bars you weren’t invited to or introduces you to friends simply by your name (failing to preface the introduction with a word that would indicate your relationship status), sh*t gets confusing.

Maybe you fell into the relationship without ever vocalizing intentions or “rules.” Are you allowed to hook up with other people? Are there real feelings or is it all just a simulation to keep the heart (and other body parts) entertained?

You don’t know. And there you are. You're too afraid to put what you already have on the line and you allow yourself to hover in limbo, hoping the person you want will eventually reciprocate the love.

I’m sure many people find it easier to handle their relationships without any mention of their intentions. They get what they want while avoiding the awkward talks about commitment, expectations and titles.

They may see it as omittance rather than lying, but omitting the truth is deceiving, and “deception” is synonymous with “lying.”

The main problem is that people make casual “things” seem like committed relationships so they can have the best of both worlds. Meanwhile, the other person just barely hangs on to the short end of the stick.

To me, the dating game should be seen as black or white. He either likes you, or he doesn’t. She either sees things going somewhere, or she’s keeping you around for the time being.

He’s either courting you to be his girlfriend, or he’s giving you incentive to keep being his f*ck buddy. Anything that falls in the realm of “gray” is not worth your time if you’re looking for something serious.

Our time spent being young and free is far too confusing and short as it is. Why let someone keep you in the dark (or rather, in the “gray") when you could be spending your time having fun solo or meeting someone who is actually interested in a real relationship?

Relationships that are worth the time and effort aren’t so complicated to figure out. There will always be obstacles, but if you’re blindly and anxiously being pulled along, there's the risk that the person may never take off the blindfold and give you what you truly want.

A prolonged existence in The Gray Area can make you feel unfulfilled, used and lonely, which are all things no young adult should feel when he or she has a sea of other options.

In situations where one person wants serious commitment and the other wants to dance on the line of freedom and exclusivity, sometimes it's best to cut your losses and get with someone who’s on the same page as you.

The reasons we get trapped in The Gray Area can be chalked up to bad timing, an unrealized lack of compatibility or the thrill of the chase. It's easy to hop on the merry-go-round, but it's far more difficult to get off.

Instead of subjecting yourself to late-night life evaluations in the shower and circumlocutious conversations with your friends (who are just as confused as you are), just muster up the bravery to ask the person you’re seeing, "What’s going on? What do you want?"

If he or she can’t give you a straight answer, that may be the only answer you need.