We live in a time where dating seems like such an ordeal that we have to make sure we don't "scare" our partner away, express too much, say too much too soon or even voice our expectations in a relationship. While living life completely in black and white is almost impossible, it's important to draw a line on how much gray are you willing to allow in your relationship. A lot of past experiences have only one lesson: Control the gray area, and never let the gray control you in your relationship. Because before you know it, it will define your relationship and there is no going back from there.
I know a lot of times we jump into relationships with the mindset of, "Let's go with the flow" or "We'll see how this works out," and before you know it, you've been with the same person for years and you don't have a damn clue where it's going because you were abiding by the "Gen-Y Book Of Dating." And of course, the Gen-Y Book Of Dating means you don't ask questions, you don't ask for commitment and you think a billion times before saying the game-changing, three-word phrase, "I love you."
Having said that, I don't advocate irrational or absurd behavior, such as talking about babies and wedding destinations on your first date. That is a big no no. What I really do believe is that you need your relationship to practice an 80-20 when it comes to being black and white vs. gray, clarity vs. unclarity.
The chaos a relationship floating in the gray area can bring to your life is frustrating and stressful. Over the years, I've developed an understanding of how relationships fall apart without any concrete reason. I've come up with four reasons:
1. Ignorance is not always bliss.
You and your SO have been going steady for a while, you accompany each other at social events, parties, family lunches, dinners, etc. It is important for you to know whether or not they are dating you because they want to date you and not because they're comfortable in a less-than-perfect relationship.
It is important to look out for signs or behavior which tell you otherwise. If you sense detachment as early as a year into your relationship, it is important to talk it out and understand the scenario. Don't ignore the obvious signs because they're hard to come to terms with. It is good to sleep on things and start fresh, but do not make the mistake of brushing important and pressing issues under the carpet. Ignoring your problems will only lead you to a dead end.
2. The gray area challenges the status quo.
Ground rules are very important to have while you're dating. For instance, how much space is spacious enough? How do you plan on prioritizing friends, family and work? All humans are different, and when two people come together to be a couple, they obviously share a similar interest. And while their brains may be wired differently, their fundamental values should be on similar lines.
The gray area challenges your status quo because it doesn't allow your relationship to work on ground rules, which build a strong foundation to build expectations on. For instance, I've seen many working couples face the challenge of loss of intimacy because they are so caught up with work they forget to appreciate the presence of their partner. In situations like these, a ground rule as simple as a dinner date at least twice a month works well to keep your love life alive.
3. Goal setting is challenged.
Goal setting is very important in a relationship. Just like your work life, you have ambitions and milestones to achieve in this partnership if you want it to grow. It may sound too organized and planned, but it doesn't have to be. The popular hashtag, #RelationshipGoals, should not only be something we post on social media, but also inspiration to take our goals seriously and work as a team to achieve them.
The gray area does not allow you to work as a team because you never really get to that conversation of sharing your goals. You are so stuck being second-guessing each others actions and reading between the lines that you miss out on the really important things a relationship is supposed to comprise of.
4. Clarity gets underrated.
If your relationship is headed to the gray zone, chances are you and your partner have both underrated the importance of clarity and how it can drive you to a place where you don't understand each other or your dynamic. Every serious couple eventually looks for a more permanent settlement together. However, once you compromise on clarity of where your relationship is headed, what are your life's goals? Do your goals match with those of your partner? These are questions which shouldn't be left unsaid because if they are, you continue being in a relationship based on assumptions.
Getting dragged into a gray area is the worst thing you can do to yourself and your relationship. If you need an answer, ask your partner. Don't let the fear of scaring them away and coming across as an overly attached girlfriend or possessive boyfriend deter you from getting the answers you need. At the end of the day, you and our partner share a very special bond. It would be a shame for it to break or cease to exist because you drifted into the gray area.
It is easier said than done to not fall prey to this problem. However, if you keep your goals clear and communicate with each other without hesitation, your relationship will steer clear of drifting to the dark side. Always remember, no matter who you are, nobody deserves to hear "Maybe I love you" after all the time and love you have invested in your partner.
It is widely viewed that "Some things are better left unsaid." While this may be true, when it comes to relationships you should practice this by refraining from using unkind words, not by shying away from speaking up about what you want in a relationship.
If you want something, say it. Go for it. It might end badly, but pour your honest heart out to the one you love. If they love you back, there won't be any gray area whatsoever.