Three Options, One Major Decision: Deciding Where To Go Past The 'What Are We' Phase

by Imani Ellis

There comes a moment in every romantic relationship that is the most vague of them all. You begin spending weekends with the person (definitely more than Friday night bar crawls), and that individual quickly becomes your listener for anything newsworthy.

Time passes, and you find yourself with two toothbrushes: one at your house and another at his. You're doing laundry together, working out together and basically living together. But are you together?

You, my friend, are in the "What Are We?" aka the "WAW" phase: a vast abyss that offers everything except definition. The WAW phase is the pre "we have defined this relationship" phase. It's the "we hang out a lot and might be exclusive, but I'm not sure yet" phase.

Basically, it's the "I wish we could figure this out but I don't want to push him away by bringing up a relationship" phase.

You might be thinking, "...So what's the difference between dating and WAW?" Dating suggests that there are options involved and, by definition, it's more casual.

Once you have reached the WAW phase, you are spending so much time with a person that he or she literally doesn't have time to have another full-time you; yet, there has been no discussion of exclusivity. In two words, it sucks.

You now have three options: escape, accept or move on.

1. Escape

It's annoying. You're meeting his family, you're playing wifey, but at the end of the day, HE IS NOT YOUR BOYFRIEND. If you haven't discussed it, it’s not common knowledge, and he isn't liable to terms he never agreed to.

Be a big girl, and as you snuggle next to him to watch the 25th rerun of "House of Cards," ask him if moving forward with a relationship is something he's thought about.

Don't be aggressive, but do pay attention. If you've been dating five to nine months and he refuses to commit, run, Forrest, run!

2. Accept

One thing about relationships is everything doesn't work for everybody. I'm not into paying for the first date, but some women couldn't care less. It's all about knowing yourself and about what matters to you.

If having a consistent person who makes you happy is what matters most to you, then perhaps having a title isn't on the top of your priority list.

You should know that it is a realistic request to ask for both definition and practice, but if you can live without defining your situation, that's fine too. However, do NOT say you are cool with not defining your relationship and still bring it up to your partner every day because then you are sending mixed messages and that's annoying.

3. Move On

One way to avoid the stress of the WAW phase is to talk about all of the above sooner, rather than later. I'm not suggesting you inquire about marriage during the first date. However, expectations should be on the table towards the beginning before your feelings, time and energy have been invested.

If he says, "You're such a cool girl, but I can't see myself having a girlfriend for a while,” then that's probably what he means. There is no hidden message in that statement. It's not fair to fall in love with him two months later and be upset because he won't commit. He told you that, remember?

Knowing what you're getting into can help you navigate these dark waters. Only you can decide if you should stick with it or move on.

Photo via We Heart It