A young man wrote me earlier this week and asked what exactly the word "relationship" means to women. I'm an expert at this dating stuff in case you didn't know. That's why people seek out my learned voice of experience. Ahem. Anyway, he wrote:
"The term I struggle with definition wise is "relationship" – what is it women mean when they say they are in a relationship? To me just about any interaction with another could be called a relationship – good or bad – but women seem to use this term to mean something much more significant than that."
He’s right, technically. Whenever two people interact, they’ve formed a "relationship" of sorts, whether it be class mates working on a school project together, coworkers that share a cubicle, salesman/customer, etc. For a finite period of time, those two people are relating in a manner that brings them both a specific, desired outcome.
When women use the term "relationship" that is just what they mean, with a little extra tacked on.
When a woman is looking for a specific, desired outcome from her interaction with a person of the opposite sex, she labels their regular interaction as "a relationship." A relationship is much more important in her life than a mere date. A relationship usually includes sex. Guys don’t get that if they have sex with a woman more than a couple of times, she is going to consider that "a relationship" whether he wants it to be one or not!
A relationship has a desired outcome for women that includes love, physical involvement, a desire to move forward as a couple towards something like living together or marriage. In other words, a commitment to coupledom. In other words, you are her boyfriend, with all the obligations, responsiblities, hopes and ties that title entails.
So guys, you can have sex, call her all the time, and "hang out" regularly. You can try to play dumb and pretend you didn't know you were in a relationship if you want to, but that won’t mean you aren’t in one!
What men should do, however, is establish the boundaries and parameters for the relationship. You want to make sure that the two of you are on the same page and both know exactly what level of "relationship" you are on. Yes, I said "level of relationship," because there are by last count, five distinct levels of involvement.
Anyway, I suggest that you clarify things and tell a woman you have recently began seeing that you two are involved in a very casual uncommitted dating relationship. Don’t you be in a rush to lock anything down until you are sure it makes sense and that you two are compatible. Don't let her pressure you into a premature commitment either. Let her know that she is free to date other people, as are you, while you get to know each other better. Be clear, be honest and be very careful that you don't send mixed messages.
That is what I call a Level 1 Relationship.