Picture this. You’re 17 years old. You’ve been seeing Ben from A Level Media Studies for 2 weeks. You’ve been for drives in his Citroen Saxo that may have featured sneaky hand-jobs in a car park. He’s bought you phone credit because you keep texting each other and he’s the wallpaper on your Motorola Razr. Tonight is the night. You’re off to Harvester followed by the cinema. Sitting on the back row, he dips his fingers slowly into your bucket… of popcorn (steady), looks you in the eyes and asks the immortal question. ‘Are we official?’
It was all so much simpler then. You’d say yes, Facebook statuses would be changed, your pillow would be spritzed nightly with his Joop aftershave and that would be that until you decided you wanted to be single when you went to uni. You always knew Ben wasn’t, ‘The One.’ In fact, that thought never even entered your brain because serious relationships is what adults do.
Being in an official relationship as an adult means so much more and so much less at the same time.
Let’s look at what being ‘official’ is. To me, it’s not seeing other people and looking forward to making plans in the near future. It might also involve telling your mates about each other and deleting dating apps. So why does it feel like, as an adult, it means more than that?
It’s a question your mates all ask at some point. They know you’ve been seeing each other exclusively for a couple of months and you’ve been his plus one at a wedding so the term is floated. But why?
Is it because the term ‘official’ indicates that you’re now ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’? Which is the precursor to fiancé/fiancée and then husband/wife? Personally, as a 30 year old woman, I don’t want to be labelled as a ‘girlfriend’ and I certainly don’t want to say I have a ‘boyfriend’. But are these the levels you must complete in the game of romantic life?
Does ‘being official’ mean as an adult that this is the person you envisage moving in with and dream about going on Ikea trips with? The person you’re committing to arguing with when one of you watches an episode of your box set without the other? As an adult, can you be ‘official’ with someone you’re not sure you want to marry and pop out a few sprogs with? Or is that recklessness only reserved for younger us?
Sometimes, as an adult, it feels like that you can either casually date someone or commit to them being, ‘The One’ because anything else is just a huge waste of time. But isn’t that sad though? What happened to our carefree way of loving that didn’t worry about where we’d both be in a year’s time? Is it because societal pressures and biological clocks start to loom large?
As an adult, becoming ‘unofficial’ is always that much harder too. Maybe he’s become mates with your friend who has a baby and you’re worried you’re going to give little Mabel attachment issues if you break up. You might’ve booked a cultural weekend away in Bucharest which is a pain to get out of or your parents might have become obsessed with this person as it’s ‘your only chance of having a family’. As a teen it was so much easier – you were seeing Ryan 2 days after binning Ben by meeting him out of the front of McDonalds after college.
So what does it all mean? In my opinion, adults don’t need labels. Adults should be adult enough to be in situations they are comfortable and confident in. They should understand their feelings and not be game-playey enough to discuss their partner’s feelings. If you’re both on the same page and feel like you’re at the same stage then it doesn’t matter what you are. And if anyone asks? Just say that you’re spending a regular amount of time with someone you like (perhaps love) – it’s their problem if that doesn’t give them the answer they want.
Being official as an adult means you’re in it enough. You’ve committed what you’re willing to commit but you’re realistic as to where it’s going and how you’re feeling.
Remember Ben? He is now 35 and working in accounts. You’ve been ‘dating’ for 4 months. You deleted the apps after 1, stopped seeing other people after 2, met each other’s friends and families after 3 and now here you are. You’re official. Is he the one?