The situationship (not quite nothing but not quite an official relationship) has long been something that we’ve debated.
Why does it exist? Who actually wants to be in this advanced state of dating limbo where nobody can truly settle down? And so on, and so on.
This paradigm sees daters in this endless halfway house of ‘seeing each other’, where no one is brave enough to make the first move or commit.
A more worrying trend, however, has hit the dating world hard in recent times; that of blue-stalling.
Where a situationship precedes the ever-important define-the-relationship talk (and sometimes lasts a lot longer than many of us would hope), blue-stalling is the act of one person in the partnership actively dating while claiming to be unready for any sort of label or commitment.
You may hang out all the time, send texts to each other saying good morning every day, and have met their parents. Perhaps you’re even making plans for the future. When you dig a bit deeper to see if they’d like to put a label on it, though, they retreat and say they never wanted anything serious.
Like the (made up) problem of blue balls, you’re left stuck at the starting line, having been given the go-ahead, only to question what was actually going on. It will also leave you feeling extremely blue.
This is what happened to Eilish, 27. ‘We dated for months, met each other’s friends, did all the typical coupley things – weekends together and such,’ she tells Metro.co.uk about her most recent boyfriend-not-boyfriend.
‘We talked about going away together, and he told me how much he cared about me and all that,’ she continues. ‘Then one day, seemingly out of the blue he completely flipped and said he was scared and not ready to be in a relationship.
‘It was so unexpected that I felt blindsided when it happened. It made me doubt everything he’d said, and I just felt I wasn’t enough.’
It’s not just a one-off, though. Relationship guru James Preece says that it’s something he encounters all the time when coaching people to find love.
He tells Metro.co.uk: ‘As a dating coach I know it’s incredibly common. This has always happened, but dating sites/apps have made it worse. That’s because people are often never really clear about why they are meeting in the first place. Are they going on a date, catching up, testing a friendship or simply hooking up?
‘As nobody really knows it can be a confusing time and nothing ever really gets decided.’
That will likely ring true for a number of people, with blurry lines across the meanings of the likes of exclusivity and commitment. Surely dating sites should make things easier, with people being able to state clearly and honestly that they’re just after a friend with benefit or sex partner? Not quite.
‘There’s also the temptation to keep flirting with others on the app “just in case.” Some people just don’t want to commit as they enjoy the chase more than the catch,’ says James.
‘They are perfectly happy withing having to decide, safe in the knowledge they can escape if necessary.’
Therein lies the problem with the whole thing. One person can swan about and feel no remorse about being dishonest. After all, they can then simply claim that they were never ready in the first place when anything more is asked of them.
‘I think people are on dating apps who don’t want to date, as ultimately it’s about power – the want to be wanted. There seems to be an epidemic of people not being ready to ‘commit’ for whatever reason – whether that’s because they think there’s someone better still out there, or they want to sleep around,’ says Eilish.
‘But people who do this toy with others’ emotions. You can ask all the right questions in the early days of dating, and they’ll answer all the right questions.’
It paints a bleak picture, which is probably because it is. Eilish has been blue-stalled by every man she’s dated seriously over the last four years, and your single friends will no-doubt have a laundry list of similar tales (unless they’re the blue-staller, that is).
So what do you do if you’re stuck in this continual cycle of edging towards something concrete before being told the person you were dating never wanted anything at all?
Here’s James’s advice: ‘If you’ve been seeing each other for a while it’s fine to want to take things more seriously. Emotions have come into play and you want to make sure they are being reciprocated. So if it’s worrying you, there’s nothing to lose by asking.
‘If they want to be an official couple then great, but if they need more time at least you’ll know. If weeks drag on to months with no change then it’s time for them to make a decision. You can’t go on not knowing, or you’ll end up resenting them.’
Honesty is always the best policy, which works both ways. Keep in mind, too, that if you’re having to beg someone for some sort of affirmation right at the start, then they might not be the one for you.
The old rules of ‘fool me once’ don’t really apply here either, as like Eilish says, you can’t pre-empt things going south when you’re being given all the right signals. All that’s left is to move on and get back on the horse (or the Hinge).
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