Thursday, August 9, 2012

When Does a Relationship Actually Begin?

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So we’re all familiar with the idea of the wedding. You know, the grand ceremony where a couple avow their intention to remain married to each other for better for worse, for richer for poorer, for fairer or uglier, and so on, before friends, family and the whole world. It’s such a public declaration that there can be no doubt in anyone’s mind as to when exactly the marriage started.

Of course, this is not the beginning of the story of the couple. Even before the marriage, there is another defining milestone of the journey that they have travelled together – the engagement. The occasion may be a quiet one involving nothing more than a heartfelt request made on bended knee. Or it could something more dramatic involving fighter jets, parachutists and coloured smoke. Whichever way it happens, at the end of it, the couple have agreed to get married at some not too distant date in the future.

But we still have to go beyond the engagement to find out where the story begins... and here, things become somewhat murky. Did the story start when she noticed the way he smiled at her at work? Or was it when he studied her shapely curves and declared them good? Perhaps it was when they agreed – just as friends – to go out for a meal together? The reality is that what should be the true defining moment of the relationship is hard to pin down.

Now, some of you will say that if a point in time has to be picked, it might as well start from the point where the man (yes, it’s still usually the man) asks the girl if she would like them to start ‘going out’ together, and she says yes. This sounds a very reasonable proposition, since, like the engagement and the marriage, there’s a definite asking and accepting.

The trouble is that even this event does not always occur in relationships. For example, I recall the story of someone I know who was going out with this girl. I say ‘going out’, because I’m not even sure if I can say that they were boyfriend and girlfriend. From all indications, they started out as acquaintances, since they moved in the same circles. Then, bit by bit, they began spending more time together, visiting each other at home, holding hands, kissing, and pretty much doing all the things that boyfriends and girlfriends do.

Yet, when I asked this guy whether he and the girl were together/an item, he said that no, that was not the case. As far as he knew, he hadn’t asked her out, and she hadn’t asked him about the status of their relationship, so he was happy to assume it was what it had always been – a friendship.

But you do all the things that boyfriends and girlfriends do, I said, like kissing; doesn’t that make you a couple?

No, he replied. Which law states that ordinary friends cannot kiss?

Well, I had no answer to that. It felt strange, but I could only conclude that since they were both getting what they wanted out of the relationship, who was I to open my big mouth? However, they later split up and one of the girl's complaints to me was that the relationship was never defined and that was why it did not take off.

Now I know there are some people for whom that is how it works. Nothing is ever defined and yet they end up married one day without any of them having to say anything. Not even an engagement.

So I’m still confused. When exactly does a relationship start? Should the man always ask specifically for dating/courtship? Should the lady ask to be exclusive for the relationship to really begin? Must there be a ceremony to celebrate this most important of moments? Or maybe it doesn’t matter, and the very mystery of the start of the relationship is part of its appeal?

_____

Atala






68 comments:

  1. It doesn't matter. It begins when a man and woman starts doing the things that people in relationships do. It doesn't matter if the man had asked or not.

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    1. My dear, am surprised dsw is coming from u considering that as a blogger a lot of people look up to u. Yes, definition from d BEGINNING is a MUST so that both parties know where they are headed early enough. The fact people kiss or have s3x doesn't mean they are in a relationship. One day one of them can just walk away without any feeling of obligation to the other person. It's a mistake a lot of people especially ladies after which they come crying that someone broke their heart

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    2. Reaaally!!! am just reading this and your response is sooo surprising! have you heard of defining a relationship? i bet not. it is people like you who actually fall for guys who use and dump them with the argument that he never asked you out, you guys were just having fun because that's what is it, fun! That is not a relationship. A relationship without plan, focus or even direction. pleeeease!

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  2. Chi,
    Jst finding dis site, luvly. Anywayz, it happens a lot, guy meets gurl dey become friends and notin is ever said, most times its d gurl dat hopes in her mind dat dey r n a relationship meanwhile to the guy dey r friends fr benefit. In some odr cases d 2 understand what d situation is. D truth is if der is doubt as to which direction a relationship is going d lady shud be bold enough to ask and clarify unless she is gud with it undefined with the hav fun till its boring status. I heard a friend once say, 'for a guy to ask you out is outdated, nw dey assume u know d direction dey r going' dats fowl play, cus it leaves room fr an undefined status. Also hav a friend after going out in '' d guy started dating someone else and when she complained he simply said he never asked her out, imagine dat! We gurls need to be carefl, my opinion is, if u feel ders smtn ask and get it defined before u proceed. Hav fun folks

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    1. no offence but i am really having trouble reading your comment could you please be considerate next time and type in full words using proper grammar? Thanks a lot

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    2. I agree wid u. If u jst find urself in somthin lookin like a r/ship n u r nt sur it is, beta be bold to ask, els, u'll remain hangin.

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  3. A relationship starts when I have accepted ofcourse he has to ask. In my bookS, friends don't kiss, lovers do and assumptions is the mother of all f-ups so please ask me and if I accept then we're an item if not - friendzone united, keep it moving!

    ThePETprojects

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    1. You spoke my mind. Assumptions are dangerous. Make it clear and easy.

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    2. Short and sweet and to the point. You have very well-defined views on this matter. :)

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    3. Pet projects, I dey gbadun your comments. Assumption is the mother of all f-ups. LMAO. You really 're something! True tho!

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  4. I believe it's whatever floats the boats of both parties; as long as there's a mutual understanding between them I guess..
    For me, friendship became a relationship and "the talk" followed later on. I can't say the exact point the relationship started out, but I loved the idea...

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    1. Interesting... but as others have said, you don't really know for sure if there's a mutual understanding unless 'the talk' happens.

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    2. That talk should happen oh! The sooner the beta. Guys tend to make the most of the talk not happening. b4 u know it, wata don pass onda bridge finish. Best to know where you stand. Why do girls shy away from knowing tho? Then complain afterwards when they should have checked in the first place b4 committing themselves!

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  5. Thanks a lot for writing about this, I have had a lot of discussions with my mum, sisters and friends. If the guy doesn't ask the girl out explicitly, they are just friends irrespective of what they do. A friend of mine had been with this guy for over 2 years, met his family, slept over at their place and run some errand for his folks and every other thing people in relationships do. Recently, the guy just told her that he never asked her out.
    There are really shy guys, I understand but there are ways around it, emails, texts, voice notes.... Ladies should avoid being friends with benefits and guys should always speak out for what they really want. All grey areas in relationships should be dealt with to avoid issues of uncommitment.

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    1. Interesting view which many seem to agree with.

      However, I wonder why women must consider themselves the ones 'at risk' here. If the man is enjoying the relationship, shouldn't he be worried that the woman could just walk, saying that after all, they were never in a relationship?

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    2. Ah Tola, you know it does not quite work the other way round oh. By virtue of the fact that women are more vulnerable - the double standards thingy - a woman has more to lose. Reputation and all. Simple as and very risky.

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    3. The asking is not negotiable at all. As a guy I've had my share of nonsense as well. I don't agree wit those dat think men are not vulnerable... I had a girlfriend dat said "afterall u didn't ask me out officially"... Which 1 be dat? But there was asking. I believe if both parties are sincere dey wud want to define their relationship from d start.

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  6. Very funny.

    "Friends don't do the durrty" heard those words in a movie a long time ago and they stuck. Friends don't kiss. There's no such thing as friends with benefits either so that still rules out kissing and touching and groping other lover stuff.

    A relationship, in my thinking, starts when a man asks a woman and she accepts.

    Fin.

    No other way around this one

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  7. In my own opinion,a relationship starts when the status of whatever you were having is spelt out clearly.The reason i put it that way is that various people have various level of perception.For some people,it doesn't need spelling out,but to be on the safest side,it's better you just spell it out.

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  8. Assumption they say is the lowest form of thinking, i tried to ignore this topic and study but yea, here i am... I believe a relationship starts at the point both persons involved declare their intentions... we women are always at the recieving ends of this dysfunctional friendship/dating... you should not be kissing a man who is just friends... if you are doing it already put a definition to the relationship.I am all up for defining relationships it makes things simpler

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    1. Declaration of intentions - that's always a good start. But men are good at lying, lying, lying to get what they want. The most important thing is to look at the man's actions. What he does, not what he says. Do his actions match his 'intentions'? That's where you can really tell.

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  9. Ha ha. A relationship starts the moment either of you would get justifiably offended if the other goes out with someone else, regardless of if you've kissed or not.

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    1. The problem with your definition is that you are saying that I can be in a relationship with a stalker who is obsessed with me, simply because she is angry that I am going out with someone else.

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    2. Lool . I am gbadooing your comments Tola. Like the earlier one....of course men are also vulnerable to being abandoned by women they love. Its all about defining a relationship.

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  10. IMHO...
    A sample scenario to know when a relationship starts:

    Man: baby, come naa, lets talk. you know i love u. I want us to take our friendship to the next level. Will you be my girlfriend?

    Girl: oh sweetie, i thought u'll never ask. Yes, ke.

    Relationship is now official.

    Ya ya, sounds boring. You could imagine the above scenario in the most romantic way you can, but the bottom line is there is a asking by the man and an agreement by the girl

    if either of you assumes, you are on a long thing. Girls especially, cover your bases.

    Simple!

    P.S Atala howdy? hope u good! Always refreshing to read from you.
    Myne dont be jealous o..lol..i just dey hail my friend ;)

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    1. HAhaha... lmao at "will you be my girlfriend". Do people still ask in those words? In the 21st century? When they are not in primary school?

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    2. loool! people do oh.. okay, in other ways sha.. but they do.. like "let's our relationship be official" etc

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    3. Aloted, I see you o. You leave a comment on Atala's post and not on mine, yes, I'm jealous :)

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    4. Hi Aloted, I'm fine o.

      I think that we agree that there is an 'unofficial' relationship even before the relationship becomes official. After all, in your sample scenario, the man said he loves her, and the woman was saying she was waiting for him to ask, so there must have been something going on for them to confirm.

      My question is - when is the starting point of this unofficial relationship?

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    5. @nollywood reinvented- i have been out of the game for some time now so not sure how men toast these days hence my very unromantic version...lol

      @myne- lol lol! i love u too...even if I don't comment be sure i am reading ;)

      @Atala- i think where there is chemistry usually both parties know or at least one person knows but all that one is story. Until Mr man voices out his intentions, let us be looking o... and be doing what friends do- gist. Finish :D

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    6. wait o Atala, na u be Tola Odejayi? or someone else?

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  11. Lol @ "No, he replied. Which law states that ordinary friends cannot kiss?"

    I don't know... maybe the law of normalcy. Which kain yeye question be that.

    Nna, in my opinion the relationship starts when you are no longer wondering what your status is, females. And when she has defined where she stands with you, guys.

    However, y'all come about that is entirely your business but as long as we both know where we stand and I reserve the rights to be mad at seeing you with another girl, then let's set this ship/boat/flight in motion

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    1. Interesting point about avoiding confusion and uncertainty in a relationship. But that's the point; if both parties decide (without any official declaration) that they are NOT CONFUSED about the status of their relationship and they KNOW where they stand, which one concern anyone else?

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  12. It has to be defined as a relationship or it would just be friendship with benefits.
    As emotional beings, women generally assume that when he kisses you, he's not kissing anyone else. Sorry, did he tell call you his girlfriend?
    if you don't define it with him, don't be surprised or angry if you find out he has 4 other girls he is cuddling and kissing.
    Doesn't make him a bad person and doesn't mean he lied to you. You were just going with the flow and that flow had no restrictions.
    Definition precedes exclusivity
    http://lifethroughomaseyes.blogspot.com

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  13. Personally, I think it starts when it has been defined as such. I know in some cases it never has been but some others differ. At times, I am dating and spending time in the company of different men because most times there are different men all at once who want to date me. If I narrow my choice to one then I have the DTR (Define The Relationship) talk and know I am in a committed relationship to the exclusion of all others.

    On no circumstance will I ever assume that I am in a committed relationship with anyone or him with me if we do not discuss it and spell it out. Once a guy I had just started hanging out with introduced me as his girlfriend and I was shocked and had to ask what that meant later on.

    It differs for everyone though so I think a lot of attentiveness and being true to yourself will help determine when you are with someone in a committed relationship.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Tiyan,

      Perhaps introducing you as his girlfriend was his roundabout way of asking you out... certainly not romantic, but at least you got to have the DTR talk!

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  14. I dunno.. but when I start to get confused, I ask the guy if we are just friends or if we are exclusive.. I like to define my relationships... but that's me

    I think building a marriageable relationship begins in the heart somewhere... there will be times we might hope the person we are in an intimate relationship with is the one...

    But really, it's very subjective

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  15. I'm just glad I got to read this hilarious, yet serious piece. As per the debate, I gat nothing to say o *sealed lips*

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  16. Interesting question! I recently ranted about "undefined relationships" in an article. You can read it here:http://afrikangoddessmag.com/2012/08/07/undefined-relationships-and-ghanaian-women-in-the-diaspora.

    I believe a woman should always ask and never assume. It's the men of today - just like the one you just described - they will tell you they NEVER promised you anything (or nothing has been agreed to) after they have kissed on you and treated you like a girlfriend. I have seen and heard of too many instances where this happened and the woman was left shocked and hurt. In one instance they were practically living together, but when his REAL girlfriend showed up in town, he never told her they were in a relationship Hmmmmm.
    To answer your question, I believe a relationship starts when the man asks you or at least lets you know where he stands with you. Again, NEVER ASSUME!

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    1. Hi MLMR,

      Your 'don't assume' comment echoes what many, many people have said. I get that this is a very important issue that clarification is needed on, but I do wonder whether assumptions are as bad as people say they are. Anyway, that's a topic for another day.

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  17. Great writeup, Atala! When do you get your own regular column o?

    For me it boils down to respect. If a man respects a lady and wants to make sure she's committed only to him, defining the relationship would naturally be a priority to him. After all, with the relationship undefined, there's a chance that she could one day say "Sorry, guy, I can no longer see you because I've entered into an actual relationship with lagbaja." A fully committed man will not want to take the risk of losing someone he thinks could become his wife.

    Men more than women can engage in intimate acts without feeling the emotions that go along with it, so a woman would be wise to make sure she knows what she's getting into by before just allowing her emotions to lead her, only to find out that the guy was just "kicking it".

    In a perfect world the guy would be brave enough to define things (even if he doesn't want marriage) but when he doesn't want something serious, I feel like he would rather not say so, because he doesn't want to risk the woman rejecting his "indecent" proposal (said tongue-in-cheek). Because of that he'd rather leave things murky and unclear.

    Women should be on their guard if they are seeking marriage and not a casual relationship. They should not automatically equate hugging, kissing, and introducing you to his family as proof that "he wants me to be his wife" unless he says so. In my books there's nothing wrong with a woman asking a guy this if things are unclear, but I will always respect a man who makes his intentions clear from the beginning.

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    1. Oh boo...if you can remove the "by" in the third paragraph I'd be grateful! (Then you can also delete this comment).

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    2. Hi GNG, Blogger doesn't allow us to edit comments yet. :)

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    3. Ooh, thanks for letting me know :)

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    4. GNG, I found your reply interesting, because you explained something I had wondered about: why was it only dangerous for the woman to assume? After all (as you also pointed out), by assuming, the man could end up losing the woman.

      But this passage from your response explained it well:

      "Men more than women can engage in intimate acts without feeling the emotions that go along with it, so a woman would be wise to make sure she knows what she's getting into by before just allowing her emotions to lead her, only to find out that the guy was just "kicking it"."

      In other words, just because he is kissing you doesn't mean he feels the same way that you feel when you are kissing him.

      Thanks!

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    5. Oh, and as to becoming a regular columnist, the problem is that these ideas come to me as the spirit moves... and the spirit is not always reliable. But I'll do my best.

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  18. " Or was it when he studied her shapely curves and declared them good? "

    This is where I stopped to comment...LMBO!!

    *Scrolls up to finish reading*

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  19. For me, there should be an asking and an accepting. A definition of the relationship is needed ooo abeg. It's best that way, cos assumptions have led to many "heartbreaks"

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  20. I believe in EXPLICITLY asking either the status of a relationship if you are a girl or asking a girl to be your girlfriend if you are a guy. Assuming you are with someone is just that. Assumptions. A relationship starts when a guy asks a girl to be his girlfriend. I like for it to be done in a casual but cute way...maybe over drinks and dessert! But please ASK me!

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  21. It gets worse when everyone around you assumes you two are dating since you are always together when the two of you haven't defined anything yet....story of my life

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    1. True... that could even drive a couple into a relationship that may not work for them.

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  22. Just ask. NEVER assume. Not asking cost me five years and in May this year,he finally sang the 'i never promised you anything' song. So please...always ask.

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    1. I'm very sorry to hear that.

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    2. So sorry, anon. I hope you are able to recover and find someone better than him. This really illustrates why a girl should never be afraid to ask. ASK, ASK, ASK. If he calls you desperate, call him a player. You've got nothing to lose but a huge chunk of your life and your pride if you don't ask.

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  23. hmmmm, me I'm a traditional girl o, you have to date me, court me, even ask my papa and mama sef.. heehehehehe.

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  24. As for me o, the relationship starts with the asking and the accepting. I think one of the things that causes the sudden split-up is the inability to define friendship from the start.

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  25. Asking and Accepting...

    or ask him 'Babes...what are we doing?' let it be defined

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  26. "Or it could something more dramatic
    involving fighter jets, parachutists and coloured
    smoke" - that had me barking a laugh! :D
    -Khad-

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  27. a relationship starts when the guy asks and d girl accepts cos i ve been in a position where dis guy assumed we were dating just cos i was nice to him ,we hung out and exchanged phone calls. every relationship should be defined else ur heading for the rocks

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  28. Hmmm... this is a tricky one, some relationships thrive even without any of them defining/asking as the couple are on the same page but others are based on assumption and are left undefined leading to challenges later on. Thankfully all mine were defined. The late Pst Bimbo once gave an illustration in church bout a lady in a so called relationship for 5yrs until she found out that the guy assumed they were just good friends. Her eyes opened up to their situation and she got rid of him. She had been blocking her real suitors unconsciously. Thankfully she was found by her hubby and they are great together. Ladies define your friendship/relationship b4 it gets too late but pls dont rush the definition, enjoy your time as friends. Great job by Atala, though am just seeing it. Nkem pls is Atala his real name, seems he's Tope responding to all the comments??? confused.com i am

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  29. Ha, this is a serious one! I think this sneaky friends-with-benefits situation happens more often when we're older and guys don't feel the need to ask the awkward question, 'Will you be my girlfriend?'

    But from now on, I'm leaving these things to conjecture. :)

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  30. I think it is pretty stupid of anyone to indulge in stuff that people in relationships do without knowing for sure your status with the person... except you are the one who doesn't want the commitment that comes with relationship.

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  31. I have had 2 experiences like this...when I was very young, my childhood friend introduced me to her now husband's friend...the whole matchmaking thing. Initially things started off very well until some few months into the relationship, we fell out bc he cheated with another girl. I was deeply hurt, and I confided in my friend who had introduced us. She was really upset, and tried to talk to him about it...his explanation was that he never really asked me out, and didn't feel like he was in a relationship with me. Needless to say, I learnt my lesson. Never make assumptions, always ASK!

    Some few years ago, I met a guy who I really liked. We went on a couple of dates, and we actually enjoyed eachother's company. From the first date, we had both talked about wanting to be in a relationship. We went from seeing eachother every now and then, to more frequently like maybe twice weekly and stuff. When we started talking about intimacy, I was like we have to make sure we are both on the same page. While I wanted a serious and monogamous relationship, he wanted a fling with no strings attached. At that point, it was obvious we both wanted diff. things, and it was time to move on. I have no regrets bc I really did enjoy our short time together, and I'm glad we were both honest enough about what we wanted.

    I feel like as a woman, a lot of the times, we fall into this trap bc we are so scared to hear that we are not on the same page with the guy. But I honestly think that in the long run, it saves you a lot of the heartache. As someone mentioned earlier, a real man will always be straight up with you about what he wants.

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    1. Very wise what you've said about being scared of what we might hear, but always best sooner than later.

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  32. My take is that even if a guy asks girl out officially, Is that a guarantee dat he wont still dump her later after getting wat he wants? Relationships as far as I'm concerned offer no guarantees to a future 2geda..U mite find out at some point down the line dat ur not suited 4 each oda & hv 2 break off d relationship despite defining it frm the start. I tink if feelings are mutual, things just flow naturally..A formal asking/acceptance speech won't be necessary..Where asking is very necessary & important is at d point of a marriage proposal not a mere relationship..If not so, d guy mite as well ask d girl 2 marry him frm d very start...den she can be so sure he has defined his true Intentions..

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