Defining The Relationship.

I suck at DTRs. My first DTR with the woman who would later become my wife was not an auspicious occasion. In fact, it involved a lot of me ducking for cover and running. You see, we had began our dating life without me knowing it was a date. I was killing time with a friend, hanging out as a lark. She was on a date – I simply didn’t get the memo. The memo was received the third time we were hanging out. I wanted to see the movie Starship Troopers, couldn’t find any takers, then she informs me that she would love to see Starship Troopers [this was actually a bold faced lie, as I came to find out that not only didn’t she like Starship Troopers, but she hates any alien movies where the aliens look too … “alien” (meaning only muppet aliens need apply). This isn’t as weird as her fear of animals with really small feet thing, but I digress.]

I stop by, she asks me if I’ve eaten. I say no, then am treated to a home cooked, and candlelit, meal. “Uh oh.” My guy sense, dull and quite selective thing that it is, went off. She was way far into this … thing (I couldn’t bring myself to call it a relationship), and I’m barely at the “do you have any hobbies?” stage of things. I rationalized that it wouldn’t be fair for us to keep dating with her so deep into me (okay, it was an ego-centric rationalization. I was going through a “who can blame them for falling for me” stage). Actually, I’ve come to realize, in retrospect, that our relationship was a series of DTRs, usually ending badly, all precipitated by what I will call “the couch dilemma.”

The couch dilemma
I don’t know if this is a common phenomena or just one common is Christian singles groups, so I figure I’ll describe what it looks like and you can see if it sounds familiar. Guy calls up girl. They get together to hang out. Dinner, movies, or other activities. Whatever. They find themselves spending a lot of evenings sitting on the couch talking til all hours of the night. This happens repeatedly. Until someone’s, usually the woman’s, feelings get so entangled that they can’t take it anymore and they break down and have a DTR. At which point they pursue a relationship or that’s the end of their hanging out. Sometimes I call it the non-dating/kinda dating dilemma, the lie of courting, two people just hanging out, or the difficulty of opposite sex platonic relationships.

Before we examine what’s going on, let’s point out a few things. Most times this starts out simply as friends going through the motions of dating (which is why it is so important to define what a date is). To the outside observer, it looks and almost feels like a date in a lot of ways. Enough to make the lonely times seem less desperately so. Guys like being able to call someone up. Ladies like to receive that call. And, it beats the alternative: doing nothing. And again, they are in the company of a member of the opposite sex, spending an evening doing something with someone.

But eventually, someone, usually the woman, asks themselves (and eventually him) what’s going on? What are we doing here? Are we dating? Are we courting? Are we just friends hanging out? Which only means that you will face the inevitable DTR talk.

Whoever asks, is at the disadvantage (if you have to ask, you aren’t the one in control). The woman, the usual asker, is asking in the hopes of either taking the relationship to the next level, or making sure there are no misunderstandings going on. The man, the usual coward (or strategically wise depending on how you look at it) has set up a no-lose scenario. If he’s interested, things could keep going as they are, and he’s spending time with the woman he’s interested in. Even if, in a previous conversation she has said that she wasn’t interested or he realized he had few of the things on her “guy wish list”, he’s snuck in under her radar (under the auspices of hanging out as “just friends”) to take his shot. So if she asks and he senses her wanting to “make sure there are no misunderstandings” (READ: I don’t want to ruin the friendship, I see you as a brother, blah, blah, blah), he loses no face by saying “oh no, we were just hanging out”. And if she’s wanting to take it to another level, great.

If he’s not interested, which means he was just killing time with her (saw her as a friend, or a sister, blah, blah, blah), then he gets to weasel out of things by apologizing for the misunderstanding. That by they way, if she had grown interested despite the numerous talks they may have had before they started hanging out, leads to resentment on her part as she mulls over “what was he doing with me that whole time?” She’s left with the used hand towel feeling of having her emotions toyed with. All this without any kissing, much less sex, to make her feel even more used.

That is one reason why the DTR can be long in coming. Both enjoy the time spent together, no matter what level that is done on. And two, they have asked themselves is the risk of the DTR worth the relationship changing, because it will change.

Guy/Girl Platonic Relationships?
Plato is the philosopher who came up with the idea that there can be a type of love or friendship that can be purely spiritual, not sexual. That’s why male-female, non-sexual (i.e., without sexual attraction), relationships are referred to as Platonic. (Mind you, how sad is that? That you suck at something so bad that they name the phenomenon after you. Of course, considering my track record, my name should be Maurice LetsJustBeFriends, but I digress).

Friendships across the sexual divide are hard to establish if you set out to form one. It is rare that the friendship is seen as an end in and of itself rather than a stage in the relationship. Half the time, you have these friendships thrust upon you. You know, you sidle up to a person and, lose your dating map, and find yourself in the friend zone. Actually, that fear of one or the other of you having an agenda is one reason why these friendships aren’t trusted. They can almost only happen once the possibility of dating has been ruled out.

God brings people into our lives for reasons.

True guy/girl friendships have certain characteristics. On the plus side, they develop a true brother-sister relationship. They become sounding boards into the mystique of the opposite sex. They have clear boundaries. They may have entertained romantic notions, but they moved past them, however awkwardly. These friendships are experienced on different levels and in different ways that same sex friendships. Partly, this is because they allow us to imitate or express ourselves in ways analogous to a romantic relationship. Guys become more vulnerable. Ladies get to relax and have fun. It’s like dating without the games.

Thus the confusion.

On the negative side, there is always the potential tar pit of emotional intimacy and confusion. Or physical attraction (sex in friendship clothing). You have to realize that you two are of opposite sexes and there is a mystery to sexual attraction. Reality dictates that though you may not be attracted to them now, nor see yourself ever being attracted to them, sexual attraction is a mysterious alchemy. I know too many people, myself included, who woke up one day finding themself suddenly looking at their friend in a different light. Luckily, I married mine. Also keep in mind that these friendships may be difficult to maintain once one or both of you enter into relationships or marriage. Not a big deal since most of your friendships will have to adjust should you get married. And it’s smart to include your spou
se in that friendship.

Friends with benefits
The great philosopher, Chris Rock, doesn’t believe in Platonic friendships between the sexes. To paraphrase him, women keep guy friends much like penises behind emergency glass: break in case of emergency. And guys only have women they haven’t slept with, yet. Have you noticed that singles tend to hug a lot more often? That’s because a hug means physical contact. In the absence, sometimes long absence, or kisses and caresses, hugs go a long way. But this is a topic for another conversation.

Anyway, don’t fear the DTR. A clarification does not equal a proposal. Unless, you eventually define the relationship by proposing. Which was sort of how me and my wife’s story ended/began. Eventually.

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