There used to be a societal set of rules that we followed for dating. If you received the first text? Wait two days to reply. Made it to the third date? You’re finally going to have sex. Ready to be exclusive? Have the conversation together. While I don’t advocate for following the ‘dating timeline’, there’s no denying these unwritten rules were deeply ingrained in society – until now.
COVID-19 has flipped the switch and you may be asking ‘What are we?’ a lot sooner than before. When someone asks you this question, they often already have the answer they’re hoping to hear in their mind and now they’re saying the ball is in your court. The list of answers is long – friends, friends with benefits, just hooking up, dating, in an open relationship, in a relationship, complicated, boyfriend-and-girlfriend/boyfriend, broken up… So make sure that when you’re asked, you give yourself time to identify what it is you want to be.
Here’s why you might now be wondering what to label your partnership, and how to manage hearing the question when you’re not ready to answer:
You’re Living on Social Media
The use of social media has increased exponentially since the pandemic began, with many of us staying home and passing the time with our thumbs online. Instagram Reels and TikTok especially have become vortexes within which we see other people happily living their lives at home or out and about in different states, or completing challenges with their partner (#smallgestures). Constantly seeing others’ “perfect” love lives through the screen can make you wish you had what they have. As a result, you may commit to your partner sooner than planned, which is ultimately great if you’re into them!
Though if not, take a beat to remember that the grass is greener where you water it. Stop looking at (and pining for) other people’s relationships on Instagram and instead focus on your own. If you’re into the relationship you’re in, stop asking ‘what are we?’ and instead work to make it what you want – fresh and exciting on your own timeline.
Death Feels More Real Than Ever
Around a third of all Australians were born overseas and we’re one of the most travelled countries, so it makes sense that so many of us have family or friends who are negatively impacted by the current pandemic. As the news reports on the number of cases, it’s normal to feel like death is no longer a construct – it’s very real. When we get this feeling, humans want to make meaning of our lives to feel as though we’ve lived them as best we can.
You’ll want to know where you stand with the person you’re seeing, as well as other ‘meaning making’ labels such as when you can expect a promotion, what kind of person you’ll be remembered as, and what legacy you want to leave when you pass. Partner, husband, lover, or bachelor – reaching for these labels during moments of crises is completely normal.
Your Relationship is on Quarantine Fast-Forward
Where you might otherwise have been able to put some (physical) space between yourself and the person/s you’re seeing, with local restrictions it can be hard to find some alone time. This puts relationships on fast forward, as you let your ‘real’ self be seen sooner than planned. The dirty bathroom, wearing sweats for longer than you should, farting in bed… all things that you swore you’d never do in front of a lover, and now you’re only two months in and it’s happening. Often, we’ll label our relationships to make this ‘okay’ in our minds.
If you’re not ready to answer the question or stick a label on your relationship, take your time to work on yourself first. Don’t get swept up into societal norms, though don’t leave them on read, either. And please, remember, ghosting is not the answer. Just let them know how you feel – either way, that’s the best legacy to leave.
About the author: BARE Therapy is an online counselling and sex-education service, run by Tammi (GradDipCouns). Find your pleasure by following her on Instagram for the hottest tips on great sex and positive relationships – @bare__therapy.