Aug 2014
Josie Bungert

Stuck in the middle with you

As my boyfriend and I celebrated our fifth anniversary on Monday, I got to thinking, are we really just “dating”?

Of course, we are, dating. But I can’t help but think we don’t really go with the traditional definition of dating. When someone says they are “dating” someone else, it can often be taken that they have been on a couple of dates with the person, or are dating around, nothing too serious. But really, you are “dating” someone any time you’re in a relationship but are not engaged or married.

Sure, my boyfriend and I are young enough that when we say we are dating it’s not strange. It’s typical of people our age to be in the dating stage. But to me, we aren’t dating. We aren’t going on dates to learn more about each other, we aren’t trying to one up each other in romance. Even though we are a young couple, we aren’t dating to see if we like each other (I think after five years that’s been established). And, since we are in a relationship, we aren’t in the “dating” pool, which would also make us not in the “dating” world of relationships.

Even more, when I think of people like an adult couple I know, who have been “dating” for most of their lives, I can’t help but think they deserve a different title. They, too, are not going on dates to learn more about each other; if they go on dates it’s to spend time together. Since they never decided to get married, (but in basically every other respect, are) they are considered nothing more than boyfriend and girlfriend. Doesn’t that seem a bit naiive?

Now, I know you may say that if you want to escape the title of boyfriend and girlfriend then you could get engaged or married. But what do you do if that’s not where you are in your life, or if it’s not something you want our of your relationship? Do you get “pre-engaged“? Are you “courting” forever and ever?

I’m calling this time between “the middle,” since there really is no other term for it out there that I have seen. The middle is the place where you’re happy, you’re relationship is persistent, you’re happily “dating,” and you’re a couple. Even though this may sound negative, since being “stuck in the middle” doesn’t sound appealing, I’m thinking that it’s a lucky time in a relationship.

Why? Well, if you’re a young couple that is just not trying to move quickly in their relationship right now, it’s exciting, because it’s all about continuing the good thing you have going, further solidifying your relationship. You’re not engaged or married, so you’re probably not in the throws of planning a wedding, not looking to buy a house, have a bunch of kids and buy a minivan. The middle for a young couple means just being a couple – going on double dates, meeting each other for a drink after work, spending time apart, with friends. It’s a time before “the rest of your life,” so why not enjoy it?

If you’re an older couple, you, too, are also, then, young, so to speak. You’re not married, you may not have kids, you’re a freer adult than most. The middle for you means you control if there’s more to come for you, or if you’re happy going on as a single-but-not person in a relationship. The middle in this case also means you may be avoiding becoming an “old married couple” (even though I personally adore them), which could be unappealing to you. Be old and young at the same time, in the middle!

Whatever this stage in my life is called, I’m diggin’ it. I’ll keep “dating” my boyfriend happily, and not count down the days until this phase is over.