Changes in the how we define and operate within relationships have evolved into new categories of relationship statuses. Relationship statuses have moved from the three broad categories of dating, boyfriend/girlfriend and married to categories such as exclusive, non-exclusive, friends with benefits, seeing each other and "hanging out." Even Facebook has created categories such as "in a relationship," single, married, engaged and "it's complicated." As if life doesn't give us enough options to choose from, we now have to decipher the particular meanings and boundaries of these categories.
One of my girlfriends came to me with a story that illustrated this exhausting conundrum and left her wanting to stay single. She has been hanging out with a friend she knew through work and sexual chemistry was building up. He initiated all the moves to hang out and she happily obliged. He said all the right things and even expressed his interest and attraction towards her. One night, he abruptly broke the news to her that he had started to see a woman he is interested in. She asked him if she is his girlfriend. His answer? "I suppose you can call her that." However, this did not stop him from continuing contact with my girlfriend or sharing bottles of wine on Friday nights while engaging in flirtation with her over text.
On the other side of things, I've heard that creating these fuzzy boundaries allows you to keep your options open in search of your ultimate soul mate. Letting go of an option that is viable is scary for many. It can also limit the responsibility of possibly hurting someone's feelings if you choose to move on. Essentially, it is the epitome of having your cake and eating it too and we are all getting fat from it. Even kissing another girl can be excused if you subscribe to this catch 22. We use to call this cheating but now the common explanation is, "I never said we were exclusive." For the person in the driver seat this is liberating while for the passenger it can feel debilitating. So what are we waiting for?
The most common answer I hear is that most people wait for "the one" or their "soul mate." In fact, 91 per cent of women and 86 per cent of men say that they have to be "in love" to marry. With this idea in our minds, we date around to eventually find that the person is missing a quality we think we want. So we seek out the next person with that missing quality in mind but soon find out that they're missing another important quality. If we look closely, the combination of each of these potential partners put together adds up to the perfect person. People who hold onto this kind of mentally are often stuck in a cycle of perfection seeking. Relationships take work over time and "soul mates" are developed rather than predetermined.
Making a choice might seem scary for the indecisive but for those who take that step forward it gives life a purpose. The dynamic of enabling fuzzy boundaries can leave both partners feeling lost, isolated and insecure by leading us astray from any sense of direction. So what's the solution to this problem? There really isn't anything one can do to change someone because that takes awareness and commitment on the part of the other person for change to occur. However, what you can do is assert your boundaries. The right person for you will respect those boundaries and maybe share some of the same values of what's important in a relationship.
It's easy for friends to say it's not you but the truth is it is something about you. The difference is the qualities within you that lead to incompatibility may not be negative. We all grow from experience and unfortunately hearts around the world have been broken for personal growth to happen. Heartbreak is not unique. You're in good company because even the most successful people have experienced it. What doesn't kill you allows you to live another day filled with possibilities and opportunities to love again.
Amy Yew is a researcher and therapist. Tell us what you think and submit any questions you have to email@example.com. You can also tweet your thoughts on Twitter @AmyYew.