There was a point in my life when titles didn't hold much weight in terms of the situationships I found myself in. When I started dating in college, my only goal was to meet guys and discover my likes and dislikes in a potential partner before getting into anything too serious.
But as most romantic stories go, I fell in love and everything shifted.
When I first met him (we'll call him Pete), we were merely long-distance associates. The goal was to help him start his fashion blog since I had experience in the area and go on our way. It started off casual, but the more we talked, the closer we grew and before we knew it, we were smitten.
Things didn't get complicated until I started to take a few points into consideration: 1.) he lived miles away in Pennsylvania while I was just finishing up my junior year of college in South Carolina and 2.) he had just gotten out of a yearlong relationship just 4 months before we met. Not to say that this was a recipe for disaster but I'd be lying if I didn't at least consider it.
Being in a long distance relationship forces you to get straight to the point on certain things since your time with one another is both precious and limited. When we first met, he made the 13-hour trek to see me and we made sure to make every moment – and word – count. The first thing up for discussion was of course, what are we?
Chop it up to my 21-year-old ways of thinking, but after six months of dating, I needed to know what it was that we were doing here. Still, I couldn't quite pull out a straightforward answer for whether he would stop playing with my emotions and officially make me his girlfriend. I asked only once during the five days we spent together and his answer was the most compassionate "no" I had ever been told. He goes, "You know I love you, but I'm just not ready for that right now." I wasn't completely crushed, if anything it only made me more determined to "change his mind" and see how much of a good thing I was for him. (Again, I was 21.)
We continued our relationship for another few months and would meet again for our first Thanksgiving together. I couldn't be more thrilled to not only see him, but to be introduced to his family. Funny enough, the moment that I had been anticipating with excitement to define our relationship would become the catalyst of its ending.
If you've ever made it the "meet the folks" round of the relationship, you know that you'll typically be introduced to a number of people a number of times. When I first met his mom, she greeted me with a warm smile and an even warmer embrace. Both of which I assumed to be sincere. She mentioned that she had heard a lot about me and that it was nice to finally meet her son's "girlfriend." That was the first time that him or I had even heard those words in reference to the two of us, and as soon as they exited her lips, he sent them right back where they came from. He corrected her with quickness, saying, "Yeah, she's my friend."
Initially, I didn't take that as a red flag. I mean, maybe he was as nervous for me to meet his mom as I was. No biggie. We each exhaled as the first introduction was complete.
The next day was Game Day, literally. Thanksgiving was filled with meeting cousins, brothers, and childhood friends. With each introduction, he would refer to me as his friend, correcting anyone who would dare to put "girl" as its prefix.
The entire day left me exhausted both physically and emotionally. To be constantly put in my place and have the verbal line drawn for where I stood in his life bruised me in a way I didn't know was possible. I couldn't pick my face up from off the ground. No matter how much I wanted him to commit to me and claim me as his own, he made one thing very clear that night: we were nothing more than friends.
Suffice to say, that was the end of our chapter together and the beginning of me learning an important lesson about men: 89.9% of the time, men mean exactly what they say. Most of them don't have the emotional intelligence to fabricate their feelings – unless you're dealing with a narcissist or sociopath and then we have a whole other problem on our hands. When you're looking for a man to put a title on what you all have, listen to how he's introducing you to the people closest to him. If he's introducing you as his friend to his friends, that's all you are to him. If he proclaims you to be his "girl," "girlfriend," "lady friend" or any other variation of the word, then that's what you are to him.
In order for a man to claim you, he has to want you so bad that he can't imagine his life without you in it. When a guy wants you, he's going to show you with his actions and by how he talks about you. There's no need in beating the "what are we" conversation down his throat or even forcing him into an ultimatum.
If you have to ask too much and too often where you all stand, you already have your answer.
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