Maybe, kinda, sorta... Are you in an almost-relationship?
You date, you click, but for some reason it never develops into anything serious, and yet it never ends. Morgan Reardon explores the new relationship limbo...
The other day someone asked me how long I’d been single for. In simple terms the answer was five years, but when it comes to some people’s love lives – namely my own – the answer is never that simple. While I may not have had the official title of ‘girlfriend’ for quite some time, I’ve held onto the status of ‘almost’ for many years. There was the best mate who almost became my boyfriend and the reality TV star who danced around the idea of a legit relationship with me for a ridiculous two years. I’ve had girlfriends who have started and ended several ‘fulltime’ relationships during the life span of just one of my ARs. And I’m not alone in my relationship limbo. With the rise of dating apps, such as Tinder, ARs are becoming commonplace. But what exactly is an AR? Guys, that’s like asking me to explain why Anna Faris and Chris Pratt (aka the best couple in the world) broke up – I really don’t know, but I’m going to try my best to break it down
for you! ARs are the grey matter in the world of relationships; they look like a relationship, they feel like a relationship and yet they’re anything but.
My first AR was several years ago when I interviewed a reality TV contestant. While I’m all about professionalism, he was a total babe and I fell hard – like, really hard. But because he was on a TV show and lived in another state, coordinating a catch up was pretty damn difficult. We’d text all the time, see each other every couple of months, have the most intense and amazing conversations, which sometimes led to a little more... but at the end of the day we were not a couple – and yet I couldn’t bring myself to date anyone else seriously. Was this healthy? Probably not. Could I stop it? Not a chance. Let’s not get this twisted – an AR is not a booty call/fbuddy scenario. No, they go much deeper than that. In some cases you might not even get to third base with them. Take my second AR for example, it lasted six months and while we went on loads of ‘dates’ and acted enough like a couple that no guy would ever approach me, we never crossed over the intimacy barrier, bar a sneaky spoon here and there.
And this is where ARs can do more harm than good, warns psychologist Madonna Hirning.
‘Often we stay in these situations because of a lack of vulnerability, or not wanting to make it something more because you’re hoping there’s something better out there, or even a fear around letting it go. It’s important to know when to take a step in either one of those directions.’
But it’s not all doom and gloom – there are loads of benefits too.
‘ARs can also be a lot of fun,’ says Hirning. ‘They provide good company and in some cases a really great friendship. Research shows that the friendship basis of a relationship is the most important predictor of how a relationship is going to play out. It even plays into sex and intimacy – if the friendship stays strong, so does the sex and intimacy, so you could be moving towards something really powerful.’
ARs aren’t some passing fad either. Millennials’ attitudes towards relationships have been evolving over recent years. A report from the Pew Research Center estimated that by the time today’s young adults, aka us, reach the age of 50, about one in four will never have married*. And according to the latest Census, around 40% of the Aussie population is single**.
It seems as though there’s no longer a ‘one size fits all’ relationship title. We’re far more adventurous and independent than the generations before us. We live alone, we travel the world, we change careers, we start families later – or not at all – and that’s OK.
So should you find yourself in an AR, how the heck do you navigate them? Like most things in life, it all comes down to communication.
‘You have to be honest with yourself and the other person,’ says Hirning. ‘Are you allowed to see other people? What happens if one of you want more? Know your parameters and make sure you stick to them. When everyone is clear, the relationship will work much better for everyone involved and you can enjoy the flexibility it offers.’
If only there was an AR box we could check on our
‘KNOW YOUR PARAMETERS AND MAKE SURE YOU STICK TO THEM’
WILL TWO BECOME ONE... OR NONE?