So Are You Guys Dating Or?

by xoJane

It’s never as obvious as those old school love notes that the movies say everyone got in middle school. A crumpled college rule sheet of paper with the familiar pop quiz, “Do you like me? Circle YES NO MAYBE,” scrawled in tag letters.

The question, “So, are you two married? Dating?” lacks all of the mythological middle school note’s nuance. Back then there was always a way out of the most black-and-white response. Whoever came up with the “maybe” option is probably a politician now. So slick was she.


This is me looking at Ike for an answer

Like Shayla, I don’t necessarily wear my relationship status on my sleeve. But my boyfriend (a term that, despite sounding juvenile to some people past 30, I wholeheartedly embrace) and I live together, so pretty much anyone I know well enough to invite into my home has picked up on the context clues.

Not to mention the fact that I write about Ike (not his real name) often because not doing so would feel disingenuous to me. He’s a part of my life and I write about my life so ipso facto chango presto.

Still, despite all that, people often want to figure out how our M.A.S.H. game is unfolding. It’s not enough that we showed up somewhere together, holding hands, most likely laughing at some inside joke involving the fisherman from that State Farm commercial. The present verb of our relationship isn’t too interesting; people want to know what’s happening in the future.

“So, are you two married? Dating?” asked a woman we’d never met at party not too long ago.

We looked at each other sort of surprised — as if we didn’t know this was coming — and shrugged our shoulders.

“We’re dating?” half-answered Ike, confused probably because the term “dating” doesn’t quite do it for either of us.

I remember dating. It was a damn good time when it wasn’t sucky. It was my 20s. But I wouldn’t call what I’m doing now with this man “dating,” mostly because the connotation (for me) is steeped in a lack of commitment. Dating is a buffet and we are an entree with absolutely no substitutions.

“We live together,” I blurted out to put some sort of heavy stamp on the thing. She smiled and said, “Oh,” somewhat dissatisfied.

I’m not one for labels, especially since most are so criminally misleading and subjective, but darn it if I didn’t wish there was one for the committed and chilling. The issue comes up a lot, I know. What do I call my boyfriend of 20 years? What’s the word for our relationship when relationship doesn’t do it justice? Those questions aren’t anything new.

But I also wonder why anyone cares — most importantly the two people in the thing. Is it because we want to feel validated? Probably. But again, what does a stranger’s complete understanding of my relationship do to my actual relationship besides possibly set it up like a domino?

This post originally appeared on XOJane. Republished with permission. Click here for more  on XOJane! 

  • Risse

    I don’t want to come off as “judgy” because that is certainly not the spirit in which I respond. But this is one of the very few times that I choose to respond. There is no definition for it because that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. I’m not speaking in terms of society’s views because clearly “society” says you can do whatever you want to do and call it whatever you want to call it. But God did not intend for us to get into ambiguous relationships for 20 years. He outlined in the bible very clearly what relationships between a man and a woman is to be.

  • Cocochanel31

    It’s really noone’s business what you and another person are doing. As long as YOU are happy with the status forget everyone else. When people ask are you dating say Yes he’s my MAN..that answers it, or dting can be viewed as casual, thats’ why I would through in a more possessive term for clarity.

  • Tim

    That comment was a reply to Cocochanel31

  • Cocochanel31

    I get your point but the article was not about all that you just stated lol. Nowhere was multiple out of wedlock births mentioned in THIS article, nor was it even implied. When it comes to what two people are doing, the onus is only on them to define it.

  • Clutch

    Hi Cocochanel31 – we deleted Tim’s comment. He has been posting under different usernames going to almost every post and deferring the conversation (a.k.a. trolling) to rant about “Young Black Feminist” women and his issue with them.

    To Tim (+ your other usernames) – if you would like to continue to comment on Clutch – we ask that you stop trying to start fires that do not even need to be started. You say the same thing in every comment and clearly your comments are off – topic.

    You have an issue with “Young Black Feminist” women and continue to visit this site to let us know your views on why that is. We really don’t want to hear it.

    Please stop trolling. As much as we would like to keep all of our readers – women (and men) please understand that if you are not going to be respectful and create a positive dialogue with the women of this site —- or even try to just be grateful you can come online and read our viewpoints – then we will continue to delete your comments and ban your IP address(es).

    Thanks :)


  • Stanley

    Common people! Can we stop turning every conversation about God? These people have been happily together for over 20 years. They don’t have any problem with that life. Their problem (and what this article is about) is that too many inconsiderate people are asking too many GODDAMN questions about their relationship. Lets keep it about these people that keep asking those questions.

    When you bring God in this, you basically say 2 things at once.
    1- People that are asking inconsiderate questions are not the problem. They are right to want this couple to live like they want.
    2- The couple’s decision to live happily ever after without a God-like relationship is the problem.

    How hard it is for you to CONSIDER this people as a happy couple and simply talk about the *inconsiderate people* that are asking these *inconsiderate questions*? Why are you doing the exact same thing she’s telling people not to do to her and people that are in relationship like hers? And yes, you did bring their relationship status and happiness into question when you said: “But God did not intend for us to get into ambiguous relationships for 20 years”.

    These people are OK. They don’t want you and everyone else to tell them what they should be doing with their life. They don’t want people to tell them how their relationship should be. They’ve been happily living for more than 20 years. IT’S THEIR LIFE!

  • Cocochanel31

    Thank you CLUTCH!! :)

  • onegirl

    If it’s a stranger, lie. Make up some extravagant story that will leave them with their mouth hanging open. For example, sometimes my coworkers ask me ‘How is your friend?’ I say ‘He’s not my friend. He’s my lover.’ Then I don’t have to answer the question, and I move on down the hallway. Next time they want to ask me, they can either ask his name, or ask how my lover is doing. The end.

  • chrissy

    if she was so happy about the state of their “ambiguous” relationship why does she “hide” it? Or not “wear it” on her sleeve?

    Being in love with someone wouldn’t be hidden – you wouldn’t care what other people think or say about your “20 something” year long relationship.

    However, the person who stated God makes a valid point. I mean, TWENTY YEARS of “dating”? How old are we? 15? Come on, make decisions! Adults make GROWN up decisions not sitting here playing house.

    I’m just saying – if she was so happy, she wouldn’t hide her relationship or have to validate her relationship online.


    Women seem to just “accept” things…urgh…disheartening.

  • Stanley

    @chrissy Where do you get the idea that everybody believes in your god?
    I’m not and I don’t think this couple dos. So why are you pressing them to follow some rules they don’t believe in?

  • EST. 1986

    Thank you! People who make everything about ‘god’ are so annoying.

  • Pseudonym

    First, not sure how I feel about a perfect stranger asking you the question in the first place. It’s a normal question when the answer is “Yes, we’re married,” but can get dicey and make things sticky if the answer is “No, but one of us would like to be while the other doesn’t” [see Kenya from RHOA].

    If you guys aren’t married, then I think that means you’re dating. And there’s no reason for you to be ashamed of the fact that you have a 10-year boyfriend, if marriage is not your goal or you’re willing to wait. It’s your choice. Perhaps to clarify, you can answer with “We’ve been dating for 10 years” or “He’s my boyfriend; we’ve been together 10 years” but of course it’s easy to come up with a response when you’re not completely blind-sided by the question from a complete stranger.

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