What is a relationship? At first, it kind of seems like an easy question. Oh yeah, a relationship! Like that thing you put on Facebook, right? However, what a relationship looks like to you may be different to another person.
So let’s get our defining hats on! If you want to get really AP English about it, the New Oxford American Dictionary defines a relationship as, “the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected.”
All true, but the formal definition is a little bit cold when you think about how the day-to-day use of “relationship” is usually to single out a special person.
Okay, so when people say, “I’m in a relationship,” a lot of times they are referring to an exclusive dating situation. That definition definitely works! But the thing is, that’s not always the case because the actual definition of a connection between two people leaves room for interpretation.
For example, not all relationships have to be romantic or sexual. You could have a close relationship with a parent, a friend or a mentor. Different types of relationships that fulfill different needs and purposes in our life are important, and they still meet that technical definition.
It’s natural to want a little more clarity about what your relationship means. I think the most important thing is that both people recognize that there is some sort of a connection. For example, as much as I would like to say I am in a relationship with Ryan Gosling, but since he’s not so clued into that, it’s just not a truth.
Beyond that though, a relationship can be whatever terms the people in it have deemed. You just can’t expect that another person automatically sees your relationship in the same way. You could think you are FWBs with a guy, but he could think you are exclusively dating. Maybe both of you use the term “relationship” to describe your connection, but clearly you don’t mean the same thing.
Usually with things like a friendship or a mentorship, it goes without saying what the expectations are in your relationship. When the relationship involves romance or sex, things can get a little fuzzy. You can try to figure out where the two of you are at, but usually that’s when a conversation is in order.
One of my fave shows, Awkward, introduced me to the idea of needing to DTR — “define the relationship.” Because relationships can mean different things to different people, it’s important for individuals to be on the same page about what a relationship means to them so they understand what sorts of expectations there are.
It may feel weird to bring it up, but honesty is an important part of a connection between two people in any kind of relationship. Other girls have dealt with DTR in the past, so know you are not alone.
While at first it seems like a simple term, “relationships” covers so much ground. Still, relationships with others – in their many forms – make our lives special and interesting. Here’s to healthy relationships for us all!
How would you define a relationship? What are some important relationships in your life? Tell us in the comments!