mackenzie: (Weather - Thundersunny)
Disclaimer: The following works best when applied to monogamous heterosexual relationships, though I've certainly seen/felt it work in others.

An individual in high school or college tends to experience dating in the same way. You know a group of people that you tend to spend your time with. They are your friends, acquaintances, peers. You are closer to some of them than to others. Friendships ebb and flow. Some collapse under the strain of life, others blossom into closer friendships.

Sometimes, the result is the development of a crush on a friend.

For our purposes, we'll assume the crush is mutual. The friend likes the individual, too. Bully for them! A conversation occurs that is going to go something like this:

"I like you."
"I like you, too."
"Wanna go out?"

Only the conversation will have more awkward in it. In this case "going out" does not mean "go to the movies in a feeble attempt to discern whether or not a relationship will work out between us" but instead "be my significant other." At this point, any time someone in college or high school says "We're going out" or "We're dating" what they really mean is "That individual is my significant other."

This is not normally how relationships in the real world work.

In the real world, individuals go out on "dates" (you can dress this up however you like by calling it "hanging out" or "getting to know each other"). By definition, these individuals are "dating" but they are not in a relationship. Eventually, if the dating pair are to become significant others, there is a conversation wherein this is decided. It looks something like this:

"I like you."
"I like you, too."
"Wanna be my girlfriend/boyfriend/etc.?"

Up until this point, the vocabulary available doesn't necessarily explain the relationship. You see agonized women and men moaning to their friends about "signals" and "what does it mean" because real world dating has a level of treacherousness that their previous dating experiences did not. You didn't have to go out on a limb over and over again. You had one conversation: do you have a crush on me? and then it's basically done. You don't need to discuss it any more. This confusion is primarily because individuals dating in high school and college are misusing the terms "dating" and "going out" to mean something they clearly don't. I have had relationships that lasted many moons that never once involved a date.

But in real world dating, you're going to go out on multiple dates to get to know the person and understand if there is a potential for you two to "work" as a couple. This is greatly different from the shift from friends to partners, as you have to make friends with the person only to the ends that eventually being in a relationship with them would require. If you decide not to be in a relationship, fine, you can build a friendship from there, but then you would no longer be "dating."

This is why you see significant other pairings that only last a month. By that point, the individuals involved have realized that they don't actually want to be in a relationship, but they didn't have the backbone of having been friends (for what often is an extended period of time) first before making the decision to become significant others.

This is also why you see people who were wildly excellent at dating while in college flounder when they get to the real world. Dating is an entirely different process than friendmaking, and you can't piggy-back on social groups in the dating world. It would just be tacky to ask your date if they had any friends they could introduce you to.
mackenzie: (Photo - Yearbook)

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June 2017

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