VALENTINE'S Day fast approaches. I [not so] fondly remember last Valentine’s Day when I went to the re-opening of Whitworth Art Gallery, and ended up crying in Chunky Chicken. Why? Because armies of card retailers told me that to validate my existence, I'd need a card from [insert term of endearment]. I did not have one. 'Bae' was MIA. And not even salty fried chicken could fill that void.

A friend of mine said to me the other day, 'everyone has something going on, though.'

I quizzed him, and he explained: "Well everyone has a person they’re speaking to, dating, sleeping with, or in a relationship with. We’re rarely ever just ‘single’, are we?" Food for thought. 

...the frequency of engagements, weddings, and babies become more common on your Facebook news feed

The pressure to define whatever it is you are doing is constant: the irony being that I thought the dating game was more fluid now than it has ever been. I’ve succumbed to the pressure to define the status of my dates by those around me - it's a compound pressure. You can sleep with someone without being in a relationship, you can exclusively ‘see’ someone without having sex with them, or you can be in a relationship where you sleep with other people (see my article on the myth of monogamy).

But who defines what you have with another person? Is it your friends? Is it your family? Is it society? The answer is none of the above. You do, that’s right, you and them. Why? Well, because you’re the ones in the situation. In the same way that every person is different, so is every [non] relationship. Defining an emotional attachment doesn’t make it a relationship: the way that person treats you does.

All the single ladies...To all the single ladies...'defining an emotional attachment doesn't make it a relationship'

But unlike Kanye, we do care what other people think. If our friends think our potential partner is a monumental twat, it’s going to make hanging out slightly difficult. Likewise, if your potential 'bae' has questionable friends, what does it say about them? A lot, in my experience. What sorts of things do you think about when you assess whether you’re happy in your dating phase? For me, it’s that:

1) I get to see them when I want to, and that can be either a pre-organised thing or on a whim. No hassle, and no drama.

2) I hear from them in the day, whether it’s a text, or a phone call.

3) I can laugh at them and make jokes at their expense without them getting offended. Likewise, I can take it if I’m willing to dish it.

4) They’re willing to try new things: listen to new music, watch obscure Netflix documentaries with me, try my favourite foods, and try new places with me.

5) They get on with my friends and my family, and they care enough to ask after them.

How many times have you Googled a dating dilemma to try and gain virtual consensus that you aren’t overthinking your situation? I’ve done it. I did it a lot with my previous relationship: he was less of an enigma, and more of a fortress devoid of human emotion. Did being in a relationship give me the stability that I wanted? No. If anything, it made me feel obligated to put up with bullshit and rationalise his bitch fits when, if anyone else behaved that way, I would have shown them the door. There’s excitement in uncertainty, but it can also be unnerving.

Let’s talk about the infamous Whatsapp two blue ticks: if he’s read it, why hasn’t he replied?

Cue some poor excuse: ‘I was in the middle of a ward round at a nursing home’.

Oh, ok. My bad.

We judge our current situation based on the precedent set by our past relationships, and it’s damaging. Your new ‘attachment’ doesn’t deserve to be compared to the standards set by your ex, but by the way they treat you in the here and now.

It’s all about both parties to an attachment being similarly attached to the idea of ‘togetherness’. Relationships can’t be forced, or moulded to be something they aren’t. You can’t ignore the reality that as you navigate through your 20s, the frequency of engagements, weddings, and babies become more common on your Facebook news feed. And with that reality comes an expectation that you should conform: define your dating situation, plan when you’d like to get engaged, consider when you’d like to be married, and what you’d call your first-born son. But what do you want? Are you happy with the pace of your life, and are you happy with the people in it? The goals might be the same, but it doesn’t mean the milestones have time limits. Trust the timing of your life.

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