Deconstructing the “In-Between” Dating Stage

That's one way to wait by the phone... (Photo by Anthony de Schoolmeester)

That’s one way to wait by the phone… (Photo by Anthony de Schoolmeester)

The one thing I really loathed about singledom was the whole “in-between” stage of casual dating. You know, the swampy ground that begins after the third date and haunts you until you’re forced to have an uncomfortable conversation that usually begins with “So…what are we?” The relationship pre-ejaculate, if you will. It’s not as exciting as the real thing, but still a necessary stepping stone…

I remember in high school, my classmates called that stage “talking.” That used to drive me nuts. What a ridiculous term! “We’re talking.” No shit you’re talking. I guess it makes sense though, because dating at that time just meant making out in the back of the movie theatre, and “talking” sounds a lot more respectable than “tonguing during School of Rock.”

Talking and tonguing aside, the in-between stage is an important one, and it can be an exhilarating one. I’m pretty sure that’s what Madonna was singing about when she wrote Like a Virgin. Things are new, your stomach hightails it into your throat whenever they text, serotonin is raging, your entire body feels like a clitoris…something like that.

In reality, many relationships don’t ever make it out of this stage. I’m no stranger to the six week fling. We’ve all had a couple of dead-enders terminated promptly after they show you the tarantula hatching station in their basement, right? Right.

It’s during this time that you really get to try a person on for size, and so rushing it, or jamming a label on it, or trying to fit it into a box (“together” or “not together”) will only be detrimental in the long run. If you rush right on into something, there’s a good chance that when you sober up from your pheromone-induced coma you will realize you didn’t really like them that much in the first place…

So, the in-between stage of a relationship is important. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I find that type of uncertainty excruciating. I’m the type of person who works best off a series of to-do lists. I like structure. So non-structured relationships make me a little batty. My brain gets all hyped up like I’ve had four shots of espresso. I over-think everything. This tendency gets pinned on women all the time, but I know my fair share of men who do the same, so I think it has more to do with maintaining a well-balanced sense of self than sex or gender. I’m working on it.

If you’re struggling to relax and enjoy the early stages, remind yourself that a label is not what constitutes a relationship. You have a relationship with your boss, with your dog, with your lover. A relationship is what IS, the connection that exists, the way you are with one another.

Try not to over-analyze, or get prematurely cold feet. Focus on yourself, and if you’re wondering where you’re at, just go ahead and ask. If you know what you want (to stay casual, or to become monogamous) then ask for it, and don’t settle. Practice open and honest communication. Even when it’s awkward. Because it’s almost always awkward.

*I originally wrote this post for 


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6 Responses to Deconstructing the “In-Between” Dating Stage

  1. girlseule says:

    That last line rings so true for me.

  2. Ann says:

    9 years later and it’s still awkward and I am still grappling with the lack of structure…and I still get weak knee-ed and feel my pulse race when i get an unexpected, and rare, text from him. And I’m definitely over analyzing! I’m a romantic. And he’s not. Maybe it is as simple as that. But then, most likely it’s not.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This was helpful…I am currently in this situation right now. I met someone I really like and we pretty much been spending almost everyday together at home, cooking , watching movies and generally enjoying each others company. At first I was certain the attraction was mutual but after 2 months he has settled into this comfortable space where he comes over everyday hangs out but he has made no advances in spite of my attempts to get closer and be available. He’d have to be blind to not see how smitten I am by him but he remains distant and when I try to hug him or touch him he gets awkward and backs away and yet he still comes over everyday. I have spent a lot of time observing his behavior and getting to know him. He is interesting, guarded, eccentric, very kind and giving , great with my kids but I get the sense he has intimacy issues as he shuts me down if I even try to talk about it. I value his friendship a lot and it is normally my way to just be direct but in this case I am afraid if I do that with him, it will push his comfort zone a little too much and drive him away. I don’t want to prematurely sink my chances if he’s still accessing the situation but the “not knowing” is really killing me too. His actions show he cares but it feels like he’s put me in the friend zone now. I’ve grown very attached to him but the prospect of him not being attracted to me in that way kills me, I guess that’s why I’m afraid to ask, I’m not sure if I can handle another rejection after what I’ve already endured this year. Any thoughts?

    • SexyTofu says:

      Ask! Get it out there sooner rather than later, it could be painful but it will be more painful if you let it go on longer and get more attached. Plus, as you said, he keeps showing up, so you never know what he’s thinking until you ask.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thank you for the straight answer. These things always feel more complicated than they are…where i come from, it’s not always so customary to be so straight forward but I will try to find some courage to open it up for discussion tonight. Thank you… ps if I wanted to remove my comments from here, how do I do it? or do you have to do it? I’m a very shy person and sometimes i feel a little embaressed about the . I am not so good with these forums and internet, I don’t do much on computers and didn’t realize until after i posted that it would be visible to everyone that visits this site…naive and silly I know but some of us are still learning about social media …thank you for your advice.

      • SexyTofu says:

        I changed your commenter name to Anonymous! 😉

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