Dissecting the Modern American Male

Are You In A Sliding Relationship?

One of the readers of this series sent me a link to an interesting op-ed piece from the New York Times concerning “sliding” relationships. The article notes how many young couples today go from casual dating to cohabitating to marriage and possible kids by way of a gradual slope, as opposed appropriate events, or even a simple conversations, marking each phase of the relationship.

For example, the move from casual dating to exclusive dating usually involves some conversation about monogamy and future intentions. But many young couples today ignore this step, either choosing to avoid the conversation, or assuming it is implied after a set period of appropriate time. As another example, consider how couples spend more and more nights together, until one day you wake up and realize that most of your stuff is at your partner’s place and that you haven’t seen your roommate in weeks.

The article adds that these sliding situations present a lot of risk because there is never a point where you stop and ask yourself, “Is this what I really want?” You’ve sunk so much time and effort in the relationship that it makes it difficult to extract yourself from the situation. Additionally, there is a distinct asymmetry. Men see sliding as a way to postpone actual commitment and test the relationship. Women see it as a progressive move toward marriage.

In the worst case, you end up in a relationship based on ambiguity and convenience, as opposed to clearly defined intent and emotional connection. As the article points out, the real danger in “sliding” into a relationship is that you will always wonder if you made a conscious choice for a partner, or if you’re just settling because you invested so much of yourself. Plus, you never really know your partner’s true intentions.

I wanted to add some insight into this topic. First, and frankly, sliding relationships are probably preferred by the Modern American Male. It gives the guy tons of freedom, little tangible commitment, every opportunity to try to upgrade, and a great exit strategy. This is especially true in the early stages of the relationship. After three or four months, you could be spending every other night at his house, but effectively you aren’t his “girlfriend” since you never made a point to have a conversation defining your status. So technically (the Modern American Male loves technicalities), he is free to roam to greener pastures. As are you, of course.

Secondly, I think women are equally culpable. I think many women enable this flighty behavior in men. Maybe they fear that having a serious conversation about intent will frighten the guy. Maybe they think that by playing it cool and casual it maintains the guy’s interest. Maybe it is something else entirely. (Any readers out there have some theories?) But, for whatever reason, I have started to notice that women largely don’t speak up for their own interest, and therefore allow “sliding” to occur, even though deep down they feel uncomfortable with the situation. The NYT article gives a wonderful example of this.

In summary, while men arguably prefer being in sliding relationships, it is the women who allow it to happen. Therefore, you need to make a stand for your interests in a relationship. It is important to vocalize your intentions and expectations from time to time as a relationship develops. If you have questions about where your relationships is headed, make sure you ask, otherwise you could find yourself in a downward spiral. And ultimately, if you aren’t satisfied with the answers, it is much better to find out sooner rather than later, after you have committed so much of your time and energy into a dead shark.


Image via CrossCulture

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=740043383 Devlyn Fennell

    Connect with Facebook to post a cI”m not sure I agree with the view that it’s women who aren’t speaking up for their interests and are the ones who are seeking a fuller commitment while men are somehow avoiding that. I think plenty of women are also avoiding having to actually make a decision and commit rather than asking themselves what they really want. I see the downsides of the sliding relationships, but the avoidance of “the conversation” especially on the part of men (who seem to think that it’s women who are in charge of getting this conversational ball rolling) kind of works out well for me. I know they will wait around for me to bring it up and I won’t. Because I’m not seeking that level of commitment right now. Women really have the same benefits from this as men do.omment

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1357445760 Laura Schulte

    I agree with Devlin. Plus it’s not as if you just “poof” live together. You still have to actually move all of your stuff, give up your old place, etc. Most (sane) people hopefully give their relationships a couple of thoughts before doing all that.

    I also think that the problem starts when you actually live together and stop making an effort like shaving your legs (yes, ladies), your face (one for the guys… i hope) or general personal care.
    and keep the shark moving. Dating is not just for new couples. Actually leaving the couch every once in a while is really really important. Even if that couch is really comfortable. If you stop being interested in one another, discovering new things (and there are, because we constantly change, even if we think we don’t) is what keeps it all (the shark) going

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1563006920 Rachel Adshead

      AGREE with Laura ^^^

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002581598663 Hans Johan Svensson

    This is a topic allways worth an ongoing discussion.
    Firstly; What do you want? A lot of people follow their hormones ending up having kids – being happy for the rest of their life. It is not a choice you have to ponder on – it happens when you´re not thinking much about what you want because making babies is very much part of your genome.
    Second; Take it easy. It does not have to be serious all the time. Have some fun with it.
    Third; You are not born into life as a preprogrammed computer with everything that you ever need to know about everything. You might change your mind about things. A lot of stuff you will have to learn by doing.
    Fourth; Life and times will allways be changing. Nothing is permanent. Every day starts with a new morning.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=671532687 Alle Connell

    I’ve been in one of these relationships. I was 22 and fresh out of a “relationship” with a guy who would spend lots of time with me, sleep with me and (occasionally) be nice to me, but would not actually be my “boyfriend” and would give me hell for even mentioning it. It got to the point where I was totally freaked out to bring up anything commitment-related because I was scared he’d have a tantrum or make fun of me.
    Then I met a new guy, who was kind and nice. We started dating. We were suddenly in a relationship, with no discussion. I thought, awesome! No hard conversations! This is great! Then I moved down the street from him and we saw each other every day. Again, I didn’t have to bring anything up! So easy! Then we moved in together with very little discussion apart from “Where should we look for a place?” But it became clear that NOT having hard conversations was killing our relationship, because living with a romantic partner is really hard! And it turned out that even though I was really gunshy about Talking About Important Issues, I actually COULD do it. He couldn’t. He would stand there and sulk at me while I’d ask him why the electric bill hadn’t been paid, or was it really a great idea to tell six of his friends they could stay at our house without telling me. No big surprise, we didn’t get married and have babies. I was not sad about that.
    Basically: you HAVE to be able to talk about things in your relationship! If you can’t say “Hey, I think we should be monogamous!” then how are you going to deal when your partner says “Hey, I have cancer”? Life throws really hard stuff at people all the time, and you only get one shot at it. You have to make sure that the person you’re with is up to at least talk about it when it does.

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