Despite criticisms from people who just don’t understand, such as parents, the non-relationship is here to stay. This isn’t our parents’ America, that’s for sure. Our values have changed, our priorities have changed, and the marriage statistics reflect that. For example, back in the baby boomer era and earlier, a single woman in her thirties was assumed to either be a hussy or a widow. Now we just consider it sad, but increasingly the norm. However, maybe five or ten years from now it will be considered a societal norm—a casualty of the times, so to speak. Due to sluggish economic growth and massive underemployment, couples are waiting longer and longer to get married. Less people are working in large offices or large office buildings where they can meet a potential significant other. Nowadays, it’s better to meet someone out and about—if you have the time and money.
Marriage isn’t the only casualty of the times. Real boyfriend-girlfriend relationships seem to be fading as well, probably due to similar reasons as marriage. Additionally, the hookup culture and “dating” apps like Tinder have made it more convenient to casually date someone, or just to find someone in which to lay some Keystone XL pipe. With all the financial and mental barriers to a full relationship, the mocked “non-relationship” seems like a better and better idea, especially when you are a twenty-something young professional.
The “non-relationship” is basically an extremely casual relationship. There is implied exclusivity, but paradoxically there is a tiny level of flexibility on meeting other people. You can set the ground rules with your non-significant other if you’d like. The pressure of “forever exclusive” is not there, so rather than going on serious dates, it’s basically pizza, alcohol, Netflix, and sex with the level of comfort and companionship of a relationship. It’s convenient for busy people who don’t have the time and attention to dedicate to a full-on relationship. A non-relationship has the potential to evolve into a real relationship, but it can also end like a relationship, except with less fallout and less baggage. In this day and age, this level of flexibility is ideal.
Aside from convenience and flexibility, the non-relationship also removes some of the burdens of solid commitment. They allow you to really get to know someone before you jump into a commitment. For all you know, she could be a self-centered, tapas-obsessed, ignorant nut job who cries for hours when she get jealous. On the flip side, he could turn out to be an quiet, creepy, closeted control freak with unspeakable sexual kinks, like Jake in “Scrubs.” I mean, there are only so many things for which you should have to ask permission, am I right, ladies? But I digress. All I’m saying is, you should give it a test drive before you buy it, and the non-relationship provides that opportunity.
Despite the criticisms non-relationships get, such as that it’s just a half ass way to have a relationship and you might as well just go for it, its very criticisms are its strengths. Having the comfort of a semi-relationship ultimately gives you flexibility. Are you involved with the right person? Are you interested in other people? It’s better to know now than be in a real relationship and cheat. You’ll also find out if this person is going to respect your time and priorities. It’s a test drive for a relationship, except you get the full driving experience for an extended period of time, while regular dating is more akin to taking a test drive around the parking lot. The non-relationship is not for everyone, but it’s a safe, smart institution for the times in which we live..