Thursday, April 1, 2010

This Is My, Uh…

In the 20-something world of OKCupid dates and post-Black Cat hookups, it’s often hard to tell if you are, in fact, dating the guy you’ve been sleeping with for the past few months. Because it’s hard enough to define the relationship for yourself, it’s usually even harder to spell it out for someone else.

Which brings to today’s conundrum: what to do when you’re forced to introduce your S.O. to someone.

You’re walking out of a restaurant after your third or fourth date with the new guy, and suddenly you run into a girl from your Kickball team, and you find yourself stuttering, “Oh, this is, uhh… John.”

Or maybe you two are officially dating when you run into the cute coworker that you don’t want to close any doors with, so you introducing your boyfriend by saying, “This is my friend, Chris.”

Sometimes you don’t want to look like you’re rubbing your marital status in people’s faces, and other times you don’t want to say anything that would scare the guy off.

But think of it this way: if you and your roommate ran into your college friend, you would introduce your roommate by saying, “This is my roommate, Jess.” But if you’re introducing two friends, you don’t need a title.

When our relationships with people extend beyond friendship (i.e., relatives, coworkers, etc.), it’s totally fine to acknowledge this distinction. If you were out to dinner with a 50-year-old woman, the acquaintance you bump into would probably assume it was your mother, and when you introduce her as such, the acquaintance understands the situation. When we understand what’s going on, we’re more comfortable.

Likewise, if you see two people of the opposite sex having dinner together, you’re going to assume it’s a date. But if these people go out of their way to avoid confirming your suspicions, you feel left out, confused, and unsure how to read the situation.

With all of this in mind, let’s discuss what you should do if:

It’s only been a few weeks (or maybe even a few days), and you run into someone you don’t know that well. Introduce the guy first, and don’t linger on how you know the guy. “Amy, this is Brian; Brian, Amy. Amy and I go to the same yoga studio.” If it’s a friend, you can explain the situation later.

If you’re taking him to a social event (e.g., a party), again, introduce the guy first, and then try to make a connection between the two people. “Molly, this is Brian; Brian, Molly. Molly, Brian also likes skiing.” Prepare an answer to the “How-do-you-two-know-each-other?” question, but make it neutral and noncommittal. Say, “We’re both friends with Michael.” Or, if you met online, say something like, “Oh, you know, the New-Englanders-in-DC thing.” Don’t call him your boyfriend, and don’t say, “We’re dating.”

You’re not trying to hide anything, but you are trying to avoid pressure too early on. If your response is too committal, or too vague, you’ll worry about what you said, and the guy might get concerned too. Take the focus off of how you two know each other. Most people will be too self-absorbed to notice.

Whatever you do, do NOT introduce the guy as your friend. If you two do become official, and you have to reintroduce this guy as your boyfriend, the people who thought he was your friend are going to feel like idiots, and they’re going to resent you for lying. You’re also giving the guy a window of opportunity to turn this into a casual hookup.

Use the same avoid-answering-the-question strategy as above, with one caveat. If you do want the guy to start calling you his girlfriend, it might not be a bad idea to introduce him as your friend every once in a while. If he’s told you that you two are dating, but he hasn’t dropped the g-bomb yet, introducing him as your friend both makes you seem unavailable (which makes you more desirable) and invites further discussion. If he says, “Why’d you tell that girl I was your friend?”, ask him how he’d like to be introduced. He might say, “As your boyfriend.” If he doesn’t, keep introducing him as your friend.

Don’t introduce him as your boyfriend yet. This is one of those things that makes you seem too eager, and besides, do you really want to make it seem like you’d let just anyone call you his girlfriend? If he wants to use that term with you, he has to earn it (by asking you out-right). If you don’t make him work for it, it seems like you don’t respect yourself. And if you don’t respect yourself, why should he?

If you two are officially bf/gf, you should introduce him as your boyfriend. People feel more comfortable in situations they understand, and when you withhold that information, the other person’s going to feel stupid. Let’s say you introduce your boyfriend to Karen in name only, and Karen runs into Laura later that week. Laura tells Karen that the guy was your boyfriend, and Karen feels like an ass for not picking up on it.

If it’s the cute guy from work, the guy you’d dump your boyfriend for, you still need to acknowledge the relationship. If he finds out the truth later, it’s going to make you look deceptive and manipulative, two qualities most guys don’t look for in a girlfriend.

You’re not bragging about having a boyfriend any more than you’re bragging about having a roommate if you just say, “This is my boyfriend, Alex.” And everyone (you, your boyfriend, and the friend) will feel better if all the cards are on the table.


  1. Some of my friends are big fans of what they call "DTR"-ing (Defining the Relationship by talking to the person you are dating and figuring out what is going on). What are your thoughts on that?

  2. The variables, of course, are who you are talking to, where it is, and at what point the actual relationship is. If you're comfortable with the people and the environment, then "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" is proper. If something feels off, or if you're having a former conversation with an acquaintance, then things are not so black and white.

  3. formal conversation***