Making it Official: The Importance of Recognizing the Beginning of a Romantic Relationship

When a relationship begins to form, the time may be right to decide that we’re going to make it official. Interestingly enough, this is not the beginning of the relationship. The relationship will usually have started much earlier, and it will usually have been subjected to commitment during that time. Making it ‘official’ is actually just the formal and mutual recognition of an existing relationship. When we consider it like this, it may seem that making it official is an arbitrary measure with respect to commitment, because in essence, we are just putting a label on the level of commitment we have achieved. In like manner, it may seem that a relationship may already be official depending on what we have been through or done with someone, regardless of recognition. But as we will see, this formal agreement is a fundamental element in avoiding confusion and heartache, and not just for ourselves, but for others as well.

If we take a look at relationships before they become official, it’s easy to see why a formal agreement is needed. From the time two people first meet, an implied disclaimer will exist for everything that happens between them. This disclaimer gives both of them the option to respectfully withdraw from the pursuit of a relationship: until promises of commitment have been exchanged, no one is yet obligated to be completely committed no matter what has transpired; even though a level of commitment may exist, we naturally can’t expect a person to be bound by anything except their word, or by what has been undoubtedly communicated. It’s true that a person’s actions or attitude can be grounds for a deeper commitment, but it’s always a matter of discretion. Relying on these is what can make us feel cheated when in fact all we had done was fabricated a commitment from our partner. What making a relationship official does is eliminate that disclaimer; from that point on, the customs of a romantic relationship are in effect, and these entail a complete commitment so long as we remain in the relationship.

Now, if there’s someone we want to start a relationship with, what should be happening? Well, first of all, as we move closer to the point where our relationship becomes official, we should be making a change to the way that we interact with the people around us. Basically, we want to be moving away from behavior that would undermine the kind of relationship we are pursuing. We’ll also want to see our prospective partner doing the same. Flirting and getting numbers is fun, but it probably wouldn’t be fun seeing the person we are about to be in a relationship with doing these kinds of things. We should definitely be weary of initiating a relationship with anyone who is demonstrating an incessant amount of promiscuity if they are in fact pursuing a commitment. We want to be comfortable with that person and their social attachments for a reasonable amount of time first, and we want to be confident that there’s a sincere chance the relationship could last forever, not just until next summer.

As momentous as it may be for us though, it’s important to understand that making a relationship official is at heart just a gesture of courtesy. We are basically saying that from this point on, we wont separate or pursue someone else without first establishing a break up. For most of us, it will mainly signify the start of the relationship, and measure how long it’s lasted. Even though it gives a promise of commitment and loyalty, it’s not going to be a promise at forever. Promises of being together forever will undoubtedly get reconsidered and reaffirmed periodically as a relationship grows, so we shouldn’t be too concerned about that at this point. What we want to be thinking about is whether or not we are in fact ready to commit to the kind of social behavior that a romantic relationship necessitates. If we are ready, then we should seek to establish one before things get too serious. That way, we wont end up heartbroken from an unfortunate misunderstanding.

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