Recently, a friend jokingly said something to me like, “So, how many boyfriends have you gone through this year?
First of all—ouch. Second of all, with full respect to the men I’ve dated, my answer to that question would probably be, "Zero." That’s not to say I haven’t dated and that I haven’t been in “we’re only seeing each other” relationships. It’s just that I’ve thought of most of these men as “the person I’m dating,” versus “my boyfriend.” Which led me to wonder… what is the threshold for someone to cross over into “boyfriend” territory? (And let’s skip the fact that it’s hard to reconcile being in your 40s and 50s and talking about “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” like we’re teenagers. Yeesh—different discussion.)
I put a little thought into it and came up with a partial list of criteria for what—in my mind, at least—it takes to move from “dating” to “boyfriend” status.
- You are the person I would write without hesitation as my emergency contact on a race form
- We feel comfortable dropping by each other’s homes without advance notice
- We more or less are clued in to and understand each other’s finances
- We’ve met extended family
- I can reach over and take food off your plate without asking (Heads up—I do this anyway and usually on a first date so it’s not like a “solid” criteria)
- We’ve got no problem asking each other to do a favor or run an errand
- We are each other’s designated plant/house/pet sitters
- It’s assumed without discussion that we are each other’s date for weddings, parties, and major holidays
- I have one or more of your t-shirts/sweatshirts in my dresser that I’ve “borrowed” from you and never given back—and pretty much have no intention of doing so
- You’ve embraced the fact that I more or less live in workout clothes and are okay with it
- We bring our problems and challenges to each other because we value and trust each others opinions and insights
- We accept morning breath is a thing and both quit sneaking into the bathroom early to rinse with Scope and pretend we wake up with minty-fresh breath
- People stop asking, “Are you still seeing ______” and instead ask, “How’s ____” because they assume, correctly, we are still together
- We can be in the same room, each doing our own thing and be comfortable, not feeling the need to always talk
- We nap together
- We’ve travelled together—and it went well enough that we would do it again
- If something important happens, we call and talk to each other versus sending a text
- We’re not afraid to disagree with and challenge one another—i.e., it’s safe to have a “fight”
- We’ve done the “key exchange” ritual
- I’ve driven your car and you’ve driven mine
- We make each other laugh
- We make each other better
I’m sure I’m missing a few key things like, “You always have chocolate hidden in the house for me” and “You’re not afraid to call me out on my shit,” but this list is a good beginning. And please note that most of the items are things that can’t be “done” or checked off. They are, rather, the result of a closeness and intimacy that occurs over time.
In other words, there is no rushing the boyfriend/girlfriend status. Like when you walk into a chocolate store and spot the perfect truffle—you just know when it’s right.