*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Being in a relationship with someone is about sharing special moments together, keeping each other positive, making memories, and finding the things that keep you close no matter what happens.
How would you react if your partner agreed to be in a relationship but wanted to avoid dating? Could you go on loving them if it only meant meeting casually or just spending time at your place or theirs?
Would that still be about a future together, or would you doubt they can actually commit to you?
My friend Maya, who lives in Phoenix, Arizona, has been seeing Peter, her boyfriend, for eight months. They love spending time together, but they're not on the same page at all when it comes to defining what their relationship is like.
"He's always nice to me and positive. We haven't ever argued or offended each other, so that's great. But there's something still missing," Maya said.
The issue she's having with her boyfriend is about dating. While most people assume she and Peter have been dating for a good while since they're in a relationship, that hasn't happened yet.
And it's because Peter isn't comfortable with doing that.
"We could have gone to watch the movies or check out some restaurants around Phoenix, but he's so careful about avoiding anything that would be a date. I spend at least four evenings a week at his place, and we watch TV or play games, and he comes over to my apartment too. We get our groceries together, and we shop for presents whenever we get the chance. But all this is based on not focusing on dates," Maya said.
She still thinks their relationship deserves a chance and is willing to consider moving in together, as Peter asked her to once they'd been spending time together for six months. The problem is she's worried about him avoiding dates.
"I get that he wants to be sure we're right for each other. I want to avoid feeling upset too, but why can't we go on just one date? It's not like that's going to change things permanently. And supporting each other so much time while not ever going on dates is so unusual I don't even know what to tell my friends when they ask me about it," Maya said.
Maya's parents also want to know how their relationship is going. They know Peter because he grew up in the same neighborhood in Phoenix, but they're not sure what to make of his choice about not dating.
"I know every relationship is different and we don't want to pressure them do to anything just because we think they should. But how will they get engaged or married if they're not even dating after eight months?" Gina, Maya's mom, said.
Things aren't getting any easier as time goes by, and now Peter is also having trouble finding a purpose in his relationship with Maya.
"He's not ready to date; we've been together for months. How much longer does he need? And why is he suddenly confused about where we're headed? I don't feel empty; I'm happy when I'm with him, and I know he is too. I don't get any of this," Maya said.
She's tried contacting Peter's parents in Phoenix to find out more about why this is happening, but they're not willing to help. And they don't like Maya that much, so they feel their son is behaving this way because he would like to leave and doesn't know how to tell her.
"It wouldn't be the first time. He used to have this girlfriend a few years ago, and she was always around, trying to get a ring. And he was too polite and agreed to spend time with her, but in the end, he was just too embarrassed to tell her it couldn't work out between them. I think it's the same thing now with Maya," Liana, Peter's mom, said.
In the meantime, Maya isn't sure if she should go ahead and move in with Peter in his apartment in Phoenix while he's still not dating her or if it's better to wait and make it clear he has to choose to be with her and date like all couples do.
What do you think about this situation? Is it fair for Peter to agree to be in a relationship with Maya but refuse to date at all? Should Maya wait and see if he changes his behavior, or is it time to look for someone else who can make her happy without avoiding commitment?