XOXO contributor Florence explores relationships vs. dating vs. flying solo– which option best suits her? And are they mutually exclusive?

I haven’t been on any dates in several weeks now. I’ve been spending lots of time with my ex-boyfriend and even though we haven’t declared anything “official” isn’t that a childish thing to do anyway? Maybe in high school I would have expected something formal, like a handwritten note passed across three desks in Geometry asking, “Would you like to be my girlfriend, Y or N?” But this is not then. The ways a relationship reveals itself are more subtle. Like when I felt guilty at the farmer’s market for flirting with my favorite teacher from high school and not because he’s married and has two young children (whom he introduced me to) but because of the ex boyfriend, whom I’d be seeing later and wouldn’t I have acted differently if he was there? And when he asked me to watch his dog for the weekend he didn’t offer to pay me for it because it was just understood that in one way or another he would do something for me, that the scales would level out eventually because who would ever think to pay their girlfriend to watch their dog?

Part of me says sometimes, “Woah, I didn’t sign up for this,” but of course I did. I stayed over at his place, invited him to the movies with my mom and I, asked him to hold on to some books for me until I could properly move in someplace not with my parents. The thing is, all my actions aside, I have lots of reservations about relationships, especially when I start thinking about Christmas. Like, I don’t want him to buy me anything unless it’s a horse or a tree house but even if he did get me a tree house he’d probably want to hang out in it with me but I picture a tree house as a very solitary type thing. Actually, I think of a lot of things as solitary things. Sleeping, for one. Who can get a good night’s sleep sleeping next to someone else? No one I know, (I really only know myself, and even that’s a bit of a crapshoot) but they say that’s a fast track to divorce, sleeping in separate rooms. And going to the movies is much better alone too. Otherwise I just try to talk to the person the whole time and by the end of the movie they hate me, as do all the other movie goers in the room.

Dating brings out my neurotic Am-I-good-enough?/Please-like-me!-self, whereas relationships bring out my neurotic This-space-is-too-small-because-my-heart-is-only-big-enough-for-one-of-us-self. Neither are too terribly appealing but this is a chance to work on the latter. Because it’s nice to have someone to get ice cream with. Because it’s nice not to be the only person laughing in my room at 1 a.m. while re-watching the same comedy special as the night before. And because sometimes it’s worth a lesser nights sleep to role over and find someone you’re going to wake up in a few hours to tell your sweet and gory dreams to.