My Six-Month Rule: How Long Is Too Long To Be Unofficial When Dating?

May 21, 2013  |  

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It’s good to be friends first. Most would agree that this is one of the keys to a healthy relationship; but someone should have also put a time cap on the ‘friend zone.’ While it is usually recommended to take your time to get to know the person you potentially want to be with, is there such a thing as getting to know them too long before making a commitment? Basically, how long is too long to be unofficial?

Love has no time limit. Some people fall in love much quicker than others; but I’m close to believing that if it takes you more than six months to decide what you want from a person, the connection just isn’t there. Sure, taking it slow is the responsible thing to do; but taking it too slow is usually a waste of someone’s time.

The rule is: if one person wants a relationship and the other hasn’t decided what they want, there should be a time limit on how long you should be tied up in the dating zone.

Because I know women and men are different when it comes to…well just about everything, I asked three guys how long it usually takes for them to decide if they want a commitment. Surprisingly, their answers were similar to mine. They all agreed that if they are consistently (keyword: consistently), dating someone for about six to eight months, that next step should be coming soon. If not, there is usually a problem.

Every situation is different, but I’ve never dated someone consistently for a year and it ended in a relationship. To me, this time spent meant that either we had gotten comfortable just dating and were subconsciously tied to just that, or simply put, maybe he just wasn’t into me.

Whatever the reason, one thing was clear: we were not going to be together. If it hadn’t happened in 365 days, what made me think that on day 366, my year-long wish would be granted?

Situations like this one influenced my decision to develop my own six-month rule. If I am spending a lot of time around a man and we are ‘playing couple’ without a commitment, I’ve decided that after six months, playtime is over. This is usually because one of us wants more than what the other is willing to give.

Just like any situation with the opposite sex, there are exceptions to the rule, because there is no one-size-fits-all set of rules for every relationship; but being unofficial for too long while one person wants more is usually a situation destined for disaster. Someone’s feelings will end up hurt if it drags on too long. I’ve chosen to be proactive and make every attempt to prevent those crushed feelings from being my own. And even on the flipside, I don’t want to be that girl that makes a man despise all women because I’ve played tic-tac-toe with his emotions.

Of course, being official or unofficial are just words, and ultimately titles don’t make relationships…but commitments do. So if a man can’t figure out if he wants to officially commit to me after months of serious dating, I choose to believe he won’t decide by me lingering around “playing” girlfriend for too long.

Many times, we can save ourselves the heartache by knowing simply when it’s time to exit a situation. Maybe your time limit is longer than six months. Or for my no-nonsense girls, maybe you give a man three months to decide. However long you decide to stick around without a commitment, just remember that you could be preventing yourself from finding that person who does want you ‘officially.’

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  • kyra

    Im going through this now…. in the first couple months i knew i wanted to be with him but now its been 6 months and im happy that we are still taking it slow b/c we are getting to know each other alot better. We are currently planning trips and things so i know that the question is coming up im just enjoying what we have going on right now

  • MizTC

    I think about this a lot with my current situation. It’s a little tricky when you start dating someone who recently got out of a relationship. I suggested he take time to sort through things, but he said he was fine. We were both in agreement on taking it slow and I feel this was the right decision. However, I think that when you get to a point where you don’t know if you should include this person in your future plans or not because you aren’t “official,” a decision has to eventually be made. Nobody wants to be made to feel that they are a holdover until something else comes along, or if they are potentially missing out on something else through being involved in an uncommitted relationship. It starts feeling like the other person is buying time or taking advantage.

    I’m hesitant to put time as the hard line or marker because everyone’s feelings develop at a different pace, but I think on or around a year is sufficient given my personal life situation. Once we start moving too much past that point, it’s probably time to call it quits or take time apart to reassess feelings and direction. Because even if one isn’t deeply in love with a person at that point, you should still have an idea of if you would like to see that person as a part of your future and if you are willing to plan to work to keep them there. If they can’t or won’t determine that after a time that’s comfortable for you, then it’s probably best to let them go.

  • sue

    In no way knowing a stranger for 6 months or a year you’d know. This kind of article made so many people, so naive and shallow. If I was a man, no way I would commit to a stranger without a deep interactions before through work or long time acquitances. Then in that 6 months only spending time vacationing, going to the malls, exercising, I’d say be afraid to commit until you know both day to day ups and downs in real iife, no shared background, be so very afraid. Preventing to meet your soul mate or setting yourself for a failure is a very clear path.

  • Machone

    It shouldn’t take no 6 months or more before a man knows if he wants a relationship with you. If it does, he’s waiting for something better to come along….

  • pickneychile

    Years ago I had been seeing a guy who didn’t know wtf he wanted. I knew after less than a month that I wanted to be with him, but all he kept saying was “I wanna take my time bc I’ve gotten hurt in the past by moving too fast” and “its coming soon don’t worry.” One month soon turned into 12 and still no commitment. By that point I was bitter, jaded, and hurt and decided to cut him out of my life. Fast forward to my (now) husband, who made me realize it doesn’t take a man a long time to decide he wants to be with you. We made it official after less than 2 weeks and were engaged at exactly 1 year. Don’t settle for a man who doesn’t want to claim you!

    • MLS2698

      Less than two weeks? What do you know about a person in such a short amount of time? I mean, you have work and other responsibilities, so how much time can you actually spend together in two weeks. No disrespect, but seems like some people push relationships way too fast in the beginning, and then later feel disappointed when they truly see who a person really is. Two weeks to make it official….?

      • pickneychile

        We had known each other as acquaintances for at least 6 years, became friends, and then a few months into that we decided to go on a date. So there’s more to the story, but I’m referring to the time frame from when we realized there was an interest to when we made it official. Also, stranger things have happened in brief amounts of time so…yeah…

  • If you think you’ve been uncommitted too long than for YOU its been too long. Talk to them about it and if you can’t come to a consensus chuck up those deuces and permanently put their a** in the friend zone.

  • CocoDee

    my boyfriend and I did that dating without commitment thing for about 6 months…but I told him from the beginning I’m not about wasting time….if I see it isn’t going anywhere ill b out the door….and it’s been 2 years since we’ve been official

  • kb

    I say a month, and that’s generous. You should know pretty early on if it’s official. If the female is the one stalling it, that’s ok but if he’s doing it, then he ain’t the one!

    • mac

      a MONTH is generous? I’ve heard it all.

      I wouldn’t even call someone a good friend after hanging around them for one month, let alone a boyfriend.

      That kind of thinking is why people are out here changing relationships like they change underwear. No one wants to take the time to get to know each other anymore.
      And then once they’re in the relationship, they find out things they should’ve found out in the friend stage, and make a run for it.

      After one month, the most you should know is whether or not there’s a connection. After about 3-4 months, you should have an idea of whether or not they’re relationship material. After 6+ months, you should be thinking about moving things to the next stage. And THAT is generous to me.

      Perhaps it’s just me, but I do not see the rush. If he’s the one for me, he’s not going anywhere. Plus, you have to give people time to show their true colors. As they say, in the early stages you’re dating their representative, not them.

      Anyway, communication from the get-go takes away the need for such timetables. Somewhere along the line, in the mid-early stages, the “where are we going with this” conversation needs to happen, so both people know they’re on the same page, and that a relationship is actually on the table to begin with.

      • Adrina

        “Plus, you have to give people time to show their true colors. As they say, in the early stages you’re dating their representative, not them.”

        Exactly! After 3-4 months, the rep will be ready to quit the job, and the real person comes out.

  • xxdiscoxxheaven

    I really think it should be like 2 to 3 months. If you click with someone it doesn’t take six months to a year to decide to be faithful to that person. I think that if it takes that long, something is just not there.