No Dating and No Promises: Almost Relationships Are Changing the Dynamics of Love

Just how no two love stories are alike, the definition of love too is not homogeneous. Different people have different definitions of it, and each arrive at their opinions through their own experiences. Over the years, with the intervention of technology and the extinction of handwritten letters, the emotion has undergone a sea of change. But despite the seeming disparity, there is an unmistakable similarity that pervades through these definitions.

Most of the people I know agree that, amidst other things, love is essentially a habit. It doesn’t happen overnight, it unfolds patiently, over days, months, and years. With increasing encounters, an unsaid pattern develops among the partners as each begins to know how the other will respond to a given situation. You know how your name will sound from your partner’s mouth as, little by little, you begin to know the person like the back of your hand.

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The other day, I finally met a friend I had been planning to meet for a long time. After the initial frenzy died down, she took out her phone and from thereon, our conversation was interspersed with message beeps on her phone. I could see her gaze fixed constantly on the phone, and she scooped it up eagerly from the table, the moment it blinked. After fighting my urges of not intruding, I finally asked her, “So, are you dating somebody?”

The reply was a prompt ‘no.’ Looking at my confused expression, she smiled faintly and decided to enlighten me on a fairly common thing now — almost relationships. In such a relationship, unlike the conventional ones, you do not have the luxury of time. You do not go on endless dates. But, people involved in such a relationship do acknowledge each other’s feelings, even reciprocate it. But they do not plan a hypothetical future together, as people in love often tend to do. They focus only on the present moment, and all their plans revolve around that.

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My friend met a guy in office, and she liked him. Now 23, post a messy breakup and over the illusions that love often propagates when you’re young, she happily flirted with him and encouraged his advances. Within a fortnight, she visited his place almost thrice and spent a lot of time with him. It’s been a month, and they enjoy each other’s company. But during this time, none of them breached the topic of a relationship. “Does that irk you?” I ask, a tad concerned. She tells me it’s a relief, and perhaps the only reason why she looks forward to meeting him.

“So are you friends with benefits?” I ask, now deeply involved in the conversation. This seems to hurt her as she scowls and shakes her head from left to right. She emphasises that she likes the guy, but she likes this arrangement even more. “I don’t owe anything to him, you see. We meet every day and everybody feels we’re dating. But, of course, we’re not. It’s almost like we’re together, but we’re not. You see?”

Clearly, I did not.

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“Will you be okay if he’s with somebody, while he’s with you?” I continued with my tirade of questions.

“I know he won’t do that,” she quips.

The firmness in her voice catches me off guard as she tells me that love today is a rarity. And with each passing day, the chances of finding it only seem slimmer.

In her current relationship, there is no mutual extraction of promises to be remembered, no secrets are shared, and no tears are shed. She feels no jealousy, and that clearly is a relief.

“I know he won’t break my heart, because he cannot,” she tells me.

By now, the coffee we had ordered was cold, and the cake was left untouched.

It was time to leave. But before that, I couldn’t resist telling her that despite her denial, the present situation does seem frighteningly close to love.

She breaks into a smile and tells me, “It’s convenient. It may be a habit, but one that I can grow out of, without damaging myself much.”

Haltingly, she adds, “It’s close to love, but not quite.” (Source –

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