Colleen OBrien
9 min readDec 3, 2020


Do you call him your boyfriend?


More than one person has asked me this question.

Why don’t I call him my boyfriend?

Is it because he doesn’t call me his girlfriend?

Is it because we haven’t had the conversation?

Is that a thing?

I cannot recall ever having a conversation that includes “do you want to be my girlfriend?”

Maybe in 4th grade?

Ok, so, then, how do you know you are official?

An how do you make it official?

I don’t remember.

Do you just slip into official? Do the behaviors somehow qualify the relationship?

Does one person say, “I don’t want to see anyone else” and then you suddenly acquire the title? What if the other person does want to see anyone else. Can one not see anyone else and one does yet you keep the title? How exactly does it work? I do not think there are rules. If there are I would like a set please.

What if he says I don’t want to see anyone else.? I want us to be exclusive. Yet, you and he both know that you are the only one seeing anyone else…

Sounds a bit like a pickle. An ultimatum. If you hear this and you do not acquiesce, then what?

Are there universal telltale signs that you have either arrived at or are approaching status? When said signs are being sent do you then discuss?

Or simply assume?

Is there an official exchange of information that takes place?

I am beginning to feel like all of this logistical stuff needs to be natural and without confusion, or it can’t be right. Or is this a line of bullshit we have been fed? The fairytale (I just threw up in my mouth a little)? I have heard that a few times and it scares me. When I met so and so, there was no drama at all and it was soooo easy…

Hmmmmmmm. Ok, so that is one way. Are there other ways? Should we bail immediately at the first sign of anything less than easy?

Trust me. I am NOT into drama. I would not characterize my situation as dramatic. I also would not say easy. I take that back. It is easy. It just isn’t progressing as quickly as I would think (like) for something so easy…

It has to be easy peasy from the beginning or it won’t work out? Even if you do eventually become official?


I had a conversation just last night with a great dear old friend. That sounds creepy. I would have said best and probably should have but best implies one. Right? I have several. Best friends. I heard it once said that “best” as in friend is a tier. Not simply one person. I like it. I have a tier of best friends. She is one of them. I was in her wedding. Her second wedding.

Which brings me to our conversation. We were discussing my non-boyfriend as we do when we catch up. Almost every day. What is happening?, she asked. I’m not sure, I replied. It’s fine. Nothing wrong per se. He is out of town (in his other home in another state). Insert red flag. It has been nearly 6 months since we started dating. We see one another regularly but not always often. A bit of feast or famine. She then broke into the “easy” talk. Well, it has always been easy for me, she said. That being said, she has had 3 major relationships in her life and two were/are husbands. She is also 7 years older than me and I am not young. It was easy with Rich (who she has been married to for nearly 20 years). And it was easy with Allen. She continued. Apparently easy does not mean forever as clearly Allen and I are no longer together, yet we were married for 14 years, she says.

So much to sift through. Her basic sentiment was that if it is working for me, and she thinks it is, because she doesn’t think I really can handle anything serious right now with my career and my kids and my mother… then it is perfect.

Am I hardwired to believe that the only successful relationship is one that is super easy from the beginning and moves quickly to official status? Where did I learn that?

Waaaas it easy for her? Or has she simply selectively forgotten the difficult parts?

Kind of a tangent.

I ask this because just this morning in a therapy group I run for women in recovery I assigned the group members to write a letter to themselves to be opened at a later date of their choosing. In crafting the letter I told them to remember how hard this is for them right now and how hard it has been for them to get to where they are, which is very early in the process. I instructed them to congratulate themselves for the tremendous efforts, discipline, and commitment it has taken. Imagine how much more hard work you will tackle and endure to arrive at where you are on this date of your choosing, when you open your letter. You will forget. When I started grad school for the third time, I was asked to do this on the date of my orientation. I carry this letter, still, and I read it from time to time. I cried through my first semester. I did not think I would make it through. The books are so big and the words are so small and so syllabic and there are so many pages. That is a quote. Mine. If you ask me how grad school was and I have not very recently read my letter or happen to be available to delve into this topic, I will tell you it was fine, easy, no big deal. That is a lie. A lie that I tell myself and I am not sure why. Why do we minimize our accomplishments? Women forget the pain of childbirth… Or so I’ve heard. I had c-sections. Point being, I am rationalizing by telling myself that all of the women who tell me that their great relationship was easy from the beginning have simply forgotten. And this way I get to keep my relationship. I am clever like that.

We are very far from official anything.

The fact that we have not had the conversation is not because we have not gotten around to it. This is not a formality issue. This imaginary conversation is not waiting in the wings.

We are not due for it. Or perhaps we are due for it, yet we are not having this over?due conversation. The problem with the conversation is that it will either be “let’s get official” or “let’s break up”. Why else would you have a conversation? At this point.

Why exactly do I not call him my boyfriend?

We can start with, because he is not. I feel like this title is something that must be earned. That is not happening.

All of that being said, I refer to him as my boyfriend to my mother. She is actually the one who uses the term “boyfriend”. I just go along with it. She has Alzheimer’s. She doesn’t really even know who she is talking about when she asks how my boyfriend is. She may be stuck on some old boyfriend or husband or who knows. Despite this, I feel slightly uncomfortable when she asks how my boyfriend is and I answer, as if. As if he is my boyfriend. I answer. He is great. He is working. He is in Nevada. I look over my shoulder to make sure no one else hears me. Hears me refer to him as my boyfriend. What about this would be so tragic? Everything.

I feel as if I am committing a crime.

I was talking to a friend at work and my non-boyfriend’s name came up (by me) and after several questions he exclaimed that he had met him 20 years ago. He has an unusual name… Should not have used it.

That’s just great!

He said, “ask if he remembers. I was dating his friend Lucy”. I did not ask. He would know I was talking about him to a work friend. That is some serious shit. I considered saying he is a “good friend” and not mentioning the work part. Not sure why, but the work part makes it weird…

Back at work this week my work friend asked if I had asked my “boyfriend”. Whaaaaaat!? I did NOT call him my boyfriend to my work friend. I did not! Fuck!

Shoot!, I say. I forgot. Did not forget. I will not ask. My work friend will ask again. Fuck.

My kids sometimes refer to him as my boyfriend and I correct them. He is not my boyfriend. Oh, they reply. Ok. They don’t dig. I do not explain myself. I don’t know how. To explain myself.

Is it because he doesn’t do the things that a boyfriend would do?

Maybe. In part.

So many fucking parts.

He doesn’t. By design. He doesn’t act like a boyfriend. He does not want to act like a boyfriend. Or he would. He goes out of his way not to fall into that trap. Don’t act like a boyfriend unless you want to be one. He does not want to be one.

My daughter asked me yesterday if he doesn’t like them. Them being my three children. She did not ask if he likes them. She asked if he doesn’t. Does he not want to be around us?, she said a second time. I said, no, that’s not it. He is just really busy and it just works out that he keeps missing you.

By design. My design. His design. I leave that part out.

Non-Boyfriends DO NOT want to hang out with the kids. Even supercool fun teenager kids.

Throat closes.

I did not by the way introduce them to him on purpose. Mothers do not introduce children of any age to Non-Boyfriends. They keep surprising us. The kids. They show up unannounced. From the beginning. In fact the very first time he and I met. He came to my house on his motorcycle. He was in the driveway all geared up, and hence unrecognizable, and ready to leave and my son pulls up.


I panicked. What if he calls him by another name of another guy who has a motorcycle? He did not. He saw a tattoo and knew it wasn’t the other guy. Phew. That would have been awkward. We already had one awkward moment when an hour prior in a restaurant I saw a friend who insisted I had introduced them at a party… Nope. You have not met. SOS! Wink! Wink! Stop talking Jessica! Different guy!!

Do I have a type you ask.

Another topic.

No actually I do not. Or maybe… just not a type as far as looks go.

But these two look nothing alike.

Thank god my son is observant.

And then again they showed up. And again. I think it may be intentional. They are at that age. He is interesting. They are curious. About my non-boyfriend.

So, no, I do not call him my boyfriend. Do I want him to be my boyfriend? I think so. I want him to do boyfriend things. Like check in and ask me about my day. Like know that I had to euthanize my dog last night. Like plan ahead. A week would be good. I would like that. I often make these discoveries about how I feel or what I want when I am telling a story. Like now.


While I was running this morning I was thinking about all of this and about what exactly it is that I want from him or anyone for that matter. Not much more than I am getting. Maybe some of that stuff up there. Basically, I am pretty good. I am super busy. I have a tier of best friends who I love to spend time with. And those three kids! A job. A career. And I have responsibilities that require my time and devotion. I think it is intention and the perceived security that comes along with intention, that is missing. I don’t need someone to take care of me or my kids or fix shit in my house. I don’t need or want to be joined at the hip to anyone. I want someone to consider me and miss me and care about me and know my dog is dead and be my boyfriend.

Be careful what you wish for.