This scenario unraveled recently: Two people have been sleeping together for eight years. Yes you did read that right, eight years! It comes to light that he has been seeing someone else and they are going to have their first child. She is heartbroken and everyone is outraged on her behalf when she tells her version of events but looking beyond the surface, where is the heartbreak coming from?

This is the problem with casual relationships – they’re rarely ever that casual and if they go beyond a very short period of time they end up being like relationships without having the responsibilities.

Sleeping with someone, even loving someone, doesn’t give ownership or rights. On a subconscious level and sometimes consciously, we assume that it does…but it doesn’t. If you’ve been having a casual relationship with someone and had it stretch out for eight years, it’s time to have a very honest conversation with you about why you have never asked questions. Why were you okay with accepting less than what you deserve for so long?

If you never refer to someone as your boyfriend/girlfriend, ‘other half,’ or ‘significant other’, it’s undoubtedly because they aren’t. We’re not kids anymore where we have to say, “Will you be my boyfriend?” but there is a time when something shifts and you head in that direction. Call me skeptical, but it doesn’t take eight years to get there. In fact, it often doesn’t even take eight months. If you’re having sex with someone over an extended period but you aren’t in a relationship per se, it’s just a ‘shag’ or as some of my Jamaican friends refer to it, a ‘ting’ (thing minus the ‘h’).

Failing to even acknowledge to friends that you are anything other than your ambiguous and sexual setup, not telling anyone that the person even exists, telling your family you’re single, are all signs that whatever this ‘ting’ is, it most certainly isn’t a relationship. You don’t have anyting (see what I did there?’ other than good sexual chemistry (hopefully as I would hate to think you’ve been in something like this with below par sex) and an implicit understanding that you won’t rock the boat.

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. i.e. you can bonk his brains out and be the best shag he’s ever had but if he doesn’t make you his girlfriend (and that’s what you want), you’re wasting your time.

What’s the difference between being a ‘ting’ or Friends Who F*ck/Friends With Benefits? It’s a thin line especially as people so often make out as if they’re friends to justify what they’re doing but Friends With Benefits is a sexual arrangement between friends. Apparently it’s supposed to make things better but just like a ‘ting’, it tends to end in tears if it drags out or it’s not actually a mutual relationship. Friends With Benefits should only be embarked upon where a few ground rules have been established and it should be on an ad hoc basis and not fall into a routine, as routine has an ‘r’ in it like ‘relationship’. It shouldn’t be an ongoing arrangement over a long period of time and there shouldn’t be any thinking that you’re the others significant other; you’re their significant shag partner.

A ‘ting’ on the other hand isn’t something that necessarily starts with a friend. One party may have entered into the sexual relationship under the impression that it was something that was leading towards something more solid, yet lo and behold it’s just sex.

It feels like you’re in the routine of a relationship as it’s frequent enough, yet there is no relationship bar a sexual one. These can stretch out for quite long periods of time and whilst on the surface it appears that both parties are getting exactly what they want, one party does invest emotionally and mistakes a roll in the sheets over an extended period, for a relationship.

A ‘ting’ is an inanimate object, defying a vocal description because the ‘object’ hasn’t taken up residence in the emotions and barely requires a name. This is not something you should be willing to be treated as.

If you’re a ‘ting’, there is no point getting all pissy because he (or she for that matter) has taken up with someone else, even though it would have served him well to, oh I don’t know, grow some balls and call off the shag/ting first. I understand you being upset – I would be too! – but it’s a delayed reaction to being used and effectively like trying to close the door after the horse has bolted. It’s also very possible that because he thinks it’s a ‘ting’ that he doesn’t feel that it requires calling off! You may well be upset by the demise of this arrangement but the energy letting him know is wasted. The ‘beauty’ (if they’re mutual although they rarely truly are or it soon changes) of these arrangements is that you both get to have fun and have some of the best elements of a relationship (the sex) without actually being in a relationship. The ‘beauty’ of being the driver of the arrangements (the one who thinks they have the power), is that they benefits from it most, getting all the trimmings without the effort or the emotion that a full-on relationship involves.

Don’t be a ‘ting’ and I would tread carefully with Friends With Benefits and other such arrangements. The latter should be to water the grass when you’re going through a dry spell, not a continuous arrangement for years at a time. Being a ‘ting’ no matter what way you look at it, will wear down on you emotionally over time and will compromise both your self-esteem and attitude towards relationships.

There’s no happy ending to being a ‘ting’ because you’ll probably feel insecure within the involvement even if at some point, he does make the relationship ‘official’. What are we supposed to think of ourselves when someone is willing to sleep with us for a long period of time but not acknowledge our existence? If this has or is happening to you, you are short-changing yourself. There is no shortage of guys willing to offer their sexual services. Take it, then leave it but just don’t extend it. Don’t allow anyone to treat you like an unpaid prostitute while dressing it up as a ‘fun’ arrangement. If your self-esteem is going down, cut ties with this person and spend time reevaluating what you really want and need so that you can take care of you. It takes more than sex.

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