Out: Boyfriends and girlfriends. In: "Dating partners."

Eliza*, 26, first met her dating partner at the office, where they shared a workspace. From a span of August through January, they hung out about once a week — going on dates, hooking up, even celebrating each other’s birthdays. What they didn’t do: meet each other’s families, go to work events as a couple or hang with each other’s friends. 

Eliza tells Mic they only broached the topic of exclusivity after two months and even then, “It wasn’t a conversation I definitely assumed we’d have.” The talk, when it happened, simply established that they wouldn’t hook up with other people: “That conversation never turned into boyfriend or girlfriend titles or implied anything more formal than what we were doing.”

After five months of casual exclusive dating, Eliza decided it had run its course. “I came to a point where I realized I wasn’t ever going to like him more than I did, at that elusive ‘boyfriend’ level, and that it didn’t make sense to be exclusive and committed to someone I only kind of liked romantically. Although I valued him dearly as a friend.” So they parted ways — no drama, no strife.

“I learned that I have more various levels of emotional connection I’m capable of, that it’s not a black-or-white situation,” Eliza says, looking back. She’s had at least one other dating partner since.