For The Last Time: Can We Stop Talking About Relationship Timelines?


The New York Times ran an irritating piece today about the OMG milestone of exchanging keys with your boyfriend. Can we forget about these arbitrary, Rules-style timelines, already?

According to the story, “Even when it’s couched as a matter of convenience, giving a key often carries deep meaning for both of those involved, raising issues of trust, vulnerability and intimacy.” It goes on to explain that the act connotes a level of intimacy and “access to your private world,” and details a number of anecdotes about different couples reaching the Key Point. Guys are reticent, women are rom-com ecstatic (“I felt like we got engaged, although that took another year,” says one) and overall we get a cuteness overload worthy of Sex and the City circa ’01.

Really? Really, New York Times? Yes, I suppose exchanging keys is a big deal to some people. Sure, it can be dumb to entrust a stranger with such a thing and, I guess, a Big Deal for the self-contained. Maybe I’m just extra-defensive because such things have tended to be particularly casual in my own case; I’ve loaned someone the spare so he can let himself in when I’m out, he hangs onto it…you get the idea. For my part, I resist adding more keys to my own Chatelaine-like ring in any case. Maybe I didn’t realize it was tantamount to getting engaged, but I’m a little dense that way.

And really, beyond the actual cutesy key-to-his-heart issue, why are we still adhering to the trope of the “relationship timeline”? It’s obvious these things vary from couple to couple, person to person, and imposing an undue level of significance on essentially personal – and often arbitrary – “milestones” only serves to bolster the culture of anxiety that surrounds modern love. Perhaps because the currency of intimate exchange is so much less defined and in many ways more casual, we feel a need to impose arbitrary rules on our lives; on some level, maybe people crave the structure. Fair enough: but please don’t make us read about it anymore.

Love At The Door [New York Times]

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