I’m a baby lawyer, well technically. I just graduated from uni and am doing the final steps to being admitted as a solicitor.
Contract law was not my favourite subject, I actually just scrapped by with 50 on the dot, but what I do remember from my night-before cram, is the basic principles that make up a valid contract.
Without diving into the history of Contract Law, as much as I’m sure you want me to, in my very first class I was taught that a contract is formed when an offer by one party is accepted by the other party. An offer is essentially a promise to be bound to the agreement at hand. Then it goes off on a tangent of accepting the offer and whether there was consideration but I wont bore you with this (it has nothing to do with the fact that for me to tell you any more I’ll have to locate one of my
paper weights textbooks from my shelf)
It got me thinking, these basic principles of Contract Law are pretty similar to the principles of the ‘sorta kind of’ boyfriend.
At what point does the ‘friendship’ imply an exclusive relationship?
I remember in another class, my lecturer was talking about express and implied terms. An express term, as the name suggests is a term which is written into the contract. Whereas an implied term is just understood by the context surrounding it. So lets break this down, Harvey gives Donna $3 to buy him a bottle of water. Harvey expressly tells Donna to buy the water, so it is implied that Donna will purchase the water and give it to Harvey, not simply buy it and leave it on the counter.
At a party a few months ago, my then ‘sorta kind of’ and I were at a party chatting with some people on our table, as the conversation flowed, one of the attendees pointed to us both back and forth and asked “so how long have you two been together?” Immediately my he looked in my direction and the spotlight was on me to answer, “ummmm…. sorta…. kind of” said with a scrunched up face and some sort of waving hand gesture.
I felt like an idiot not because of my answer, but because I actually didn’t know. It’s normal if not expected to take the beginning of a ‘sorta kind of’ relationship casually but is it necessary to to be express about the terms and conditions, or even more, establish whether an offer was made by either of you in the first place?
That period of ‘seeing someone’ is rather confusing, and the offer is a little ambiguous. Is he offering friendship, a relationship or something casual? It begs the questions, does the ‘so what are we’ conversation need to happen before you are ‘official’ or at what point does the ‘friendship’ imply an exclusive relationship?
After the party my ‘sorta kind of’ and I were strolling along when he turned to me and apologised for not being more proactive when asked of our ‘status’ but he too shared the uncertainty as to where we stood. Everyone goes into a ‘sorta kind of’ with a play it cool attitude, don’t come on to strong and play hard to get, that we are more worried about scaring the other away than clarifying what exactly is going on.
I can’t say I’ve been in a lot of ‘sorta kind of’ relationships,but the few I have been in, with all the elements of being together, date nights, the typical good morning/goodnight texts etc. But when they ended, I couldn’t actually work out ‘what’ had ended because we never exactly clarified. Should I have had the “are we seeing other people or are we exclusive chat?” Even then we must flick to the definitions section of the ‘exclusive’ and even that task can be unclear.
A contract can be declared invalid when vitiating factors are apparent. These factors include misleading or deceptive conduct, mistake, duress or undue influence.What this means is, when any of these elements are the reason a contract was entered into, the contract essentially is not valid. Don’t use the ‘so what are we?’ Conversation to mislead, deceive or even pressure the other into something that they don’t want.
It’s likely you’re going to come across someone (or many) who don’t necessarily want the same things as you and that’s ok; the biggest complaint guys have told me is girls have gone into a ‘casual relationship’ looking to ‘change’ them. If someone has defined the relationship, don’t go looking for hidden clauses or loop-holes.
I’ve compiled a check list to make the ‘so what are we?’ Conversation a little less nerve-wracking:
1. Have the conversation in person: I know it seems easier to hide behind technology, but with the risk of being misinterpreted, opt to have it face-to-face;
2. Be sure you establish whether both of you are looking for the same thing: You may be looking for something casual, but they might be after a more committed relationship;
3. Don’t have the conversation too soon: Obviously this is not an ice breaker on the first couple of dates so wait a while and get to know the other person;
4. Never assume that an exclusive relationship is implied: Use this conversation to clearly define your ideas of ‘exclusive’;
5. Relax: Like I’ve said a million times, a new relationship is meant to be exciting so don’t get too caught up with defining EVERYTHING, let the relationship progress naturally.
My ‘sorta kind of’ guy and I had the talk and established we were pretty happy with it being ‘just me and you,’ but for others, like a good friend of mine, she is happy with taking it slow and continues to keep it casual. Honesty is the best policy, don’t expect them to read behind the lines, or hope they pick up on ‘implied’ messages.
The most important thing a lawyer is taught is to be clear and concise, and the same thing goes for the ‘sorta kind of’ relationship.