Anyone who knows me knows I'm a huge fan of therapy. Sometimes it may seem sessions go by where you have nothing to say, or there's nothing of value to dig into. And then a couple of sessions down the line, all the pieces fall into place, and it's like you're reading the Matrix.

For me, that came together recently after some intense sessions on understanding expectations and boundaries within my relationships. Many of us don't have clearly defined lines on what level of a relationship we have with a particular person. If you're thinking "level of relationship?" then brace yourself, today you learn. Let me introduce you to ...

The Relationship Ladder!

Everyone will have their own version of this, but here's mine. It applies to the idea of a monogamous end game, finding my future wife and mother of my kids. Your circumstances will differ if that's not what you're after.

|===| Girlfriend/Partner (actual dating)

|===| Exclusive (P-plates)

|===| #NotDating (L-plates)

|===| Friends

|===| Strangers

Now, rules of the ladder.

At each rung of the ladder, you need to understand what your expectations and boundaries are. You really should communicate to the person explicitly what these are, but you may also choose not to and see how they behave on their own accord. Be careful with this, though.

If you don't communicate these expectations, you set yourself up to create a covert contract. That is, you hold them accountable for things they never agreed to. I've been on both sides of a covert contract, and its soul-crushing to both people. Don't do it. I'll write up covert contracts another time.

I'll give some examples of how this works for me after my copious amounts of therapy and a handful of failed relationships. Again, this is just me. Feel free to copy or create your own.

Strangers/Friends

Pretty self-explanatory. Strangers are strangers. Assume they're good but prepare for them not to be. Look out for yourself. Same with your friends. Surround yourself with people who make you want to be better. If you have five dropkicks for friends, you are the sixth dropkick. If you have five ambitious and driven mates, you are the sixth ambitious and driven mate.

#NotDating (L-plates)