Our friends over at dating site HowAboutWe posted an article today on the nine types of “pre-exclusive relationships,” and I must say, I’d never thought to carve up the dating process into that many distinct phases before. You should probably read the whole thing for context, but the categories include “friends with benefits,” “dating,” “seeing each other,” “pretty much exclusive,” etc.

While I think “pre-exclusive” is sort of a misnomer here (not all the relationships outlined lead to exclusivity, and exclusivity is not a goal everyone shares), the different categories are, nonetheless, interesting to think about. What’s the difference between “seeing each other” and “pretty much exclusive,” for example? (Both allegedly require disclosure if you are “seeing” anyone else, but one is more serious?) It seems like there’s a lot of room for debate, and/or like some of them might be a little unnecessary. (I do, however, appreciate the inclusion of “lovers;” there’s something so glamorous and old school about the concept of “taking” one.)

These different categories also serve to highlight the myriad ways in which two people might fail to be on the same page. For instance, if a guy thinks he is “pretty much exclusive” with his lady friend, but she thinks they are merely “dating,” some feelings are likely to be hurt when he finds some other fellow’s Red Sox hat sitting on her dresser. (To add insult to injury, our hypothetical suitor is a Yankees fan.) The easiest way to avoid this is to communicate your intentions clearly so nobody gets hurt. (Assuming you find communication easy.)

Then again, the very basis for some of these categories’ existence seems to be failure to communicate. Are “pretty much exclusive” people just people who haven’t gotten up the guts to have that awkward “defining the relationship” talk yet? The article posits it as a sort of grace period during which you should get all remaining urges for meaningless sex out of your system: “The PMX period is a time when you’re basically obligated to take advantage of any and all uncomplicated sex that comes your way — because it won’t last long.” Is this a good idea? I must admit, whenever I’m “PMX” with someone, I’m so paranoid about fucking things up that I don’t sleep with anyone else even though I am technically “allowed” to, because then I’d feel obligated to tell my main dong, which might make him feel bad. But maybe I’m more compulsively honest than most people?

These categories also ignore the fact that many people identify as non-monogamous. These rare, exotic creatures go through all the same phases that monogamous people do–talking, dating, falling in love–but without the ultimate goal of monogamy. Maybe they should make a separate list diagramming all the different types of relationships non-monogamous people have next? It’ll be guaranteed to make my head hurt even more than this one already does. (Don’t worry, HowAboutWe, it’s a good hurt.)

Wish you could just forget about all that relationship phase crap for once and just find someone to join you on a crazy date? You can! Visit our dating page, brought to you in partnership with HowAboutWe and suggest whatever you’ve been wanting to do. Anything goes.