If you’re anything like me, it can be difficult knowing what means what in a relationship. Heck, most of the time I just turn up and jaunt along for the ride. No jokes. Little jokes?

But we’re left with the proposition of what to do when we are actually in a relationship. The question that no one wants to ask much less answer: ‘what are we’. By which the answer they’re actually looking for here is a response to whether or not you’re exclusive. That’s the gold mine of answers, really. And frankly there is only one answer you want to hear if you’re asking the question in the first place. ‘Yes, of course’.

But there are more and less obvious markers in a relationship. Some will be familiar to you, others won’t, but that’s why I’m here!

So, without further ado… What stage of a relationship am I in?

Step 1: the social media interaction. This is a step up from casual meetings in the bar where you just happen to run into each other (in your Sunday best, no less). This can start with a simple Good morning/good night – right so I’m working up towards sentiment that are actually properly meaningful. But, chronologically speaking, the natural evolution from ‘hey’ after a bit of conversation is ‘good morning’. You can expect these most mornings, but don’t stress about anticipating one every day. At its core, this means that he is thinking of you every time he wakes up, and even if you aren’t the first thing on his mind – it’s the act of remembering that matters too.

If he knows you like them, he would do well to meet your needs. 

This progresses to ’This reminded me of you’ moments – even if it’s a funny Facebook tag or an Instagram DM, this is important. You might remind him of puppies or something goofy like people falling over, but either way, if he looks at his social media and thinks of you, you’re golden. Plus, you get to see some excellent wholesome content; it’s a win-win.

Another option: he links you to a game he’s playing – while some hate this, I think it’s cute. If he’s playing Candy Crush when he’s bored or waiting for a train, it’s another level of intimacy and you guys can work together or play against each other. It’s fun and passes the time, and often prompts more genuine conversation anyway.

The next stages of your relationship can come about accidentally or fortuitously or nervously in the back of a car.

He suggests you meet his friends on a group date.

This one can be misleading, because while the ‘group’ aspect may feel like a step back in the intimacy scale, it’s not. For one, you have been offered the opportunity to meet his friends and know more about him in a different setting. For another, the more time he is willing to prioritise you, the better that bodes for your relationship. 

Or, another big hitter: ‘I’m at my parents’ this weekend, you’re welcome to come?’. While the slightly distant phrasing of this might confuse matters, he has offered for you to meet the parents.

This is big, make no mistake.

He probably wants to play it cool, which is why he hasn’t outright asked if you want to come. He’s given you the opportunity to agree or have an excuse, which is fine. Who doesn’t hate making the first move in such matters? You will make his day by saying yes, and it’s a great opportunity to get points with the parents. If my parents are anything to go by, you will also be fed to within an inch of your life in their effort to treasure their son’s partner. 

Then after that it’s an easy road to ‘I love you’s, moving in and shared pets, trust me. 

Once you meet the parents, you’re in. 

Even if you haven’t racked all of these options up yet, don’t stress. There is plenty of time for relationships to evolve, and some will do so in a less standard order, or even not at all. Who knows.