Although I have been dating the same person for the past two years and I am currently engaged to her, I will give my best guess as to what I would do in an experimenting relationship stage. I would make sure to stay in the phase of small talk and not let the conversations that we have steer toward deeper matters. The book describes small talk on page 336 as “facts that enable you to lay groundwork for deeper conversation.” Although it is groundwork for something more intimate, I think that it is key to keep to only small talk so that a bond does not grow greater in the experimenting relationship. The most blunt and obvious thing that I would do to convey that a the relationship was just a “test-drive” is to say it, I would be blunt in conveying that I was simply testing the dating waters. If I did not feel that the relationship was going to intensify, or I did not want it to reach that point, I would terminate it completely.
When I begin to communicate things that I would not normally share in an experimental relationship, I know that I am intensifying the relationship to another “level”. The book does a good job of outlining the term intensifying on page 336 as sharing secrets, goals, or any past withheld information. I think one of the biggest things for myself in taking the relationship to the next level is pet names. Things like “babe”, “baby”, “sweetheart”, and other names of that type are an indicator to myself that I want to take the relationship to the next level. I may throw the occational “skank muffin” in just to switch things up (compliments of J.T. Slusser.)
I believe that the major sign that a relationship has moved from experimenting and intensifying to integrating and bonding can be summed up in one word. Love. When a couple starts dropping the L-bomb you know it is getting serious. The book describes the integrating phase as a time when “you and your partner’s personalities seem to become one. “We” language becomes a part of your normal vocabulary when describing your relationship. Spending as much time as possible with each other can also be a sign of integration, but I firmly believe that the L word is the biggest indicator of a serious relationship.
Picture from i-love-cartoons.com.