Heart to Heart

What does seeing other people mean?

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‘Let’s see other people’ is one of those lines that can flip over a relationship 

By Douglas D. Sebamala

Posted  Thursday, February 25  2016 at  02:00

In Summary

TO LIE OR NOT TO LIE. Just like ‘we need to talk’, ‘Let’s see other people’ is one of those lines that can flip over a relationship. But what does it really mean apart from the relationship being over?

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I asked Google ‘What Seeing other People means’, and received 180,000,000 results in 0.62 seconds. Of course, if they were that many, I imagine how many responses I would receive given the population of Uganda.
“I think we should start seeing other people” is a common phrase from the movies that many seem to pick up when things in a relationship go downhill. It is followed by statements like “We’re Just On a Break” when friends ask, or “We are just taking time off from each other!” But what does it really mean?


There are a few explanations for when you or your partner feel this way. “They are actually really explainable,” says a counselor at Mulago hospital, who only prefers to be identified as Mary. She remedies this idea with key questions she asks her clients when they are going through such a stage and they are willing to talk about it.

You are interested in someone else.
This is an immediate expectation both psychologically and emotionally when one feels they need a break. There are times you develop small crushes on other girls/guys that are not your partner. He/she doesn’t love you anymore.
“I’d been spending lots of time with Benson during choir practice and gradually got feelings for him. He’s a really nice guy, but it felt like I was cheating on my guy even though there was no sexual contact,” says Martha Musoni.
That alone forced Musoni to break up with her boyfriend.


Mary explains that as a reserve for the heart and mind to figure out whether she was really interested in Benson and wasn’t fair to her boyfriend.


“Individually ask yourself how you feel about sleeping with other people? How would your partner feel if you date other people? How long will this new thing last-longer than your current? Are you sure?”
Explanation two would be that the relationship is ending. When everything else has failed, a couple might decide to break up.


“However, this should not end the relationship,” cautions Mary.

It could be simply a time to replenish individual appreciations of the relationship, or figure out whether you cannot live without each other. Unfortunately, in her experience, several such relationships failed.
If you are to survive this, knowing each other’s expectations while you take this break is a key consideration. Ask each other (as a couple), “Are we free to date other people? How do we feel about dating other people? Are there limits on how far we can go sexually- with other people? Are we free to hook up with other people or each other? How long will our break last?”

Do you have a personal crisis?
There are times when things happen that are completely out of your control, like a death in the family, personal trauma, failure to graduate, bankruptcy, chronic illnesses (cancer, HIV)... Some individuals prefer alone time in such crises, so as to focus on their life and find closure. However, Mary insists that relationships don’t have to end. One may ask for time- perhaps that’s how best they deal with issues.


But you ought to be there for them, do not forsake them entirely. Relationships are hard work and dedication; that time apart may also help you improve emotional, psychological and physical things about yourself. Ask “Why are we doing this? Shall we talk during the break? When will we figure out what exactly we want?”

The relationship is so young, it won’t last.
Suggesting to see someone else is the equivalent of when they first introduced you to family and friends saying “I am seeing someone!” And it is common knowledge that people who are “seeing someone” are actually dating. So what happens when your relationship has only been a few weeks long, and your partner wants a break? Once this ‘new’ budding romance takes root, you will be forgotten.

How do you deal with the situation?
How do you keep your sanity when the person you love-or think you love- chooses to ‘see’ someone else? Musoni reveals it broke her boyfriend’s heart when she decided to take a break. And even though the romance with Benson did not brew into anything substantial, she was never able to get back with her man.
Although those who are seeing each other are not automatically exclusive, couples who use this terminology to describe their relationship are headed in that direction. Therefore, they are going to go out on dates regularly with that person, lunches, dinners, movies, attend parties together and spend home time alone, probably cooking and eating.
So, what if they become exclusive? What if they realise they are compatible-have you measured what becomes of you then? How would you feel in case they become a full-fledged exclusive relationship? Besides, chances are they are already physical. Your chances of getting back together might be ruined.


Mary says, “Men feel guilty about suggesting a break even when they really want to break up with you. Women, on the other hand, have great instincts about these things and easily sense a break up when he dares suggest it”.
It might come off differently (socially) when the woman suggests it- ‘she might have emotional things to deal with’; you hear most people suggest. But they too feel guilty.


The difference is women are more likely to tell their partner that they are unhappy and considering ending the relationship.”


Taking this decision for a break can be rough given all underlying negative connotation. However, there is room to look at it positively. It encourages openness in discussing how this will affect the relationship allowing both to evaluate your honest feelings.


“It allowed time to decide what I really wanted and how best to handle my feelings for both men,” argues Musoni, even though she ended up leaving Benson, the choir boy and her model boyfriend.
While sharing negative thoughts about the relationship may come to an end or how your partner sleeping with someone else can be disgusting; it is important to be clear about what you believe the issue is and why you are proposing taking a break. Whether or not you agree and why it should not be.


“It is possible to continue a successful relationship after taking a break,” concludes Mary. “But honesty and self-realisation are worth honouring to evaluate both your emotional situations. If you decide to move on or are ready to move forward as a couple with a renewed sense of commitment, then you should,” she says.

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