When Should He Change His Status To “In A Relationship”?

woman finger-pressing the social network icon

Hi Evan. I happened across your site, and found it very interesting. My question is a bit silly. I’ve been dating my boyfriend for over three years. It is a long-distance relationship at the moment, and I’m not sure where it’s going to go. I know this is a petty thing, but it has always bothered me that he has put he is “male and single” on most of his internet sites. These are not even dating sites, that’s the puzzling thing, but for example “Flixster” the photo sharing site, and other smaller ones. I feel it is just as easy to say “in a relationship” or nothing at all, instead of always putting he’s single. I have casually asked him about it, and he either makes a joke, or acts awkward. I don’t really want to press the issue, because I feel it’s so small and it makes me feel ridiculous. I assume this is just one of the small signs he is unwilling to truly commit, but I’m not sure if he’d be open to meeting people online either. I’ve even thought that he possibly has online flirtations, and wants to keep his online image as single. I know the common sense answer is that if I’m so unsure of the relationship, then I should reevaluate it for my own sake. What do you believe it generally means when a man is always “single” in the online world? Wouldn’t this be indicative of a possible tendency for cheating now or later? I know you may not have time to get to my question. I’m sorry if this was asked already. I searched, but didn’t find anything that similar. Thank you 🙂 —Jennifer

Dear Jennifer,

I don’t think your question is silly at all. In fact, it’s a highly relevant question for dating in the digital age, when there’s nothing resembling a rule book to follow.

Now, I don’t have that much information on you. I don’t know how old you are. I don’t know anything about you or your boyfriend. I don’t know how long your relationship has been long-distance. I don’t know if either of you are good relationship material. I don’t know that every website even has an option for “in a relationship” as opposed to single/married, in which case he doesn’t have too many options.

I only know one thing:

If your boyfriend is aware of your feelings and ignoring them, he’s being selfish.

See, a boyfriend’s job is to make you feel safe, make you feel heard, make you feel understood. And if you’re not crying wolf over every little thing he does, then your relationship should be pretty solid and drama-free.

If he can’t click on a button to make you feel better, there is a deeper character or sensitivity issue that you’re ignoring.

However, he DOES have an online image. We all do. We post photos that we think make us look good. We list interests/hobbies that we think make us sound appealing. And unless your boyfriend’s been under a rock for the past five years, his relationship status (at least on Facebook) is pretty much the public’s only glimpse of how he perceives himself.

So is it some sort of nefarious plot to pick up women through Flixter? Doubtful. But if he’s your boyfriend of three years (hell, I’ve only known my wife for less than five), he should be receptive to having a simple, thirty-second unemotional powwow, where you tell him the truth:

“I know I’m probably being too sensitive, but if we’re part of a couple, it would make me feel a lot better if you listed yourself as “in a relationship” instead of single. Seeing that makes me feel like you’d like to be single and I don’t think that’s the case at all.”

If he gives you a lot of pushback on it, he’s not being particularly sensitive to your needs, which calls into question what kind of husband he would be.

In other words, you’re not asking him to make a very big sacrifice. If he can’t click on a button to make you feel better, there is a deeper character or sensitivity issue that you’re ignoring.

Good luck — and please, don’t invest too much time into a man who isn’t doing everything in his power to make you happy.

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  1. 41

    I have the same issue. Been with someone for 2 years. Only here is more of my story: I am not his friend on face book, he has single status, his ex gf’s are his friends, and he comments that he likes some of the pretty girls pics. I had a fit months back about the single status. Well, I checked out his facebook behind his back and he is still single.
    Am I crazy or what?

  2. 42

    Ladies and Gents!

    I am in no way a trained expert on the matter, but since I’ve been through similar circumstances to this, I would like to weigh in.

    You know.
    You know.
    You know.
    You know.
    You know.

    Should I go on? Or do you know?

    If you feel anxious, stressed out, sad, or maybe even sick to your stomach about how your significant other behaves towards you, there is a good chance this is not the person for you. And there is a good chance that deep down you know that. Because hopefully you know that you deserve better. At the very least you deserve someone who is okay with publicly acknowledging they are with you. That’s kinda the first step, isn’t it?

    So spend your time building your best life and making yourself feel as great as you are, sans your unsuitable significant other, and when you’re finally feeling on top of the world your Mr. or Mrs. Right is going to find you.

    If someone had told me this a year ago I would have thought it was a hokey load of BS but I have come through the other side and 11 months ago I found a wonderful man that treats me like gold and tells me regularly how amazing he thinks I am and how glad he is that he found me! Trust me…. since this is what is waiting for you, you want it to start today – not 10 years from now. And I now look at my ex’s refusal to participate in a relationship with me a gift… cause he helped show me to the door!

  3. 43

    I think much too much is made of changing your relationship status on Facebook. Imagine if Facebook didn’t exist (as it didn’t a few years ago), this wouldn’t even be something for couples to fight about.

    I wonder if it’s ever occurred to people who get upset with their partners for not changing their status, that they might just not want everyone to know their business? I deleted my Facebook account entirely for that reason. And I know numerous people who feel the same. As soon as you publish something on Facebook, even if it is just your profile, people feel that they have a right to the information. They make all kinds of assumptions when something is NOT there, when it might just be that you want to keep the information to yourself. I had a similar situation to Mark where, when I changed my relationship status after breaking up with my ex, I had questions and comments and texts from people wanting to know about it, when I was absolutely not ready to talk about it.

    I also started dating a guy once who simply couldn’t wait to publish the fact that we were in a relationship on Facebook, and my ex found out this way, and I was not ready to tell him yet.

    So you have this situation where you’re in the position either of opening up your private life to people when you’re not really comfortable doing so, or upsetting your partner. Personally I’d rather be with someone who didn’t place too much importance on something like that. If you truly are a couple in every other sense of the word, then your friends and family will know anyway.

    I think Facebook is a minefield of potential for hurt feelings and rejection. People mistake it for real life. I’d rather not go there!

  4. 44

    well i understand her feelings though, internet is such a jungle where everybody is fighting to survive and all those single men and women chasing after each other makes all of us insecure. i mean even a married couple could have that. even a married man or woman with a relationship status could cheat and deceive. long distance relationship are insecure even with a relationship status. when a man wants to cheat or lie he does it even when he has that status on FB. when you dont live near each other there is always the possibility to lose that relationship.so i hope u will pass this hard time and live with each other soon

  5. 45

    It might be petty to others but for me its an issue of being sensitive to your partner’s feeling…and theres an urge for you to flirt with someone else,thats why your putting such status update.man like you should be given a dose of your own medicine,you are not totally committed with your partner,so your partner should do the same thing with you.

  6. 46

    People use Facebook for many different reasons. In my case I never liked facebook but I moved overseas and my friends and family practically begged me to create my fb account so I did. I struggled at the beginning,   so much information, personal information. I stayed quite for a while! I didn’t know what to do, what to share or not to share. As I started feeling more comfortable I began sharing my life with my fb friends ( people that I know 100% , like 60 at that time). 6 months later I met this wonderful guy and we felt in love, he had his fb and and I added him as soon as We became girlfriend and boyfriend. I wanted the world to know (my 60 friends) (and the rest of the world too, I didn’t care much about privacy on fb at that time) so I updated my relationship status from Single to In a relationship.   I asked him to update his status. So he did it. We got married 3 years later and yes, first thing I did yes, was changing my status to married. Once again I asked him to change his status, once again,   he did it. (He doesn’t go too much in facebook) . Every person personal experience with fb is different.   Some people add strangers to their fb. I don’t,   neither my husband. Now I have my privacy settings on and pretty much everything shares only to my friends, only my relationship status is public.  
    My opinion about your question is that If he wants to make you happy he will do it even if he disagree, a person that is in love and committed won’t think twice to make the other feel happy, secure etc.  
    If you and your partner, boyfriend or husband are in a “serious” and “committed” relationship, both of you will do what makes the other happy. No arguing,   no drama, no passive-aggressive tactics.   Period. If you don’t feel comfortable with your situation I believe is time for you to move on. Especially being in a long distance relationship demands more from each other, if he doesn’t do such a tiny thing that is a red flag.   

  7. 47

    from what i know after reading through the comment section, majority of the people dont want to change their status to ”in a relationship” mainly because:

    1) they find it petty/insignificant
    2) they dont want others to bombard them with questions in the case of a break-up(what makes you think when you’re married you won’t get a divorce throughout your marriage?)
    3) they dont want people to know their private life
    4) etc etc

    all of these factors leads to one FACT(not opinion): commitment issue(BUT you can’t blame them as they want to keep their options open because love is a choice)

    so as for Jennifer’s case, she should accept this ugly truth and be smart NOT to give 100% of commitment in the relationship, but i dont mean that she should break-up with him, please do continue the relationship but just invest like 60% of your emotions in it so that in the case of a break-up, she wont succumb to extreme heart-break

  8. 48

    As usual Evans advice is right on. Since its a long distance relationship I think this guy is keeping his options open for locals. Its my opinion that if a guy is enthusiastic and proud of you, he wants people to know you are his woman.   Id also think a guy who wants to keep her would be sensitive to her feelings.

    It looks like a sign of ambivalence. I think its a good  ideate express how she feels  before finding another guy who is local and cares more about her feelings.


  9. 49

    Post-divorce, I have not used the relationship field and do not plan to unless I’m engaged (and then married). I don’t post photos with men that I am simply dating.

    My last boyfriend and I did tag one another occasionally in photos and statuses.

    Note, he was a boyfriend.. he had met my family and had gone through a few tough things with me not simply the euphoric new relationshipy stage.

    Those close to me also knew through offline conversations that he was my boyfriend.

    Honestly, I don’t want to be that person that has different faces showing up on my social media every month. For *me, I feel like it’s having a need to have social media show off eye candy. I do not need that and prefer to wait until there’s something solid. I see this with men and women on my friend’s list, knowing those individual’s backgrounds feel that it’s an insecurity/confidence thing that they have to show that they have someone around. I think that it has a counter impact on how people perceive a person, though. Just my opinion.

    There’s also a privacy element, example.. I am dating a few men right now, as all are in the early stages where I’m enjoying their company (without having sex!) and we will see if one evolves into something more. One is really showing through actions to be someone I am very interested in. There is some sincere compatibility there. In this stage,  I like just sitting back and processing that, enjoying the experience of new potential love interest, without it playing out like a soap opera for my friend’s list. I know when I’m really spiking interest in a man, when my single girlfriends start asking about dates and I’m not as excited to share. Not because I’m not excited about the guy.. It’s because I’m really in evaluation/intuitive mode and want to keep it to myself. I think of the courtship with my first husband and how special that was that we did not have an audience following our every move, every date, every photo opportunity. It was really nice, because once we were full fledged couple, everyone was in our business! It’s like giving birth, those first few precious moments that you get to enjoy with your new baby in your arms, before the whole family comes into the room excited to see, hold and fawn over the baby. Make sense?

    Regarding the woman that wrote in, even with the above, I do agree with Evan’s advice. If a man that I was in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship for a longer period of time approached me and was genuinely concerned with my not changing the status, I would likely take it into consideration.

    It also goes without saying that there are MANY people that have multiple social media profiles. The fact that a man (or woman) even has you on theirs means very little. They could even have their core family friends on both and use an alias for a second account that you are blocked from finding and have a whole little world going on there with flirting with women online, liking provocative photos (I have a guy friend on my friend’s list that has his conservative family and does this frequently with no shame) and you’ll only see the ‘clean version’.   How do I know? I did some research for a female friend who suspected this and discovered for her a boyfriend of 6 month’s second ‘life’ online, which also included his being on a few local singles groups through Facebook. (My thought on this is if you have to play PI with a man or woman, they’re probably not the right person for you or you have trust issues). In her case, she was very mentally healthy and this was just not the right man for her.   Ultimately, people are going to do what they’re going to do.. whether they’re hiding you, claiming, professing or proclaiming that they’re with you.   And let’s not forget Tinderland, where it seems half the men on there use it to be lookyloos under the guise of ‘Oh, I thought this was like Meetup’. I know some married/involved women are on it, too.. That’s another subject, though.

  10. 50

    A guy who has a social media presence and refuses to change his status after that long or even after 6 months is shady and non commital.    Maybe one in a million are not but most are.   Does he post pictures with you?   Does he allow you to check in with him when you are out together?   Does he call you his girl on social media?   If not chances are there are other women in his life.   Since you are distance you may never know.      A guy who loves you will want to show you off and tell others what he’s got.   He will also want other men to know.   I’m sorry to tell you this.   And don’t buy the oh I’m private about that stuff. If he was private he would not have social media.   I had this happen to me twice and both times the guy was juggling multiple women telling them all he was exclusive.   Here’s a trick.   If you go on the top of someone’s FB page and left click it will show pics of that person and pics they like.   Most people don’t know this so they don’t set their privacy enough to stop it.   That will show you check ins and pictures others have tagged him in that he has hidden from his timeline.    That’s how I caught both of mine.   Women checked them in they though they hid it not so much!

    1. 50.1

      exactly !

    2. 50.2

      Left click? Can you please be more specific on how to do this? thanks 🙂

    3. 50.3

      A guy who is dating someone now for several months and lists his status as single has been hitting on me nonstop too.   He is a family member of an old friend (stepson) and I finally had to delete and block him he was such a pest.   I never even responded to his messages but he kept sending them every single time he knew I was online ugh.

  11. 51

    After so many arguments with boyfriends over the FB relationship stays change, I’ve decided to let it all go. It doesn’t define our relationship. Social media is for the birds. Period.

  12. 52

    If you’ve been in a relationship for any amount of time and see committed, the status should either remain blank for privacy or state “in a relationship”, period. Anything else is BS. You can now also keep your status public or amongst “friends” only. There really is no excuse. I don’t want ppl meddling in my business, so my stays stays blank, but to keep it at single and I’m in a relationship with someone, is A bunch of big wash. It’s not about being petty, it’s about being respected and RECOGNIZING your partner. Again, if you want privacy, understood, but leave it blank–anything else is suspect, or at least notification, that whatever you call your relationship, you shouldn’t consider it “forever”.

  13. 53

    Just thought I’d add one thing. Of course many people feel differently about this matter, but if we look at some data, we can at least see some patterns.

    According to Psychology Today,
    Research has shown that those whose relationships are “Facebook official”–with both partners’ profiles indicating that they’re in a relationship–are more satisfied than those who choose  not  to report their love on Facebook1. Those who are  least  satisfied with their relationships are the most likely to keep their intimate relationships private and not share them on social media3.
    Of course this is not true for everyone who hides their relationship status, but it’s true for many who do.

    So in my opinion, it’s okay for you to feel concerned. He’s not necessarily disatisfied, but there’s   good probability he is.

    Also, I agree with others that perhaps he doesn’t think he’s in a serious relationship. Good luck!

  14. 54

    I can guarantee if my boyfriend whether it be 6 months or 3 years into the relationship, asked me to change my relationship status with him and I refused to for, whatever reason, it would not sit well with him. He would question “why?”, if not wonder. That would leave a very uneasy and non peaceful feeling. If it’s a big deal to change it. It’s for a reason.

    Actions speak louder than words. There should be no hesitations when there is nothing to hide. Especially if there is trust and love involved. The little things matter as much as the big. Pay attention.

  15. 55

    after reading all of the responses it is cool that so many people care and commented. I agree with Evan Marc Katz completely and I hope the best for you Jennifer! Quite frankly, you seem like a lovely person that deserves someone who respects your tender heart!

    Here’s my situation: he just asked me to marry him a month ago and his son told him it’s not official until it’s on Facebook. He refuses to change his status or post that we’re engaged to be married within the year. How’s that for mixed messages?

    Here’s the truth:

    If two people love each other and are proud to be together it does not ever hold them back from showing each other off in every way at every stage of the relationship. Usually, people in love are so excited and they will do things for each other to show each other they have their whole heart. That is building trust and love. You should never have to ask anyone to change their status because they will from their heart.

    But if you’re just in the beginning stages of dating, or a relationship, then don’t sweat the small stuff! If he or she is the right one you will never have to!

    Also, there seems to be great confusion between building trust in a relationship and “jealousy or insecurity” in todays world. I know a lot of people that say someone else is insecure so that they don’t have to admit to being inconsiderate and selfish.

    Point blank:

    If you love someone then you show them they are the one and build trust and a relationship.

    What you don’t do is make excuses, you don’t make yourself available to others, and you sure as heck don’t expect someone to just deal with it. If this is what you’re doing then you’re the one with the problem!



  16. 56

    A guy I know changed his status from single to “in a relationship” at the urging of his girlfriend.   Being the sensitive guy he was, he changed his status.   (There were already pics of them together, and many people already knew about it anyway)   Shortly after he changed his status, she broke up with him out of the blue.   He was quite devastated about the break up.

    I pity his next girlfriend.   He might be very reluctant to change his status again to “in a relationship” and then have the whole world know when he gets dumped.     I really hope he doesn’t let his last girlfriend determine how he treats his next girlfriend, but as we all know, scars from past painful relationship often carry forward to the next.

  17. 57

    I am recently married and have been saddened by my husbands lack of insight around the need to update his FB profile. I feel somewhat betrayed by his stance. Regretting not having that discussion before the wedding.

  18. 58

    Now I wouldn’t necessarily consider this a problem anymore, I’ve gone over it in my head and contemplated it endlessly. No overtime just subtly I would drop the question of please put the status as in a relationship. He’s had it as single, but my reason for complaint is this sheer number of girls he had added on Facebook. One time I had gotten into a big fight with him (non-physical) and yes I admit I gave up in that moment. I had no ability to stay around because we would fight more, so I left him. But by the end of the night we had resolved our differences and got back together. The role that this plays is the status was changed from single to in a relationship for a few days; while we were fighting. I’m still with him and of questioned him about it, because yes I’m curious (I have ASD), I wanted to resolve any miscommunications and misunderstandings that we had gained over the past few days. Now, if I ask him to change it back, he gets extremely cruel. I know many people would suggest me leave, but I truly deeply love this man; no not obsession,the true chemical cocktail that is love. This is really less of a question, it’s more of a deeply ingrained concern. I’m just having trouble working out how everything falls into place, necessarily the behaviors and actions that seem familiar to me.

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