A user asks: Would you be able to identify your stage of dating?

Is it just me, or has the subject of dating and relationships never been as complicated as it is in modern times? Remember when dating meant that a gentlemen would ask the lady out on date, and he would show up with a bouquet of flowers or box of chocolates to set the mood? Then, the romance would continue with the opening of doors, pulling out of chairs, wining and dining the lady, followed by the ever polite man escorting his date to her door, kissing her hand, or cheek, if she let him, and a promise (that was kept by the man) to call her later for a second date.

Fast forward to today when a guy goes on chat with a female friend from Facebook, asks to meet for coffee, and then they "hang out" for a few hours while they break the ice. This is followed by a possible dinner date (where it's perfectly acceptable to go Dutch), and then more "hanging out" at his place or hers. There's more kissing and grinding on the couch than intelligent conversations under the ambiance of moonlight, and before you know it, they are "friends with benefits."

What? What happened to the stuff romance movies are made of?

These days, there is a complicated network of classifications and stages of dating that make studying for high school exams seem like the carefree days of summer. What used to be called "dating" is now replaced with "seeing someone." What used to be known as "going together" or "in a relationship" has been sadly replaced by "hanging out" or "friends with benefits" or "no strings attached." Commitment and long term relationships have become as rare as the Dodo bird. Wait, are they extinct? Well, that sounds about right.

Then, there's the slew of "rules" on each gender side that tries to "play it cool" to trick the other into falling for whatever scheme or diabolical plan they have in mind. For men, the quick fling with no long term plan is usually on the script. For women, it's acting aloof to make the guy crazy in love with her to stick around. Usually, this modern day fiasco ends with men getting a lot of tail without doing the legwork of commitment or intimacy, and women end up giving up their only leverage in a relationship, pretending to "not get emotional"-- hoping that eventually their friend with benefits will come around and realize what a great catch she is.

But what if you want more?

Then you need to get out of the "games" and come clean from the start. Communication is the only way to let any prospective love interest know what you want in your life. Maybe you just want a partner in bed who is exclusive with you. Or perhaps you want to hold off on having intimacy until you meet the person you want to share your life with. No matter what your preference is in your future plans, the only way to weed out the unnecessary heartbreaks is to be transparent and up front with your expectations.

According to John Gray, Ph.D., author of Mars and Venus on a Date, there are five stages of dating that are necessary for finding "true love." Stage one begins with attraction, followed by uncertainty, exclusivity, intimacy and finally, engagement. He states that if you skip any of the stages, most likely the relationship will strain and eventually fail. So we see why attraction followed by intimacy (also known as "friends with benefits") usually ends with one or both realizing that the other doesn't meet their needs, and most likely, one of them gets hurt.

So what components are needed to find your soul mate? According to Gray, without physical, emotional, mental and spiritual chemistry, a relationship based on love alone will not survive. The person most likely to stay long term will stimulate us physically (lust anyone?), emotionally (affectionate versus aloof), mentally (intelligent conversation a must), and spiritually (the meaning of true love when you find a mirror to your soul).

Which stage of dating are you in? Have you asked yourself that question, or are you hoping the subject will never come up? Whichever stage you find yourself in, make sure you communicate your needs, be honest and forthcoming about your concerns, and be willing to move on if you recognize your significant other doesn't match your desire.

Oh, what is a significant other? I'm not sure, but I think everyone from beneficial friends to your long time spouse can qualify. But what would I know about that? I still think men should court women and make them swoon under the moonlight. I guess I'm endangered like the Dodo birds. Or extinct like them.