Dating in the Philippines and the term “It’s Complicated”

No, it is not the Alec Baldwin and Meryl Streep movie. It is also not the answer a kid in third grade gives to a difficult math problem. It is also not a response to a medical procedure. And it is not a 2,500 piece puzzle. “It’s complicated”, is now the most chosen status of romantic relationships.

The phenomenon started in social networking sites wherein one can choose your relationship status in the account settings. It’s complicated is a welcome addition to the buffet of choices for relationship status. Aside from “Single”, “Married”, “Divorced”, “Widowed”, “In an open relationship”, ‘It’s complicated” became the newest buzz word in the social networking world. It became the most favorite status for it was the most intriguing and arbitrary to say the least.

Interestingly, people suddenly have changed their relationship status to the now famous “It’s complicated” status. Young and old, students and professionals, even married people have been switching to this status. What does the complicated status mean? What is this fuss about? In the Philippines, there is a growing population in a broad range of spectrum that is using this term.

“It’s complicated” is a single term used in various situations, although its usage is just fit for a description of the relationship status and not used for something else. For some people who have been so confused with why and how the term is used, here are some of the situations that the term “It’s complicated” is commonly used:

A petty childish fight. So the boy failed to pick-up the girl from school because he played online games with his friends. The girl called a gazillion times but to no avail. The boy then saw a hundred and two messages from his girlfriend ranging from, “Where are you” to “I hate you”. Moments later he logs on Facebook only to see on his feed that his girlfriend’s status was now from “In a relationship” to “It’s complicated”.

A “neither here nor there” relationship. Yes they date. They had gone to the movies together, eat dinner together, call each other, and do other stuff that two people in a relationship do. However, no, they were not “on” together. She did not put a definition while he had not label the relationship. Simply put what they have and what they said, “It’s complicated”.

An “even-when-I’m-with-my-boo-I-think-of-you” relationship. She was not single. So was he. Both were “In a relationship” status. He liked the she, but not his she, the other’s she. She, likewise, liked the he but not her he. Things became difficult as they could not express what they felt for each other for fear of rocking the boat and disturbing the universe. “It’s complicated”, that was what they shared.

A ring on finger forever- but not tonight. She was married- definitely married. In fact they had been together for ten years. The husband was a total disappointment that night for he forgot her birthday. Sad and hurt, she logged on to her favorite social networking sites- all of her accounts. She first bashed her unnamed husband by flooding the feed with her random thoughts then changed her status after friends commented to her posts. “It’s complicated” the feed said but the husband would never know. She blocked his account.

Sugar coating the bitter. She was the only one who was still single in their group. Though she was just 27, she felt the pressure mounting for her to find her man. For some reasons, she could not. And to lessen the pressure from the outside world, a simple answer of “It’s complicated” would be enough to hush their mouths.

The different situations above tried to clarify and explain the usage of the term “It’s complicated”. However, there could be no provision of a definite and clear cut definition at least when used in the Philippine context- known for taking a global culture and giving it a local flavor.

For the Philippine culture, the coinage of this term was relatively new. It was new in the sense that it was first used and eventually became famous through social networking sites like Facebook. “It’s complicated” became a staple part of the Philippine pop culture and society as it rapidly made its way through the vernacular, media, literature, and even the academe.

The rise of the term was signaled when different sectors and classes of society have started using it. At first, young adults and teenagers who have access to the social networking sites had used it. However, as it spread like wild fire, even a common middle-aged vendor would humorously use the term to describe her relationship. As an example, you would hear a conversation like this, “Secret! It’s complicated”.

The term also became even famous with the prestige that went with it. To say that a relationship was complicated was inviting more attention from friends and colleagues. Of course it was intriguing. To some extent it was deviant. It was not supposed to be a proper answer. It was rebellious and unusual. It was the typical answer of the people who are confused, unsure, bitter, and angry towards their or lack of their relationships.

“It’s complicated” in the Philippine context is a transient phase. It is not a more permanent status compared to “Single” or “Married”. It is a fleeting, moving, and very fluid status as one would expect that the status would change in the next couple of days. “It’s complicated” does not stay very long. Its shelf life is very determined to be living in a short span of time.

Whatever the future of “It’s complicated” in the Philippine culture is, it has made a big wave already at least in the pop culture. It may never be explained well but for the people who use the term, they love to use it all the time. The term may have satisfied the search for the label to go with what they feel regarding their relationships. And for Filipinos who are hopeless romantics, the “It’s complicated” seems to fit into their need.