There are two reasons why people choose to keep their relationships "vague".
In the first instance, that decision is made to benefit the self. Keeping things vague is a way to keep as many doors open as possible, so that when one door closes, there will always be others that are open and welcoming. It makes us feel better that we have a safety net to fall into, and more interested parties to give us that stroke of our ego when things get rough with our partners. Life is a gamble – you put your chips down for one bet but there is always a risk that the one you set your sights on will fall through; so you keep your eyes open for other opportunities. That’s why you choose to keep it vague, because certainty may burn bridges.
And then there is the intention of keeping it vague because you don’t want to hurt others. You don’t want to tell the person you just broke up with after a week that you’re already seeing someone else, you don’t want to use harsh words on your partner that you can no longer stand, and you don’t want to give an interested party false hopes that things would be a happily-ever-after. Because certainty can be brutally harsh and it’s not something that everyone can take, “keeping it vague” is a face-saving mechanism, an act you reserve for people you care about to help ease the pain.
But you see, human beings can’t decipher between these two. And that is when the problem arises. No one can actually tell if it’s a self-serving act, or a thoughtful gesture. And when things are not clear, there will be hope. And with hope comes expectations. And when you expect that things will turn out for the better, you put more of yourself into it – because something inside you is egging you on and telling you that everything is going to be a-okay. And when they are not, the instinctive reaction is to assign blame. You blame the other party for not making things clear with you, for not stopping you from falling for them even when they saw it coming.
But you know what? You already know the reply in such keeping-it-vague confrontations. The reply you get will always be “I wasn’t sure about it myself”. Nothing about this response is going to give you more clarity, or make you feel less hurt. The pain would already have been inflicted and you’d only have yourself left to blame for not seeing through the situation earlier.
One of my friends told me this: That relationships are like contracts, with clauses and fine print. You need to be clear about the terms and conditions before you enter into them. And you need to do the other individual a favour, soon enough, to also let them know your expectations. If there is clarity, there will be no games. Game-playing is tiring and guessing at emotions is a draining process. So yes, while certainty may be hard to accept, it saves on long-term pain. My take is, as soon as you think the terms of the contract are clear, just sign on it.