I have been looking for some terms or definitions of the following stage when two people are more than best friends but not in an official relationship. I'll delve into the grayness of "official" a bit later. This issue is not explaining this to yourself, but to others who don't exactly get what's going on.
Firstly some specifics. I am not referring to a situationship, friends with benefits etc. For one thing, this stage does not yet involve sex; kissing, hugging, touching yes. Also, both people, in this case, know exactly how they feel, and their partner/bestie knows how they feel, and knows that they both know. So essentially honesty and no confusion on both fronts.
They don't think of themselves as in a relationship, not because of commitment issues, keeping options open etc, but rather they are feeling first rather than focusing on the formalities of: are we dating now, do I need to meet your parents, should we kiss or hug when saying goodbye etc etc, it's more natural and free-flowing at that point. This stems from perhaps a combination of inexperience/youngness but also genuineness for what each person feels for the other.
It's probably easier to explain this by contrasting with traditional dating, where (although it's up to each person of course) generally there are very well known expectations of what it means to ask someone on a date, what happens on a first date, after 3 dates, the amount of time in between them etc, there is essentially a formula to it. In this stage there are no such guidelines because these two are essentially not yet "official".
Which brings me to my last point. Being "official" is a vague term. For example, is it in reference to the couple knowing whether they are official, or that their friends know them as an official couple, or is it both? Because it is possible for one to occur without the other. In this case the situation would be that the two people understand how they feel about each other; understand they're no longer just friends and they love/have a crush on the other but being labelled as boyfriend/girlfriend/couple is not as important as the joy they feel in that particular stage.
At some point a parent or friend might start asking about them and the other person, which is usually when this stage will end if the two people decide it's time to make things official as far as they're and their friend's are concerned. Or, they may not really concern themselves even when asked, and continue along this stage until they are ready to move to that next stage. It is this part that I'd like to know how to be able to explain to someone looking from the outside in, because as evidenced by the above, the explanation in my head is quite long and complicated at the moment. And the longer this stage takes place the more confused everyone around are likely to get.
To conclude I would say that my understanding would be that this stage would not go on for a very lengthy period of time for a "healthy relationship" to be maintained. I would also think that the longer it would go on the higher chance that it could turn into a situationship/friends with benefits vs morphing into a traditional relationship.
Hope this includes enough clarity around what I am asking, happy to provide any further specifics.
Question: How to explain to friends/family the status of a relationship when we're more than best friends with someone but not yet in an official relationship?