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In stories I see 一起 used to describe a romantic couple being "together", but I would like to understand what it implies.

For example: “……要是我能和她在一起该多好啊!” in this context the boy has just seen a very pretty girl. Does he want to meet her? Date her? Live with her? Marry her? Have sex with her?

Later: “再说,他们俩已经在一起了……怕是不会再嫁给别人了。” in this context, they have been sleeping together, and the speaker clearly means to imply the girl can't be married to anyone else now.

I understand context is always a factor, but I want to understand the more open-ended cases like the first one where characters wish to be or talk about being "在一起" and what sort of relationship is implied.

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Here are the modern day socio-cultural categories of male / female relationships.

Please feel free to dispute because I don't think there is a one-size-fits-all in human relationships.

Just being introduced --- 朋友

Going out on a twosome date, no physical elements involved --- 男朋友 / 女朋友

Physical elements involved, a couple, short of sex --- 情人 / 情侶

Living together with or without sex, (though unlikely), --- 同居 / 在一起,

However, if it is just 要是我能和她在一起该多好啊!and no other follow on clarification, then, I would say, he just wanted to date her, with a hope of further developments. Which is why with the follow on of -- 再说,他们俩已经在一起了....怕是不会再嫁给别人了 which puts the issue beyond doubt that they were living together with sex.

Here's a caveat. This term 在一起 is a very loaded euphemism, (which I suppose was why it piqued your interest) If you say to a girl, any girl, you want to 在一起 with her, there would be no doubt in her mind that you want the relationship to progress towards a sexual one, short of marriage that is.

2

在一起 (be together) is a subtle way to say "做情侶" (be lovers/ a couple)

be boyfriend and girlfriend, common law partners or husband and wife

just like 喜歡 (like) is a more subtle way to say 愛 (love)

Most Chinese are quite reserved, words like 做情侶 (be lovers) or 愛(love) are rarely used directly

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