Labels in a Relationship


Labels in a relationship – is there anything more confusing – or generally weight baring – you could encounter when everything is so new and wonderful? You meet your Mr. (Or Ms.) Charming, and it couldn’t be more perfect. After a few dates, you find yourself really letting this person in, sharing your inner most secrets, allowing yourself to feel endlessly more vulnerable. And then you wonder…

What was his life like up to the very second before you met? Was he seeing anyone else? Is she still seeing that someone else? Is he telling people about me? And if so, what the hell is he saying?! What ARE we? Do I get to call him my boyfriend? What will he think if I just bomb drop it in front of my friends? Do we need to have ‘the talk?’

There goes your honeymoon.

What are labels in a relationship and what do they do for us, psychologically?

We deal with “labels” at every stage of the relationship spectrum. When you are in elementary school your first boyfriend is the one who hangs out with you after school and buys you ice cream from the ice cream truck when you don’t have any change.

In middle school, it’s your first kiss that walks you to and from class and hugs you at lunch.. a lot.

In high school it’s your first bang… or the guy picking you up when you run away from home.

However, you define it, a label means different things at different stages of your life. It’s the flexible, subjective definition that proves how fickle and unstable the idea of labels in a relationship really is.

A label is NOT ENOUGH to hold a crumbling house.

People feel the need to label a “connection” in order to understand it better.

If he agrees to label me his girlfriend then the boundaries MUST be clearly defined, right? Wrong.

I once dated a guy who called me his girlfriend on our second date. I ended up making out with his friend a couple of weeks later at a house party. Didn’t really have the time to analyze what I was getting myself into, did I? And I’ll be honest, part of me did it to prove a label we hadn’t even agreed on couldn’t automatically decide what I could and couldn’t do. In many cases, this is how guys react when you just bomb drop a label – they freak out at the expectations that come along with it and forget why they started digging you in the first place.

When I first met my husband, I was terrified to put a label on anything and he was okay with that. It’s because we didn’t ‘push’ needing to label what we were that within the first week of us hanging out, I stopped talking to any other guy I was seeing.. and introduced him to my friends .. and then my mom.. (You catch my drift.)

A label doesn’t do anything; your emotions make all the calls.

2 points I need you to take away from today’s article:

  1. Yes. Labels in a relationship can often clarify confusion you may be feeling about your current – for lack of a better word – relationship*. But don’t forget, labels can bring the kind of drama your new relationship may not be developed well enough to withstand. It takes time to build trust, confidence and security between two people. It takes time for the two of you to really become one against the world. If you try to label it before it’s ready, you’re bound to face some consequences.

(*In this case, does not imply monogamy)

  1. Yes, labels in a relationship can help define boundaries, but they can’t guarantee those boundaries won’t be crossed. If the person you  have this insane connection with is aware of how you feel (just emotions, no demands) he/she will know that sleeping with someone else is going to hurt you. The pain is not lessened by adding a label.

We shouldn’t require a guideline to know what’s right or wrong. If you’re seeing someone who does, you’re probably dating a sociopath.

Labels will not give you the kind of satisfaction you expect. They usually bring more bullshit than peace of mind. My advice to you is pretty simple: Lay your cards out on the table instead and let the feelings, or lack there of , do the rest. I know it’s scary.. but you get a much better perspective on the whole ordeal.. and on the person you’re considering dating. Once he understands the commitment you’re asking him to make in more detail, he’ll know whether or not he’s ready to make it.

How do you feel about labels in a relationship?