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Labels in Relationships

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Chiara Mazzucco

CEO, Editor-in-Chief at The Indie Chicks, Inc
Chiara got her start in the blogosphere by dishing out reality slaps on her dating and relationship blog. The brutal honesty that became her signature tone earned her the badass reputation she needed to get The Indie Chicks magazine up and running. She is also a web designer and author of The 9 Mirages of Love. Driven, stubborn, and wildly ambitious, she won’t stop until she is the perfect, self-empowered role model for all of her readers.

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Labels in a relationship – is there anything more confusing, or generally weight baring that 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.

Purpose of Labels

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’re 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 ex-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, introduced him to my friends, and then my mom…(You catch my drift.)

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

The Take Away

Two points I need you to take away from this 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.

2. 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?

For more dating, relationship, and love tips you should check out our summer issue of Indie Chick magazine, on Barnes & Noble magazine shelves now. To make sure there is another print issue in the fall please watch, share, and contribute to our IndieGoGo campaign. Without a successful campaign there is no fall print, and we’re just not alright accepting that. Thank you for being a part of the change, and for making sure Indie Chick stays where it belongs, #ontheshelves!

Image credit: Shutterstock 

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  • Renee

    Personally I’ve always hated labels, when I was a teenager it was always the guy that pushed the labels and I thought “who cares”. Usually that came from a intense desire to be individual and not to feel like I belonged to anyone else. As I got older I realized that the labels are what you make them, yes societies definitions of labels gave us loose boundaries but as we can all see those boundaries are broken everyday.

  • http://textyourexbackspy.com Jennifer

    In my experience labels most often come from people outside of the relationship, i.e. your friends, family etc. You show up with somebody – so they assume that’s your boyfriend. You show up with somebody twice – so they assume that’s it, you’re sorted, they don’t have to worry about you any more. It can be hard to keep the relationship free of these expectations put on it by other people, but I think it’s important to try to keep labels out of a relationship for as long as you can.

  • Chenice Clarke

    I absolutely love this article! I remember one guy asked me to be his girlfriend after two dates, and I was dating someone for a year and we never really labelled our relationship. I think that as long as you lay down some ‘ground rules’ before you start getting too serious, for example 1) are you going to be monogamous, 2) what you want out of the relationship etc, then you will be fine. I think honesty and communication is key, and as long as two people are happy, I don’t see the need to label anything because society tells us that’s the right thing to do.