Are Relationship Labels Meaningless?

Hands in Shape of Heart

Relationship labels seem to have less meaning than they used to, not only in what weight a title or label of love means to those involved, but also how they are viewed by a rapidly changing technology-infused dating culture.

Back in the day, other than being married which was obvious to outsiders, the one question you might have got from an interested party would be “Are you single or in a relationship?”

Now people use all sorts of descriptors and phrases to describe their relationships or dating status: partners, friends with benefits, part-time lover, booty call, go-to-guy, openly dating, seeing someone, semi-attached, poly, etc…

The problem with labels is that they mean different things to different people and vary in importance to individuals.

I met a guy years ago (right after a long-term relationship); it was instant chemistry and the sex was explosive. Looking back he may have been a rebound, but I didn’t feel that way at the time. I definitely believed in “us” but wanted to take things slow. I barely had time to breathe between my “big breakup” and this new exciting relationship. So what happened?

A month in, he said he wanted to be boyfriend-girlfriend. I wasn’t ready for these labels. It felt too fast and he left it alone, but only for a little while. I tried to reassure him that I was only into him, that I didn’t think we needed those titles. This difference of opinion revealed itself in other ways. As I felt confident about our relationship (and that’s what I saw it as, even without the b-g definition) he became clingy and needy, not something I’m attracted to. After six months he ended it. I felt very sad after and wondered for a long time after if I’d just given into his request, would it have worked out. Who knows? As I get older I trust my instincts more and think we all have to do what we feel is right at the right time.

It seemed that being his “girlfriend” was more important to him than the reality of our relationship. I don’t need to call someone my “boyfriend” to know that I am committed, and I think the right guy will understand this and hopefully feel confident enough not to care.

Now until then, I guess I’m part of what is being called hookup culture. People are “dating” less and are more interested in free-love internet-dating one-night-stand instant-gratification relationships. Not everyone certainly, but much of the younger generation. And the mass number of dating sites play a big part in the evolution of this culture. Finding someone – for a serious relationship or whatever else you might be into – is a million times easier. I can say this from experience; I’m old enough to remember the dating life before the internet took off.

Are relationship labels important to you?

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