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By December 12, 2012

Why Do Women Need Labels and Relationship Titles?

Dear Ms. HeartBeat:
Why can’t women just enjoy being with a man without having a relationship title? Is it possible for a woman to have a relationship without slapping a label on it? With titles come expectations. If the two of you have been doing fine and you are happy without it, then why do labels and titles matter?
women dating with labels

I think there is too much emphasis on b.s. and no recognition of the actual situation they have. I think that labels sometimes put pressure on both parties – just the sheer mention of a certain word changes things, bringing in perceived ideals of society… the RULES of society. Don’t you think at the end of the day, all that makes up a relationship is an understanding between the two and a level of commitment? Why are labels needed?

Lover Boy

Dear Lover Boy:
I’m wondering why, if you’re spending all your time with a woman and dating her exclusively you would not want to label your relationship. What is it that you are afraid of?

I have to ask that question because usually when people resist relationship labels with comments such as “I don

’t want to put titles on us right now,” what they are really doing is keeping their partner at an emotional distance… keeping their options fully open without obligation or ties to one person. In other words, they are enjoying the benefits of your companionship and body, but have no real interest in anything of a deeper, more committed nature.

“Hanging out” is what platonic friends do. “Hanging out” is something I do with my brothers when they come to town for a visit during the holidays for the summer. When I take my dog to the dog park, we “hang out” and lay around on the grass. If you are dating someone and sleeping with them, you are no longer “hanging out” – you are in an adult relationship which must be labeled so that both parties understand the meaning of and parameters and rules and ties and obligations to the other. If there is an absolute refusal by either party to formally acknowledge the relationship, understand that you are both 100% single and if you never see this person again, they probably won’t care.

But you don’t have to take my word for it! I went out and asked some single men and women of marriageable age (in their late 20s to mid-30s) how they felt about titles and labels – and here are their responses:

Tivon: Hey, even dating is a title, but it helps to know where you stand. When I’m first dating a woman and it’s not serious yet, I don’t introduce her as my friend or girlfriend or anything. I introduce her by her name. When a man introduces a woman as his friend then I feel the door is open for me or any other man and I will act accordingly, but if he introduces her by her name then the next man doesn’t know what to think. Normally he will assume the door is closed.

Akanisi: Labels and relationship titles help me create what I value in the relationship. Like communication etc. For me it’s necessary, like Tivon I like to know where the relationship is going, where it stands, how I should be treated. Titles create boundaries. As long as they’re healthy expectations which are maintainable by both and are not hurting either one, they can be very useful. I suppose labels and titles do change or more implement them or more activate ones expectations. Yes labels and titles change expectations. They bring along more than what you expect from one person, but also is a good indicator of how one person expects to treat the other. That’s my view.

Adam: if I’m with someone and I can’t call her my girl or hopefully my wife, then we aren’t in a relationship.

Jasmine: Labels tell you the quality of the product. They are essential!

Easha: I think once you have decided to date exclusively I don’t see why you can not have the title. What I don’t get is if we(women) who mostly ask for a title; do not ask then it is said that we are comfortable with him/her playing the role but not solidifying it or we’re giving the milk away so why would he buy the cow. I believe this affects women slightly more than it does men, but that is a matter of opinion.

Hsia: I am not assuming anything! Yes, we will discuss exclusivity….no need for a title but i want to know if you are my man.

Michaele: It needs to be discussed so both people are on the same page.

Ashley: If you have a problem claiming me, I have a problem with being committed to you.

Alex: Men try to get away with actions, but it’s not about actions no more. Women want the verbal. You can be helping take care of their home, treat them way different than you do anybody else, spend money, spend time, give them what they want and they still complain. They still ask “what are we, I need a title!”

Dell: Women like labels. Give it to them or else!

Reality Is Relationships and Everything Else Has a Label

Every relationship we have with other people and other things has a label as an identifier. For example:

  • My son
  • My best friend
  • My sister-in-law
  • My boss
  • Our old neighborhood
  • My stepfather
  • Mom’s car
  • Your daughters hand in marriage
  • His baby momma
  • Her ex-husband
  • His fiance
  • His wife

We reference and label things so that we and others have a clear understanding of the exact relationship between the parties involved and the importance they have to each other— the position played in someone’s life.


So You Have a Relationship Title – Now What?

Relationships must also be labeled to define with specificity what type of relationship the two people involved have. A comparable comparison is the relationship between an employer and an employee. You need information about the position you’re interviewing for and the specifics about the job.

Is it a temp position?
Is it part-time or full-time?
Is it a 1099 contract or regular employee position?
Seasonal worker?

Benefits or not?
What are the working hours?
When do you get paid!?
What is the pay structure… hourly, salaried or commission only?
How many vacation and sick days?

Some guys have told me they want a woman to be okay with what I call “free-styling” which means just date, have sex, with no expectations or conversation about where things are going, what things mean, feelings or anything else. They want women to just spend their time, invest their emotions and bodies, and not make any demands on them.

To that I say dream on! And remember, people in Hell want ice water too!

If you won’t work on a job wandering in not knowing what you’re doing or your job title or when, how much or even if you get paid, you should not expect a woman to do that with you in a so-called “relationship.” Roles and obligations needs to be spelled out for the job, just like they do in a dating relationship.


Stop Playing Reindeer Games

Santa’s reindeer can fly, but the b.s. these guys are spewing about free-styling relationships with no titles does not. Instead a serious crash and burn is in your future fellas. Refusing to acknowledge the importance someone has to you is confusing to everyone, not to mention disrespectful and possibly hurtful.

Expecting a woman to spend her time with you with no goal and no direction is foolish. Nobody with sense signs a blank check, or gets on a plane, a train, or a bus without knowing the destination.

Nobody takes a job without knowing what the job is and how much they can expect to be paid.

Nobody rents an apartment without knowing what’s included in the rent and how much they gotta pay.

Email and social media service providers have terms of service that include when your butt better pay and how you best conduct yourself when using their stuff.

confused about status of relationshipEven the FTC has rules about what you better not say or do if you wanna stay on the air and continue broadcasting!

Everything in this world is spelled out and has parameters, expectations and obligations associated with it.

So, if you need a title to feel emotionally secure in your relationship, your partner should understand that and have no qualms about providing that emotional safety net if he or she wants you to be happy. However, if you are the one resisting and insisting that you don’t want a title, own up to the fact that you don’t want that person. Period. Move on and stop wasting both their time and yours.

If you are with someone that you are developing an emotional attachment to and they don’t want a title “right now” understand that means they “just aren’t that into you” and back away. As the saying goes, never make someone a priority in your life when you are merely an option in theirs.

You are either in a relationship with someone, or you are not. And if you are, there should never be a problem with you acknowledging the importance of your relationship to each other and the world.

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Relationship and dating advice columnist of Ask HeartBeat! Has enjoyed dishing out insightful yet hilariously funny advice, tersely worded reality checks and "let me slap you upside the head" wake up calls to men and women around the globe since 1991.

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About the Author:

Relationship and dating advice columnist of Ask HeartBeat! Has enjoyed dishing out insightful yet hilariously funny advice, tersely worded reality checks and "let me slap you upside the head" wake up calls to men and women around the globe since 1991.

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