“Hope for love, pray for love, wish for love, dream for love… but don’t put your life on hold waiting for love.”
~ Mandy Hale
“Girlfriend.” “Partner.” “Significant other.” “Boyfriend.” “Friends with benefits.” These words and phrases can be considered labels.
Labels can be positive and affirming creating trust, encouragement, and growth. Labels can also be negative, limiting, restricting, and discourage change and development.
Labels define the relationship.
They can symbolize commitment, enhance trust and reassurance, and indicate a deeper desire to grow and spend time together. Still, there are some labels that can limit intimacy and closeness, defining firmer boundaries and allow room for alternative connections.
Women seem to desire the “girlfriend” label sooner than men.
This makes sense biologically, because women tend to develop feelings of love and connection through intimacy and sex, whereas, the feelings can take second place for men who at first are often visually and physically driven for connection and affection.
Women can be patient with this process for men, understanding the physiological and neurobiological differences between genders, and not becoming frustrated when they are ready for more formalization of the relationship before their men are.
Rather than focusing on a label you want, use your energy to continue to get to know one another.
Explore your values and morals so see that they align. Gain understanding about how your man handles fear, anger, sadness, joy, anxiety, frustration, excitement, abandonment, rejection, pain and confusion.
- Learn how the two of you handle money, debt, work time and rest time. Do you share the same desires for marriage and family?
- How does he treat his mother?
- Do you share religious and spirituality beliefs and practices? If not, is this important to you and how will you handle it when raising children?
There are so many important factors to consider and to focus on than a label alone.
As you discover more about one another, delving into the areas mentioned, you often become closer, building a deeper relationship and bond. As you begin to link your lives together and assure yourselves that you are aligned in these crucial and significant ways, a more defined label will evolve in its own time.
If you struggle with being patient enough to investigate these realms, you could be struggling with self-esteem, value and worth issues.
Find a good therapist for Telehealth or in-person sessions so you can learn effective practices to integrate daily into your life to help you improve your opinion of yourself.
Dr. Tracy S. Kelly, LMFT – www.DrTracyKelly.com
This is a situation that comes up often for women. They start seeing a guy and are developing feelings for him, but he does not want to put a label on the relationship. This can leave women feeling unsure about where they stand and how to proceed.
It is important to remember that relationships need time to go through different stages of development, allowing the couple to process and work through important issues.
It is prudent to slow down and allow this natural course to take place, and give the relationship time to grow, develop and mature. By recognizing the normal stages of dating, couples are more likely to navigate the process successfully.
The initial attraction begins the process of dating. We are initially attracted by physical attributes, and often by other traits, such as personality. For some people, this stage is intense and for others it is less so.
After dating for a while, it is natural to begin thinking about whether this is a person you want to continue dating.
The uncertainty is a normal part of the process. Don’t be discouraged or react too quickly when this happens. It is to be expected.
You and your partner will likely experience the same thing, but not always at the same time.
Men may take longer to resolve this stage, so if you partner is pulling away or acting differently, talk about it openly. When he says “I need more time” it is often related to this process. Talk about it – communication is the most important skill for couples.
When both partners have determined that the relationship is the right one, they generally decide to date each other exclusively. This is a time for developing a deeper bond and getting to know each other at a deeper level.
If you are ready to be exclusive and your partner isn’t sure, that is ok. They key is open communication.
Is he willing to talk about what his ultimate goal for dating is? Is he expressing a desire to be in a committed long-term relationship?
If he is just moving at a slower pace than you are, then give him time.
Could it be that you are moving too fast? It might be beneficial for you to slow down and enjoy the process of dating, getting to know him better to make sure he has the qualities you are looking for in a partner.
If his reason for not wanting a label is a lack of desire for a committed relationship, then you have to decide how you feel about continuing in a relationship that probably does not have a future.
Ultimately the decision is yours to make.
Be honest with yourself.
Do the two of you have the same goals for dating? If you do, then give it some time for the relationship to naturally develop. If you do not, then either accept the relationship they way it is knowing it is temporary or walk away.
Lori Ann Davis, MA, CRS, CRC — www.lorianndavis.com
Ladies, if you have been seeing a man and he says he likes you but doesn’t want to “label” what you’re doing, please remember your boundaries and sense of self-worth.
If he says he doesn’t want a label (meaning he doesn’t want to commit), then you should not be having sex with him.
If he is unsure about a label, an exclusive relationship, doesn’t want to call what you’re doing “dating,” etc., then you should proceed in the same manner:
DO NOT make this person your entire world (not that you ever should): Date other people, work on your own self-growth, live your own life, etc.
While dating rules and terms continue to change with the times, one thing remains the same:
A man who is mature, secure in himself, and knows he wants you in his life will get to the point where he’s fine with labels because the alternative means losing you.
If he’s not okay with “labels,” it is not your job to bend over backward and be the “perfect girlfriend” by giving him all he could possibly ask for (sex, cooking, doing everything for him) in hopes of gaining his approval. Doing this sets the stage for you doing everything in the relationship.
As a therapist, I see many women who distort themselves to become the woman they think their man desires, but in the process, they lose themselves and their uniqueness.
I get sad when I see women who shrink (their bodies, their voices, their opinions) in an effort to please the men they’re seeing.
I see women who try so hard to be the “perfect” girlfriend, hoping that if they’re endlessly pleasing, cool and understanding, that he’ll see their worth and fall head over heels. Unfortunately, in my personal and professional experience (with women AND men), it doesn’t work that way.
Healthy men are attracted to women who don’t need them, who feel good about themselves, can take care of themselves, and know their boundaries and how to say no.
If a man isn’t sure enough about you to say he is committed, why would you give him every part of you? You are worth more than that.
When I’m working with a woman who gets involved with men too quickly, I tell her that dating is like test-driving a car.
If you start out knowing what you’re looking for and promise yourself you won’t take less, you end up with the car of your dreams at a price you felt comfortable with.
If you test-drive and buy the first car the salesperson puts you in, you end up with what the dealership is trying to get rid of, NOT what you had your heart set on. Be true to yourself, know your worth, and don’t ever settle for less than you deserve.
Jennifer Meyer, M.A., LPC, NCC – www.jenmeyercounseling.com
If he says he likes you but that he doesn’t want a label, take the following steps to navigate your needs.
- Space for Reflection
If you’ve been dating, spending time together and enjoying each others’ company, but he says he doesn’t want to label what you have, take the space you need to see what is going on more clearly.
- Has he made it clear that he is only looking for a casual hook up, or is he sending you mixed signals?
- Is he hot and cold with contacting you, or genuinely busy professionally or otherwise?
Reflect on how honest he is being with you overall and be honest with yourself.
Ask yourself if you want and are willing to go without a label, or if that would be compromising your true desires.
- Have “the talk” you need for clarity
While it is natural to want to shy away from conflict in conversation—talking about what you really want is important.
Especially if you have been putting your feelings aside, making intentional space to have the conversations that clarify where you stand is crucial.
Are you both taking things slowly and waiting to see if greater feelings develop, or is one of you waiting for the other to figure out if a relationship is in the cards?
- Make Changes if Your Values Don’t Align
Ultimately, though it may be disappointing to hear that he isn’t looking for anything serious, knowing this offers you the transparency you need to make changes if you aren’t on the same page.
If he says he needs more time and you don’t, consider what would be reasonable for you.
For instance, would take some space to reevaluate moving forward be best for both of you? Or, do you feel comfortable without labeling what you have?
Though these feelings can be difficult to sort out, trusting your gut and think about what changes would align with what you need right now, so you can build the foundations for the future you seek.
If you’re unsure about how to clarify your needs in the situation, seeking professional guidance can be helpful.
Take these steps and make the changes you need to build the foundations for long-term fulfillment. You deserve to have your needs honored in love.
Delia Berinde, MS, LPCC – www.lookingforwardcounseling.com
Tip #1: First, define ‘label’
This may sound silly, but really…what is a label? More specifically, what does a label mean to you? Society has taught us we need labels, and this makes sense because labels give us a sense of movement, stability, and control. For you though, truly spend some time thinking about the benefit of a label and what needs it meets for you.
Once you have a good idea of this, consider all the aspects of the relationship that may already meet those needs. It’s quite possible to get the clarity you need around his commitment level without needing a label.
Tip #2: Honestly evaluate the relationship
Even though you still may be having a need for a label, there is so much more to a relationship. Pick an amount of time to strictly focus on these aspects in the relationship.
For example, spend an entire week seeing how he meets your Love Language, his ability to be vulnerable with you, or the energy he puts into your interests. Doing this honest evaluation will give you guidance in what decision to make that is not entirely ruled by emotions.
Tip #3: Learn about his perspective
We all know men and women differ in many ways. So, take some time to view the relationship from his perspective, and more specifically how he shows and views commitment.
I really like gaining indirect information through conversation.
Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate asking direct questions, but sometimes this can be intimidating or overwhelming for him, and lead to a disappointing conversation where you don’t get the answers you want.
So, focus on his responses to conversations about friends who are having relationship issues or a couple depicted in a movie you’re watching together.
Sarah Vendegna, MS, LPC – www.vendegnacounseling.com
There are a few reasons why we “label” romantic relationships.
- The first reason being that it helps the two of you understand what your relationship is.
- The second reason is that it helps your relationship be “public” and others to understand what the relationship is.
There is a general understanding that two people who use the labels “girlfriend” and “boyfriend” share a different type of relationship than those who use the label “friends with benefits.”
It matters in how you introduce your significant other and what role they play in your life. It signals your commitment to those around you.
Long story short: labels are important and they matter.
Given that we typically use labels for these two reasons, it’s important to know why he is hesitating on labeling the relationship. It may be that he is not quite sure what the two of you are yet or what he wants you to be.
- Does he want to commit to you exclusively and call you his “girlfriend”?
- Or are you early enough in the dating process that he (or both of you) may still be considering other options before committing to one person?
For some people, a little more time makes all the difference.
It may be that after a few more dates, a label can be determined that feels appropriate for both of you as to what your relationship is.
However, if he cannot seem to land on a title that feels appropriate to your relationship after more time has passed, this may be a sign that he is not ready for the commitment that you may be looking for.
If it is the second reason for why he does not want to label the relationship (i.e. hesitating to introduce you as his girlfriend, not wanting to change his relationship status on social media, etc.), it’s important to really discuss what else is going on if both of you have decided that you are exclusive with each other.
- Is he waiting for the right opportunity to tell important people in his life (like his family members) about you?
- Or is he not open about your relationship with anyone in his life?
If you are feeling like you’re being kept a secret, this is something to not keep quiet about with him.
If your relationship is to move forward, it is essential that you both become involved in the other person’s life. This requires family members and friends to know what role you each play.
The timing may be different for each couple when they choose to share the news of their new relationship status with the important people in their life.
However, you want to see steps happening in this direction as soon as the two of you have decided what your relationship is.
If he won’t share it with others, it may be time to end things and find someone who will proudly call you their girlfriend.
Michelle Henderson, MA, LMHC – www.nextchapter-counseling.com
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