Let’s talk about why people want to label relationships! Cause not everyone does…some people even go back and forth on whether they do or not! So let’s talk!
For the purposes of this article we are going to use these definitions:
Dating: The part when you are going on dates and seeing if there is anything there. There are no expectations of exclusivity and very little interaction that is not planned well in advance.
Relationship: This is the part when you have decided that you want to date one person that you like. You want to get to know them more and the two of you have decided to make it exclusive. There is usually the expectation that you will be spending more time with them than when you are in the dating phase.
Marriage: This is when you decide that you are going to fully commit to them and you want to share everything including financials with them. This is commonly thought of as the most solid of the 3 where splitting is the least likely.
Before we jump in let me say that these are very basic definitions of each of these that will help me keep this article from being 10,000 pages long.
I could spend at least 500 pages talking about the definition of each of these terms in our modern dating climate. We could talk about how I know couples that are “just dating” that are stronger than couples that are married. We could talk about a lot of things but ain’t nobody got time for all that!
We will save those topics for future articles!
Now, Why do People Want Labels?
Labels Come with Rules and Expectations
When you label a relationship there are now expectations. There are certain things you can no longer do and certain things that are expected of you. The specifics vary based on the couple but here is a very simple break down.
Dating: You might be expected to pay for dates (especially if you are a guy). You might be expected to let all of the people you are dating know that you are dating other people. If you are dating someone that likes to communicate every day you may have to text a lot or talk on the phone.
Relationship: Here you will probably be expected to break off all other romantic partnerships, however that is not always the case (ex. Open relationships). Depending on the person you are in a relationship with you may have to meet their family or do things with their friends. They will also become a higher priority than when you were dating them so they may start to gain priority over your friends.
To my girlfriend: If you are reading this I like your family and friends and don’t mind spending time with them!
Marriage: At this stage of the game you have the same expectations and rules as the relationship stage but they are amplified. For the most part marriages are just two people so any romantic partner that is not your spouse is considered an extramarital affair. There are some exceptions, for example swingers and practices that allow more than one spouse.
At this point your significant other commands the same (or higher) priority level as most members of your family. All big decisions are now a discussion that must be had rather than a solo endeavor. The list goes on, because this person will now be a part of most aspects of your life.
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Labels Come with More Attachment
I know for some of you if you don’t have a label on the relationship you don’t let yourself feel whatever it is you feel for them as strongly whether that be like, love, or something in between. Many of my friends use this as a defense mechanism so that they don’t get hurt when they are still unsure of the other person.
So if you are someone who does this or are dating someone that does then adding a label may be able to help you get to that next level of emotional or physical intimacy that you are looking for! (Which sounds kinda cynical but hey this is war, love is a battlefield… don’t judge me you knew it was coming!)
Personally I don’t usually feel this way and tend to be very open and honest in any dating and relationship situations I have been in. On the one hand this has definitely helped me figure out who I should be with… and on the other hand it has definitely scared some people away that I liked, but you know what I say to that? I ain’t for everyone!
Don’t really think this one needs a Dating, Relationship, Marriage break down so on to the next one!
Labels Give a Sense of Security
This kind of ties in with the last one, when you have a label you can be more vulnerable because you are more secure with your partner. It sounds bad but labelling a relationship is one of the ways that you can trap your love interest into working through problems rather than just leaving.
Dating: When you are dating, people break up for all kinds of reasons. You might stop dating someone if they double text you (I still don’t see why this is so bad) or maybe because they didn’t call until 2 days after your date. It doesn’t take a lot to end things at this stage. A small fight might be the end of something in this stage because a lot of people don’t invest this early.
Relationship: Once you make it to the relationship stage you are (probably) less likely to break up. They chew gum really loud or because you hate one of their shirts. Especially if you have been together for a while this is the stage where a fight will not necessarily end in a break up. You have both invested at least a little into a future, long-term or short-term, together so you are willing to fight harder than you would in the dating stage.
Marriage: This for most people is the stage when they will be the most invested in the longevity of their partnership. Most people would probably say that you are much closer than you are in the relationship stage and that might be true but marriage is not only an emotional attachment but comes with a legally binding contract. If you get married and decide that you can’t continue in the relationship you don’t only lose that other person and maybe a sweatshirt or two.
You lose that person, a sweatshirt or two, and half of everything you own! This makes it much more likely that you will try to work through your problems instead of giving up when things get harder.
Labels Send a Message to Everyone Else
It’s like slapping a sign on your significant other’s forehead that says, Property of (Insert Your Name Here)! Having some kind of label on your relationship is your signal to other people that you are taken and therefore unavailable for romantic interactions!
Dating: People seem to go a little bit back and forth on this one. The consensus seems to be that you can date multiple people at the same time. As long as you aren’t lying about it or trying to hide it. So technically the label of dating doesn’t really mean that the person belongs to you. HOWEVER, when YOU tell someone you are saying, “They are mine!” The rules here are weird I know… for more of my thoughts on tiptoeing this dating line checkout So Are You Dating?
Relationships: There is much less gray area in (monogamous) relationships. If someone tells you they are in a relationship they are saying that they are not interested in you…
…90% of the time…
…the other 10% of the time they are saying that they either want to cheat on or break up with their significant other. You caught them during their “still thinking about it period.”
We are gonna focus on that 90% though. It is a cue to any would-be romantic interests that the person in question is invested in someone else. You’re going to have to either respect that or do some serious work to show that you are better.
Marriage: Similar to dating when someone tells you that they are married, they are saying that they are taken. Again we have the 1% of people still thinking it through. I ‘m sure there are more, but I say 1% because if you want to cheat are you really going to open with, “I’m married!” That’s why I’m gonna say 1%.
The difference here is again the level of commitment. When someone says I’m married they are basically saying that this other person is the other half of my life. This should be an indicator to the would-be love interest to just leave them alone!
We made it! Alright so now you know why people like to put labels on relationships! That was definitely one of the longer posts! Thanks for sticking around and let me know if you like longer posts like this one.
My next Dating and Relationships post will be on Why People DON’T Want to Label Relationships!