By Tori Taylor, September 7 2019 —
In a dating-app saturated generation, there is pressure to put a label on any and every type of relationship that you click into. It makes sense. You meet someone new. You enjoy them and decide to meet up again. Repeat this a few times and then delete Hinge because the “single” box no longer defines you. But, it is unlikely that rushing to put on the “I’m with them” name-tag will bring you the happiness that you’re looking for. With social media being such a heavy part of our lives, labeling relationships has become just as important— if not more important — in the online world. “Facebook official” was the status of security when I was in highschool. Now, I notice many people feel they’ve locked down a stable relationship if their Instagram bio includes a partner’s initials or certain emojis— like locks. It would seem that we have gone above and beyond the simple girlfriend/boyfriend labels and moved right onto marking our territory online. We want the label in our real-world socialization. We crave the publicity of our partnership in the online-world. And, eventually, we idealize that physical band on our finger as the ultimate safe-space.
Of course, this is not the case for all of us. I know many people share my frustrated stance on the pressure to put a fluid thing in a solid box. I find there are those that take labels to another level and thrive off of them. And, on the other end — almost equally — there are those of us who seem quite repulsed by the idea.
There are several routine markers that a relationship is progressing towards the “what are we” talk. If you’ve decided to be exclusive, you’ve been spending most weekends together and if people describe you as a couple when they see you in public — then you are likely dating. But whether or not that talk is important to you remains unique to the parties involved. It seems silly to force a conversation when the natural flow can feel healthier and happier. It might be said that if you’re feeling a need for definition because you don’t feel secure in the relationship — it perhaps is not the healthiest. I would like to think that being called someone’s girlfriend is not what gives me a feeling of confidence in a relationship. If the person you are with makes you feel respected and valued then I am a supporter of enjoying the growth of that relationship without any pressure to label it.
Putting a label on something can add negative stress — particularly if the label is used before the natural progression of the relationship has actually reached that point. There can be a lot of expectations behind “dating.” If this pressure comes too soon, you might risk losing something that could have blossomed without being spooked. A lot of us have been in crappy relationships and it’s easy to bring that baggage into new ones. If there are labels tossed around too early it isn’t weird that someone might feel suddenly trapped and overwhelmed.
Another issue with labels might arise as the people involved leave their “honeymoon phase.” In other words, when you first meet someone, it’s easy to get swept away by the thrill. It’s difficult to really know the other person when you’re focused on that first infatuated rush. By avoiding putting a label on the relationship right away, you can give yourself more time to get to know each other without pressure. It’s important to let a natural bond form. It feels a lot better knowing that you both want to be together because of mutual feelings rather than a need to flush away your “single” label as quickly as Bumble does your data.
Evaluating what relationship labeling means to you is an interesting exercise. A label can be highly valued or devalued based on the power you give it. For some of us, being married is held in high esteem and, oppositely, there are some of us that feel the word is meaningless. At the end of the day, it is up to you whether you feel you need to be with someone who finds security in labelling your relationship or if the labels do not change the actual relationship you have with your partner.