Has someone you had been dating ever told you that "they don't like labels" or that "they don't want to label things" with you?
If yes - and assuming that you are dating with the purpose of building a serious relationship - how did you respond to such statement?
- Did you feel a little disappointed but chose to “play it cool” by not voicing your feelings and concerns?
- Did you agree to continue dating (or “seeing”) this person on their terms, hoping that they would want to be serious with you sometime in the future?
- Did you allow yourself to get more emotionally and physically attached to this person while they were dating you very casually and/or possibly non-exclusively?
How did this end up for you?
Because going on dates with someone no longer automatically means exclusivity and the exploration of a future together, defining each step of a relationship has become necessary. Such conversations are not fun but there is no way around them since people go on dates with a variety of intentions, and sometimes with no intention at all!
Equating clarifying the first stage of your dating relationship to assigning a label is unfair at best and manipulative at worst, because this evokes a valid progressive concept of our Western culture – the rejection of using labels to avoid stereotyping – to influence you in believing that it’s acceptable (maybe even desirable) to reject giving a name to your relationship.
In truth, it’s not being progressive at all. It’s preemptively declining any emotional responsibility in a relationship without saying this in plain English so that you could understand it for what it is and move on.
Label phobic people do not really want you, but they do not want you to move on either.
When people start dating (or “seeing”) each other, want it or not they enter a sensitive emotional territory, which requires both parties to be more caring to one another. Two people getting close physically and emotionally must take some level of responsibility towards each other. Not much, not like marriage, just the basic agreement of being there for each other in a mutually satisfying way, based on level of closeness and commitment that is desired by both parties.
I’m using the words “mutually satisfying”…
If you are looking for a serious relationship and the person that you are dating declares to you that "they don't want to label things”, what they are truly saying is that they are not interested in being serious with you. It could be that they are not ready to be serious with anyone or it could be just not with you. Even if the difference matters a little to your ego, at the end of the day it does not matter at all: since you’re looking for someone who is also looking for a serious relationship, continuing to date a label phobic person is literally giving up on your chance to be satisfied in a relationship.
There is nothing more unsatisfying than giving up your legitimate need to be dating someone willing to take you seriously.
Here is what's going to happen when you condone label phobia and choose to “play it cool” with a label phobic person: you are going to get just that - no clarity and... a lot of coolness! All of this while your “date” is going to have their cake (seeing you when they feel like it and on their terms) and eat it too (forgetting about you when it's convenient to them and not allowing you to express dissatisfaction since... no label!).
How does all of this get you any closer to getting your own cake, which is to date someone willing (and excited!) to claim you as their girlfriend, boyfriend, sweetheart, partner - or whatever name works for the two of you that means that you are each other’s special person and that you are focusing on one another exclusively for the time being, until you figure out whether or not you are going to get married.
It's time to take a stand, call "label phobia" for what it is, and move on to someone who can't wait to call you their partner!
Next time you're dealing with someone who is afflicted by "label phobia", remember the following points:
- Make a graceful exit as soon as you get the first hint of label phobia. If you don't feel that you have built the necessary self-confidence to do this powerfully and elegantly yet, go get yourself a coach as soon as possible!
- You can’t control the person you are dating but you can control yourself. Not getting into a situation that you don’t want is the first step to be available for the situation that you do want.
- Stay committed to yourself by choosing to date propsective partners who share your purpose. It's more effective and more satisfying!