Don't Rely on a Label to Fix Your Love Life

If I’m honest, I love a label. The structure, security and simplicity of monogamy gets me off. So much of how we navigate romantic relationships is based upon examples we saw as children - in other words, just another way our parents have messed us up. Society relies on labels to organise people into nice, neat categories… but are they actually necessary or helpful?


For a start, it annoys me that romantic relationships are often valued so much more than friendships. It might be freshly single me being somewhat bitter, but amazing, supportive friendships are vastly undervalued. Most of us choose to have multiple friends, but a single romantic partner. We constantly amplify the distinction between romantic love and the love between friends, but aside from sex, there isn’t necessarily such a difference. I think part of the reason we see them as so separate is because of the labels (partner, boyfriend, girlfriend etc.) and the heavy significance they bear.


This doesn’t make labels inherently useless. However, you don’t want to accidentally friendzone someone you’re dating by refusing to refer to them as your ‘significant other’. As I see it, if you set your own boundaries within a relationship and ignore the pressure of the expectations that are associated with that label, you can achieve a healthy balance. One thing I think everyone can learn from ethical non-monogamy/polyamory is the necessity of individual freedom and communication within every relationship. 


Coupling up is now far more complex than the ‘traditional’ man-woman partnership, but we transfer so many of these backwards expectations onto other romantic relationships. Asking a gay couple, ‘So who wears the trousers in the relationship?’ is an obvious example of the hierarchical nature and power-struggle that is ingrained in our idea of a ‘traditional’ relationship. There is an issue with possession and ownership in many monogamous relationships, particularly how a partner uses their body/sexuality, which can be very damaging. Whilst we often don’t intend it, labels can subtly compound these power dynamics.


In conclusion, just do what works for you! Labels can be really empowering and comforting, but the assumptions that they carry can be harmful if not adapted to fit your relationship. Ultimately your most important relationship is with yourself. If you build a strong foundation of self-love it will make every other relationship in your life healthier. I say this as if I’m an expert, I’m really not. It’s a constant work in progress.