Real Live College Guy Joel: Why He Won't Put a Label On It

Desperately trying to understand the inscrutable mind of the college male? Real Live College Guy Joel (replete with a name way cooler than those of RLCGs Joe and Joey) is here to help you out, call you out, write you a poem to show you’re great and to stop worrying, etc. From major emotional drama to the minutiae of social interaction, use him as your one-stop shop for guy advice.

I met a guy at work, and for about nine months now we've been texting almost daily, hanging out, hooking up, and even going out on casual dates. I am ready to make it official, but he seems to have some serious reservations against being "in a relationship." I feel like the only thing we don't have is the official "label" but he feels otherwise and says he can't give me what he thinks I want out of the relationship. Should I give him an ultimatum, or just let things keep going as they are? - Confused at Conn College


Oh dear, labels. Girls obsess over them. I really don’t think girls are significantly clingier than guys, but they certainly always feel that a relationship needs a definition. “Hooking up,” “Casually Dating,” “Dating,” “Boyfriend.” A given guy has some title that’s used instead of just his name. It’s a totally understandable tendency, but sometimes worrying about categories takes a girl’s mind off of, you know, actually getting to know and having fun with a guy.

Guys don’t like labels - especially “boyfriend,” sometimes even “dating” - because they want to avoid the drama that they associate with serious relationships. Labels indicate obligations, and guys don’t want to feel obligated to act in certain ways or do certain things. Labels can mean enjoyment turning into duty, so a lot of guys are reluctant to make that leap. Some guys, perhaps this one, honestly feel like they can’t make that leap if they have other pressures or have been seriously hurt by past relationships.

Whatever his reasons, this guy is not going to become your official boyfriend. An “ultimatum” would just seriously alienate him by making you look obsessive and harsh. You have been essentially seeing him for nine months. That is a really, really long time. If he isn’t willing to put a label on things now then he never will.

Here’s what I find curious about your question: you say that “the only thing [you] don’t have is the official ‘label.’” So then you feel you have a lot. You need to discard the label debate and think about if you’re happy in the relationship as it currently stands. Are you satisfied now or have you just been holding on all these months for the potential of something more serious? I’m saying that you aren’t evaluating this based on its own merits. If you’re happy, forget about the label and enjoy being with him. If you’re not, leave. Look for a guy with more readiness to commit. You can’t put a label on feelings, so you should examine yours before making a decision.

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