Real Live College Guy Dale: Why is He Afraid of Labeling Us?

Tired of having to sort out the “nice guys” from the “bad boys”? Want to move up from one-night stand to full-time girlfriend, but unsure of how to do so? Stop worrying, because Real Live College Guy Dale is finally here to help with all of your collegiette love kerfuffles and help steer you clear of any unnecessary drama during your brief but ever-important time in college.

Can I get a guy's opinion on labels on relationships and the unlabeled relationship? I have been dating a guy who doesn't like labels but is exclusively dating me. He believes that expectations of a certain label will cause the relationship to change. I was just wondering if I could get an honest opinion from a guy. –Confused at C of C

Confused,

Labels (or a lack thereof) can certainly be confusing. What are we? Are we anything? If we are something, why can’t I say so? What’s with your hesitance to call us a thing?

For some people, labels serve a purely social purpose. I hate to compare it to owning something, but when you label a relationship, you’re saying, “This person is my boyfriend/girlfriend” (an apt example would be making a relationship “Facebook official”). You’re telling the world that the person you’re seeing is off-limits to everyone else.

For other people, labels serve a personal purpose. It’s nice to know where you stand with someone, and labeling your relationship allows you to do so. When you define the relationship, you know what the terms of the relationship are (Are we exclusive? Is this an open relationship?).

But labels can be scary, especially if the situation emerged from a simple hook-up or a friends-with-benefits situation. With those, labels force you to confront your feelings and decide what you really want. However, if the guy you’re seeing has been exclusively dating you for a while (which I would define as anywhere between a few months and a year or longer), then I see no reason why he would fear a label unless he has something to hide.

Of course labels can change relationships, but more often than not, they change them for the better. Instead of constantly stressing out about what you are or aren’t, they give you breathing room. After putting a label on your relationship, you know where you stand with the other person.

Unlabeled relationships are for frequent hook-ups or friends with benefits. Labels are for people who are exclusively dating each other (like you and your guy, Confused) and are ready to define the relationship. Like I said before, labels give you the personal benefit of knowing where you stand—they give you peace of mind, and how could anyone be afraid of that?

Your guy is hesitant to label the relationship for fear of changing, but I think he needs to realize that “change” isn’t always a synonym for “destroy.” Change doesn’t have to be bad, as long as the two of you are on the same page. Talk things out and ask him what exactly he thinks will change if you use labels. Unless he has something to hide, I don’t see what the big deal is.

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