What’s The Big Deal With Relationship Labels? [He Said/She Said]

What’s the difference between long-term exclusive hooking up, and being in a relationship? No, that’s not a rhetorical question, I’m seriously asking, because it seems like the exact same thing. There’s a new ‘thing’ happening with guys and girls that keeps popping up; the thing where they hook up, hang out all the time, are exclusive, but aren’t boyfriend and girlfriend. I kind of get it – when I first got with my boyfriend I was adamant that we weren’t ‘in a relationship’, because I was scared of all the emotions and pressure that could come with the label. But after a few weeks, it just seemed natural to upgrade into boyfriend/girlfriend territory – we clearly had serious feelings for each other, we hung out all the time, and we weren’t getting with other people.

But a lot of people don’t reach that natural graduation point, which doesn’t make sense to me at all. If you are doing all the things boyfriends and girlfriends do, what difference does a label make? Saying you’re in a relationship doesn’t change you into different people. It doesn’t even have to alter the relationship you have. Even for practicality reasons, it just makes way more sense to be official – it will help your parents understand why he’s staying in your house over Spring Break, and will make you sound much more sane when you tell random girls to back off your man.

The only reason I can think of that a couple would avoid being official is because someone is afraid of commitment – but if you’re doing all the things boyfriends and girlfriends do, you’re already committed! Sorry if I sound judgmental, but after a particular point of ‘no, he’s not my boyfriend, we just hook up exclusively’, you’re kidding yourself. You cannot be the single, free-spirited, ‘I don’t like labels’ girl (or guy) if you have an exclusive hook-up buddy you have feelings for. You need to decide what you really want; the super cool, laid-back identity you’ve created for yourself, in which case dump the guy and get with whoever you want, or your apparently-not-that-significant other. If you really like the person you’re in a not quite relationship, man up, get over your weird label-phobia and make it official. It just doesn’t make sense.

Basically what I’m saying is that the more you say that labels don’t matter, the more significant they become. Just call him your boyfriend! It’s so much easier and is literally just a word that defines what you’re already doing. It doesn’t need to be a big deal, and can actually be pretty cool.

What do you think? Are relationship labels a big deal? Leave a comment below and click here to see what He Said!

[Lead image via Warren Goldswain/Shutterstock]



  1. Sam - Emory University says:

    agreed to the max, its just easier to explain!!

    1. Ellen - University of Manchester says:

      thank you! so glad people actually agree haha

  2. Ariana Romero says:

    I ask people this all the time. It actually will never make sense.

    1. Ellen - University of Manchester says:

      I kind of understand because I have been in their situation, but after a point it's just like COME ON JUST BE IN A RELATIONSHIP!

  3. Jessica says:

    Completly agree! I've been dealing with this since March (even during the summer when we were 600 miles apart). I'm so confused and when my friends ask why we're not dating it's so hard to explain!

    1. Ellen - University of Manchester says:

      Ugh that sucks, the in-between stage can be so annoying. Good luck!

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  5. Karen says:

    I was there just a month ago!! I started dating this guy and from the very first date I felt we were exclusive, we would call each other out of the blue just to say hi, ALL of our friends were surprised by how into each other we seemed…

    A month ago I manned (is it correct?) up and we had the talk. I'm glad I did, now we don't have to avoid tricky questions and the relationship began to feel better, even though nothing in our dynamic changed.

    He was reluctant because of his parents divorce and he told me that each time he labeled a relationship it sort of set an expiration date. That's kinda truth, but why not jump into the pool when you know it is full?

    1. Ellen - University of Manchester says:

      That's great! Those kind of conversations are always tough, but SO worth it – well done for taking control of the situation! (Also love that full pool analogy, so using that)

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  7. Laylaard says:

    That's great! Those kind of conversations are always tough, but SO worth it – well done for taking control of the situation! (Also love that full pool analogy, so using that)

  8. Sara says:

    This is my life in words right now! I'm always his plus-one, we hang out with other couples, we have a standing date every weekend, we talk all ay everyday, everyone calls me his girlfriend, yet we still haven't become "official". I hate not being able to openly say boyfriend, it's so embarrassing when you're trying to explain to someone who he is without using the term boyfriend. My parents ask all the time if he's my boyfriend and when I explain the situation they are like you do realize that's a boyfriend, right? Yeah, mom, I know, tell him that.

  9. […] What’s The Big Deal With Relationship Labels? [He Said/She Said] ( […]

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  11. kelleyrafton says:

    yeah, labels it's a no no

  12. Anonymous says:

    In my opinion: you know women don't want to sleep with a guy too soon because they're afraid he won't respect them after, like that's what he was after the whole time, a bit of control over another person? It's kind of like that. a lot of men feel women use security for themselves and don't really care about the guy giving it to them. A label creates a control._Now, for me, I personally hate the terms 'boyfriend/girlfriend' because it sounds like high school. I can just as easily say I'm in a relationship with someone without using that word. _A relationship is personal to those in it, not the business of others, and those that need labels to 'explain' their situation need to sit down and re-evaluate their insecurities.

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  14. I guess it would be nice if everything will then be alright and I know I get to learn from it.Thank you for sharing this topic.

  15. Megz327 says:

    I totally agree to all of this. I am in a similar situation. We act the part so why not just label it. It frustrates me but he says he needs some time so I'll give it but after a little longer I expect to be introduced as his girlfriend since he refers to me that way when I'm not around but wont to my face or change facebook.

  16. This labeling had bothered me. But I came to realize that it really doesn't matter though. Nothing to worry about it. Just stay cool!

  17. Good_Girls_Unite! says:

    Labels are a definite yes. If he can't/won't/ is embarrassed to call you his girlfriend, why the heck are you dating him in the first place? I'll never understand my generation and the wishy-wishy guys walking all over their feelings.

    A label doesn't make it more official. But the fact that he's so weird about it makes me think there's someone else he doesn't want to disappoint. He's playing the field, not taking you serious, or he's got a weird beef to commit to well.. anything. A measly title for starters. If you date to date forever, go ahead and keep him.

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