One thing is certain, no-label relationships seem to be increasingly common in today’s day and age, especially amongst younger generations. But, why?
When looked at more closely, people opt for no-label relationships because of the element of freedom that comes along with it. You may act like ‘boyfriend and girlfriend’ but you’re essentially free from the boundaries that would traditionally come with those labels. Talk about having your cake and eating it!
While this might sound advantageous to some, it certainly comes with consequences too.
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Labeling a relationship or defining ‘what you are’ essentially means boundaries and expectations are being added to the mix. While some people may stay clear of labels for these reasons, defining what you are can add an element of comfort and security.
So, what exactly are no-label relationships? Are you two just friends? Friends with benefits? Dating? Can you see other people or not? This is exactly where the difficulty comes in with no-label relationships… they’re difficult to define. And things can get really complicated.
The most common scenario in the world of no labels is when two people have been ‘hanging out’ and hooking up for an extended period of time but there’s been no talk about ‘what they are.’ Avoiding labels means that you’re free from boundaries and expectations, too. Well, at least you might think so.
Ever heard the term ‘situationship’? It’s a romantic or sexual relationship that is not considered to be formal or established. No-label relationships have become so common that even the Oxford Dictionary now defines them as situationships.
As someone who has been in several no-label relationships, I can tell you that these two often go hand in hand. People generally avoid labels as a way of avoiding commitment to one person. And, avoiding commitment generally means avoiding emotional responsibility for the person you’re seeing.
A benefit of being in a no-label relationship is that you’re free to go and do as you wish, without having to answer to anyone.
Want to see multiple people at once? Feel like being away from your phone for a day or two without an explanation? Not in the space to be tied down or committed to one person? If any of these sounds like something you’re after, then a relationship without labels might be a great option for you.
One of the advantages of being in a no-label relationship is that there’s no pressure to be and act a certain way to fit society's mold of your relationship status.
A committed relationship often comes with certain expectations - how often you should be spending time together, how often you should be having sex, and who should be picking up the check. In a no-label relationship, these expectations don’t necessarily apply and you’re able to have more relaxed fun.
One of the benefits of not having labels is that things can naturally evolve and, sometimes, it just so happens that the two of you evolve together into a magical union. When two people naturally evolve together it’s generally proof that you have a great connection, genuinely enjoy each other's company, and work well together.
When added pressure of labels and expectations are put onto a relationship too soon it can cause a relationship to crumble, or worse, you might find yourself in a committed union with someone you don’t have much in common with or aren’t totally in love with.
“Someone with commitment issues will often demonstrate fear or unwillingness to commit to a long-term relationship. This typically refers to an inability to talk about the future or lack of desire to take the next steps when a relationship begins to progress throughout time.”
This article might be beneficial if you’re trying to navigate commitment phobia.
Commitment issues usually stem from early childhood trauma (i.e. the divorce of parents), or a series of traumatic events (i.e. a series of problematic relationships in the past), or from the fear of ending up in an unhappy relationship.
Here are some tell-tale signs that the person you’re seeing may have commitment issues:
The more you hang out with and hook up with someone, the quicker feelings will get involved. The downside of a no-label relationship is that there’s usually little regard for each other’s feelings because each person is free to do as they please. It’s a ‘non-relationship relationship’, remember? This is when things can become really sticky.
Do you suddenly feel jealous at the thought of your partner being with someone else? Are you constantly wondering where they are, who they’re with, or what they’re up to? These may be signs that feelings are beginning to get involved in your relationship.
The difficulty is that because you’re in a relationship without titles you “aren’t supposed to” have relationship expectations either, and that includes expecting your partner to consider you and your feelings at every turn.
If you’d like online advice from a certified coach on how to keep your feelings in check and navigate your relationship, I highly recommend Relationship Hero.
Chances are if you’re with someone who doesn’t want to define what your relationship status is from the get-go, it’s unlikely to progress into a fairytale wedding in the long run.
Oftentimes labels are avoided because of the fear of commitment… a red flag if you’re hoping to build a future with the person you’ve been seeing.
In a relationship without labels, you’re free to have fun and have sex with whoever, whenever. One of the more serious consequences to consider when sleeping around is the chance of contracting and spreading STIs.
“More than 1 million sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are acquired every day worldwide, the majority of which are asymptomatic.”
Make sure you always have a condom at hand in case you bump into an irresistible hottie at the bar and the two of you can’t get your hands off of each other.
Label or no label, discussing boundaries is important. Communicating your thoughts, feelings, and expectations (or none) from the beginning is a way to ensure you both feel respected and are on the same page about ‘what you are’.
Boundaries to consider:
Being with someone who wants to avoid labels may sooner or later have you questioning your worth, bring to the surface trust issues, cause you to feel insecure, and highlight emotions like jealousy.
Negating labels and boundaries can cause your mind to go into overdrive and might have you over-analyze every last word, action, and social media comment.
On the contrary, labels and boundaries can act like a security blanket of sorts because you know where you stand and what’s acceptable/not to both parties. When these boundaries are respected it helps build trust and confidence over time.
Communication is key! If labeling your relationship and defining ‘what you are’ is important to you, have a conversation with your partner.
If you’re not on the same page in terms of your expectations and level of commitment to the relationship, I would suggest being honest and cutting ties sooner rather than later.
A no-label relationship can be healthy if two people want the same thing and have a mutual understanding and respect for each other’s emotions and expectations.
You might find you’re in a space in life where labels and formal commitment require more than what you’re emotionally capable of giving. Understanding and communicating this to your partner from the get-go will help create a healthy ‘relationship’ foundation.
Healthy, no-title relationships can give you companionship and friendship without the added pressure of traditional relationships.
This is something I would suggest talking to your partner about. These non-label labels (ironic, isn’t it) can range from friends to friends-with-benefits, seeing each other, dating, partners, polyamory, situationships, or anything else you feel fitting.
Again, this is something I would suggest talking to your partner about. What you refer to your partner as is a decision the two of you should make together. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
If moving on from a relationship like this is something you need to do, communicate it to your partner sooner rather than later. You need to set firm boundaries with yourself and your partner RE contact (I would suggest cutting all contact) and expectations going forward. Lastly, give yourself time and space to move on and heal (if need be).
Any relationship, label or not, has pros and cons. The most important thing to consider when seeing someone is whether or not you’re on the same page in terms of your wants, needs, and expectations. Communicating the above early on will allow for happy, harmonious interactions and partnerships.
Even though a no-label relationship might not work for everyone, if it works for you and your partner then that’s all that matters. Keep things healthy by remaining authentic to who you are and communicating effectively.
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