His Take: “Why Won’t He Label Our Relationship?”

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I’ve been seeing this guy for almost nine months now and I would like to put a label on the relationship we have. We’ve spoken about this a few times and both agree that we’re exclusive, not interested in anyone else, and that we basically are in a relationship, but he says he’s not ready to put the title on it. He says we’re moving toward a relationship, but right now he can’t handle all the “expectations” that come along with a title. We’ve both met each other’s families and friends, and they know that we’re dating exclusively. I told him that if he’s afraid he might miss out on someone better then that’s fine and he should just start dating again. But he insisted that wasn’t the reason and that he wants me, but with work and everything else going on he can’t properly commit. Am I being selfish in wanting a title, even if we are in a relationship? Will he ever commit, or do I just need to part ways now? — Label Maker

Jarek: Let’s recap, shall we? You both agree you’re exclusive, not interested in dating anyone else, and have met each other’s friends and family. You more or less gave him permission to start dating other people if he so wished, yet he refused. What else are you looking for to make this relationship complete? Just a label? High school called, and it wants its dating style back. Look, here’s the thing about labels: whether we want them to or not, they do bring with them certain expectations, even if they are just perceived. Being a boyfriend means you are now obligated to send daily texts, think up random acts of romance, and get permission to have a guy’s night out. He said he is moving towards that. But right now he’s happy. He likes you. That is what he knows. Throw in an arbitrary label, the purpose of which is so society can determine how best to view you, and you off-set his contentment. And who are we kidding, chances are he is going to fulfill all the duties of an official boyfriend anyway because he likes you. If a label is going to mess with his psyche, it won’t be worth it. Calling him your boyfriend is not going to change how he feels about you. But it is going to change how he thinks he should feel about you.

GREG: For men, with great titles come great responsibilities. When you officially label a relationship the pressures and the expectations all become real. The guilt becomes real, as well. I know for me, the lack of label allows me to justify looking, flirting, even slightly pursuing other women; especially when out with other guys. It is not because you are not good enough, or pretty enough; it has nothing to do with you personally. We are just afraid to give up the freedom, just in case. We are generally faithful to you emotionally, but the fun of flirting with other women is sometimes too tempting to abandon. If your boyfriend is not ready for the label it is because he is not ready to give up his lifestyle. I would not give up on him completely, though. Tell him you expected more, end it, and start seeing other guys. Seeing you slip away and the jealousy of you pursuing other suitors may be just the kick in the ass he needs to agree to a label.

JOE: To be clear: you’ve been dating a guy for almost nine months, you’re exclusive, you’ve met each other’s families and friends, and still he’s unwilling to even label you his girlfriend? Unless there’s more to the story, I suspect things will not end well. Maybe he’s not that into you. Maybe he has a deep-seated fear of commitment. Maybe he feels he’s not good enough for you. Maybe… well, there are a lot of possibilities. But, in the end, he is refusing to do something that carries essentially zero burden at all, which is to call you his girlfriend. It doesn’t impose any additional limits (you’re already exclusive). It doesn’t require any additional effort. It doesn’t take any additional time.

Work is an excuse. Other things going on are an excuse. There is something he is not telling you. It might be some fear due to past issues, and it might be resolvable, but … if he cannot tell you the actual reason he won’t do something junior high kids do after five minutes, then I see no future in this — because, by refusing to label it or you, he is showing he sees no future in either.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


  1. Oh wow, you guys gave 3 very different answers! I think the guys have hit all the high points, so I will be the teenager I am and say:

    He likes you likes you, but maybe not like that.

    1. Seeing all the other comments, which I definitely agree with, I have to say this:

      He clearly thinks that in some way his behavior will have change if you call each other girlfriend and boyfriend. If you really want this to work, you need to find out what his behavior is now, and how specifically he thinks it will change with labels. What are these expectations he is so afraid of? If he can’t give you a clear answer, then he doesn’t want the labels because he doesn’t want to feel guilty if he finds someone else or you run into a problem with the relationship (I’m not saying he’s looking. I’m not even saying that he doesn’t like you or isn’t even into you, but he might not be committed to you, although you are exclusive) or he’s just being shady. If he can give you a clear answer then you have problems that you are capable of discussing.

      I honestly think that he thinks he will feel beholden to you in some way if you put labels on the relationship, like he will have to tell you when he get home or wants to go out or something. But if he can’t get his act together and he doesn’t want to discuss or compromise on his issues with you then that is a problem that goes far beyond labels and you need to MOA.

  2. Green_Blessings_Goddess says:

    I agree with Joe. I don’t think he likes you that much and if you are looking to get married/live together, he isn’t the one, he likes the regular sex but doesn’t want to be bothered being “in a relationship”. He is playing a game with you, dump him and moa or decide if this is all you want, stay with him for now but the more time you spend, the more you get emotionally attached and it will be harder to leave. Cut your losses while you still have some self esteem.

    There is nothing you can say or do to make someone give you something you want, if they won’t give it, there is nothing you can do, you can accept their terms or move on.

    It sounds like you want a relationship that is serious and contrary to popular belief, there is nothing wrong with wanting that. There are men out there whom want to be in a relationship and give you the label and respect. Ditch his ass.

    1. Agreed!!! I hate this idea that if you are a girl and want a relationship, you are clingy and needy. That if you say you don’t need a relationship or a label you are the “cool girl” that every guy wants.

      The truth is, guys respect a woman who knows what she wants and won’t settle for less. The guys who reject that just don’t want to be in a relationship with *you*, and that’s just because he isn’t in love with you, and knows he won’t ever be. But that just means you guys aren’t a good fit, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  3. ReginaRey says:

    Oh, haven’t we all been here? This line is the most telling of the whole letter: “right now he can’t handle all the “expectations” that come along with a title.” I agree with Joe. There is no burden in calling you his girlfriend, unless he simply doesn’t want to be your boyfriend. In my experience, when a guy is telling you he doesn’t want to “label things,” it’s because he wants the option to bail without feeling bad. He can say “well,
    I told you I wasn’t ready for the ‘expectations’ of a label” or “It wasn’t technically cheating, because we weren’t *really* boyfriend/girlfriend.”

    Wendy has said it before, other commenters have said it before, and I’ll say it again: When a guy wants to be your boyfriend, he doesn’t waste any time making it so. It’s been nine months. If he wanted to, he would have. You shouldn’t have to stick around any longer, trying to convince him to label it. If he isn’t convinced all by himself to call you his girlfriend after nine months, it’s time to MOA. Maybe I’m idealistic, but I think every woman deserves someone who WANTS to label the relationship…who WANTS to make it clear “This is my girlfriend, and I’m damn proud of that.”

    1. Exactly!! We all deserve to be with someone who thinks of us as a catch, and is so proud we are his girlfriend, and wants to show us off.

    2. “I think every woman deserves someone who WANTS to label the relationship…who WANTS to make it clear ‘This is my girlfriend, and I’m damn proud of that.'”

      YES. Every person, actually. That is SO not too much to ask in life.

      1. Don’t settle for less. I did and I suffered. I learned to wait and when the man that wanted to make me his and I wanted to make mine came along it was well worth waiting for!

      2. Skyblossom says:

        I couldn’t agree more. Waiting for the right guy is so worth it and not emotionally exhausting.

  4. classic- 3 different responses 3 completely different ( and opposing) views on the question. Hope things are clearer label maker 🙂

  5. I agree with Joe. I don’t see this ending well – it’ll always be something. I think when it’s right – things move much more quickly than this. After 9 months of “Seeing someone” – you’ve had MORE than ample opportunities to see if you are right for each other (at least right enough to know if you want to “pursue a relationship” or not)- if he’s not over that hump – it’s time to call a spade a spade.

    I like Greg’s advice about you moving away from him to see if it’s the kick in the pants he needs to make the next step.

    I also wonder why women are so often willing to give in to things that they probably aren’t really OK with. Are you really OK with him dating other women? If not – why would you give him that option? It turns your basic expectation of exclusivity into a “win” rather than just a standard that you expect to be met. I’ve done this before too and I’ve seen my friends do it as well – I have NEVER seen it end well – I lowered my standards of expectation with my exhusband significantly and finally became miserable enough that I was able to realize that he wasn’t worth the hassle and heartache. In the future I will not lessen these basic standards that I have in place – as they represent my needs in a relationship. We’d be so much better off if we expected others to treat us as good as we expect ourselves to treat others – and if we didn’t settle for less.

    1. ReginaRey says:

      Yes yes YES to your last paragraph. We convince ourselves we’re ok with the way we’re being treated, and we try to settle for what we’re getting because “Maybe I’m expecting too much” or “He just isn’t emotionally available 100%.” It’s bullshit. I did this with previous boyfriends, and it never works. It just gives them permission to walk all over you…and honestly, guys don’t LIKE that. They fall for women who are confident in what they want, and who don’t have low standards, not women who they can treat however they desire. It gets old, fast.

      1. I totally agree, and I’d add that it’s not just men who like confident people… emotionally healthy people of either sex are drawn to genuine confidence (not pretentiousness though!) like moths to a flame. It’s refreshing and attractive to have people in your life that are honest with their needs- that goes for platonic relationships as well as romantic ones. Having needs is not the same thing as being needy!

      2. “Having needs is not the same thing as being needy!” <— Love this!

      3. Another good one for a “Dear Wendy” mug 🙂

      4. ” They fall for women who are confident in what they want, and who don’t have low standards, not women who they can treat however they desire.”
        So he is a low standard himself? Because he perceives that you are a woman that has low standards. !

    2. phoenix287 says:

      Awesome! Thank you so much for emphasizing the need to have standards and sticking to those standards!

  6. My concern is that he can’t give you a good reason for not accepting a title. “Work” is just a blow-off answer-if he has time for an exclusive romantic relationship that involves meeting family and friends, then he has time for a girlfriend. I suspect he may have some chick in his past that chained him up after they started using titles. That would explain the phobia. I don’t think it is because he isn’t that into you; he wouldn’t have introduced you to family and friends if that were the case.

    1. Agreed.
      People with jobs can have relationships, c’mon.

      1. Exactly. My boyfriend has 2 jobs, which require him to start work at 3am, 6 days day week. And he still makes time to spend at least 3 days a week with me, and always calls on the days we’re not together.

        This guy is just using “work” as an excuse. Sure, maybe he IS swamped. But if a guy is crazy about a girl, he’ll make the time.

      2. TheOtherMe says:

        MARRY HIM, quick !

      3. @TheOtherMe: I’d love to! Last night after I served dinner, he cleared the table and started on the dishes without being asked! Haha! We’ve only been together about 10 months though, so still some time to go before marriage.

      4. SpaceySteph says:

        Exactly what I said to the last poster, more or less. My boyfriend and I are super busy, working different shifts, long shifts, living half an hour apart. Sometimes I’m at work til midnight, and he’ll actually get on gchat for a little bit a few times through my shift just to IM me at work and see how things are going, sa goodnight, etc.

        And another friend of mine works overnights as a cop. He and his wife have probably spent less than 2 months worth of nights sleeping at the same time (let alone the same place) in their entire 3 year relationship, dating and marriage. Its a hard road, sure, but if you want to be with someone, you do it. Work is ALWAYS an excuse, never the real reason.

      5. TheOtherMe says:

        I agree. My difficult situation got even more difficult a few weeks ago but there is ALWAYS a way to work around things if that is what you really want.

  7. sarahthegreat says:

    If it were me, I’d MOA. You’re nine months in for crying out loud! All you are asking for is a label, a term! I don’t think it’s too much to ask since you’re already “boyfriend/girlfriend” in every other way. It seems like a small sacrifice for him to make and you’ve been waiting patiently for three quarters of a year. How much longer does he expect that of you? Plus, if it is so hard for him to call you his girlfriend, how long will it take for him to get around to calling you his fiancee and eventually his wife?

    1. SpaceySteph says:

      Totally agree. What are you supposed to call him for the last 9 months/the next however long. “This guy I’m seeing?” If a boyfriend is what he is, and a boyfriend is what you want to call him, then why is it so hard for him to take on that term? What does he call you to his friends? Or maybe he never mentions you at all.
      This sounds like a red flag, a small one, but no less red.

    2. Skyblossom says:

      I’d say it’s no sacrifice at all to be your boyfriend but it would be his good fortune.

  8. Heather Lee says:

    I experienced this same thing. Right at 9 months, I found out from his friends that he was not calling me his girlfriend to other people. We had met families, spent birthdays and Christmas together and one weekend I find out that his friend referred to me as his gf, and he kinda freaked out. 5 days later he broke up with me.

    I would say if he is unwilling to put a label on you, he may not be in it for the long haul.

  9. I’ve always felt that, at least to me, words and labels are important. I don’t find anything juvenile about expressing what you are to each other through a title – for me, it’s always meant security, commitment and respect for what we have together. I would take it as a huge red flag that, after nine months, he’s still unwilling to take that step. He wants all the perks of being a boyfriend without the responsibility of a title – he’s getting to have his cake and eat it, too. I think you deserve better, and deserve someone who will be proud to call you his girlfriend. I say cut your loses and find someone who takes the title of boyfriend willingly and happily. And who knows? Maybe the threat of losing you will change his perspective on the whole thing.

  10. RoyalEagle0408 says:

    I agree that this probably isn’t going to go well. For all intents and purposes you’re in a relationship, so the label is just “extra”. On the one hand, you should’nt care as much, but on the other, it’s weird that he’s against it. I would worry about how serious he considers the relationship and whether or not he’s willing to make long-term commitments.

  11. callmehobo says:

    My opinion is that if someone claims they can’t handle the “expectations” that come with being a boy/girlfriend, they probably can’t handle the perks, either. I mean, if this logic was used in any other situation, it would be ludicrous! For example-

    “I enjoy spending time with the small person that shares my DNA, but I’m just not comfortable with the expectations that come with being labeled as a ‘parent'”

    Why continue a in a relationship where someone who only wants the fun and none of the responsibility?

    1. Hah, I was thinking this same thing:

      “Sure I love the bank I get from being a doctor, but really I’m not thrilled about taking care of patients.”

      Seriously, in my experience if a man wants to be in a relationship with you – he will be in a relationship with you. If he’s not ready to scoop you up after NINE MONTHS and commit to you, then he’s probably just biding his time until something he perceives as better comes along.

    2. Lexington says:

      Oh my God, I love this response so much.

      1. callmehobo says:

        Hahaha NolaGirl,

        I totally almost went with the doctor analogy!

    3. bostonpupgal says:

      I love this comment. It sums up everything I was thinking about this situation. Right now he has all the perks and none of the responsibilities, and it’s fishy as hell. My fiance put a ‘label’ on us after a few weeks of exclusive dating, and he couldn’t wait to put a ring on it a year later. Whenever it comes up he has no hesiation telling me, or anyone else, how happily committed he is. There ARE men like this out there that don’t play games, who want a monogomous commitment, and who treat you well. If that’s what you’re looking for, don’t settle for anything less. MOA

  12. @Jarek: “High school called, and it wants its dating style back.” This line is awesome!

    However, I have to say that I agree more with Joe’s take on this entire situation. There seems to be something fishy going on…

    1. Charlotte says:

      I am in this situation now and totally confused!! Been seeing the guy for almost 8 months. Met his family Yada Yada. I’ve met some of his friends, we are together almost every night but found out a few days ago he refers to himself as “single”. He says it’s because he lives alone, oays his own bills and answers to no one so yes, he is single. When asked if he is seeing anyone, he says he tells SOME people yes but others he says it isn’t any of their business and doesn’t say anything or says no. We have talked and are exclusive, not looking for or to date anyone else. He is suppose to move in with me in less than a month but I’m totally lost as to whether or not I should actually let him. I care alot for him but feel he doesn’t care for me at all. I asked if he sees us or our “relationship” going anywhere, he never answers me. He refuses to put a label on what we are but turns around and tells me I can call it what I want, but he refuses to accept it. I asked if he was moving in as a roommate since we are nothing more to which he replied “how would that work?” Meaning we could never be just friends but still refused to say we would move whatever we have to another level. I care alot, well, I love him but don’t know if I should let him go or show him exactly what he will be missing. I found out the other day he told another woman he was single, too picky for a gf and was kind of available but not looking. At that point, I blew up and he said he was then actively looking another place to move instead of with me. I told him I knew he wasn’t moving in to begin with and proceeded to act as if it didn’t bother me. Things then took a different turn with him wanting to see me more, talk more than normal. I’m still lost and unsure what to do. Should I make things harder on him (which I have been told to do in the last) or drop him like a hot plate? Lord help me!! I hate being single!!

  13. It took a month for my ex-boyfriend to be *eager* for labels. It took me and my husband seven weeks, tops. Although my small amount of experience cannot be a yardstick for the world, I have trouble understanding why anyone would still not be able to handle a simple word like “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” after so many months, barring any extraordinary circumstances (long distance relationship).

    He doesn’t want to be your boyfriend.

    1. demoiselle says:

      It was not my cat, Myshkin, who wrote that message. He’s been tampering with my keyboard, plainly.

      1. whats with all these people making user names for their cats? Is there some sort of cat themed role playing blog the user names are linked to? I’m totally confused!

      2. RoyalEagle0408 says:

        They were chatting with Miles on Friday!

      3. April Fool’s Day. Wendy’s cat wrote the letters and all the readers’ cats started commenting.

  14. Lexington says:

    Don’t be with someone who isn’t proud to be with you. Finis.

  15. silver_dragon_girl says:

    MOA. I’m with Joe 100%, and all the other commenters who’ve said it better than I will…if he wants to be your boyfriend, HE WILL BE YOUR BOYFRIEND. Work is a really bad excuse, too. What’s he going to do, quit his job someday when he decides he’s serious about a relationship so he can devote all his time to it? I call BS on that one.

    1. I agree, work is a really bad excuse. I’ve gotten it, only to be told afterwards that it was an excuse for him to get the time to date other girls. I’m not saying that’s what the LW’s partner is doing, but I cringe every time I hear the “work” excuse.

  16. GingerLaine says:

    Yep. Gotta say, Joe knocked it out of the park with this one.

    I could understand where Jarek was coming from if this were a 3-4 month relationship, but N-I-N-E?! Some people are married by the time they’ve spent nine months together. It DOES matter what he’s calling you nine months into a relationship – refusing to call you his girlfriend is allowing him to gain all the benefits of a relationship without the responsibility of one.

    Dan Savage would tell you to DTMFA.

    1. caitie_didn't says:

      Agreed. This guy has completely absolved himself of any responsibility towards the LW or their relationship.

  17. I have a close friend, a girl, who does the same thing. They’ve been exclusively dating for almost 8 months, hang out in each other’s circles, but she refuses to call it a “relationship” She’s explained to me why a million times, but honestly it doesn’t add up to anything more than she’s afraid of the term and (I suspect, though she won’t voice this) afraid of the commitment while she’s in a very transitional period of her life. She’s also one of those people who doesn’t believe in marriage as an institution, mostly because she’s seen too many of them end. But the look on this poor not her boyfriend who’s totally in love with her every time she proclaims that is sad.

    I’m not sure what my moral is, other than…yes, there are people who are just like that, and only you can decide if its an arrangement that works for you.

  18. I’m sorry, but I agree with Joe. You suspect something is wrong because your gut is telling you so. As Joe says, putting a label on your relationship carries zero burden, if he is in fact being truthful about the exclusivity of your relationship. It’s wonderful that you’ve been getting to know each other for so long and have even met each others’ families, but chances are that he HASN’T told them that you are dating exclusively–and even if he did, none of them would be likely to mention to you that he was bringing other girls around their homes in the same capacity as you, if only because they don’t want to start trouble. I suspect that his reasons have more to do with the guilt that Greg mentioned; your guy thinks that by avoiding the actual “boyfriend/girlfriend” naming in your relationship, it means he doesn’t have to feel bad that he’s lying to you and still pursing other options–he’s telling himself, “She’s not my girlfriend, I don’t HAVE to be upfront with her.” This doesn’t make it any less wrong, but I think it does mean that you are being taken advantage of. This guy is yanking you around, and because you are giving him the benefit of the doubt, he’s getting away with it.

    1. EscapeHatch says:

      We’ll probably see the same letter-writer in a couple of years wondering why he won’t get engaged, once they get engaged why he won’t set a date… etc. It’s just not a healthy pattern to begin with- especially if marriage/kids are something she wants.

  19. I agree with everyone else here. There’s something fishy about him.

    About labels – right now, your label is ‘single’. How about you (LW) start dating other guys? You don’t need his permission, and if you’ve given him your permission to date, it’s only fair that he reciprocates. (I’m being very very sarcastic here, just in case it doesn’t come across). My point is, I guess – you’re not his girlfriend, so you don’t have to act like one.

    The thing that bothers me the most about this kind of situations is that, every time he meets someone, he tells them he’s single. And it’s true. The same thing, when you, LW, meet a guy. You’re single, you’re no one’s girlfriend. What do you tell a guy that tries to hit on you? I’m actually sleeping with someone, but we’re not in a relationship, but we’re actually sexually exclusive… Too complicated. You should make your life easier.

    What I would tell him – you’re already doing everything I want a boyfriend to do. Things will not change between us. I want things to stay the way they are, but I want people to know that I’m your girlfriend. And if you can’t do this, please tell me now, before I waste any more time. (He might have commitment issues, so it would be better for you to dodge that bullet now, than 5 years down the line, when, surprise, surprise, he hasn’t proposed yet…) Or maybe you and him have different definitions and expectations of the ‘boyfriend’ status.

    (I look at defining the relationship as my 20th birthday… The sky didn’t fall, the Earth didn’t crack open, I didn’t figure out the meaning of life… I was still the same person I was a day before… I was anxious before it happened, but didn’t realize what the hype was about afterwards)

  20. SpaceySteph says:

    I feel like we went through a similar discussion a couple days ago. Guy tells girl he’s too busy with school for a relationship. Girl thinks he has commitment issues. We all say guy just doesn’t want to be with her.
    And now its… Guy tells girl he’s too busy with work and “everything else” to commit properly… and the same moral is true: guy just doesn’t want to commit.
    No amount of work, of ridiculous hours or big projects or important events will keep you from committing to the person you want to commit to you.

    Regardless of how we feel about the importance of the title, or how important the guys up there feel, its obviously important to you. So I say give your guy one last chance, explain why this is important to you, and if he can’t give it to you, then its time to walk. There is a guy somewhere who will meet you and like you and not want to wait 9 months before he calls you his girlfriend and takes you both off the market. Go find one and stop wasting your life on this guy who doesn’t want to give you something that is so obviously important to you.

  21. There is definitely something sketch about this. If she’s brought it up several times it obviously matters to her. Why does it matter so much to him to not have the labels?

    All his excuses are really lame. Work? Expectations? What expectations are there for a boyfriend but not for their present situation? They are already exclusive, already met friends and family, and have already invested quite a bit of time. It’s not as though there is a special quota for boyfriends of time spent together or amount of romance. I don’t think it’s high school-ish to want to clearly know where you stand and be official after NINE months, and if his reasons are to avoid guilt while flirting, I don’t think that’s enough of a reason after this long when it clearly matters to her. So it seems to me that either he’s up to something, he just doesn’t want to really be with her, or he’s just weird and not making sense about it.

    One other thing- some people thought it was odd where she said she suggested he date other people. I didn’t think it sounded like she was going to stay with him and let him walk all over her- I thought it was like a “well if you aren’t going to be my boyfriend why don’t you find someone else!”, like threatening to walk out? But maybe I’m wrong?

  22. fallonthecity says:

    …”right now he can’t handle all the ‘expectations’ that come along with a title.”

    I’m sorry, but WHAT expectations??? I mean, he’s already agreed to be exclusive (and I’ll assume he actually is being exclusive). You don’t mention anything about how he doesn’t spend time with you or doesn’t pay you much attention, so it doesn’t sound like there’s anything lacking there. Meeting friends, family… Ok, so what extra “expectations” does the “boyfriend” label bring? And what is going to change in the future to make him decide he can commit?

    Anyway, if he says he’s not committed to a relationship with you, believe him! MOA. Like Greg said, if he sees that you aren’t going to just sit around and wait for him to get done with the hemming and hawing he’s doing, he might agree to “properly commit.” And if he doesn’t, you’ll know that he was never going to commit anyway, and be free to find someone who will be excited to call himself your boyfriend!

  23. TaraMonster says:

    I’m with the majority, here. If he can’t call you his girlfriend, he’ll certainly never call you his wife. It doesn’t sound like you’d be cool with being his ungirlfriend for the rest of your life, so I think you should MOA.

    1. That’s an awesome term! “Ungirlfriend”. Love it!

  24. caitie_didn't says:

    AAUGHHHHH people “not wanting to put labels on relationships” is literally my biggest dating pet peeve. Seriously people, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, you can’t pretend that it’s a horse.

    If I were the LW, I would seriously DTMFA. Like Joe said, it requires zero extra work on this guy’s part to call you his girlfriend, since you’re already exclusive and have met each other’s family. Based on my past experience, I would say that the reason he’s not calling you his girlfriend is so that when he meets a girl he thinks is cute he can tell her he doesn’t have a girlfriend. Which is true, because you are not his girlfriend.

    1. SpaceySteph says:

      “I would say that the reason he’s not calling you his girlfriend is so that when he meets a girl he thinks is cute he can tell her he doesn’t have a girlfriend.”

      SO SO SO agree with this. Hopefully you will do move on now, before you catch him cheating on you and the girl in question looks at him and says “but I thought you were single!”

  25. It takes two people to be in a relationship, but only one to refuse to be in it. When a guy tells you he doesn’t want to be your boyfriend, believe him. This is what he’s doing – accept the fact that you can’t convince him otherwise.

  26. Hah – I am picturing this becoming a year-plus relationship in which the LW and her dude are an exclusive couple, but every time someone refers to her as his girlfriend, he’ll pointedly correct them: “She’s not my girlfriend!” How dumb is he going to look if everyone knows they’re exclusive, but no one is allowed to say “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”? And, yep, when he’s out at the bar with his friends, he can say “I don’t have a girlfriend.” Yeesh. I’m with everyone else here – if what you want is a committed long-term relationship, based on mutual trust and respect, which may eventually lead to marriage, you are not going to find it here. What you are going to find here is a guy who will say that things are “great the way they are” for just as long as you’ll let him get away with it.

  27. I agree with Joe. He might say he is not looking for someone “better”, but by not ‘putting a label on it’, he is basically making it sooo easy for him to meet someone else, and tell her he doesnt have a girlfriend, and to start dating her *for real* for it to be okay. Seriously, avoiding this scenario is the only burden caused by putting a label on it

    He definitely is keeping his options open. I think what you should do is break up with him, and insist after 9 months, he either wants to be your boyfriend or he doesn’t. I think chances are, he will agree to the boyfriend thing. But still… if he’s not 100% into you after *9 months* he’s never going to be fully into you.

  28. This is how I see it.
    I understand getting frustrated if someone you’re seeing only wants the label for other people. But after nine damn months, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to want a label, so that you know what you mean to the other and where the relationship is headed. He seriously can’t handle the “expectations” that come along with the title? LW, that means he doesn’t wanna really be your boyfriend. If you’re ok with that, then I guess more power to ya. But for the love of Pete, don’t be naive. Like many commenters have said, he wants the perks with none of the baggage. Plain and simple. Don’t allow yourself to be duped into thinking its anything else.

  29. jess of citygirlsworld.com says:

    I’m split minded on this. And I wonder how old LW and her “boyfriend” are. I feel like that makes a difference.

    On one hand, as the first 2 guys said —a relationship is about actions and not words. And it does seem like a lot of men have to slowly wade in. For what it’s worth, I’ve observed a lot of male friends (and the boyfriends of friends) who dragged their feet until they suddenly reached that threshold point where they dove in head first. Those same men led the charge on wedding plans and babies. It took them a long time to consider the scary expectations of commitment. But once they got on board, there was no stopping them.

    But how do you know if that’s where your man is headed? You don’t. You can only listen to your gut.

    On the other hand, like many commenters said —there are plenty of men who don’t drag their feet and who will commit without hesitation. It’s up to you to decide what you’re willing to to take a chance on…

  30. Also, one of my friends in high school started dating his best female friend. They had the exact relationship the LW describes. He wouldn’t call her his girlfriend though, and he told me it was because he was embarrassed to be dating her because she was overweight. So yea… definitely sketchy

  31. This whole discussion makes me wonder…when do you think is a good time to start calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend? I only ask because my current relationship with my boyfriend started off pretty slowly. I didn’t see him very much the first two months we were dating because school was very demanding for him and because we lived kinda far from each other, but we talked pretty much every day. After two months, I finally asked him what we were, and we agreed that we were exclusively dating each other….a month later, after we finally kissed, that’s when I just started calling him my boyfriend, and me his girlfriend.

    I mean, we have been dating a little over a year now, but the first half of our relationship progressed pretty slowly, because we were both kind of hesistant to really get serious. I had a lot of issues from a past guy who pretty much toyed with me for two and a half years, so I was pretty paranoid about guys and he had a lot of issues from his past ex-girlfriends. Also, I didn’t have any experience past one makeout session, so I was really nervous about progressing from there.

    But we are happy now, and I see him quite a bit. He will tell me that he needs to do schoolwork and study and not see me until he does that, and then later text me and ask me what I’m doing and if I want to get together.

    This guy doesn’t sound very committed to you, but I have to wonder if he always introduces the girls he’s dating to his family. I mean, my boyfriend has met my family on several occasions, but I generally don’t bring him around my family very much. Not because I’m ashamed of him or anything, but just because I prefer to hang out with him alone, and be all over him. It’s hard to do that in front of family.

    I think, LW, is you just have to make it perfectly clear to him what you want. You’re kind of sending him mixed signals by telling him that you want a relationship but that he can date other people. To me, it sounds like you know what you want, but you’re afraid to ask for it because you’re afraid of losing him. And, you should ask yourself this: is he really worth it? Is he really worth all of this trouble? If he isn’t, and if he still isn’t willing to be in a “relationship,” after talking to him again, then you should really MOA. Losing him will be the end of that stage of your life, but it’ll also be the start of a new stage of your life. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want and to fight for what you want. You deserve nothing less than than the best for you.

    1. SpaceySteph says:

      Have to disagree with just one part of the above. ” And, you should ask yourself this: is he really worth it? Is he really worth all of this trouble?”
      I think almost all of us in a relationship with a person we love will say yes, and only later realize we should have given up there. So I think maybe this isn’t the question. The question is “Do I want to be in a relationship with someone who refuses to give me what I need?” If the answer is yes… well, the answer should never be yes. If a guy can’t give you something simple and possible (I’m not saying ask the man for a million dollars and dump him if he says no) that will make you much happier without actually affecting his life (assuming he wants to be your erm guy that you are in a long term relationship with) then he is not the one for you. Whether or not you believe, right now in the middle of it, that he is “worth” sacrificing what you want to have him.

    2. “This whole discussion makes me wonder…when do you think is a good time to start calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend?”

      As with anything having to do with interpersonal relationships, there isn’t really an easy, black and white answer to this. It sounds like your relationship started off slowly, but it was a pace that was mutually acceptable for both of you. And I think that’s really the key- whether something is genuinely mutually acceptable for both parties in a relationship (or a non-relationship, or what have you), whether both parties feel genuinely satisfied, and whether both parties have similar views of what the relationship is, should be, and where it’s going. A relationship, after all, is something that exists between two people, so they’re opinions of it and how it should work are really the only ones that matter, ultimately.

      Age affects the speed of a relationship, so does past experience, values, timing etc. etc. There are so many factors that can affect the time line of how quickly a relationship progresses, and I think there are many healthy relationships that would fall within a very broad range.

  32. 9 months of dating is more than enough time to know if you want someone to be your girlfriend. Either he’s *extremely* preoccupied with work etc. and isn’t ready for the label, or, in my opinion the much more likely scenario is that he doesn’t feel strongly enough for you to make you his girlfriend. And if that’s the case, more time is very unlikely to change that. A label shouldn’t be a big deal and shouldn’t take this long for someone who loves you or even feels close to loving you, so if love is what you’re looking for then I suggest you look elsewhere.

    If you’re fine with dating casually that’s fine, but keep in mind that this situation not only seems to be unfulfilling for you and unlikely to change, but is also keeping you from meeting the right person.

  33. p.s. And I know I’m not a guy, but for what it’s worth, the only time I exclusively dated a guy long-term and abhorred the very thought of labeling us “boyfriend/girlfriend” was when I genuinely liked him as a person but was 100% certain there was no possible future between us because I was enjoying the situation as nothing more than a rebound to tide off loneliness after a serious relationship ended. The End.

  34. I have to disagree with both Jarek and Greg, and go with Joe’s answer on this one. Its pretty obvious to me that this guy has no intention progressing any further in this relationship. I mean you and this guy have been dating 9 months, and he hasn’t even labeled you his girlfriend!? I might have given him the benefit of a doubt if it had been 3 or 4 months but that’s as far as I go. There are only a select few reason I can think of for any guy to go any longer than that without wanting to make a relationship official, and none of them are good. Sorry, but in Wendy’s famous words MOA.

    1. DramaQueen224 says:

      I totally agree! If they had only been dating a few months then I’d agree more with Jarek and Greg and encourage the LW to let her nonboyfriend ease into things but by 9 months it’s time to MOA.

  35. sobriquet says:

    I agree with Joe (and the other comments). After 9 months, this guy should be sick to his stomach about the thought of you with some other guy. I went through this in a previous relationship, although I only let it get to 6 months before I broke up with him. We were exclusive, yet he didn’t want to call me his girlfriend. I realized that it should never be that hard.

    Of course, he didn’t have any qualms about using the label “ex-girlfriend” when we broke up. Hell no! If I did not get the benefits of being his girlfriend, there was no way I was going to have the negative implications of being his ex!

    1. That happened to me with one of my exes. Nothing he did was wrong because we weren’t “together” but when he missed me he would call me and talk about “when you were my girlfriend” and how “I was a lousy boyfriend to you”

      My response: No, you weren’t a lousy boyfriend because you never wanted to be my boyfriend. You can’t use that on me now!

  36. Just a random thought. Anyone who has ever truly been in love knows exactly what it is like to be eager and proud to call someone your girlfriend/boyfriend. In fact, those labels sometimes don’t even seem to be enough when your heart is bursting with love for someone. Those types of feelings don’t suddenly spring forth 9 months into dating someone.

    Ok I’m going to try and stop commenting on this thread now…

    1. SpyGlassez says:

      My BF and I went on our first date and at the end of it, he wanted to know we were on the same page about updating our FB status right away. He wanted EVERYONE to know we were dating; he was that excited.

    2. ReginaRey says:

      Totally agree, HmC. Honestly, you don’t even HAVE to be in love yet for this to be true. My boyfriend was pretty eager to ensure that we were girlfriend/boyfriend after about a month of dating. There was no talk of love yet, but we could both tell that this relationship was going somewhere. If this hasn’t happened after NINE months, it’s not happening at all…he definitely doesn’t think it’s going anywhere.

  37. Two stories:
    My BFF started dating a girl with a lot of issues. No PDA. Barely even acknowledge him when they were both in public. We were all going out, and her friends were hitting on my BFF right in front of her because they didn’t know they were dating. Her issues – she just got out of a long, twisted, painful relationship. She didn’t want to move too fast too soon. A few months in (3-4), she felt she was falling for him, so she broke up with him. While I didn’t like her for hurting my friend, I appreciated her honesty. A couple of months later, she sorted some of her issues, and they got back together. And they’re bf and gf more than a year later. I can’t tell you how much work my BFF put into this relationship. My opinion is it shouldn’t be so hard. But he really liked her, and he hang in there, and adjusted his expectations to her pace.

    Another friend of mine went out with a guy for 6-7 months. They were exclusive and cared about each other, but he didn’t want to be bf/gf. They broke up, and a couple of months later, he got a girlfriend. Like, official, met the family, pictures together on FB, everything. In two months! My friend felt like such a fool for falling for his lines…

    I wonder where your guy stands, in terms of commitment, between the two guys in my stories. For your sake, I hope he’s closer to my BFF.

  38. This guy needs to learn what “boyfriend” means. He seems to have some horrible concept of it, and doesn’t understand that it means different things to different people. Really, everything the LW listed as qualities of her man are what I’d consider qualities of a “boyfriend”. He needs to get over himself and realize that boyfriend doesn’t equal whipped, if you’re with the right girl. If he can’t deal with that, dump his ass.

  39. Joe is the only one I agree with. And I have to say it is the truth. After dating many men who were not right for me and watching them go on to date others I say with extreme confidence that if he does not want to label your relationship he is not that into you. I would MOA and let a man who does want that label to find you. You won’t change his mind and 9 months is a long time. He is keeping you on the hook!

  40. SpyGlassez says:

    I read this out loud to the BF; his response was that…. “You’re either in a relationship, or you’re not. You can’t halfway do it. There’s a slight chance he’s a MAJOR commitment-phobe, but more likely, what I would think, is that you should have a concern about whether or not he is ACTUALLY being faithful. If she’s trying to define it as, Are we engaged or not, it might make sense, but if he won’t actually say she’s his girlfriend then he isn’t acting all the time as if she’s his girlfriend.”

    1. ReginaRey says:

      I had my BF read it too, to get some more male perspective. He said, “He’s keeping her around because it’s convenient. He’s definitely not that into her…and if a girl came around that was his ‘dream girl’ he’d drop her pretty quickly and wouldn’t have an issue being THAT girl’s boyfriend.”

  41. It took my ex-fiance 9 months to put a “title” on our relationship because that’s just how long he needed.

    But our relationship ended a year and a half later because he didn’t think he could be monogamous his whole life. Just sayin’

    1. I gave a thumbs down for the exes behavior, not your story!

    2. What a dill hole. Onward and upward for you, maynard.

      1. caitie_didn't says:

        haha, Dill hole.

        love it.

  42. My good friend was dating a guy for about 7-8 months, they indicated they were exclusive, but he gave her the same excuse…”I can’t deal with the bf/gf label just yet; I need more time; I’ve got a lot going on; I still have issues over my last relationship, etc…”
    They met each other’s families, exchanged gifts on Valentine’s Day, Christmas, birthday’s…They had that “talk” about twice t/o this time & every time was the same story with him. She was in denial because she had a lot of feelings for him & believed if she “hung in there” a little longer he’d come around.
    Well, after about 7 months he started distancing himself more & more; would call her less, go out with his friends rather than her… Finally he ended it. He told her he didn’t want to keep leading her on (a little late for that, buddy) & he def. did not want to be in a full-on relationship.
    Just be cautious…From the sound of your letter, I think it’s time to MOA. If it’s been 9 months & he still can’t be your boyfriend (officially, however high schoolish that may sound) there’s some underlying reason. Or maybe, he’s just not that into you. It’s hard to hear that or accept it, but it’s the easiest & fastest way to move on. My opinion is, have a talk with him, tell him you need to know now, & if he can’t fully commit, then neither can you. His actions will tell you how he really feels about you.

    1. I agree with your advice. MOA.

      I had a FWB situation, but it was JUST like a relationship. We even would say I love you. Finally I got so fed up with feeling strung along and still seeing him talk to other girls that I told him I couldn’t see him anymore, and I ignored him. Blocked him on FB. Deleted his number.

      A month later, he came and found me when I was at a party one night and told me that he wanted to date me, and only me.

      If you settle for less, you will get less. Make it known that you won’t settle. The worst that could happen is that you guys won’t be dating anymore. That’s good though, because it makes room for someone who *won’t* string you along. He could also come to realize that he’ll lose you if he doesn’t man up, and maybe he’ll man up. It could go either way, but it’s better than being in limbo.

  43. Skyblossom says:

    If he wanted a deeper, more permanent relationship with you he’d be letting you know. He’d be asking you to be his girlfriend and he certainly wouldn’t be making excuses about time. We all have the time for the things that we want. He probably does like you, maybe even alot, but not enough that he sees a future in it and not enough that he wants you to be his girlfriend.

    Just be glad that it’s been nine months instead of nine years. If you wish, you can tell him that you will continue to see him if and when you have the time but you’ll also be dating other guys. Then, if you meet a guy you really like, go out with the new guy and see how it goes. Or, MOA.

  44. Theenemyofmyenemyisagrilledcheesesandwich says:

    I’ve got to agree with everyone else here: nine months IS long enough to know if you want to be boy-friend/girl-friend. You’re not getting married, you’re not getting engaged. You have a right to want to label. He has right to refuse one. But if you’re not on the same page after nine months, seriously, move on.

  45. Want a Title Too says:

    I have similar situation with Label Maker. My situation is almost 11 months (2 days more to be 11). I also want a title or label so I know where we are. If we know where we are, then people will know where we are too. We will see what happens today…..

  46. Heyy I currently am in a similar situation. It’s FWB but we have said ‘I love you’ for a long time now. We have been together for just over six months unofficially and met each other’s families and he invited me on holiday with his. Yet I brought up ‘calling it bf/gf’ yesterday and he said that ‘he needed to think about it’. I really don’t get it – we already stay over at each other’s houses and he has introduced me to everyone…but always as a friend. I’m starting to hate that word. I love him (he has had a very turbulent last six months with uni and his family) and he said that ‘everytime he has used labels in a relationship he becomes a bad boyfriend’.

    I’m trying to stick it out and wait for him to be ready…but after six months if he won’t put a label on it….doesn’t that mean he wants his options open for other girls? I really don’t want to lose him….but I don’t know how much longer I can put up with being in limbo.

    If you aren’t calling it a relationship, then it isn’t a relationship…he can’t have it both ways.

  47. I’m in a similar situation with a few exceptions. The both of us are afraid of titles “boyfriend” and “girlfriend”. However, every thing else we do is just like that….dating exclusively, friends, hanging out, etc. We began with taking things slow and things have naturally progressed from there. Part of the reason of fear of title is due to both of our histories in bad relationships, plus he is in a living situation that adds so much drama at times. Needless to say, due to my feelings and knowing his, we both are trying some thing different this time around….patience with understanding. so far , every thing is going smoothly. its been about six months or so, and due to where he is living now and the circumstances, he needs to get out . Being in the career his in and other things, i was asked to help find a place (difficult when he has a very large dog). I was surprised and shocked when he asked me to move in with him. he’s 31 im 30 so we aren’t about playing games any more or bullshit. We’ve had endless conversations about the title thing and i have come to find out that to other people, we both refer to each other as boyfriend or girlfriend, just not to each other. I just do not understand how to break thru this fear of titles to each other…. interestingly, though, our relationship has had a very natural progression so far. I do contemplate, in today’s times, are title’s necessary or can to people just be with each other and enjoy it and just take their own time to be loved, fall in love, and stay in love’?

  48. I’ve been seeing a guy for 10 months,we say “I love you” to each other but he freaks out every time I talk about wanting a relationship….and he says he needs more time…and he says I’m being selfish and demanding…what do I do

  49. I just got out of the exact same situation except we only lasted three months. Honestly, the relationship was more like a glorified FWB. I grew very anxious and stressed. Like everybody else says, staying won’t help either. I would just leave. We had no chemistry or common interests. My guy was 26 and I was 21.

    1. Oh and I read a story on LiveJournal that one lady claimed she had the same kind of relationship. They somehow made it work a year. She was actually engaged a while back, though they called it off even though her brothers married early and had kids. She insists she doesn’t care and it depends what you want. I guess that works for some people. Red flag

  50. Labelling-up somebody before you’ve gotten to know them is a self-fulfilling prophesy—so tread carefully when rushing to call someone “bae.” Boys meet girls they date they marry and they love happily ever after. Date part has become extremely non- committal. This is why we talk about relationship labels. Labeling kind of works like that it bumps you to the next expectation level, and with expectations come disappointments.

  51. Charlotte says:

    I should add, he will not and has not admitted his feelings to me

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