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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 [email protected].