Ask Abby, Lifestyle

Ask Abby (or Analise): Labels are not just for filing

Dear Abby: Hear me out. I’ve been seeing this person for a while and we always have a great time together. The issue? I don’t know what to call us! I guess we’re dating, but when will we be ready for more? Am I moving too fast? Or should we already be labeled?

Lila Baltaxe | Senior Graphic Artist

For some people, the terms “partner,” “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” feel almost foreign on the tongue, and part of me understands why. A relationship is not something to take lightly. It involves a lot of time, selflessness and a crazy amount of unconditional love that not everyone is always ready to give. 

Still, the fear of this title shouldn’t stray you away from any commitment. In fact, for as much work a relationship may involve — there are equally satisfying benefits. 

Okay, I’m probably making relationships sound like a construction job. Yes, they are a big part of your life, but if you truly love the person, the things you do with and for them should be enjoyable. 

Determining when to start labeling things in a relationship and how to term them is the real challenge here. No one knows the relationship better than the people involved in it, so your own senses may give you more solid advice than me — but hey, I’m Ask Abby and dating advice is my specialty, whether you take it or not! 


I know you’re all wondering one thing: What do I call that special someone who I like and have been seeing, but not for very long? 

Don’t worry, just because you’ve gone on one or two dates doesn’t mean you have to slap a label on your relationship to keep the person. Like all good things, love takes time. This is not to say that labels are constricting, but no one slides a wedding ring on their finger after one nice outing — and that’s for good reason.

Humans are incredibly complex, and you really need to get to know people before you offer them your unwavering heart and devotion. 

I’m not sure what everyone’s hesitancy to use the term “dating” is all about. The term allows for so much more freedom. You can choose to be exclusive while “dating” or not. You can choose to keep your dating apps or not. You can choose to tell everyone or not. 

Here’s a key difference — and I’ll let you decide if it’s a benefit or not — unlike when you have a partner, you don’t owe a strict amount of loyalty, or anything really, to the other person. 

Ideally, you want to be respectful of the time and resources that they’re putting into developing the potential relationship. Common courtesy is also a thing. But hey, no labels, no promises.

My qualm with no labels

I know I just gave a whole argument that sort of weighs the pros and cons of labeling your relationship, but you’re not getting away that easily. I sometimes have an issue with people who refuse to commit to the bit.

What do I mean by this?

Well, obviously, there is no rush to start throwing around terms. However, you can’t expect partner behavior if you’re not going to devote yourself to the other person. This includes things like exclusivity, making time for one another and meshing friends. 

I say have your fun, but remember that at some point, the lines do converge, and you could be entering the whole “leading on” territory. You really shouldn’t continue doing relationship-esque things if you never really intend to commit yourself to the other person.

Otherwise, you create this false sense of intimacy and waste time trying to cultivate a relationship that will never properly exist. 

Slow and steady wins the race

I know it can sometimes seem like everyone around you is in a relationship but yourself, which can spark a panic that you need to get things moving or you’ll be forever alone.

Rest assured, the sweetest relationships will come from those that have enough time to grow to perfection, like a ripe fruit. If you’re looking to avoid heartbreak or are seeking something long term, love-bombing is not the way to go. 

Ask, ask, ask

Relationships are nothing without consent, and that goes beyond just the physical aspects. So I feel the need to add that partner status is not merely implied by the fact that you guys have been seeing each other for a while — you have to ask! 

I’m definitely not saying that you need to get down on one knee or anything — we can save that for another special time. But, I would suggest doing it with some consideration. Choose a sweet moment, ask at their favorite place, get creative! 

My final thoughts

If Lana Del Rey’s song “Margaret” has taught us anything it’s that, “when you know, you know.” 

There is no specific amount of dates you need to go on before you decide to bestow the title of partner on your relationship. 

Maybe I rely too much on my intuition, but I feel like there’s a special realization that will cross your mind that will let you know when it’s time to pop the question.

My moral in all this is that you’ll have a realization when it’s meant to be. You’ll see that you’ve enjoyed spending time with this person no matter the activity or circumstance, and that you couldn’t imagine doing it with anyone but them. You’ll walk away from every interaction feeling more fulfilled than when you started. 

And most importantly, you’ll not only feel seen, but understood.

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