What’s A “No Labels” Relationship?

As its name suggests, a “no labels” relationship means that you and the person you’re dating aren’t calling each other girlfriend, boyfriend, partner, or anything else. Here are some things to consider before going ahead with an arrangement like this.

  1. You act like a couple, you just don’t tell other people you’re one. You and your partner (if you can even call them a partner) look and act like a couple. You hold hands and perhaps engage in some form of extreme PDA. Your friends even assume you’re officially dating. However, your relationship itself doesn’t have a label. You might say you’re “just talking” or “casually dating” instead of saying you’re in a relationship with the person. Uh, whatever!
  2. Maybe your partner truly isn’t into labels. One of the reasons you might be in a no labels relationship is if your partner told you straight that they don’t particularly like classic relationship terms. They like you, they just don’t want to use the words that come along with making that official.
  3. This is where it gets confusing. Excuse me, but if you’re walking around like a legit couple and you even feel like the person you’re spending so much time with is practically your boyfriend or girlfriend, then why not make things official? What would be stopping you or your partner from wanting to take that next step, especially if things are going really well and you don’t want to be with anyone else?
  4. Are labels really a big deal? On the one hand, some people might say it’s good to chill and not worry so much about those labels, especially if you haven’t been seeing each other for a long time. What do the words “relationship” or “forever person” really matter? If you have feelings for each other, that’s what counts, right? Hey, as long as you’re cool with being in a relationship that isn’t defined, then each to their own. But there are some important things to bear in mind.
  5. Beware of manipulative partners. Sometimes people decide that they want to date without becoming official because they want to string their partners along. If the person you’re seeing says that they don’t want to define things “right now” but they’re quite vague about why, they might be playing the field or just not see a future for the two of you but they don’t want to admit it. That’s shady.
  6. A lack of labels prevents progression. If you’re going to have a “no labels” setup, it’s important to know where the other person stands with you. Not having relationship labels can be a way for them to halt progression. They could conveniently want to have fun for a while before moving on. If there’s no future for you, then you’re just in relationship limbo. It might never end!
  7. Think about it: what are the chances you’ll become official? Although it might sound jaded, if you’re dating someone who doesn’t want to label your relationship, that doesn’t bode well for the future. How someone behaves when you first start dating them says a lot about where they think things could go. Defining things might happen, but you have to make sure you don’t waste time trying to make a relationship happen because the truth is it might never happen.
  8. It’s not just a label. The thing about relationship labels is that they are a big deal — if you want to have something serious, that is. A label might be important to you and it makes sense why: knowing that you’re official and exclusive can put you at ease and make you feel you’re not wasting your time on a dead-end relationship. In the same way that you want someone to show you that they love you but it’s also nice to hear them say “I love you,” you want to behave like a couple but actually be one. Otherwise, what’s the point?
  9. Do what feels right. The best advice when dealing with the possibility of a “no labels” relationship is to do what feels right for you. Maybe casual dating is the best thing for you right now, but maybe it’s not. If you feel you need to DTR as soon as possible because you’re all about having something legit and official, then you shouldn’t compromise on that. If it’s important to you, it’s important.
Giulia Simolo is a writer from Johannesburg, South Africa with a degree in English Language and Literature. She has been working as a journalist for more than a decade, writing for sites including AskMen, Native Interiors, and Live Eco. You can find out more about her on Facebook and LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter @GiuliaSimolo.