Dating Dissection 0.3: Labels and Liability
What’s In A Name?
We apply labels to everything within our society; we label our dress as casual, smart casual, black tie and so on, we label our weather and seasons, we label our positions within society and we even label ourselves. Within society, everything has to fit into a distinct division in order for it to be comprehensible and acceptable. In short, labels are somewhat mandatory. However, there are always grey areas, of which labels become contortionist, keeping principle form but bending over backwards in a way that most can’t. One of the most immense contortionists in our designating society is none other than the romantic relationship (with romance being used lightly), although perhaps sexual relationship would be a more apt name, (however once again the term would have to be used lightly).
The difficulty of labelling this group is very evident; just friends, friends with benefits, dating, seeing each other, hanging out, in a relationship, etc. Numerous labels have numerous meanings, at different times, to different people. But in a society where labels are so significant, why do we fail in labelling affairs of the heart?
The struggle of labelling ‘romantic’ relationships doesn't apply to friendships or platonic relationships, in these contexts labels are pretty simple; friend, good friend, best friend, old friend, acquaintance, full stop. Friendships very rarely have a ‘grey area’ (unless referring to a ‘frenemy’, yet once identified, is still label friendly). We simply have friends of various rankings or foes. So why can’t we do the same with our ‘romantic relationships’? Are we apathetic, afraid or both?
Whether apathetic or afraid, truth be told there’s a lot in a name.
If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.
-Confucius, The Analects
Naming a relationship does just what Confucius discusses names to do in The Analects; it makes that relationship a truth. It’s easier to say that you’re just friends, or hanging out because all of the weightiness that’s contracted to a relationship is rejected. When you’re 'seeing each other’ there isn’t the obligation of loyalty that comes with being a couple, if you are just friends then it’s easier to tell people you are no longer friends if it doesn’t work out. Of course ‘just friends’, ’seeing each other’, etc are labels, but they are fuzzy and wishy-washy, there’s no element of truth behind them.
In most cases that I can call to mind, a relationship has not been labelled due to fear of the liabilities that come with being a girlfriend/boyfriend rather than a genuine indifference to categorising a situation. And like Confucius states, ‘if language be not in accordance with the truth of thing, affairs cannot be carried on to success’. Relationships simply don’t reach their full potential when people are afraid of what a label can do to the relationship, and oddly enough this can be detrimental if one or both parties aren’t mature enough to understand that the label is simply that, and it shouldn’t, in reality, change the relationship, bar develop it.
Our fear of the liabilities of labels correlates to the modern day fear of love, which is fundamentally a fear of rejection, and fundamentally a fear of our own self-worth. As explored in the previous Dating Dissection, self-love is paramount for flourishing relationships with others; if you love yourself then you aren’t embarking on relationships for acceptance or assertion of your value, but rather to share your qualities with someone virtuous while admiring their virtue. If everyone was to truly love themselves they would not fear the hurt and rejection that a 'failed’ labelled relationship could cause, because that their value of themselves won’t be founded on the opinions of others. To put it plainly if you love your self you can’t fear love. And if you don’t fear love you don’t fear relationships. A partner won’t be difficult to recognise or acknowledge when you are faced with one. You will be able to accept that you are not 'just friends' or 'seeing each other’. If 'just friends’, ‘seeing each other’, 'friends with benefits’ or ‘dating’ is the truth, the ‘affairs (will) be carried on to success’ .
There is of course no need to rush into relationships like relationships are coupon codes, nothing in this world is black or white; grey areas are natural, and relationships are honestly often pretty grey. But having the ability to see when it has, or should step out of the grey area is a quality that is perhaps being lost with the fear of labels, and liabilities are perhaps causing us more dismay than the labels themselves.