As humans, it is metaphorically in our DNA to want to define what we mean to each other. Whether it is being single, in a relationship, or just hooking up, the urge to define is strong. When people label relationships, it is to acquire peace of mind via defining “the connection” shared between people as these labels in particular are like mental shortcuts for defining what type of relationship one is engaged in, or in referring to the relationship-type when speaking about it with others. Additionally, when it comes to labeling relationships; it is to decide if people are to remain just friends, friends with romantic intentions to move forward, or to decide if as a unit, they’re going to subscribe to being friends with benefits. There’s also the dreaded-by-most “what are we?” question which also seeks to define the parameters of what people are doing with each other be it romantically or strictly sexually. Now, with all of these relationship and commitment types floating around, have we fully confused dating, polyamorous relationships, open relationships, and friends with benefits?
Let’s talk about dating, the term that feels like it wears many hats and is oftentimes inaccurately used. One of its definitions states that it is the social interaction under circumstances that are intended to or may lead to the exchange of personal affection, emotional attachment, and/or sexual or physical intimacy. Whether it’s because of advice given or personal choice, dating is the supported route when it comes to getting to intentionally know someone. This is especially true when one is looking to find someone, at times out of many someones, to get in a relationship with. Then there’s the reality of the word “dating” meaning the title given to two people in an intimate relationship. Now, this relationship may be serious or casual, straight or gay, monogamous or open, short-term or long-term. At this point, your status or title can be going out, together, being with someone, seeing each other, just friends, or just hooking up, but it is important that regardless of the label, you and your partner should both accept the same definition for your relationship. One of the issues that arise, however, is when we think more of what we have with someone than they do, or we attach a title to something that it doesn’t match.
Rock with me for a bit, humor me, and picture it: “I, Tess, have just shy of seven guys that I am involved with. I am intimate with everyone but I don’t subscribe to polyamory, even though I have feelings for them all, admittedly some more than others. Now, as I said, I don’t want to be in a polyamorous relationship but I do want to feel a level of importance where I am concerned. So the thing is, even though I have feelings for and actually do love three of the guys, I expect to be number one in each of their lives even though, let’s be honest, I am not putting anyone first. Come to think of it, no one is a priority but I expect each of them to treat me like I am the only one plus, in my defense, they can’t get mad, as I’m dating and we’re not together.” Believe it or not, this is one reality of today. As stated earlier, dating is a chance to get to know other people on one’s quest to find someone to settle down with in a committed relationship. It is encouraged to go slow with this as you’re essentially seeing if you guys would be able to mesh well. So, one too many times what people do is they take what is most obviously hookup culture and slap the title of dating on it. For clarification, hookup culture. by definition, is the acceptance and encouragement of casual sex encounters, including one-night stands and other related activities, without necessarily including emotional intimacy, bonding, or a committed relationship. The need to define what we mean or do with someone will forever be strong.
In many parts of the world, sex is still seen as taboo, but premarital sex has come a long way and has been seen as acceptable. However, still holding the “I am Taboo” sign is sex on the first date. The need to define what we are, especially when sex is involved, has been a driving force for eons. Realistically, the need to know is driven by the officiality that comes when one bares their naked self and all that comes with it via sex with another. During sex, contrary to what modern-day society will say about casual, no feelings sex, that pesky little thing called feelings most times is involved in acts of intimacy. I mean, it’s no lie that the “what are we?” question swiftly comes when sex is engaged, as the question reflects the sudden need for clarity.
Why is it that if we know we’re just there for sexual pleasure we call it dating as opposed to saying “we’re just hooking up?” I’ll tell you why; it’s because as humans, we need to have a name for it. We have this… need to define what we’re doing with each other. “Labeling can be a helpful way for people to begin to clarify, change, or negotiate the terms of their relationship.” One thing is clear though, as humans, we sure do love our labels.