labels

I’m not sure why it popped into my head today, but I got thinking about labels. I’m not talking about clothing labels… those are tragic enough for their own blog sometime when I want to be depressed. I’m talking about labels in relationships. Husband. Boyfriend. Girlfriend. Friend with benefits. Partner. Dating. Significant other. and only about a billion other terms.

I remember being in high school with my first love, Seth.  He was a great guy…in all honesty, probably one of the more stand-up guys that I dated over the years.  When we decided to start dating, we just slid into a monogamous relationship where we were boyfriend and girlfriend.  I didn’t think anything of it.  It seemed normal to me. 

Fast forward just a few years… I’m married to the love of my life, but am also in an ENM relationship (ethically non-monogamous)/polyamorous relationship.  As we have been learning more about ourselves and our marriage, it has brought me to the idea of “labels”. 

I’ve talked about John before, although I don’t know if I ever referred to him by name.  When we got together, it was purely meant to be a friend with benefits relationship.  We talked about it.  We were in love with our respective spouses and it was about having a friendship.  Little did we know that we’d spend 5 or 6 days a week together.  Yes, I fell in love with him and who he was when we were together…but he never considered me his girlfriend…he never considered me anything except a friend he had sex with.  By the end of our 6 month relationship, it was a joke…I referred to him as my “not boyfriend”.  Even his wife called him that when referring to me and him.  The idea didn’t bother me until we broke up.  It wasn’t until after I took a look back on my choices that I had made while I was with him that made me question if I was more to him than a friend. 

Just a couple of months ago, I was with my “partner” Jake.  We had a great relationship.  While I was going to grad school, I would spend my days studying while he worked from home…granted, I was normally naked in his bed…but still. We had a type of relationship that we didn’t need to talk all the time, we could be completely comfortable in silence with each other. We ended up kind of ending our relationship because we never talked about what “we were” and having very different definitions of what we wanted/expected of each other. We still talk and there is a part of us that could very easily slip back into what we were, but both of us are treading lightly.

My point is… are labels important? Whether someone is my boyfriend or partner, does it matter? Whether they are my lover or my friend with benefits, does it matter? Some would say yes. Others might say no. It matters to me. Much in the same way that my BFF knows more about me than other “regular” friends. To me a label, it tells me the significance they have in my life. A boyfriend is going to have a bigger spot and more significance in my life than a friend with benefits.

Does it matter?

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