A metaphor that I like to use for communicating about relationships is bottles of wine, and their labels.
I think most of us are aware that the label on a bottle of wine does not necessarily reflect the experience you'll have drinking the wine, and that, in a blind taste test, you might really enjoy a wine you'd have passed over just by looking at the bottle.
But we are trained to see the label as incredibly important and indicative of *something*, so much so that a lot of people consider said label to matter *more* than the quality of the experience itself.
You may be someone for whom the label affects your ability to enjoy the experience — in both wine consumption and relationships! — and if so, that is a valid way to live your life and I support you.
But I would offer that, for many of us, there are more helpful ways to assess the quality of our experiences and relationships than just focusing on the labels.
So, for instance, instead of asking "are we boyfriend/girlfriend (or boyfriend/boyfriend or girlfriend/girlfriend or what have you)" — which, let's be clear, is a vague label that can mean different things to different people — we can start asking, "What are your expectations?"
"How often do you want to spend time with each other?"
"Are we exclusive, either romantically or sexually (or both)?"
"What role do you want me to play in your emotional support system?"
"What role do you want me to play in your social life?"
These can be really uncomfortable and awkward conversations — which I'm sure is why so many of us prefer to lean on euphemisms like "dating" and "boyfriend/girlfriend" and assume that those words mean the same thing to everyone involved.
But they're actually really important conversations to have, *even when we are using labels to describe our relationships*, because the label often communicates very little about the experience, and can't be relied on as an accurate predictor of happiness.
I mean, look, I've been in relationships where I had all the trappings of commitment and the labels and yet everything was emotionally empty. I've also been in relationships that were largely undefined but very emotionally intense. I prefer the latter.
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