Monday, March 03, 2008

I'm not sure how many of you have given this topic much thought or experience but I was wondering what you thought about relationships and what we call them.  There're a lot of terms thrown around: boyfriend, friends with benefits, best friends, acquaintances, hook ups....  Remember "We Don't Let Label's Stick?"  I almost think it's sort of like that.  I've given it some thought and I feel that these labels are unnecessary and often harmful.  Every relationship is different and it's foolish to put a person or two people into an invented category where they don't fit.  That's my opinion.  What do you think?


Rebecca said...

As we saw in the piece, “We Don’t Let Labels Stick” as well as through out our lives, labels can be defining or even judgmental for that matter. Of course, whether we like it or not, we live in a culture that seeks answers through defining labels. And sometimes, we are forced to categorize, define or even explain a relationship by using a label.

It seems to me that you are responding to your personal feelings of having your relationships defined and the responsibilities or structure you feel in that.

I guess it goes back to words, their power and how we respond to them.

Some questions that come up:
What fear might you have in being in a relationship defined by a label?
How is the label harmful?
How can one share what a relationship is to others without feeling defined by a label?
And at what point does a relationship label become a stereotype? Is the result of a 'label' that is imposed on a relationship a stereotype?

When I first began thinking about this, I thought, I wonder how this differs as you age? But I don’t think it does. It is human nature to be curious how we relate to one another, what our relationships are, how deep, who we are connected to and how. As adults we continue to see it on insurance and health forms, in introductions, etc. This is my partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, lover, friend, … fill in the blank. And yet I wonder, is this by choice? Do we really need to define or possess any relationship? Hi, I’m Rebecca and this is Brian. People may wonder what our connection is and over time and conversation it may become apparent. And if not, and they really want to know, they can ask.

We live in a time of speed talking, texting with instant message acronyms and finding the fasted way to explain anything and everything…. What impact might this have on labeling???

Interesting topic. Lots of questions…. Think deeply and find what you connect to, where your feelings are most stirred, and fears felt…. then share it with us.

Casey said...

I agree that labels can be annoying and frustrating when they are applied to you but just to debate, I have to say sometimes I find labels can be useful. If you are my friend, I obviously know who you like and who you're with but...if we are just in class together or something, I have no idea what's going on in your life. So... if I like a guy and I know you two are a couple, I know to leave him alone. However, if you are together all the time but are not a couple, I know I can go for it.

Also, in a lot of other countries, your social status and relationships are absolutely necessary to know so people know how to talk to you and how to decide what activities with which people are the most important. This doesn't necessarily mean I agree with labeling people, I am just pointing out some things to see what people think. The space shuttle blew up because everyone at NASA thought alike and other possibilities weren't explored. So,, I'll be the odd person out. ;-P

Jennifer Griffin-Wiesner said...

I love your blog. I'm just getting into it as I think about working on your newsletter.

This labels topic is a biggie for me.

I got married when I was young: 21, and became a mom at 26. At first I thought it was really cool to have a "husband." As time wore on, though, I started to not like the way some people view married people, especially married people with children. John and I are friends, partners in many things, family, but we do not speak for one another, make decisions for one another, control one another, and so on and so forth. And I did not like the proprietary tone I started to hear reflected in the terms "my husband" and "my wife."

We aren't always package deal and we aren't in charge of each other. For example, John is extremely lax about correspondence with extended family. There are those who think that I ought to be sending birthday cards, planning visits, and so on. I'm not willing to do that with people I don't know or barely know. That's his thing. He's cool with it, but not all are. Another example is that I have lots of friends who are men (lots of friends who are women too!). All throughout my childhood and teen years, in fact, I was as likely to hang out with boys as with girls. John knows that about me. Now, however, as a married mom, in some cases it's pretty clear that people think my primary relationship should be with a man's wife in order to have a social relationship with him, even men who were my good friends growing up. I understand that in a lot of ways and respect it when it is the case, but at times it also makes me feel sad about what I think are stereotypes or assumptions about what it means to be married. It also feels pretty old fashioned!

This maybe gets more into relationship dynamics than labels, but it sure got me thinking! Thanks!