The Price of Labeling Relationships

If I were to scroll through your contact list, and, at random, point to a name, I’m certain you would have a term ready to explain the relationship you share, whether it’s ‘friend’ or ‘colleague’ or ‘acquaintance’. It’s natural, and often, subconscious, the way we categorize everyone into neat little files into our brain. We do this, even though, through the course of the relationship, these categorizations often change: from ‘acquaintance’ to ‘friend’ or ‘lover’ to ‘stranger’. 

What is the purpose of this neat filing? It’s an easy way to identify people, a convenient way to explain their position in our lives. But have you ever stopped to think of whether this categorization affects your relationships? Do you sometimes feel like you’re helping a friend because she’s your friend; rather than you helping her, so she’s your friend? Do you feel obliged to say ‘I love you’ because he’s your boyfriend; rather than you love him, so he’s your boyfriend? 

The way we perceive our relationship may impact how we act. We do and say what we’re supposed to do or say because of a certain title we have in someone’s life. Moreover, we expect the same thing in return. These expectations can sometimes cause a disequilibrium and then lead to inevitable disappointment. Someone you think of as a friend may very well consider you only an acquaintance. Your friendly neighbor may not actually be your best friend. The cause of unrequited love. No one is really at fault here, except the expectations our own categorizations create. It is the price we pay for labeling every relationship.

But there are some relationships that have no name. More than a friend, but not quite a lover. Less than a best friend, but more than the average one. A lover, but not ‘the one’. More than a colleague, less than a friend. Yet, we cram these nameless relationships into categories that fall within our limited vocabulary. And then, once we’ve done our timely and orderly filing, we treat these relationships as we’re supposed to treat someone who fits that bill. We don’t realize that what we’ve just done has changed our perception of the relationship, and in turn, of the person himself. 

To avoid this fallacy, we must be willing to accept that some relationship​s are best left untitled. We must realize that we haven’t enough words to encompass every bond that we are capable of forming. And most importantly, we need to understand that these titles we so loosely give, are merely for the purpose of outward identification, and not inward justifation. So beware! Don’t let the labels define your relationships.

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