One of the most defining moments of a relationship is that first leap of faith: putting a label on yourselves, or, to put it in more modern terms, becoming "Facebook official." Though the beginning stages can go without being formalized, a simple brand opens an entire new realm of exploration.
It's a completely crucial part to any relationship - not because couples should care what society thinks of them, but because people should mind how society acts around them. Having those around you know you're in a relationship changes their take on you, as well as changing the way you act around them.
Society tends to understand things best when it can see a situation and label it clearly. A guy at a bar, for instance, is going to flaunt himself differently around a girl with "no label" than he would around some other guy's "girlfriend." One word transforms the situation entirely.
Though people in a confidential relationship may act the same as an official couple would in private, that's only a small piece of their lives. They may not try to hook up with someone they meet at a party or flirt with a random classmate, but they also won't be holding hands in public, going on dates, or simply experiencing life together, if the relationship is concealed. It's difficult to grow as a couple if you can only do so in private.
I've heard many excuses for not labeling a relationship: it's too soon, someone's scared of commitment, they're happy with how things are now. People today relish in the opportunity to make mistakes and not be held accountable. Without a title, nothing is stopping someone else from pursuing you, or you from pursuing someone else - despite the secret connection you may have. You become a different person when you take that "single" label off.
Hiding a relationship from those around you shadows being ashamed of your status. The title you give yourselves represents security and commitment - essential factors in any real relationship.
Labeling binds you together; it creates a pact that you're no longer in search for something more. A title indicates what level your relationship is on by providing clear boundaries. It's scary, it changes things, but it also opens up so much more.
Remove the "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" titles from all the individuals who have assumed them, and you will leave the world with no less love, sex, romance or commitment than it had before. You may even leave it with more.
When a boy and a girl with a mutual crush first kiss each other, they are closer in every respect, in that moment, than a boyfriend and a girlfriend who can't remember the last time they felt butterflies from kissing.
Our labels are only signposts pointing toward the relationship's essence, and they are often outdated at that. The wisdom and beauty in the first kiss are not found in a title binding the two who share it, but rather precisely in the lack thereof.
A relationship is simply defined by feelings shared exclusively with another individual, so compelling that they subdue or drown out any similar feelings that might arise for others.
Publicizing a relationship may allow friends in your life to celebrate it with you and decorate it with their own sentiments. But the heart of that relationship is not subject to change when it goes public any more than the relationship between oxygen and life was in flux when biologists arrived at its discovery.
The old cliché about wanting to shout your love from the rooftops is founded on the notion that feelings of love are so powerful, joyous and pervasive that you want to share them with the world.
Nevertheless, these feelings dwell within. They are sufficient in their own bliss; the relationship is sufficient in its own expression. The feelings, not their labels, are the binding agents. The feelings, not their publicity, are the essential elements.
We are so eager to nominalize our relationships, boxing them into socially understood and accepted conventions that vaguely represent their essence. But the secondary payoffs of using whatever words and titles we think the relationship deserves are always secondary, and often destructive, to the true source of its beauty and integrity.
If our eagerness persists, the representations soon eclipse the truth, the external references soon overshadow the internal feelings, and the relationship becomes lost in the title it never had to begin with.