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Is a Title Necessary for a Healthy Relationship?

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A title is not necessary for a healthy relationship, but on the other hand it is necessary for a healthy relationship. The unhealthy circumstances come to play when one person is holding back their true feelings and intentions. We call that settling. When a woman wants to have a title, but meets a man who just wants to be friends with benefits, the woman is settling if she chooses to remain in their title-less agreement.

On the one hand, I can recall being approached by a former girlfriend, who expressed the following:

“I know you’re not in a relationship and I’m not in a relationship. I am human and have human wants and needs. I want to have sex, but don’t want to go through the motions of building something with another guy that I am not comfortable with. I am comfortable with you and know your sexual health status, so do you want to be my friend with benefits?”

The statement was not verbatim, but you get the gist of how the conversation went. I was cool with it as well, but I was entering it from the perspective of someone who really wanted something more. I settled, though, and moved on under the false pretense that I was cool with just being friends with benefits. Sexual health was always taken seriously, even after I had sex with another woman. She sat me down and made sure that I was using protection. In that moment I shared that I could no longer keep this up if we’re not going to have the title. I still had feelings for her. I shared my thoughts and we agreed to move forward with the title. We moved from an unhealthy place to a healthy place of our relationship.

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On the other hand, I have been in a relationship where the sex was very good, and I was real comfortable without the title. The reason I wasn’t really serious about the title was only because the woman wasn’t at the place I wanted my girlfriend or future wife to be. For an entire year we had no title, but after that year she had enough. She gave me an ultimatum. She couldn’t go on any longer unless we were in a relationship. I felt like I was being forced to make a decision. When you become so comfortable with someone it is hard to say goodbye, especially when you know you have to go through the motions again with someone else.

In this situation I chose to carry the false appearance that I wanted to have the title, when I was really comfortable not having the title. I felt as if I was being pushed into a corner with only one option available. What resulted was clearly an unhealthy relationship. I was not communicating my thoughts and feelings, in order to make her happy, remain comfortable, and stay fixated on the potential of her emerging into something she was not ready to become. This relationship ended the worst possible way. It was long distance, and I wasn’t communicating what I truly felt. In the end, I found the woman who I was looking for outside of the relationship with the potential fulfilled and qualities I wanted in my girlfriend or future wife to be.

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I hope those two examples explain how either is necessary. But if I had to make a choice on the spot, I would say that a title isn’t necessary for a healthy relationship.

Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?
Have you been in a similar situation?

By Alacrity Amir

Amir is a research scientist and community activist, who is also inspired to not only see growth in himself, but those he comes in contact with.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/AlacrityAmir
Instagram: http://instagram.com/Alacritymir

Comment(50)

    1. "It takes a lot more to love someone when they're not yours"

      That is so true. I offer this follow up question to you…Can an individual or couple not breed accountability without a title, though? This reminds me of people who don't think they're leaders unless they have a title or position.

  1. I believe that a title is necessary for a healthy relationship, simply because I tell people all the time that how you act when you're single is different than how you act when you're in a relationship (well for me). I have had FWB, and unfortunately most of the time I ended up feeling some type of way myself about the guy, or got placed into the "cold-hearted bitch" category when the man I was seeing found out I was still openly dating other people. As someone's girlfriend the way I conduct myself in public, dress, even interact on social media, is always taking into account that I am a representation of not just myself, but my man, and would never want to be put him in the position where I'm seen as being disrespectful or shady.

    1. I'm glad you put in the disclaimer, "well for me". If you change the way you operate within and outside of a relationship then you're not being who you truly are. Would you agree? Disagree? It sounds like again there was a communication breakdown when you've had FWB.

  2. I saw and read an article similar to this on Good Men Project, and most of the focus was about people giving emphasis on the Titles themselves- Girl/Boyfriend, Fiance(e), Husband/Wife rather than keeping perspective of the relationship itself. Folks seemed to change their attitude(s) and behavior(s) with each "transition" rather Stay True to Themselves. To Me, I feel this is what Marriage isn't for Everyone, why some can do Open Marriages or Open Girl/Boyfriend relationships.

    Regardless when I was a Boyfriend, a Side Dude for a while, or a Fiance for two months, I was Still ME-never changed up what I did, thought or believed because I had a Title or a Promoted Title. I seek a Woman who will still be Herself, Title or No Title. Everyone else can have their own opinions and standards concerning this but I'm changing because of Life and in being a Parent, not for Labels

  3. I think people should do what makes them happy. But let’s be real everything has a title. FWB is a title, jump off is a title, girl I’m dating aka “my special friend” is a title, GF/BF, husband/wife, heck even if you’re in an open relationship, that’s still a title.

    Anybody saying we don’t need titles probably has a label /title for you that they know wouldn’t make you happy or you wouldn’t agree with. Certain titles equal more accountability. For example a lot of men love the benefits of having a girlfriend, but what some have an issue with or don’t want to deal with is the accountability that comes with being a bf.

  4. Lets just keep it 100 and say that when people are beating around the title bush, its because they more than likely still have some loose ends that aren't tied up and haven't done so because they want to have their cake and eat it too or are just going to slow in tying them

    1. I see where you're coming from, but not always. Some people just don't believe in marriage. Others believe in not having "ownership" over any individual, and have open relationships or practice polygamy. It's not always about having your cake and eating it too.

      1. Good post.
        I have 2 scenarios that can give some perspective on why titles are so important:
        Scenario #1: You work for a Fortune 500 Co. You work as an admin of some sort, and your pay is hourly, and your hours are 8 to 4:30. Someone quits suddenly, and your supervisor asks you would you be interested in a VP of Sales type of position. You have BA in sales and you love sales. You took the admin job as a way to get your foot in the door a year ago. You jump at this opportunity and say yes. They tell you the full transition process is a very slow one and takes time. Your ok with this. You stay in your same little cubicle, your name and title on your cube are the same, and your pay remains the same for almost a year. However, your workload and hours have increased significantly, and is that of a VP of sales. How would you feel about this? Full responsibilities and hours of a job, yet no comprable pay and no title.

        1. Scenario # 2: Your finally told you will begin to transition officially into your new role of VP of Sales. You will get a placard with your title on your office door. Your office is an old storage closet and you get a plastic plate with your name and title on it. However, your pay rate has only increased 2% and your job responsibilities go back to that of an admin and your treated like an admin, despite having the title of VP of Corporate Sales.
          I don't think anyone would be too happy in either of these scenario's.
          Titles are very important if you want the job, and everything that goes with the job. If you do not want the job or the responsibilities then the title is of no importance to you.
          To women, whose level of respect & place in society relies heavily on titles, they are of the utmost importance. Any woman who consistently has sex with a man, or men she is not married to or in a serious relationship with, is viewed as a ho, fast, loose, harlot, jezebel, whore, etc etc etc. Not to mention the womans own personal self respect, and knowing where she stands and what her role is in a mans life. Very few women want to be a ho, harlot, whore, etc etc etc. Nor are they ok with being viewed as those things. Reason why a title in a relationship is so important to women. Men, don't have this issue due to most every societies "double standard." Therefore, it's understandably not very important to every man.

        2. Granted some women could care less what other people think and will "do them" and live life on their own terms. And some men will want that commitment and title from women. Been there myself with men wanting a commitment and titles from me before I was ready to give them.
          It all boils down to each persons individual wants and needs and whats important to them.
          We have titles for a reason. There would be no need for them if they weren't important. Their importance just depends on the individuals wants and needs at that time. Still, most people will not want the full on responsibilities of any relationship without a title. It just makes no sense. You wouldn't want to be in a VP position at your job and have all the responsibilities and the hours of that position without the pay and/or recognition. Everyone wants to be acknowledged in some way, shape or form for all their hard work that they put in.

        3. To equate a Relationship with a "job" is very disengenuous because of the Emotional ramifications that come with it. Women already complain about men who drop the one they are With for an "Upgrade Chick"- with whatever "standards" that Men decide Arbitrarily is important to Them (Women do this too a la the Nice Guy Fallacy, but Women are the most vocal on their perspective).

          If your scenarios are as Valid as you SAY, then NOBODY should have such a Problem, since Corporations and the CEOs that run them are Doing what's Best for THEM- and Whomever gets Shoes like them or Replace them would Logically do the Exact Same Thing- Including You and I. I however Do Not view or treat Relationships or Matters of the Heart like this.

        4. Who is to say that someone's "credentials' are of any value anyways? Are they going to be vetted, and IF So, by Whom? You gonna ask for References and Speak to Them?? Are you going to do Ho/Hoe Faxes and Background Checks now?? We talk about Dating and Relationships not be Traditional anymore by with stuff like this we ALL are diverging away for Our Subjective, Biased and "cherry picking" purposes. Let's just Own it and Admit to the reality that Nobody REALLY wants to go back to the Old Days- decide WHICH for yourself Either we All Equal or Not, "double standards" be Damned.

        5. Bree thank you for the scenarios and your feedback. I would agree with J. Crawford in not equating a relationship with a job. I wouldn't want someone comparing me to a "job". LOL!

          When speaking of "references", if we can entertain this comparison for a second, isn't that like when men referencing "CARFAX"? Dr. J is an avid user of the term, and knows how men use it (For example, https://www.singleblackmale.org/2012/06/01/five-wa…. It is used loosely when inquiring with common acquaintances, social media, or etc. Do you or anyone else use this term?

          As technology changes and human interaction changes, so will how we relationships. Reimagine yourself, your relationship with yourself, and your relationship with others. Just my thoughts. I love the dialogue!

        6. Amir I'm you've probably been compared to a job a few times…u just don't know it. Don't focus on the direct comparison. The reasons are what's similar. lol @ Carfax. I have used that term before and heard it used before.

        7. J. Crawford many people do treat relationships just like this. Those scenario's were meant to explain why titles are necessary and so important. Not so much comparing a job to a relationship in and of itself. But the underlying principles are very similar. The reasons are the same. Just as nobody would want to take on a huge responsibility, put in an great deal of time, effort, energy and work into a job without the title and/or compensation, the same applies to a relationship. Nobody stays in relationships at all, or for long, where they have no significant title and/or compensation.

        8. I suppose then we all have to ask ourselves if We as Humans, with Free Will and Choices, even WANT to go through the Risks and Unknowns of Getting Into and Maintaining a Relationship, Title or No Title in the 1st place…..

          Everything we do for Another Person has a Positive or a Negative, even in the Courting and Dating Phase- hence the Debates of 1st Date Decorum, Sex (90 Day Rule, Body Count, etc), Character (One's Past vs Current Representative) and so on. IF simple Interaction has to be predicated under a Title then I Myself would have to give Side-Eyes to everyone around me- Family, Friends, Co-Workers, etc. Nobody needs to have a Title to be Treated with Respect and Kindness to me, and I would HOPE I don't need a Label/Title to get the same in return

        9. J. unfortunately the significance of "titles" just go with the territory. Not saying it's right or wrong, but its the way of the world. Has been since the beginning of time. An unmarried woman who had a child out of wedlock or who slept with multiple men was deemed a harlot, jezebel and many other words with a strong negative connotation. The need and significance of the "title" is based on our society's framework. I do agree that even though the title does hold some importance, it's not nearly as important as how your treated by your spouse or s/o, and the degree to which your loved.
          I didn't make these rules, but they do exist, and they are what govern the framework of this, and many other societies. Titles are important for a reason.
          For instance, an African friend of mine told me in Zimbabwe where he's from if your a woman in her late 30's and your not yet a wife or mother your nothing. Once you become a mother your no longer even called by your birth name, your name becomes bobba (probably spelled incorrectly) and the name of your child….bobba meaning mother of. There is a word for father as well. Whether we like it or not, we all define one another, and many times ourselves, by our "titles" all the time in our daily lives. Whether we like it or not, our titles do define us and solidify our place in the world.

  5. "For an entire year we had no title, but after that year she had enough. She gave me an ultimatum."
    Either that or she's pregnant.
    Its really sad that a lot of women play these types of games. How can you expect any guy to give you respect?
    I say a title is necessary for a healthy relationship because, "Why Not?"
    Anything that involves communication outside of "just sex" should be a given.

    1. "Its really sad that a lot of women play these types of games. How can you expect any guy to give you respect?"

      I'm confused, what game is she playing? You shouldn't settle for a situation that is not what you really want (e.g., you want a relationship and the other person wants FWB), but sometimes your desires and needs legitimately change over time (a year is a significant time). If your needs change and you need more than what you started out with but the other person is still the same, it's best to walk away and cut your losses; an ultimatimum is not the answer.

      1. Why does it have to be an ultimatum? If you want more you ask that person if they want what you want? Either they say yes or no? You can't force anyone to do what they don't want to do. Whatever choices we make when presented with a situation is the choice we make and we should take full responsibility for our own decisions. Just like we say yes, we can also say no thank you.

      2. Sorry Rena…I just don't agree with that.
        I'm not that person and that is just my opinion.
        I would not waste my time, body, & emotions on someone that isn't officially mine. *shrugs*

  6. a title isn't necessary for a healthy relationship, an understanding of both parties is. Think of how many married men have girlfriends–not side chicks, mistresses, but legit girlfriends. They treat them with almost the same amount of privileges the wife gets. This goes on especially with pro athletes, the girlfriend has an understanding and it is: I'm not leaving my situation when we're together, we're together when we're not, we're not. Or you can apply that to those who aren't married and deal with few women at a time. Same rules apply. As long as there's a true understanding of what's going on and what's to be expected,a title isn't needed, I know it sounds jacked up but that's the way the chips fall/
    My recent post Down Low At The J-O-B: Is It Imperative For Black Men To Reveal Their Sexuality In The Workplace?

    1. Expectations mean nothing without accountability. I’ve never seen a situation where someone was asking for a title where there was an understanding; where there is an understanding there is a word / title to label that understanding. Even in the examples you describe, the title for those type of relationship are called open, those wives are still wives, just in an open relationship. And girlfriend is a title, that why she expects to be treated better than a jump off or random side chick.

      1. okay but what if you're in a situation where you're with someone and you have an understanding that's someone you kick it with but there's no real title not a girl/boyfriend, FWB, side piece, none of that. You just enjoy each others company and deal with each other physically and otherwise….you're on if that "it aint broke don't fix it," and if that's how both want it to be well no need for a title that's your understanding.
        My recent post Down Low At The J-O-B: Is It Imperative For Black Men To Reveal Their Sexuality In The Workplace?

        1. That sounds like ‘dating” to me lol. To each it’s own, but at some point people ask for a title to describe the situation they’re in, and does it have the potential to be more or less than what it is. Even with all the understanding in the world. I really think the whole “we have an understanding, no title thing” is just a way for people to be vague.

    2. Cortonio, no mistress, jump off or side-chick gets the same amount of rights and privileges of any wife. And if that happens, it means that the man is about to actually divorce the wife. I doubt Kobe bought any of his jump-offs a canary yellow diamond. If anything happens to that man those jump-offs have no legal rights or recourse to anything of his, but the wives do. These men are not stupid, they know this. They know not to piss off the wife too much, and if they do, to do whatever they have to do to make it up to her because, "it's cheaper to keep her." Trust & believe, at the end of the day, its the wife that has the final say. Now granted, the mistress or jump-off may get better personal treatment, and may even be loved more than the wife. But even that is usually to appease the jump-off and keep her in her place. If that man knows what's good for him, he knows to fake it if he has to, and treat wifey like the queen bee that she is when necessary. Jump-offs, side-chicks, and mistresses get stood up, and left hanging, much more than wives do.

      1. you be surprised how many mistresses get the same treatment, it's just not everyday because chances are he's not seeing her as much as his wife. There are mistresses that get lavish vacations, houses, cars, etc. Ask barry Bonds' mistress Jennifer Bell I think her name was. Bonds was caking her all out including buying her a condo in Malibu. Ask Carmen Bryan, Karrine Steffans, and countless others….trust. Some cats even LEAVE their wives for said mistress, it's unfortunate but true…
        My recent post Down Low At The J-O-B: Is It Imperative For Black Men To Reveal Their Sexuality In The Workplace?

  7. I believe when two people are honest with each other and their expectations of one another things will work out. However if one party only says what the other THINKS that's what they want to hear.. then it will not turn out nice. I also believe that people think throw sex around like its nothing.. When really it intent is to express how you feel toward your mate, not because you are selfish and just want to get your rocks off. Friends with benefits is a title. One that I believe no one should have, because 9/10 when you take away the "benefits" will you remain friends? All in all, I think people need to think really hard about those situations. It can create chaos down the line.

    1. Not to be PC, butSex was always just for Procreation, not for Pleasure or any Emotional ties associated with it. That's not to say that people who have Sex do not have SOME sort of Presence for whomever they aer sleeping with…..

      1. Actually that is incorrect. Human beings, along with a small handful of other animals can have sex for recreation. From a more science-y perspective that means relaxation, reduce stress, pleasure, fun, all that, in addition to procreation. This is in contrast to most animals who have sex in accordance with some yearly event triggered by hormones and nature solely for the purpose of procreation..

    1. That's right. And if it is necessary for that one person it needs to be communicated, and consistent conversations need to happen from both individuals in the relationship. Either they will move forward together or the other will not agree; in which case it might be best to move on. No one should ever compromise.

  8. I feel that a title is needed for a healthy relationship…at least one that is meant to lead towards marriage. People who are going to cheat are going to see and sleep with other people regardless of having a title. But at least with a title there are expectations and accountability. It's also a sense of commitment. Acting like you're together is different from actually being together. And not having/giving a title you give the other person the right to explore other options because technically they're not in relationship.
    My recent post Fight or Flight: The Break Up Reflex

  9. I think a title is bestowed after being in a healthy relationship. When there is trust and open communication and honesty, there is a good relationship. This applies to any form of relationship, whether it be friends, friends with benefits, parent-child, boyfriend-girlfriend. With the exception of blood relations where title precedes action, in any other arrangement action precedes title. You don't call someone your friend after you just met them. You hang out, usually find common interests, and spend time together before someone becomes your friend. Similarly, you don't call any woman/man your girlfriend/boyfriend after only one date. You go out, see if you guys vibe, spend time, see if the chemistry is there, see if you have the same/similar goals in life, when you get to that point where you feel like you want to lock each other down, then you go about the titles thing.

  10. I guess i don't understand why someone, doesn't want to give someone a title. I don't understand what the big deal is. If you are doing everything that one would do in a relationship, why wouldn't you want to give someone the courtesy of calling them your boyfriend/girlfriend. The only thing I can think of why you wouldn't want to do it is if you still want the opportunity to mess with other people but without the guilt of "cheating" or you don't see this person as relationship material but right now they are serving their purpose.

    1. Exactly payne well. Cosign on that 100%. People can act like titles mean nothing all they want, but we all know better. It's just like a man telling a woman marriage is "just a piece of paper." It is a represented by a piece of paper, but that piece of paper means a whole lot. That piece of paper has caused many people to lose most all of their worldly possessions and their children.

    2. “The only thing I can think of why you wouldn't …you still want the opportunity to mess with other people but without the guilt of "cheating" … you don't see this person as relationship material but right now they are serving their purpose.”

      You know, …it aint always so simple.

      “I don't understand what the big deal is.”

      Usually the people who say that are the ones that think the title IS a big deal. I don’t. BET airs stage plays and titles it cinema…but it aint cinema.

      Ultimately, any relationship stands only on understanding and the honesty of those involved. Title seeking is an insecurity trait. Much better everyday barometers are…How does he treat me? Does he respect me? Does he love me?….etc. Sadly, I ve seen people walk away with all yes(s) because a damn title wasn’t issued soon enough…on their clock, mind you.

  11. Depends which is more important, the title or the relationship? I've seen women and a couple of men sell their souls just to be called someone's significant other much more than I've ever seen anyone strung along because they didn't have a title. The bigger question: Are you in love with that person or are you in love with love?

  12. 2 scenarios were given. The way I read it ultimatums were given once by guy and once by a woman. Why was the title necessary when he wanted it?

    People carry themselves recklessly… Why build relationships with someone you know fully well does not make the cut? You may like her/him and even respect them to some extent, but not enough to be completely honest. This is just being selfish.

    Individually we have different expectations as well as title definitions. Just make sure your views are inline with your mate. The problem is were settling and wanting someone to occupy our time until we find the right one, yet not disclosing just that. That’s just cold blooded.

  13. Very interesting and much needed article. I should have read it sooner, because this is exactly my situation. I have a great relationship with my boyfriend; we are both natural and comfortable around each other like friends and always look out for each others best interest even outside of the relationship. We are also physically attracted to one another. That said, he has called himself my boyfriend ever since we first met while I never explicitly said I was his girlfriend. We act like we are in a relationship, and he is a great boyfriend, but I’m still not comfortable with giving him a title. I tend to focus more on the relationship than the title BC otherwise I will stop it in its tracks.

    I have kinda thought of it as “dating” as Smilez said.

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