What’s in a name?
What’s in a name-tag?
Co-worker, acquaintance, friendly acquaintance, neighbor, girlfriend, lover, friend, best friend, friend with benefits, ex-friend, roommate …
What implications, if any do these words or “tags” have on the relationships they describe? Your beliefs on the topic may help sculpt the very relationships these tags define. I find that there are two schools of thought:
School 1: “I knight thee…”
People who belong to school 1 believe these tags are a privilege – like being dubbed with a title. They would say that the words I listed start by describing facts (co-worker, neighbor) and gradually grow to defining something with more meaning and emotion behind it (friend, lover).
This concept would make the tags something like being a queen or a duke or duchess – something that indicates a measure of respect and adoration… that represents a level of connectedness beyond the ordinary.
Certainly many of these words indicate that you’ve reached a deeper level of love and affection with someone; I mean, sheesh – who doesn’t want to be someone’s best friend?
School 2: “…ball and chain”
People from school two believe the tags are labels – slapped on like a sticker but thick with stickiness. They would say that giving someone one of those titles carries with it a Trojan horse of unspoken obligations or expectations.
I tend to fall into this group of people.
I’ve dated men, who really require some measure of knowledge or reassurance on our status. They use these tags to determine how serious we are – or more specifically how serious I am about our relationship.
- “If we were at a party, how would you introduce me?”
- “Am I your boyfriend or are we just dating?”
- “Are we walking toward something more serious?”
Unfortunately, these questions only serve to give me pause and maybe get me to pump-the-brakes on new love for fear that he might catch expectations of what hidden duties I am to accept when I take the label.
I wonder if his definition of “girlfriend” has the same list of expectations as my definition; and when it doesn’t, who’s to blame? And how do we get past the hurt caused by insufficiency?
Here is a platonic example: what happens when your best friend begins to date her crush and suddenly has far less time and energy for your relationship?
How you respond to that question, likely depends upon how closely you are aligned with school 1 or school 2.
Roles… for the outsider to see
In the end, in my opinion, the words we use to define our roles are simply that: a generic way to define roles used to expedite communication, describing someone succinctly without having to delve into something longer.
Ultimately, saying “she’s just Heather,” doesn’t really describe the role I play in someone’s life.
But still… it saddens me a bit to have to accept the tag.
Couldn’t I be the “ying to your yang?” Or the “up to your down?” Then again, is anyone truly someone else’s “better half?”
I do, however find solace in the fact that the tag is really only intended for outsiders, for the onlookers who really know little to nothing about me and my ‘best friend.’
She and I define ourselves together through open authentic conversation and some variation of equality and reciprocity.
While tags are helpful in streamlining communication, they should not be the yard stick by which we measure the relationship itself and certainly not to describe our worth (in the relationship or in general).
How worthy I am of being loved is not defined by how many people call me “friend.”
Or by how much my friends are willing to sacrifice for me. And trying to morph these relationship tags into some measure of guarantee that someone will love me and meet my needs only sets me up to be disappointed.
How much my best friend loves me can’t be captured in those 2 words.
‘Best friend’ doesn’t even begin to describe what Talia means to me. I hope that it portrays some of the basics. She’s:
- someone who matters to me greatly
- whom I care about deeply
- whom I’ve shared many life experiences with
- who knows me authentically
- who I trust with … … with me
(I’ve not run that definition by her yet and I am now curious as to how she would describe it)
And still – those words are not enough.
My point is, I think Shakespeare had it right:
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”
No matter what word you use to describe your relationship, it is as
deep and fulfilling
as loving and meaningful
as 3-D and affectionate
as you make it…