He Acts Like a Boyfriend But He Doesn’t Like the Title

I have been in an exclusive relationship with a man for 6 months now. He has shown up in every way AND more. I had major surgery and he stood by me, slept in the hospital, and took care of me at my worst for my 3-week recovery. He just took me on our first trip away. He wants to see me every day and I love that.

Basically though, I was blindsided the other day because after everything, he said that I am not his “girlfriend” and he doesn’t want the expectations that come with the title. Yet he says all the important people in his life know about us (family, close friends, few of which he has) and that he doesn’t want to be with anyone else. I asked what would change with the title? We already have exactly what a relationship is and he “checks in” with me even though I don’t ask that of him.

He tells me to please be patient, that he’s never been with a woman like me, one who trusts and loves unconditionally and makes him feel good when he’s with me, yet he says he’s not with me with the whole girlfriend/boyfriend thing! I don’t know if I should wait and see, since what we have is basically the committed relationship – until he made the comment that I m not his girlfriend, everything was great. Or should I move on at this point? Even his friends address me as his girlfriend and he doesn’t correct them, so why can’t he say the words to me? Yes, we are exclusive, and everything seemed and felt right, but I feel like he negated everything we have had now and feel like maybe I shouldn’t trust him. I hope you can answer! Thank you! –Kris

Dear Kris,

I’ll admit it. I don’t get men like this.

It doesn’t matter what an amazing guy he is if he’s told you things like “I never want to be married,” “I’m too busy for a relationship,” or “I’m not looking for anything serious.”

If he’s acting like a boyfriend, what’s the harm of calling you his girlfriend?

Beats the hell out of me.

And I can understand why it’s mystifying and why you’d be tempted to run.

Personally, I’m of two minds about the whole thing. Which is why I can’t weigh in all that heavily and tell you exactly what to do. But I hope to lay out the pros and the cons for you so that you can make an informed decision on your own, okay?

Cons: One of my dating credos is “believe the negative, ignore the positive”. In other words, it doesn’t matter what an amazing guy he is if he’s told you things like “I never want to be married,” “I’m too busy for a relationship,” “I’m not looking for anything serious,” and so on.

Women waste years on men who said they want a casual relationship on their terms only – and then claim to be shocked when it turns out he was telling the truth.

Next, I’m a big believer that good men do whatever it takes (within reason) to make their partners happy. Sometimes it’s sleeping at the hospital or taking care of your dog or fixing your car. And sometimes, it’s saying “I love you” or referring to you as his girlfriend, just because it makes you feel safe.

And if I have one big opposition to this man’s behavior, it’s that he’s standing on some sort of principle, putting his needs above yours, and refusing to take the very simple step of calling a spade a spade: yes, you’re his girlfriend.”

Add in the fact that “he doesn’t want the expectations that come with the title,” and, well, this is the one thing that I’m not sure I’d be able to get past if I were you.

I’m a big believer that good men do whatever it takes (within reason) to make their partners happy.

Then again, I don’t know how old he is, I don’t know his relationship history, and I don’t know his family history. Maybe he’s really young and doesn’t know how to compromise and please women. Maybe he’s really old and set in his ways. Maybe he got burned by his ex-wife and is unduly cautious of making a mistake or making promises he can’t keep. Maybe he comes from a divorced family where his father never said “I love you” to his mother. There are lots of possible explanations for his behavior.

Which is what brings me to the Pros. In your words:

Exclusive relationship with a man for 6 months now. Has shown up in every way AND more. I had major surgery and he stood by me, slept in the hospital, and took care of me at my worst for my 3-week recovery. He just took me on our first trip away. He wants to see me every day and I love that.
He tells me that he’s never been with a woman like me, one who trusts and loves unconditionally and makes him feel good when he’s with me.

Those are no small feats, in a world where you consistently hear about the lack of good men. Those things are the foundation of your six month relationship and the reason that you’re agonizing over this man who claims not to be your boyfriend.

And I must say: it’s entirely possible that he’s acting in full integrity, letting you know that he’s afraid of hurting you, that he wants to go slow and choose wisely, and that he really does value you and your relationship. He wants to be judged for his actions, not his words.

So what do you do, Kris?

I’d have this conversation with him. Try to get it on the table. Not to negotiate for the title of girlfriend, but to fully understand why it’s so important for him to reject the title and the responsibilities when he’s already acting like a full boyfriend to you. Make it clear that you’re trying to understand him and let him know that he wouldn’t have to do anything different, but that it would make you very happy if you could feel safe in knowing that he was your boyfriend.

And if, after this conversation, he can’t give you this nominal gift of safety, I would highly consider moving on to a man who has the ability to step up and make you feel safe.

It’s not that this is a bad guy at all, but rather that you might be waiting your whole life to hear some words that shouldn’t cost all that much to say.

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  1. 91

    6 years with my boyfriend and after noticing he was kind of keeping me private i asked to let me know where i stand with him and he says we dont need a title. wow 6 years and now i thought i meant more to this guy. this truly touched me and opened my eyes.

  2. 92

    I’m so glad I found this post. I read through every comments carefully I’m currently in this situation. I’ve been dating someone for 6 months going 7 and he’s unwilling to call me his girlfriend. He keeps saying that i should be patient but yet does what a loving boyfriend would do. Take me out on dates, support me in every way, met my family met his. But one thing is that he’s never said I love you. I’ve asked him several times why he’s so scared of commitment he’s refusing to give me a reply. when his family member calls ne his GF he puts them straight abd says otherwise. After putting everything into consideration I decided to make myself less available to him, don’t usually text, see each other call as we used to. I know my worth but I think he’s failing to realise how much I value. My descion is to walk away and invest more time in myself.

  3. 93

    I read through the first page of all the replies and I thought that I should leave mine here so that someone in the universe might find it and read it someday and learn something from it because I can honestly say that I did learn a lot from reading all of the replies… So I want to thank all you beautiful women for sharing your stories.

    was seeing someone for about a year, and we were living together

  4. 94

    Hi Evan and Kris,

    Evan, hands down you give the best advice. I didn’t read any other comments here, because I know in this kind of situations, women are ready to bash the guy, accusing him with using her for sex, blah blah blah. All the ideas from insecure women who wants to tie up the guy as soon as possible.

    I can completely understand where this guy is coming from. He is an unconventional thinker. He doesn’t want to follow the common rules that everyone is following. Nothing is wrong with that. Like Evan says, he wants to show his love with his actions, not words. And ladies that is exactly what you need to look at when you evaluate a guy. It doesn’t matter if he “labels” it or not, does he show that he cares about you? Women always know. Deep down we know if a guy cares about us, and if you do know it, then don’t push the guy for labels.

    Kris, my five cents, just go about your own business. Go out, have fun, take care of yourself, exercise, have exciting plans for your future, have fun dreams and share it with him time to time. Have different interests. Show him that your life is going on as exciting as it has been before you met him. I promise you he will want to be a part of your life. He will come around and tell you romantic things that you never thought you would hear from him.

    This guy is taking his time to make sure you are the right person for him and vice versa. Don’t nag him, don’t push him about it. Just show him that he has a lot to lose if he loses you by living a full life with a positive attitude. Don’t tell him that, show him that.

    All the best.

  5. 95

    Cherry: you have probably not dated a guy like this…they are time wasters. I just ended a “friendship” with someone like this who was willing to do anything for me. I do mean anything. His actions were that of my most loving bf’s… But not the one thing that mattered most: commit.

    It hurt and cost me a lot of sleepless nights. But in the long run it’s best. I deserve better.

  6. 96

    You guys are all amazing. I too have been in this situation with a guy I had been dating for the past6 to 7 months. Everything started out great, he asked to see me a lot..we met online…he even told me that he deleted his online profile…which lead me to believe he was a bit more serious than I…and truth be told at the time I was not taking him seriously…so I thought it was only fair that if he was taking me seriously that I should do the same…we ended up together for another 3 months..and thats when I sort of asked him what we were doing..we had not been intimate either..he said he wanted to create a solid friendship before progressing. I’ll skip all the details but I had “broke up” with him because I felt that I was liking him more than he liked me…i told him this and he said he agreed. Then four days later I was like maybe I’m overreacting I mean we hadn’t spent much time together because of the winter weather and so I called him up and told him I wanted to be “friends” knowing well this time to be prepared for it not working at all.. The next three months were great..we spent pretty much every weekend together..he would make plans to include me…invite me to his coworkers going away events..to events with his college friends…and we had little disagreements when it came to certain things with relationships..but we were silly together..ahd similar goals when it came to homes (I’m 24 and he’s 25) and do just silly things that made our “relationship” unique..he told me all these great things about myself and I could tell he was falling for me but still not title…so recently we had an argument about something because he said words that hurt me…i told him that if he feels that way then he shouldn’t act the opposite..anywhoo i told him he could easily fix the situation by apologizing or even attempting to fix it and if he couldn’t do that then he wouldn’t see me again. I don’t think he thought i was serious but I ended up having him take me home and told him that we were ending..i just can’t be the only one fighting for a title or fighting to make things work…we gave each other a goodbye kiss and even before i arrived home I told him that i don’t think its either of our fault because honestly we just were not on the same page..i let him know Im looking for something more serious and I feel he just hasn’t explored or did what men feel they need to do before committing to someone…i gave him advice to take into life about himself and we kissed goodbye…he called me later on that night but I will admit I was pretty sad and cried myself to sleep…i called him back the next day to see if i had left something important at his house…but I did not want to contact him…he told me he had called to check to see if I was ok..and that he wished the world for me and how the night before was pretty hard without me there…how he would miss the things we did together and he can’t go to certain locations because it will remind him of me..i said I will miss u too and was basically saying yeah to everything he said because i was crying…I know that this is the right decision for me and this time I can make it because I expected this to happen…things like this cannot easily be brushed off..his actions were great and he treated me very well…like Kris’ guy…but also like her guy he was not wlling to say those words..and he had the reason of theres too much responsibility that comes with it…so in time he may be ready but for right now..im not waiting on him to be ready and I’m attempting to resume my life and actually get what i deserve out of love and relationships..though i am apprehensive now and just want to be single because I cannot believe how difficult this is…i never imagined that it would be hard for a man who likes a woman…says good things about her..treats her well..to not want to be in a relationship..but i digress..you life and you learn

    1. 96.1

      It sounds like he wanted a relationship with you, but he was afraid of transitions. He wanted it to be good, and fun, and wanted you to be sweet to him, and patient, and attentive, etc… He has likely seen where when relationships are new, the women were sweet, but later in the relationship, and usually after it is officially a long term one, he sees the women become different…less sweet, patient, less nurturing, less affectionate. it may also have happened to him. So he wanted to keep the relationship suspended in that early limbo area where you don’t feel so sure about it that you take him for granted, or start to get bossy. Who knows what things he is afraid of happening, but it seems clear to me that he wanted a relationship with you, he just wanted to keep it in a state that made him feel safe. I feel that he fears what will happen to the relationship once it transitions into a committed long term relationship.

      1. 96.1.1

        Thanks JennLee for that insight. I am confused as to what to do, well maybe I know what to do (which is what I’m doing now…leave him…maybe he will realize it is better to take a chance than not have me…but then again lets not hold on to that). How do you work with people or men like this..when will they get over their fear? And how can I help myself to move on..I cried so many times already and it’s only been four days

        1. Karmic Equation


          You’re only 24. You have a lot of life to live.

          You may not think so, but there WILL be another guy for you to love…and who will love you the way that you need to be shown love.

          Let this one go. Date. Have fun. Pay attention to a guy’s character and how he treats you. Accept only the ones with good character and who treat you well. If he’s hot and funny but makes you feel anxious, dump his *ss, even if the sex rocks your world.

          A lot of women say “sex isn’t important in a relationship, it’s character” — yet a lot of women will stay in relationships with men even when he treats her badly BECAUSE of the great sex. So women are lying to themselves, imo. Sex is MORE important to her than to the man because she’s willing to live an unhappy life to keep getting it. Men will not. No matter how hot the woman or how great the sex, eventually the man will leave if he’s treated badly. Which is a great shock to women who think hot sex will keep men around.

          Be good to yourself. Drama does NOT equal love. Love makes you feel content, not anxious, not upset.

          Find a guy who makes you content.

  7. 97

    Something that really stood out to me about this letter that you do not comment on is that the writer states all his friends and family know about me.   To me this means she has no meant them, unless I am reading it wrong?     She needs to leave this relationship if that is true.  I’m sorry but six months in is a long time to go without meeting friends or family.     Something is shady to me here, it just is.     And even if it is not, she is not getting what she wants from this man. Unless these two are in college this is a long time to waste and she has given him enough time to decide what he wants. She’s not asking for marriage or engagement just to be a girlfriend.

  8. 98

    To add my two cents worth in (although you already have a vaults worth of those! :p). I agree with the comments above… he’s not committing in any meaningful way, and he’s trying to be honest. As to treating you like a boyfriend. … i think he’s a decent enough sort… doesn’t want to relationship to feel or be sleazy…. doesn’t want to feel like he’s using you…. so he treats you well – while he’s with you. He’s just reserving the right to not be with you at some point in the future and you need to decide if the whole thing is worth it for you or not…

  9. 99

    I dated one of these he claimed he didn’t want a girlfriend cause he didn’t have “time” but wanted all the perks of a relationship this lasted 2 months we had a falling out about him keep asking for home cooked meals and staying at my apt 5 out of 7 days a week (looks like he had time to me) anyway he got mad cause he was tired of red meat and wanted me to buy chicken when I told him he could purchase it and I’ll cook it all hell broke loose we never texted/called eachother again !

    1. 99.1

      You are better off without him.  He was clearly using you.  A lot of that going around.  There are a lot of men who would gladly buy the meat if you offered to cook it.


      I also agree that if he is staying over 5 nights a week, he is a boyfriend.  If he doesn’t want the title, dump him.  Then gladly run away from him as fast as possible because he is using you.

    2. 99.2

      Gen, I knew a guy like that. He was a leech. He didn’t offer to take me out on dates at all and always wanted to come by to have sex and constantly wanted to know what I was eating so he could come by for a plate. I ended all communication with him once I realized he was a leech.

  10. 100

    This is becoming quite common. I’ve dated a guy like this. He was recently divorced. I asked him what his intentions were with me and he told me he wanted to be friends first and see if we’re a match. Yet, he was questioning my whereabouts and making snide comments about me possibly going out with somebody else. These guys waste your time and are lonely or bored looking for somebody to pass the time with until somebody better comes along. I refuse to act exclusive with someone I’m not exclusive with.

  11. 101

    Im in a “relationship” with a girl like this. I dunno what to do either. We were together for about 4 yrs on n off and now she says she isn’t gay but we still act like were together she just thinks the title complicates things and makes things worse I dunno what to do leave her completely or just see where it goes but reading these comments is kinda helping

  12. 102

    In the same boat but my partner is a female. I love her to Death. She just doesn’t like the label part. She acts like a girlfriend but doesn’t want the label. I’m literally in the same boat.

  13. 103

    I dated a guy who is exactly like this a bout a year ago. We went on romantic dates, went on vacations together, even met his friends but never called me as his girlfriend. One day, his realtor asked him if i am his girlfriend and he said no. That answer got me pretty shocked, because up until then, I thought I was his girlfriend. We had lunch as if nothing happened and he was all romantic again at the restaurant. But the whole time I was really upset. Later that day, I texted him saying that I thought of us as bf/gf for the last 3 months and his answer was that he doesn’t remember him putting a title on our relationship, So, angrily I asked him what I am to him, He goes “Do I really have to tell you that? Why can’t you understand labeling a relationship doesn’t do any good to people? Well, stupidly I let him stringing me along for the next 4 months afterwards. But, I finally had to end this show of his. Now, I am with a good man who is always there for me and not afraid to introduce me as his girlfriend. My point is that this self-centered, immature, commitment phobic guy made me realize what kind of traits I should look for in a real man. Probably the very opposite of what this selfish guy did to me. I learned that if there is no title, there is no relationship. The so-called “relationship without a title” is just not a real thing. And a real woman doesn’t need that.

  14. 104

    I really agree with you! Though I want to point out when one thing actually – those guys usually have some emotional stuff going on… Like if you think about it. Perhaps his ex-girlfriend messed up his life? Maybe he got hurt? Cheated on? Or like.. he put so much effort in a relationship that eventually didn’t work out at the end, so he got devastated and stopped believing in a happy relationship.

    Another thing I noticed among these guys is that I feel like they forgot what love means and how it feels. I think they can’t define what they feel. Of course, maybe they just don’t give a damn about you and don’t care, but perhaps they like you a lot, but have committment issues and don’t want to let themselves develop anything more. A good question is – what would he do if you left? If you said you just want to leave because his actions are hurting you. If he’s okay with it, just go. Seriously, just go. There isn’t much more he can do. If something is meant to happen, it will happen and if he wants you in his life and values your ‘being’, he will do what it takes to keep you.

    I think guys like the one you talked about have problems with defining themselves. They like you and they like everything what is, theoretically, reserved for a relationship like kissing, sleeping with you, cuddling, playing with your hair, complimenting you, just being close with actually reasling YOU’RE NOT  a friend anymore, but they emotionally can’t handle the title. They’ll tell you they don’t want a girlfriend, they don’t feel anything more, but in fact.. they realise you’re not a friend anymore. You’ve never been just a friend. He might tell you you should take a break, stop doing what you’re doing at the moment, but in fact – he likes it. It feels good. And at some point, I believe, he doesn’t know what’s up with his life – many thoughts are going through his mind – “I like her”, “it feels good”, but “i don’t love”, “i don’t want a relationship”, “but i dont wanna let her go”, “she brings a lot to my life”, “but im confused”.

    Guys like that are truly not what you want. Yes, you will keep believing you want them, but you dont. You can do so much better. Yeah sure it probably seems like the most difficult thing to do – to actually walk away, but if you know you cant hadle the pressure – just go. Seriously – just go. The chance that they will grow up is very little and I wouldnt really count on that.. Unless a hurricane goes through the city and blow away their minds haha.

    I feel like I’ve been there-maybe not fully, but kinda experienced this. If you have good abilities to deal with people’s committment issues, maybe you can give it a try, but if remember – there is something wrong with that guy. Maybe thats the reason why you like him – he’s ”different”, but yeah. They need to grow up so dont waste your time waiting for it. 🙂

  15. 105

    I may be a little broken, but I’ve done a lot of thinking on just this thing the past few months. I’ve been in a relationship like this off and on for 11 years. In my heart, he’s my life partner, though unconventionally which really doesn’t bother me at all. And, in dating, I’ve waited 11 years for men to move from first dates to second dates to exclusive dating to a relationship and label of girlfriend and boyfriend. No man in dating has done this. I’m, sadly, inundated with offers and requests for “FWB” and “casual hangout partners with sex.”

    And, I began thinking, why is it I am waiting for a man to tell me who I am and who I can be? If I want to be a girlfriend, be a girlfriend. If I want to call a man my boyfriend after 3-6 mos. of exclusive dating, call him my boyfriend.

    So, with this man in my life, I’ve taken the time to have talks. I’ve handled very deep discussions on love, loss, attachment and anxieties with respect, aplomb and care.  I had a heart-to-hearts with him about both of our fears/anxieties/aversions/worries/distancing/discomfort/etc. I’ve heard his issue with the label “boyfriend.” I’ve recognized, educated myself on and learned to work on and with his dismissive avoidance attachment (as well as my anxious attachment). We’ve discussed these issues and our triggers and how we trigger one another together. I’ve committed myself to being better, working toward a more secure attachment individual.

    I came to the conclusion that I can be whomever I choose to me to a man. He can try to force a “casual” or “friend” label on me, but it’s up to me to appoint and assign who I want to be in my life. If I want to be a girlfriend, I will be one. I will no longer spend the rest of my life waiting for a man to anoint some label on me or himself.  If we’ve been seeing one another for 3-6 months or more, we’re exclusively in a sexual relationship and  have deep, emotional care and love for one another, you’re my boyfriend. I’m calling you my boyfriend. There will be no debate or discussion about my use of the term boyfriend. There will be no debating me in order to get me to lower my value of myself to suit your anxieties.

    From this day forward I’m calling the man in my life my boyfriend. To his face. In his presence. At all times.

    He can choose what he wants to do. Stay in a loving relationship that’s made it through some rough times and had some amazingly incredible times. Or leave, because who I unabashedly choose to be in my life hurts his sensibility to “labels.”

    If the word bothers you, move on. If not, stay, get used to it, realize it doesn’t change a thing and accept all of this good lovin’ I’m giving you and will continue to give.

    And, I will do this with every man I am seeking exclusively following.

    Those that can’t handle it will be weeded out easily without a single worry in my head about  “who I am or what label do I wait for him to give to me.”

    I’m a girlfriend. End of story.

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