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

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. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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. 🙂

  5. 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.

  6. 106

    I’m late to the game, but in my quest for answers about guys and commitment, I came across an article Evan wrote and he advices the woman to move on if he doesn’t commit to boyfriend status after 3 mo.  https://www.evanmarckatz.com/blog/understanding-men/believe-the-negatives-ignore-the-positives/ Seems like Evan has made it pretty clear what to do in a sitch like this. I like the idea of having a convo with him to figure out why not. If he can’t give a good reason for this and/or help you to feel great about whatever his intent is then I’d let him go. Hope the best for you!!

  7. 107

    A Relationship without a Title is Called Convenient

  8. 108
    yang wang

    I dated this guy exclusively for 3 months, he mentioned that he only date one girl per time. I’m super nice, but there is one rule I set for myself is no matter how happy we are, 3 months I ask for labels, only yes and no as outputs. he said he doesn’t  know if there is a future, which means no to me. And I decided to be friends with him, I asked on Friday so if I can’t control my emotions, I have whole weekends to cry and be emotional, Monday I’m back like sexy lady~, Tinder is on and smiles are at work.

    Surprisingly, I was sad only on Friday night, and I feel so fucking good after that. don’t be afraid to stand for yourself. I learned it from tons of dating and pains.

    LADIES!!!Keep telling urself this: My man would be the most adorable  guy in the world, he would hold my hands and tell everyone I’m his, he will show me the clear future and stare at me with the infinite galaxy in his eyes. he will never be some weak coward hesitated in front of me and sugar-cover the so-called white lies.

  9. 109

    I agree with the posts although the article works too. I was given the gf title then it was taken away then I thought it was given back to me only to realize he was placating me. And he treated me very well too but at the end of the day he was dictating all the rules of engagement  becasue he had issues with commitment. If it’s important to you then really consider whether you can overlook it. Your values and needs matter too. Friends and being nice is awesome but if you want a partner in every sense why not go for it?

  10. 110

    I got in early and asked a guy after a week what he wanted from me as things were moving at light speed. He replied ‘I’m not ready for a relationship and it’s too early’. I agreed with him. But I now know what’s going on in his head and can act accordingly. I’m not going to slam the door shut on him but I’m going to keep dating around, and I’ll worry about myself and he can worry about himself. No more being outcome dependent. Just enjoy dating, something will happen naturally.

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