Take It From The Europeans: Labels Aren't The Key To A Successful Relationship

by Ivana I. Andreani

Girlfriend. Boyfriend. Hookup. Friend with benefits. Talking to him. Texting her. Dating.

This incessant compulsion to define a relationship may just be one of the most unnecessary contemporary trends.

With so many different kinds of relationships, blurred lines prevent a couple from definitively labeling themselves as anything, unless it’s the absolute terms of “girlfriend” or “boyfriend.”

When I studied abroad in Florence for five months, I took in so much more than a plate of pasta a day (okay, maybe two). I am lucky enough to have cousins who live there, so when I wasn’t hanging out with friends in my American program, I was practicing the few words of Italian I knew with my 26-year-old cousin and her group of Florentine friends.

Out of a group of about 12 people, most of them were coupled off. European relationship expectations differ; each pair was thoroughly entranced by his or her partner, yet engrossed in the group conversation, as well. There was a general understanding that a couple was together and no one really asked questions.

The couples were a little more hands-on and PDA-inclined than I was used to, but it was never over-the-top. Whether they had been together for a few weeks or a few months, there was happiness shared between each couple that you don’t always see in couples here in America.

Us ‘Mericans have quite a bit to learn from these foreign lovers. There is a sense of effortless connection coupled with heated passion that we see in movies like "Midnight in Paris" that almost every American girl dreams about.

Did Owen Wilson’s character demand to know the status of his relationship with Marion Cotillard’s character? If he had, the movie would have been ruined. First off, he was married (to the wrong woman). Secondly, the two characters bonded over shared interests and heated moments in the streets of a dimly lit city.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not completely anti-DTR (defining the relationship), I just believe that it isn’t always necessary. If two people desire and agree to start dating, more power to them, but the most important thing is a mutual sense of respect for one another and an agreed understanding of each other’s expectations.

The more you try to force a label out of or onto your partner, the more likely it is that you aren’t on the same page and therefore aren’t a good match. He or she will willingly agree to making the relationship official if he or she actually wants to.

The majority of the time, sorry to say, a hookup won't turn into a boyfriend. There typically isn’t a mutual sense of respect shared between the two lusty souls. You shouldn't even label yourselves hook-up buddies, because in the end, one person may want to move to the next emotional level, while the other keeps telling his or her friends, “Yeah, it’s nothing more than hooking up.”

Expectations can fall short. Just because he’s your boyfriend doesn’t mean he is contractually ball-and-chained to you. Labels don’t prevent bad things from happening. Similarly, they aren’t preventing a solid relationship from forming, either.

A person should evaluate exactly what he or she wants in a relationship. If it’s purely physical, cheers to you. If it’s emotional and physical, high-five. However, until you decide exactly what you want, you can’t expect anyone else to respect your wishes.

When I left for Italy, I told myself I was going to come back with an Italian husband, just like my grandma did when she studied abroad in the country years ago. When I left Italy, I had been on a number of dates and even had a short fling with a really fun man. It was all effortless and fun with him, and we had a mutual respect for each other, despite not carving in stone what we had. Because of that, we have stayed friends.

After my abroad experience, I was nervous to return to school to past “conquests.” Throwing myself back into the immature culture of college men was not something I was looking forward to. I started casually talking to an old fling of mine and quickly realized we wanted completely different things. I quit him cold turkey.

From my experiences, my friends’ experiences and the overload of Netflix movies I watch, I whole-heartedly believe that a strong relationship (physical, emotional or both) is based entirely on respect and trust, not the label you place on it.

Photo via Twitter