You run into your coworker or cousin while out to drinks with your new boo and instantly, mild panic sets in. You can’t refer to them as your partner, boyfriend, or girlfriend, because you haven’t exactly defined things yet. Which begs the question: How do you introduce someone you’re dating without labels? Considering the fact that casual dating is super common nowadays, this scenario should definitely sound familiar. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be awkward AF.
According to relationship and etiquette expert April Masini, the best way to handle this situation is to simply introduce the person you’re dating by their first name.
“For some people, that’s enough,” she tells Elite Daily. “Others may then ask, ‘How did you meet?’ That question is your opportunity to expound on the relationship status — or not.”
By introducing the person you’re dating by name, your family member, friend, or other acquaintance is left to come up with their own conclusion about the nature of your relationship. You don’t have to define it for them, which in turn takes the pressure off.
In a Reddit thread about this very introduction conundrum, many users chimed in to say that using the first name is their preferred approach. "My friends would either already know I'm going on a date, or could pick up on the context clues," explains one user, while another adds, "I wouldn't add any extra information."
If you’d rather get more specific, Masini advises introducing them as exactly what they are: your date. This is another good option because it demonstrates that the person you’re with is more than a friend, but not quite an exclusive, committed partner.
It’s ultimately up to you how you introduce the person you're dating, but regardless of what terms you choose, remember this: You don’t owe anyone any explanations or justifications. So, you can reveal as little or as much as you feel comfortable.
“If the people you are introducing your date to press you for more info or makes you feel embarrassed, you can change the direction of the conversation,” says Masini. “You can even say, ‘We’re comfortable with these terms and I hope you’ll get comfy with them, too!’ And that puts the burden back on the other person, and away from you.”
Remember: When someone responds with discomfort to whatever terms you use — or don’t use — to define your relationship, it’s almost always about them and not you.
“Some people expect to understand the relationship in their own terms,” Masini explains. “They want to identify the relationship so they can relate to it. For example, if they know you’re engaged and living together, those are labels that help them process the relationship.”
Try not to worry about how others perceive your relationship. Because what’s most important is that you are satisfied with the terms you’re using.
“When you are uncomfortable with the relationship because you don’t know where you stand, and you wish you did, you’ll probably project your discomfort onto conversations with people you’re introducing your partner to,” adds Masini. “They may not care, but your own awkward feelings about not having the relationship status you want will come into play."
If you’re still not sure what to say, then you might consider talking to the person you’re dating about it to get some clarity. Don’t be afraid to ask direct questions like, “How do you refer to me when you talk about me to other people?” or, “What do you think about me calling you my _?” or, "How would you like me to introduce you?"
The bottom line is, while introducing someone may feel slightly stressful at first when you’re in a label-less relationship, that anxiety usually stems from a lack of clarity and security around your situation. But if you are experiencing any insecurity around the absence of labels, then perhaps this scenario will inspire you to have an open, honest convo with your casual boo about it. When in doubt, keep it simple: Using your date’s first name is always a failsafe option. But as long as you both are on the same page about what to call each other, that's all that really matters.