When my special someone and I recently decided to take a break from our relationship, we said for the most part things wouldn’t change. We would still talk to each other often and would still spend time with each other when we returned home during holidays. In fact, the only thing that would really change would be our official status – we would no longer consider each other “boyfriend” and “girlfriend.” We would even change our relationship status on Facebook. It’s true this break didn’t change much about our relationship, but in the next few days, I became startlingly aware of the significance of titles.Titles are certainly not unusual around campus. You can’t walk anywhere without running into people who gladly wear their titles. Theta, FIJI, ASA – whatever it may be – if students are a part of it, they’ll let the world know. While this labeling plays a large part in stereotyping, to an extent it’s fair. People wouldn’t wear shirts advertising something they didn’t believe in, and that in itself says a lot about that person.
In addition, students carry titles that might not be so obvious – political science major, junior, Catholic, etc.
On a personal level, titles and labels play a significant role in who we are. In grade school, we always had that friend who was the “best friend,” which often resulted in conflicts with individuals who didn’t have such a title. That title might remain in high school even though we didn’t have many classes with that person, might not talk to him or her regularly and maybe chose to hang out with another close friend on weekends. Once a person has an official title, it’s not easy to remove.
It’s even worse in relationships with the opposite sex. While you and a friend might, over time, realize you are each others’ closest companions, dating requires a much more formalized process that, in essence, involves one person of the pair asking the other person if he or she would like to share relationship titles. In fact, we now have Facebook, where you must specifically designate the status of your relationship in order for it to be official.
While I don’t have a problem with these titles themselves, problems can occur when they carry expectations. Whether they’re consciously aware of it, most people have at least vague expectations for those they give titles to, be it a best friend or a boyfriend.
But a boyfriend or girlfriend is usually held to higher standards than a best friend, possibly because the title is so solid. Usually the expectation is once we receive this title, we become priority No. 1. The problems start when we begin to expect things from individuals by default of the title.
In the few days following the “break” with my boyfriend, I grew closer to him than I had all semester. Without that title, I didn’t feel obligated to call him, but I wanted to. I knew, likewise, he wasn’t required to talk to me, so when he did, I was happily surprised and wanted to make the most of it. We talked like normal, but it seemed more uplifting, more like what you would hear from best friends and without any of the minor disagreements that accompany being part of a couple. And yet I know from observing others, this isn’t unique to my relationship.
It’s not wrong to have expectations of significant others, but too often people get angry when they’re not fulfilled. Often we’ll treat our boyfriends or girlfriends worse than we would our friends because we feel they’re required to fulfill our expectations for them and forget they’re already going above and beyond for us in the first place. Aside from that, maybe there’s really no reason to please the other person – we already have the title, and as long as we keep them happy most of the time that’s not going to change.
I know I’m guilty of it. I think another term for it is complacency, but it’s similar to what happens with family. You take for granted the fact that they’ll always be there and that they’re there to make you happy.
After the break with my boyfriend, our conversations sounded more like they did before we started dating – when we were really trying to win each other over and only wanted to make each other happy.
Our “break” lasted a grand total of three days, but those days were a very eye-opening experience and made me all the more appreciative when we got back together.
I know it’s easier said than done, but we should always be appreciative when someone else invests their time in us, be they friends, family or that special someone. It’s nice to have people who we can always depend on and maybe even give titles to, but it’s better to realize those people are under no obligation to be friends with us – title or no title – and we should just be glad they choose to be so.
Valerie Cooper is a sophomore news-editorial journalism major from Azle. Her column appears every Wednesday.