It’s so easy to label ourselves. This trend is especially highlighted on dating apps; from fairly benign terms like foodie, nomad or bibliophile to a sapiosexual or even an activist. The terms people use to highlight their profiles are extremely varied.
As long as it is just the profile, it might not be detrimental. But labels in general don’t work. Especially if the label gets embedded in your own psyche and then defines the life path you take.
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N, a 42-year-old client of mine, has such a label for herself. She thinks she is not a relationship type of person. N’s first relationship was at the age of 22. That relationship lasted two years. When N’s boyfriend started talking about getting married and having children before they both turned 30. She panicked. At 24 years, N wanted to explore the world, but getting married and having kids was not how she saw herself at 30. They broke up. N’s next relationship was at 31. This time, she did want to get married. Her boyfriend, though, claimed that he would never get married. N was deeply in love with this boyfriend (perhaps she is even now). A year and a half later, they broke up. Six months after the breakup, this ex-boyfriend got married. N was devastated.
It seems N is still recovering from that heartbreak. Post this episode, she has not been in a serious relationship. At the start of our first session, N says that according to her, she is not a relationship type of person. Yet she really wants to be in one.
What confuses N about herself and her situation is the dichotomy of her two past relationships. The first was where she did not want to get married, and the second relationship was where she did. N manifests this as a personality trait of hers and believes that she is not the kind of person who will be able to keep a relationship going. She has disregarded the normal metrics that one would consider in her situation.
I believe N’s decision not to get married at the age of 24 is perfectly fine. And then to change her mind at the age of 31 to want to get married is also fine. What is not fine is the fact she is not accommodating of her own evolution and growth as an individual. What is wrong with changing your mind as you gather more experience about life and how you handle it? More so when it comes to relationships, where there is no one-size-fits-all and you have to be in a relationship to really know your own self when you are in one. And that changes based on the kind of partners you are with at that time. When two people engage with each other, the onus of how that interaction will go is on both individuals.
Had N’s boyfriend at that time not brought up that they get married and had kids and had they continued their relationship, perhaps they might have gotten married when she turned 30. Let’s take the second relationship. Perhaps N’s boyfriend’s feelings for her were not as intense for her as hers for him. Also, after proclaiming that he did not want to get married ever, he also changed his mind and got married six months later.
In my opinion, N did not heal from this heartbreak and labelled herself as not a relationship type of person.
I urge people who might be following N’s path and labelling themselves as not the relationship type to look within and seek clarity about why they believe they can’t be in a relationship. Is it a deep hurt, heartbreak, or even trauma of some sort that made you arrive at this conclusion? Once that’s done, ask yourself this question: Are you actually happy being single? If the answer is yes, then you know you’re on the right path for you. But if the answer is no, then calling yourself “not a relationship type of person”, will only leave you more miserable. I highly recommend seeking external help from a counsellor to get through this phase.
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Personally, I don’t like to label. They constrict us from exploring ourselves and experiencing life in the way we can and should. This is especially true in romantic relationships, as it is difficult and perhaps even impossible to figure things out completely. As humans, we are in a constant state of evolution- so are you and your partner. Our approach to life and our circumstances are constantly changing, as they should. What works best when it comes to relationships is to go with the flow. Know what you can control and can’t control. So, please think many times before you hard-line yourself as “not the relationship type.”
This is a limited series by Simran Mangharam, a dating and relationship coach, who can be reached at email@example.com