I have a confession: When I was with The Guy With a Girlfriend, I was obsessed with having a title. In fact, I wanted her title ‘girlfriend’. And, no, it wasn’t enough for him to tell me bullshit like he considered us to be boyfriend and girlfriend. When we were together, I constantly looked for validation that I was equally, if not more important (lunacy, I know) and wanted our relationship to be bagged and tagged. I don’t know what I thought I would feel if we were official and out in the open, I just knew I had to have it and I was devastated that I didn’t.

I have another confession: I overheard the Mr Unavailable who ended up giving me my epiphany after a barely-there five-month relationship telling the waiter at the restaurant we used to go to that we were “friends” when I was on the way back from the bathroom. He stumbled over his words while I tried to remain unseen and I felt my whole face flush up. It’s like when you overhear someone talking about you and you go back and pretend you haven’t heard a damn thing. It stung, but what was really strange is that I knew I wasn’t crazy about him but while I was feeling indignant, I wondered why I didn’t get the title of girlfriend. I was essentially angry with him for not giving me a title that I didn’t actually want.

Straight off the bat, you can learn two things from my experiences:

1) A title is really only as good as the relationship you’re in.

2) Sometimes you want the title just for the sake of your ego.

Many women are obsessed with titles and we use them (and ‘status’) to justify our involvement in dubious relationships with the emotionally unavailable and assclowns. As a result, we often let our ego get out of whack in the pursuit of a title.

When women email me about their complicated relationships, particularly when there are at least three people in the relationship, I get references to ‘main woman’ ‘other woman’ ‘mistress’ ‘girlfriend’ ‘official girlfriend’, ‘I want us to be official’, ‘rights’, ‘expectations’, ‘responsibilities’, and more.

Having a ‘title’ in a relationship is all about status. But it’s not just any old status; it’s an official status and one that should be at least equal to, if not surpassing, the status of previous women who have had the ‘property deeds’. It’s a status that needs to be acknowledged by him (or her) and ideally by your peers and anyone else you think needs to know.

Why do we ‘need’ a title?

Because we think it tells us where we stand, where we fit in, and what we think we can expect, want, and need from them in the relationship. We think it gives them and us ownership and that by being assigned a title, we can have expectations and they can have responsibilities, ideally to meet and exceed those expectations.

Obsessing about your title kicks in when they won’t give it to you (or you’re not happy with the one you have), or where you know that someone currently has a bigger, better title than you. It also extends to relationships past where previous partners appear to have had the title we want.

Longtime readers will know I’m a great fan of the eighties stand-up comedy, Eddie Murphy’s ‘Raw’. There’s a line in it when the guy is caught cheating and says to the wife. “I screw her. I make love to you”. It’s exactly this kind of mentality behind the following:

He made her his wife, so why is it so difficult for him to do that with me?

You’re not the same person or in the same relationship. And if having the title of ‘wife’ was so great, she’d still have that title now.

He went out with her for X years and it bugs me that he won’t even see me in daylight never mind call me his girlfriend.

What’s that got to do with the price of milk? If you’re in a situation where you are allowing someone to use you in darkness, the onus is on you to set your boundaries instead of accepting booty-call status.

I don’t want to be the mistress anymore. I want to be the main woman.

If you wanted to be the main woman, you should never have taken the role of mistress. This isn’t a job where you can work your way up. If you’re serious about being in a serious relationship, accept no substitutes.

I need to feel that I’m official, not just some dirty little secret.

I’m sure you do but the fact that you are a secret is a red flag.

I feel like he must love me more than her because even though he cheated on me too, he came back and moved in whereas he didn’t move in with her.

Taking the glass is half full mentality to a whole new level. Just because someone moves in with you, doesn’t actually make them committed, especially if they’re still screwing around behind your back. Also, don’t clutch at straws. This person is still pulling the same rinky-dink cheating behaviour. If you make this into a competition about who’s pleasing him more, you will each fail to address the issues in your relationship. That, and he won’t have to take responsibility.

If he could commit to her, he should commit to me.

Why? You’re two different people and you have no idea how committed he was to her. You cannot demand that someone commit to you when they don’t want to. This doesn’t mean it’s about you; they don’t want to commit. That’s about emotional unavailability and their baggage around commitment.

He’s not with anyone else so I should feel special.

Yeah, but he’s not with you either and he’s coasting for the fringe benefits.

He says that no one blows him the way that I do. or He says I’m the best he’s ever had.

It blows my mind that as women, we will use sex as a currency to determine our worth and our title. If all you have to cling to for your status is what you can do for him in bed, your title is sex-based. That’s no basis for a relationship.

But here’s the truth of it:

If you have to demand a title or you’re not happy with the one you’ve been given, you’ve got problems. Healthy relationships don’t have one or more people quibbling over status. If you also assume a title where you you use a dodgy assumption drawn from a basis where you measure how crappily you’re being treated against how crappily someone else was treated, you’ve definitely got problems.

Hard as it may be to hear for some of you, the truth is, a man who genuinely wants to be with you, not only doesn’t burn up his energy resisting you, but he is eager to let the world and his dog know that you are his woman. He’s not keeping it a secret, there is no secret this or secret that – you are out in the open and official by association.

When a man wants to be with you, he’s not going to keep the status of the relationship a secret from you. You will know your title and it’ll be one you can be happy with, not a title tied up in poor love habits and low self-esteem.

This is the same way that men who are interested act like they’re interested, show you that they’re interested and treat you with love, care, trust, and respect consistently because they don’t want to run the risk of losing you to someone else. Anything else is shady.

Likewise, when a man wants to keep you in your place and not have you get ideas above your station where you may expect, want, or need more than they’re prepared to be expected, wanted, or needed from, whether it’s through words or actions, or a combination of both, they will let you know what the status of the relationship is and you’ll pretty much know your title from there.

When they say crap like ‘Why have we got to go around labelling stuff? Can’t we just go with the flow?’ he’s telling you ‘I don’t want to be pigeon holed into saying this relationship is something that at a later date I may find it difficult to get out of. I want you to go with the flow so that you never know where you stand and I never feel responsible’

If you don’t know your title it’s either because you’re not supposed to have one or you’re not drawing the dots about the relationship you’re in and seeing your title for what it is.

This explains why I get emails from women telling me that they’re in a booty call but asking if they’re the girlfriend or whether they can be upgraded to girlfriend.

If you have a title and you don’t like it, you have to ask yourself what the hell you’re doing in a relationship with a guy, where you’re in the position of having a lowly status? If you’re not happy with your position whether that’s because he’s told you what it is or you’ve worked it out for yourself, you need to be concerning yourself with what you’re doing not what he’s doing.

You see, you can tell a lot about how someone sees you not just by the things that they say and do (or don’t say and do) but also by the status that you have in their life.

If you’re someone hanging on the fringes of their life, it’s not a good sign.

If you’re a booty call, friends with benefits, dial-a-lay or whatever you want to call it, it says that you have no status or that you have a lowly status.

If you’re called the girlfriend but treated like something they stepped in, is there any point in clinging hard to the title?

If you’re one in a long line of women that they’re sleeping with, does it matter whether you think you’re number one, five, or eight, or shouldn’t you be concerning yourself about the fact that there is more than one?!

If they are reluctant to commit to you and reluctant to commit to labelling the relationship, doesn’t that speak volumes about your relationship? Trust me when I say that if you can’t get him to commit defining the relationship, you’re not going to get him to commit to anything.

If you’ve manage to become their wife but they’re screwing around on you left, right, and centre and unwilling to do what it takes to be in a mutually fulfilling committed relationship with love, care, trust, and respect, is there any point in emphasising that you’re their wife? You’re committed on paper, through law, and maybe through some financial stuff but on the action part that makes commitment come together, your title of wife isn’t worth jack.

Is it better to be the girlfriend instead of the mistress? A reader recently explained:

“…most of my friends and family believe that although the ideal is not to share a man, failing that, it is better to be the girlfriend than the mistress as at least you were the loved and wanted one and you have all the rights and expectations of your relationship. Whereas the mistress is nothing but a hidden, back street girl who has to settle for crumbs and has no right to ask for anything better. In fact, it is the mistress who is scorned by society and labelled a homewrecker.”

You’re not that loved and you’re not that committed to if someone is not able to be faithful to you. No, the other woman isn’t that well regarded by society but neither are women who hold on tight to men who screw around on them.

If you’re a girlfriend or wife that is entitled to have rights and expectations to a relationship, one of those expectations is to be treated with love, care, trust, and respect. That’s basic.

If someone is treating you like dirt or screwing around behind your back, they are failing to meet the basic expectations of the relationship. The difference is that you’re making an exception because you have the title and maybe you enjoy other fringe benefits of the relationship that you think ‘make up’ for their infidelity. It is not enough for someone to go to work, bring home some money and materially support you or your family – if it was, there would be a lot less unhappy women in previous generations.

I know we live in a time when narcissistic sports men shag hookers and clock up umpteen affairs and the media would have you believe that everyone is shagging around and incapable of being faithful, but there are plenty of people out there who are faithful in their relationships.

Ladies, it’s the year 2010, not 1910, we don’t have to have low self-esteem. We don’t have to be used and abused by men. We don’t have to share our partners. We don’t have to turn a blind eye to cheating. We don’t have to take the high road and say guff like ‘Well at least I’m the girlfriend instead of being the mistress’ or ‘At least I have a title – she doesn’t’.

We determine our values, so there is no point in friends and family parroting their own poor love habits or following a culture that doesn’t reflect your values because you will be miserable.

As I’ve said many times before on this blog and in my ebooks – the reason why men (and women) can get away with cheating is because there is always someone who will put up with their BS. The more people who have boundaries and learn to treat themselves with love, care, trust, and respect is the less opportunity that there is for people to abuse the boundaries in relationships which means they have to step up or ship out.

It’s no wonder some of these guys think they can behave as they do – they know you’re more concerned with having a title and the illusion of their love than you are of actually having their love and a relationship.

If, for instance, we as women had more self-respect, more boundaries, more self-esteem, more, more, more, we would not be palmed off with titles, we wouldn’t let out boundaries get busted up and our self-esteem eroded, and we wouldn’t compete with other women for the crappy affections of even crappier men.

We need to respect ourselves more instead of hanging off the coat tails of illusionary titles. It’s called boundaries. Why are we so eager to be bagged and tagged by people who have no respect for us or the relationship we’re in?

Get the relationship with the mutual love, care, trust, and respect with boundaries and your self-esteem intact, and you know what? You won’t be obsessing about your title, comparing your status to someone else’s, and grabbing at crumbs to legitimise your position. People in healthy relationships are assured of their place and don’t need to question, analyse, or compare their title – they’re too busy living and enjoying their relationship. If you’re worried about your title, it’s already a sign that your relationship is officially in trouble.

Your thoughts?

Are you ready to stop silencing and hiding yourself in an attempt to ‘please’ or protect yourself from others? My book, The Joy of Saying No: A Simple Plan to Stop People Pleasing, Reclaim Boundaries, and Say Yes to the Life You Want (Harper Horizon), is out now.

The Joy of Saying No by Natalie Lue book cover. Subtitle: A simple plan to stop people pleasing, reclaim boundaries, and say yes to the life you want.

Check out my ebook on emotionally unavailable men and the women that love them, Mr Unavailable & The Fallback Girl as well as the No Contact Rule and more in my bookshop.

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