“Why Do You Wanna Put a Label on It?”

Man pointing at the viewer - Gaslighting

Welcome to the Gaslighting Academy. Today, we’ll be discussing an extremely effective way to subvert a perfectly reasonable request to discuss your relationship status. If you want to make emotional immaturity and noncommittal aloofness sound special and romantic, drop this gem as soon as the topic comes up, “Why do you wanna put a label on it?”

It’s practically Shakespeare, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

This timeless classic communicates so many important messages succinctly. It has rhetoric, blame, shame, expectation, threat, and various elements of subjugation to give you the upper hand in a budding, new relation… thing. Several other questions are tucked neatly between the lines.

We have a good thing going here. Why are you trying to ruin it?

I don’t need to define our relationship. Why are you being so needy?

This isn’t gonna be a regular thing where you wanna discuss needs and boundaries and shit, is it?

Don’t you trust me?

This very same “label” conversation has been happening for centuries, and it is a defining moment for the life of the entire relationship. Don’t mess this up.

Tips for Proper Gaslighting

Remember, never reveal your cards by saying, “I don’t wanna put a label on it.” Make this whole awkward conversation their fault. If you play it smart, you can manipulate them into feeling bad for having needs in the first place. And obviously, the fewer needs they have, the easier this will be for you in the long run.

It’s also possible to exaggerate your discomfort into reverse victimhood and walk away with all the sympathy. This is a fine example of Emotional Judo — the ancient art of using your partners’ strengths as a weapon against them while preserving your own mental and physical energy.

Furthermore, when they are vulnerable, and you don’t reciprocate, you create a power differential. Really, it’s a clean sweep, and you walk away from this conversation with all the control.

In Case of Emergency

If by chance, the person you’re talking to is armed with dignity and self-respect, there are ways around that as well.

For those who are good at playing offense, work up a frothy lather of the “Love is all you need” variety. The hopeless romantic shtick works like a charm. In fact, you could bring the whole conversation to a grinding halt (no pun intended) with a well-placed sex bomb. They offer emotional intimacy — you counter with physical intimacy. Boom!

Now that’s how you turn a crisis into an orgasm.

To play the defense, you may have to ham it up a little with a few pseudo-vulnerable ambiguities. “I just wanna be sure that we’re doing this right.” “My last partner really hurt me.” Or, if you wanna ensure total domination, tell them that you’re “working on yourself.” That shit works flawlessly, 100% of the time. And it usually makes them like you even more!

The Power of Gaslighting

I cannot overstate the ability of subtle boundary violations and emotional coercion to shirk responsibility, have things your way, and get someone else to pick up the tab. You can get your needs met, keep people at a safe distance, and always have an escape route.

Gaslighting is an unfair advantage. A cloaking device with a force field. Cheat codes and undetectable lies. A victimless crime between consenting adults. It’s emotional racketeering with a Swiss bank account. Relational impunity with a built-in alibi. It’s colorless, odorless, tasteless, and virtually untraceable. You can easily convince anyone that it doesn’t exist — including yourself. The elusive nature of this misinformation tactic is the very wellspring of its success.

The only downside is that when you gaslight others, you gaslight yourself.

But living a self-centered, fear-based, invulnerable, hollow, and inauthentic life devoid of meaningful human connection isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds.

Trust me…

I wouldn’t gaslight you.


Published by Adam

Mentor, coach, speaker and educator for over 12 years. I have survived, recovered from and triumphed over many obstacles and afflictions. It brings me tremendous joy to help others overcome similar circumstances so they can live their best lives.

8 thoughts on ““Why Do You Wanna Put a Label on It?”

  1. WHOOOOOOA!!! This just described my 3 yr relationship!! What a hard pill to swallow but it needs to be swallowed! Thank you for this!!

    1. You are quite welcome! Unfortunately, most schools (and parents) don’t teach us anything useful about relationships. So a lot of people are like, “I don’t know, is this normal?” And although it CAN be a hard pill to swallow, I’m so happy to be starting these conversations with people with my content 🙂

  2. Thanks Adam, many of my fellow travelers have been describing these exact conversations with their partners and now I understand what’s going on! Gary

  3. I want to know what a normal timeline is for this conversation. I have no idea when it’s normal to ask. Is the fact that they are going through a divorce ok and a valid excuse? I am also, but it doesn’t seem to stop me. He and I have been together 3 months. It’s not all sex, so that throws me for a loop. We have all day long day dates. We only see each other 1 or 2 times a week tops. I’m so confused.

    1. Anywhere from 1 to 3 months is plenty time to at least discuss your feelings and your intentions. It’s not like y’all gotta plan your whole future together. Sure, going through divorce is tough, but if 3 months isn’t enough to be like, “I’m into you and I wanna be exclusive,” then he’s not available for an actual relationship. Just a breadcrumb dispensary or something. That’s my take on it.

  4. I had been questioning my need to have the question answered … till I finally found the courage to walk away. Loved reading this … every one spoke to me… that’s what my ex had been doing… it’s hard to admit that about someone you love/d … the crazy thing is that one of the reasons my ex partner gave for not feeling like he was sure about being in a relationship (after having told me the month before that he’d always wanted to find someone like me) was that he still had not recovered from the gaslighting his covert narcissist ex subjected him to! I wish he was brave enough to know himself better.

    1. Oof. Thanks for sharing, Sylvie. And thank YOU for being brave. Life is surely a long journey of self-discovery. I believe a tremendous amount of that discovery happens when we look into the mirrors of our relationships. I think a lot of people still haven’t figured out that it’s a mirror tho, haha. Like siamese fighting fish, getting all puffed up over their own unhealed wounds reflected in the eyes of another. The journey continues 🙂

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