What It Means When A Guy Says He Doesn’t Like 'Titles'
These days, dating someone and making the decision to commit can be trickier than we anticipated, for both men and women. In this day and age, it's a lot different than the cute folded piece of paper you pass in grade school checking the 'Yes' or 'No' box answering the question, "Will you be my girlfriend/boyfriend?" We can also agree that the type of title we want for our relationships have changed over time too. How we go about titles are way more fluid and is now based on preferences, lifestyles, and honestly to protect ourselves from past experiences. But, it is still a fact that titles are alive and well and they mean something to all of us.
I know, for me, as a woman, I like titles for my relationships. I am not ashamed to say that I have had my moments saying these exact words, "So, what are we?" But what do you do when the guy you are dating is not on board with the title train? While I can assume all day why a guy would not want to put a title on it, I decided to talk to the source. I asked twelve of my brothas from far and wide to answer a few questions on titles and get to the bottom of why committing to a woman is something that is or isn't on the agenda.
Disclaimer: For the sake of privacy, some men have asked to stay anonymous for this interview.
What does it mean when a guy says he “doesn’t like titles” to a woman he’s dating?
Donaray, 31 – "For me, I would know. If I like a woman, I would give myself the proper space to get to know her. So even if a guy says he doesn't like titles or doesn't know if he wants to commit, subconsciously, he knows. Us men genuinely don't want to play around with a woman's emotions. If you put a title on things too early and it doesn't play out well, it's almost like playing with someone's emotions. So saying 'I don't want to put a title to it' is like a safety precaution."
Anonymous, 30 – "Some people really just don't like titles. The guy could be ready for a relationship but feels that titles get in the way. He may be coming from [the fact] that he doesn't need the title of 'boyfriend' to treat a woman special or a certain type of way. That may just not be his thing."
Mike, 32 – "I think when a guy says he doesn't like titles, it can mean he wants to keep his options open. Some people do not believe in commitment, but they want the benefits of a relationship without having to commit. Past examples of how they view love can play a factor into that."
"I think when a guy says he doesn't like titles, it can mean he wants to keep his options open. Some people do not believe in commitment, but they want the benefits of a relationship without having to commit. Past examples of how they view love can play a factor into that."
Has there ever been a point in your life where you weren’t into giving titles to a relationship?
BK, 28 – "When I've said it, I think I just wasn't ready. I wasn't ready because I just had no idea what putting a title on it actually meant. I didn't know what I would be signing up for, so I wasn't going to be successful. I would've automatically started to get into something haphazardly. Growing up, I understood relationships from what I saw on TV. The guy is doing everything he can to make the girl happy. Not really thinking about how miserable that must be for the guy. So I'm thinking, if I'm spending all this time and money just to keep her happy, then at what point do I get poured into? It just messed up my perception. Now I know, relationships are built on beautiful moments, even the small ones."
Steven, 29 – "I'm a guy that wears his heart on his sleeve. If I want to be with somebody, I am actively saying I want this commitment and I want there to be a title with it. There was a time when I was dating a woman and I wasn't ready to make it official at that time. I didn't specifically say I didn't want a title. When she told me that she wanted me to be her boyfriend, I didn't say 'no' but I didn't say 'yes'. I kind of brushed it off."
Cory, 32 – "When I was younger, if you asked me to put a title on a relationship, I would get freaked out. I had trust issues and I didn't want anyone to hurt me. I wasn't ready mentally and I had insecurities. I felt a title would add more pressure where I have to do everything right and I can't make any mistakes."
How do you feel about titles when it comes to your own relationship?
BK, 28 – "I think a monogamous marriage is in my wheelhouse just as much as an open relationship or life partner. I'm not big on possession. I feel like titles at times creates this idea that 'you're mine, you belong to me.' Honestly, I don't ever want to feel like I belong to anyone. I believe people should be experienced and titles, when used as a mandate, cuts you off from getting to know people that could really make an impact in your life."
Jeremy, 26 – "I don't have a problem with titles for my relationship. I actually prefer it that way. I feel most men, if they are really interested in a woman, they wouldn't have a problem with titles. The same way women do not want us out here talking to anybody else, we feel the same exact way about the woman that we like."
Hasani, 28 – "I'm not a huge proponent on titles. It's because of the expectations that comes with it. Once that title is reached, sometimes the flow of the relationship doesn't continue. I believe everything has to flow naturally and not forcing anything by putting a title on it. But I understand people need that for reassurance."
"Honestly, I don't ever want to feel like I belong to anyone. I believe people should be experienced and titles, when used as a mandate, cuts you off from getting to know people that could really make an impact in your life."
Why do you think a title might be important to the overall flow of a healthy relationship?
Donaray, 31 – "Titles define things. There's no ambiguity when there's a title. There's a lot of mystery without a title and people don't deserve that. It's a busy world out here, where we gotta deal with so much stuff. Why would I want to deal with bullshit in my intimate connections too by not putting a title on it?"
DeAndre, 29 – "I honestly don't think it is important. If there is a mutual understanding of how you feel towards that person, I don't think you need that. If I had to put value on titles, it helps people know who they are to someone. People have ideas of what a girlfriend or boyfriend is. My idea of what a boyfriend is could be different from your idea of what that is. So if we have clear communication upfront, I don't see the point in a title."
Rashaun, 27 – "I think for some people titles brings that clarity. Titles can help set a precedence and lets the people involved establish a direction that the relationship is going. Titles also come with the obligation of trying to make the other person happy. But in a relationship, yes you can contribute to someone's happiness, but in its essence, it is not your job to make your partner happy. You still have to be individuals, whether you have a title or not."
Does a title make or break a relationship?
Sean, 28 – "I think for some people not putting a title on something allows you more room for error. I can mess up more or the other person can mess up and I'm telling myself that I won't be as hurt because we don't have a title. But that's not reality. Feelings are still going to develop and you can build as many walls as you can. You are still affected by that person's actions regardless if there is a title."
Anonymous, 30 – "A title is powerful, but a title alone doesn't hold weight. It's really about the connection you have. Look at real estate, you have titles or deeds on a house. You can get the title to the house, that's cool. But if the foundation isn't solid and the floors are uneven or there's cracks in the concrete, you get an idea of how much love was put into it. A title is just a word to me. It's about the love that's put into the relationship that's important, before the title."
Steven, 29 – "Titles can put a level of pressure on your relationship. But from my perspective, I don't mind a title because I date with intention. Even after my divorce, I still desire a strong relationship with a title. I think a title can make your relationship with the right person and break your relationship with the wrong person."
"A title is powerful, but a title alone doesn't hold weight. It's really about the connection you have. Look at real estate, you have titles or deeds on a house. You can get the title to the house, that's cool. But if the foundation isn't solid and the floors are uneven or there's cracks in the concrete, you get an idea of how much love was put into it. A title is just a word to me. It's about the love that's put into the relationship that's important, before the title."
What do you think is the most important attribute that calls you to invest in a relationship with a woman, giving her the title/commitment?
BK, 28 – "I think energy because you can recognize this is a person you can talk to and have fun with. Whether that's on a date or just in the crib tweakin'. Having the opportunity to date someone that's just as fun as you are is a great feeling."
Sean, 28 – "I like consistency and a woman who is considerate. I look at the potential and if you are willing to learn more with growth."
Donaray, 31 – "I look for the message a woman carries in the world. That's important to me because that same message is what's going to be passed down to my child. I look for a woman that would be a good teacher for my children."
Anonymous, 29 – "I like a woman that can control the room. She can walk in and it's all eyes on her. She brings a confidence and humble energy with her. That's an attribute I pay attention to."
Anonymous, 30 – "I like a woman that listens to me to truly understand me versus coming up with her own assumptions of who I am. That is super attractive."
Chuks, 29 – "Given that relationships are huge investments, I carefully study who to invest with; if I don't see myself building a future with a lady, I don't bother wasting her time and mine playing games."
Steven, 29 – "I like a faith-driven and independent woman. A woman who doesn't need me to do everything for her. A woman that can handle her own is super sexy to me."
Jeremy, 26 – "I look at a woman's moral compass. Finding someone with a similar moral compass as mine, it tells you so much about their character."
Cory, 32 – "I'm not a guy that asks for a whole lot. As long as a woman is confident in who she is and she has goals for herself, then I'm with it."
Hasani, 28 – "For me, the most important thing is being present. My love language is quality time, so being there and being considerate about what I go through and giving me what I need is super big."
Rashaun, 27 – "I honestly don't know. I have been dating with intent, but that one specific thing that gives me that feeling, I haven't come across that yet. What I am usually attracted to is a woman who is hospitable and who is open-minded."
DeAndre, 29 – "The same thing I am looking for in a wife. Someone I can build and grow with. Someone that can be a partner and keep our goals alive, whether I'm here on this earth or not."
Mike, 32 – "Definitely a woman that is driven to work towards something. I also like to see a woman that has a strong sense of community. I'm a social person, so I need someone who also appreciates building something much bigger than yourself."
Featured image by Shutterstock
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'K' is a multi-hyphenated free spirit from Chicago. She is a lover of stories and the people who tell them. As a writer, 9-5er, and Safe Space Curator, she values creating the life she wants and enjoying the journey along the way. You can follow her on Instagram @theletter__k_.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Janelle Monáe's Reveals The Real Reason Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Tuxedos
Singer and actress Janelle Monáe exemplifies how change can be a powerful catalyst for growth and transformation.
Monáe, who rose to fame in 2010 following the release of her debut album, The ArchAndroid, captivated fans' hearts with her powerful vocals, catchy tunes, and style. Around that time period, when various female artists were known to wear provocative ensembles on stage, the "Tightrope" songstress set herself apart by wearing her signature black and white suits and continued to do so for almost a decade.
In the later years of her career, after the release of her studio albums The Electric Lady in 2013 and 2018's Dirty Computer, many began to notice the shift in Monáe's artistry and fashion, which some widely praised.
Although the now 37-year-old rarely addressed the reason behind the transformation over the years, that would all change when Monáe sat down with radio personality Angie Martinez on her IRL podcast earlier this month.
During the interview, Monáe --who was promoting her latest album, "The Age of Pleasure"-- opened up about her mental health struggles, how she would cope, and why she chose to live in freedom.
Janelle On Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Suits All the Time
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In the May discussion, the "I Like That" vocalist revealed she suffers from anxiety, which she claimed would occur around "winter to spring."
Monáe added that when she has her bouts with anxiety, she tends to turn to food as a coping mechanism. Further in the interview, the "Lipstick Lover" singer disclosed that her emotional eating habits caused a weight fluctuation and that she could no longer fit into the suits she once wore earlier in her career.
Monáe explained that even though she tried to diet and exercise to return to her smaller figure, she ultimately stopped and made peace with herself with the help of therapy because she acknowledged that she isn't the same person she was nearly a decade ago and shouldn't try to be even if it was a highly "celebrated" version.
"I'm petite, but it can get thick... When I couldn't fit them suits anymore, and I was like, 'Oh my God, what is going on?' I would be dieting, running, or exercising, trying to fit into [it]. I'm just like, 'No. No, we're here. This is where we are.' We [are] not about to be utilizing life trying to be an old version of ourselves. No matter how celebrated that version of me was. I'm here. I'm here," she said.
Janelle On Freedom
As the topic shifted to freedom and what that meant to Monáe, the "Primetime" vocalist shared that in this new era of her life, she enjoys it because she can boldly express herself however she wants and honor who she is as a person right now.
Monáe also revealed that she had found ways to become a better artist and the best version of herself because of her freedom.
"What is the new version of freedom? What does that feel like? That's usually when I feel the most free is when artistically, I can honor exactly who I am right now," she stated. "I feel most free as a human when I can honor exactly who I am right now."
Monáe's fourth studio album, The Age of Pleasure, is set to be released on June 9.
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