Dating Purgatory: What It's Like To Be Caught Between Something And Nothing

by Candice Jalili
Studio Firma

I have never been in a serious relationship before. But that's not to say I haven’t had my fair share of what I like to call "sort-of-relationships."

You know, the ones where your friends are like, “YOU’RE DATING! He’s your BOYFRIEND!” and you’re like, “Ew, don’t use that word, but I see your point.” The ones where you’re not NOT dating, but you’re not quite actually dating either. The ones where you would feel f*cked up hooking up with someone else, but you still don’t quite feel like you have room to call him out if HE hooks up with someone else. The ones where you feel like you’re stuck somewhere between something and nothing.

Okay, so yeah. Those are the kinds of relationships I’ve gotten used to. It’s really all I’ve ever known as far as romance is concerned. And I mean, of course it varies. Some of them have leaned more towards the "nothing" side of things, like the guy I consistently drunkenly hooked up with for a year of college, while some of them leaned more towards the "something" side of things, like the boy I consistently went on dates with and exclusively hooked up with for a few months last year.

Either way, none of them were quite something. But by the same token, if I ran into them tomorrow on the street I would still feel something. So I guess they weren’t nothing, either.

And it’s hard because there’s a part of me that wants to complain about it, like it was something that happened to me. As if men were disgusting and evil, and they placed me in this horrible condition.

But I know that’s not true. The state of my love life was my own choice. Every time I let another fling go by a little too long without having “the talk,” I was actively deciding to go forward with this lifestyle. Every time I dated another guy to make myself feel like I had options, I was actively deciding to go forward with this lifestyle.

And, honestly, for the large majority of my dating life, this approach worked for me. I’m not writing this article to say that it’s right or wrong, but sometimes we just want something easy and in the middle. Sometimes that’s all we can handle.

But being caught in the in-between is a unique experience shared by a select few of us ... and it’s time I put it into words for us.

I teeter between wanting more from you and being terrified of getting it.

I’m human. It’s natural. If I spend enough time with you, I'm going to imagine what it would be like to go to the next level. To have that conversation and actually be fully yours. To take you to a party and be able to introduce you to friends as my boyfriend. To bring you around to family dinners. To plan you surprise parties on your birthday.

You get the picture.

I like the idea, but the problem is, that’s all I seem to like it as — an idea. The minute it feels like it’s starting to be a real possibility, I get scared.

What will happen to the butterflies? To the excitement? To the chase? To me?

I obsess over the timeline.

It’s too soon to ask what we’re doing. It’s too soon to bring up being exclusive. I don’t want to look CRAZY. But then, two months go by, and now it’s too late to ask what we’re doing and it’s too late to bring up being exclusive.

I guess I never looked crazy, but I do sure feel like a f*cking idiot.

Even if I try to put myself out there and meet someone new, a part of me is always with you.

The fact of the matter is, I’m a monogamous crusher. Always have been, always will be. It takes a lot for me to get to the point where I actually like you, but once I’m there, I’m there and I’m there 100 percent.

But that doesn’t stop me from trying to convince myself otherwise. I force myself on stupid dates with guys I could not care less about and maintain relationships with old booty calls from years ago, just to remind myself that there’s still more out there in case this all comes to a painfully anticlimactic end.

But the thing is, that never works. Because no matter how many other people I try to distract myself with, there’s part of me that knows I’m going back home to you as soon as the date’s over.

I constantly search for random signs of exclusivity with you.

He wouldn’t introduce me to all of his friends if he didn’t want something more, right?! Or how about when he said he wished I was all his. Or what about the sober sleepover we had last week. We didn’t even hook up! That has to be dating, right?!?

I make up stupid excuses even though I know deep down inside I deserve better from you.

The thing is, even if it was the only thing I could handle at the time, a part of me always knew I deserved more than this. Being in the middle is fun for a while when it’s new and exciting, but when it drags along, it’s torture.

I can try to convince myself that this is what I really WANT, or that we are eventually going to date, or maybe I don’t like you that much. But there will always be that part of me that knows I deserve better than this. It's the part that knows having nothing is better than being strung along between this something and nothing.

A part of me is terrified of it turning to nothing in an instant.

The only thing scarier than getting it all? Losing it all.

If I got into a real relationship, there would come a day where we'd break up. We'd have a real break up where we'd talk about what happened and I would get closure. But this isn’t a real relationship. I am painfully aware of that. And because it’s not a real relationship, it won’t have a real breakup. It will just fizzle, and I'll be left with no real explanation.

I let myself fall in love with the potential we had.

I spend so much time getting lost in the depths of my own mind that I forget to embrace the reality of our relationship. I get so caught up in the idea of us that I forget to focus time working on us at whatever phase we’re in right now. And that’s why I get so upset when it doesn’t work out. It’s not because I lost you—it’s because I lost the idea of you.

I know this limbo could be put to an end by a conversation that I simply am not willing to have.

It’s that simple. I could have one conversation and put an end to all of this confusion and misery and frustration. But why do that when I can avoid it at all costs and instead consult all of my friends and maybe a couple of my Uber drivers on what they think you meant by that text last night?!