How To End The Cycle Of Being The 'In-Between' Girl In Every Relationship

When my now boyfriend initially asked me how many relationships I'd been in, I didn't know how to answer. The number of “almost” and “no label” relationships in my past outweighed my real ones.

Do I count the eight-month-long “almost” relationship where everybody knew we were together, but that he just “wasn't ready" for? Should I count the three-month long, “no label” fling where we met the other person's parents and still refused to call it what it was?

As I looked back on those not-quite relationships, I realized I hadn't been in a real, exclusive, with a label relationship since 2011. But I feel like I have. I call those guys my exes, after all.

So, what was I to them? Then, I realized I'd just always been the in-between girl.

You know the type. She's the girl who is convenient for him when he's just gotten out of a relationship and is not ready to commit. He is “in-between” serious relationships.

You act as a filler until he's ready to get serious. He's just not ready to get serious with you.

What do you do when you're a serious girl who can't be taken seriously? I've been told a guy “wasn't ready.” But then, I saw that he was in a relationship a few months later.

I've had a guy tell me to find him in 10 years, once he's ready to get married. I've been told I'm exactly what he wants in a wife. But I'm clearly not what he wanted in a girlfriend at the time.

It's crazy because we acted like we were dating. That's where the lines began to get a little blurry. Everything got messy.

We were exclusive, and everybody around us knew it. We would go out for nice dinners. We'd hold hands in public and make plans for the future.

Forehead kisses, late night phone calls, smiles from across the room — we might as well have been dating. But I'd have to catch myself and refer to him as “the guy I'm seeing” instead of “my boyfriend.”

I didn't want to be the only one putting that label on us. It seemed so real, but it never was. I know that stupid, age-old saying that says, "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?"

Well, f*ck you. Yes, I made the mistake of getting myself into these messy situations and falling for men with commitment issues. Yes, I ended up being the one who got hurt in the end.

But do not call me the cow that gave away free milk. I was simply naive enough to think I could fix these broken men who didn't believe in relationships. I was stupid.

I allowed them to play mind games and string me along, with the hopes of one day being the girl who made them see that love was worth it. I thought I could convince them that I was worth it.

But then, I realized I shouldn't have to convince anyone of my worth. I knew I was worth it. I shouldn't be the one getting hurt just because I put my heart out there with no excuses or empty promises.

Right when I decided to be alone and stop mourning the end of my “almost” relationships, my boyfriend came literally out of nowhere. I gave him a tough time at first.

To be quite honest, I was a bitch. We laugh about it now. But he didn't let my initial hesitation stop him from giving himself fully to me.

Nothing has ever been off the table with us. We've laid it all out from the beginning: our pasts, our feelings and our intentions for the relationship. There are no mixed signals, no mind games and no unsaid thoughts.

He always made it clear to me that he had every intention of making me his girlfriend. So, he did. When people ask me how I am, I can only say “happy.” I'm still in disbelief.

I found somebody who reminds me every day how much he cares about me, how grateful he is to be with me and all the plans he has for our future together. I feel every single thing in return.

Being in such a healthy relationship has made me realize what a real relationship feels like. I'd become so accustomed to trying to level out the playing field that it was shocking to finally be on the same team.

We're always thinking and feeling the same things. It's amazingly overwhelming. A relationship isn't supposed to make you feel insecure or make you wonder if your SO is seeing someone else. It's not supposed to make you feel like you have to stifle your true feelings in order to play the game.

We allow ourselves to become the in-between girls because we think it's the first step toward something real. But let me tell you something: When you have something real, you'll never have to second-guess your relationship. There are no steps.

Almost every girl has been the in-between girl. But I will never be that girl again.