Why Almost Relationships Hurt You More Than You Realize
What do you call a relationship that looks and feels and sounds like a relationship — but isn't one? The dreaded "almost relationship." We've all been there. You text each other all the time. You sleep over at their place one or two times a week. When I was in an almost relationship, we even took a road trip together. I met his parents. We told each other we loved one another, but we never actually were together.
The reason why almost relationships hurt even more than a real relationship is because it puts you in a wishy-washy category where your feelings seem ridiculous, which makes your heartbreak last longer than a normal breakup. That almost relationship was the most painful breakup I've had in my entire life. It took me a year and a half to get over something that lasted three months.
When I think about it now, though, there were so many factors that led to that pain. Here's why that almost relationship is never worth the pain it causes:
1. You Are Compromising What You Actually Want
The reason why you are in an almost relationship is because you actually do want a relationship. And you met someone you really like, whom you click with, and whom, under different circumstances, you would date.
But still, you're not dating. And the reason why might be because they have baggage. Or they are not willing to commit. Or they are in a long-distance open relationship. Or they don't have the emotional bandwidth for a relationship right now.
These are the realities of your almost relationship, and they are not going to go away or change. It's going to be short. It's going to feel like exactly what you wanted, but in the end, you will be devastated by something you'll question even existed in the first place.
No matter how much you love the person you're in an almost relationship with, it's not worth being with anyone in a way that sacrifices your well-being and health.
2. You Feel Delegitimized
My almost relationship was with someone who had three girlfriends prior to me. He had been a great boyfriend to them and had been committed to them completely. In hindsight, I know he didn't mean to play me or take advantage of me, and I know his feelings were real.
Still, having so short and intense a relationship with someone made me feel like it was silly to grieve for a love that had never really happened at all. If he wasn't my boyfriend, then it wasn't even a breakup, right?
That would be true, if commitment were the only measure of meaning for a relationship. Don't get me wrong; it is painful to feel delegitimized and to feel like you do not have a right to your feelings. But you do.
3. It Seems Like They Will Come Back
If there was nothing keeping you together in the first place, besides your mutual attraction for one another, then when an almost relationship ends, it feels like there's nothing keeping you apart. A relationship has boundaries, and so does a breakup.
But an almost relationship doesn't have any parameters. And if it was wishy-washy from the start, then you probably feel like the person is going to wash back your way again eventually.
On top of that, an almost relationship's ending becomes particularly painful if the reason you weren't together was because your almost-boyfriend or girlfriend wasn't ready for a commitment. (I am assuming this is the reason for 99.9 percent of almost relationships in the first place.)
You realize that they ended things because they were getting too close to you, and their independence was threatened. You take on a feeling of having been abandoned, and become mistrustful of your feelings when they come in the future. And yet, you still hang on to the hope that maybe they'll drift back to you.
4. You Close Yourself Off From New People
When my almost relationship ended, I went out and had a single one-night stand so my almost-boyfriend wouldn't be the last person who had touched me. Then, I didn't let anybody else near me for at least six months.
I felt mistrustful of my feelings. With my almost-relationship was evidence, my heart seemed to attract me to folks who were not actually capable of being with me. Because I had allowed myself to get so badly hurt through following my passion, I didn't allow myself to feel passion for anything after that.
Even now, I am mistrustful of love, and I admit I have become the person who holds relationships at bay, turning them into almost-relationships instead. Maybe this is the most painful part of an almost relationship: It can turn you into the same thing that hurt you.
5. It Reinforces Unhealthy Attachments
Part of the appeal of an almost relationship is that the push-pull dynamic and uncertainty of your arrangement is really hot — especially for people who have anxious attachment styles. If you have an anxious attachment style, then you are probably used to people who are not completely available to you. This might even be the only way you recognize affection, because it has been modeled to you so much throughout your life.
An almost relationship that triggers your anxiety leaves you feeling needy, pathetic, and alone. A dismissive partner reinforces the idea that you are unlovable, and healing those wounds is part of the reason why an almost relationship has such a long recovery time.
It's painful, but you will get there. If you are in an almost relationship right now, your healing time will be much, much shorter if you are the one who ends the relationship. I know it's hard — but it's for your own good.
You are lovable and worthy of commitment. As soon as you know that about yourself, then others will know it about you, too. Cross my heart.
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