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Why Is It So Hard To Get Over Someone You Never "Officially" Dated?

Dating is more complicated than ever right now: you can be benched, breadcrumbed, and ghosted by your Tinder match... all in the same week. And even when a great first date gives you butterflies, knowing what to do next can be confusing AF. Luckily, in Elite Daily's series, We Need To Talk, our Dating editors break down the latest terms, trends, and issues affecting your life with their own hot takes to figure out how to navigate finding love in a world that changes faster than you can swipe left.

I don't think my parents have ever been more confused about my love life than the time I explained that the guy I had been seeing three times a week for five months wasn't actually my boyfriend. They didn't understand how going out on dates and meeting each other's friends and celebrating Valentine's Day together didn't constitute a relationship. (Uh, full disclosure, #same.) But once that situationship fizzled out, I was just as heartbroken as I would've been after a real breakup. Why is it so hard to get over someone you never "officially" dated? It sucks.

In the years since, I've heard too many stories from friends in the same frustrating position. So, together, the editors on Elite Daily's Dating team hunkered down in a conference room, popped open a bottle of rosé, and played breakup jams while we sorted through a complicated whirlwind of feelings, determined to get to the bottom of this.

Ultimately, we came to a conclusion — and figured out how to deal with this disappointing situation once and for all.

Elite Daily/Jenny Garbutt

Hannah [4:30 p.m.]

yesterday, a friend was telling me that FIVE YEARS after someone she was kind of dating dumped her out of the blue, she is still confused and upset about why it happened

so much so that she was like, should i reach out to him? just to find out what happened?

it made me think

why is it so hard to get over people you never officially dated???

Vero [4:30 p.m.]

i have a feeling it has to do with unfinished business

and closure!

it’s like, you thought you were both on the same page, but you weren’t

Iman [4:31 p.m.]

i also have always wondered — why not me? why not us? the “what if”s kill me

like, i had a similar thing with this guy who started dating someone right after we ended things

after saying he didn't want anything serious

and i was like, OK fine fair but HER?!

editors note:

there was nothing wrong with her

i just didn't get why it wasn't me, us, etc

Vero [4:31 p.m.]

^ same thing happened to me and now they are engaged hahaha ahah

Hannah [4:32 p.m.]

i think we think that closure will feel better than it actually does

and then ON TOP of that

when a person you never "officially" dated dumps you, it feels like you can't "officially" be sad

and you think it'll hurt less if you just get that label or that explanation or that final conversation that fixes everything, but guess what: you are still sad

and that's normal and OK but it sucks

but girl, you gotta eat 10 orders of french fries and cry in front of jane the virgin marathons with your roommate for like a longggg time before it feels better

Iman [4:33 p.m.]

we published a great story about this

the basic synopsis is: when you start seeing someone, your hormones are heightened, and when you cut it off before they start lowering back to neutral, you experience a harder crash and it hurts so much more

Vero [4:34 p.m.]

closure is so complicated though

like i feel like even now i still don't have closure from that and it's been like, three years

cause i'm still wondering

WHAT HAPPENED

that's the eternal question

because it was sneaky!

it's always sneaky

you see no signs

and then once you have your wedding planned and the names of your first two children, they go

Y R PEOPLE THE WAY THAT THEY ARE

Hannah [4:34 p.m.]

do we think that not being official has anything to do with this lack of closure?

Vero [4:35 p.m.]

for sure it does

Hannah [4:35 p.m.]

because obviously breakups always suck but in these cases, you can’t technically even say, like, “we broke up"

Vero [4:35 p.m.]

if you talk about your expectations for the relationship from the beginning, you’ll know what to expect!

if you don’t talk about it, a breakup could come out of left field

Hannah [4:36 p.m.]

right but vero have you heard that talking about feelings is intimidating

idk if you have

Vero [4:36 p.m.]

hannah…

Iman [4:37 p.m.]

but that's so painful it's like

i understand why people put off talking about feelings

it’s hard

Vero [4:37 p.m.]

when i had the "what are we" conversation with the guy that is now engaged, the whole reason i had it was because my mom served me with the hot quote, "if you love someone, set them free.”

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Hannah [4:38 p.m.]

do you think you would you still feel annoyed by him moving on if you had, like, a fully-fledged relationship with him?

because that would be a different scenario

it would be like, you tried a relationship with him and it didn’t work out

whereas in this case, the question is still there: COULD a relationship have worked out, if you had given it a try?

that almost seems more painful in a way

like, longer-burning, low-simmering pain

compared to the intense, all-consuming pain of a breakup?

idk i am projecting

Iman [4:38 p.m.]

OK so i think the answer is that if you had actually been in a relationship with him and then broken up, you would know why you aren’t engaged to him

but if you didn't get around to officially dating, you still have room to wonder what if

Hannah [4:38 p.m.]

and the ~ what if ~ is infuriating

Vero [4:39 p.m.]

hannah, to answer your question, i don't think i would feel this way (no closure, still confused) about him if we had had a full-on relationship talk

because that would have established what we were. and if it didn't work it didn't work out and i could be able to say, he was my boyfriend, we broke up because of XYZ, period.

instead, what i got was: let's do everything that people in relationships do and not call each other partners or talk about what we're doing.

so when we DID talk about it, and i realized we were on opposite pages, i was so hurt! cause i soo thought we were.

Hannah [4:40 p.m.]

ooh vero so you're saying it's like two separate layers of hurt

the hurt of not being justified in calling it a relationship

and then the hurt of it ending in an unsatisfying way

Vero [4:40 p.m.]

it's the hurt of realizing we wanted different things and then the hurt of asking myself why and then never having an answer

like to this day i do not know why he told me he didn't want to have a girlfriend at that moment in time, and then two months after we stopped talking, got himself a girlfriend

Hannah [4:41 p.m.]

and then when there's no answer, you can spiral and invent 100 possibilities on your own

Vero [4:41 p.m.]

like were they talking at the same time we were talking?? what does she have that i don't have? what happened? what did i do wrong? all these questions flooded my brain the second i saw his instagram post

it took me a while to be like

OK

there's nothing wrong with you

Hannah [4:42 p.m.]

i want to go back and give you a hug in that moment

Iman [4:42 p.m.]

you are great and you didn't do anything wrong, you just wanted different things

Hannah [4:43 p.m.]

the thing about relationships i think is often hard to remember when you are in the midst of a breakup is that it's not a reflection of your worth

the timing, the personalities, the chemistry, whatever.... just didn't work out in this one instance!

Vero [4:43 p.m.]

^EXACTLY

i now believe that we were looking for different things out of the person we wanted to be with

and just because i didn't have what he was looking for, doesn't mean i don't have other great qualities that someone else is going to love

and vice versa

he was not perfect!!

it is so easy to build someone up in your mind

Hannah [4:44 p.m.]

because it’s easy to dwell on “achieving” the “goal” of being in a relationship with this person, as opposed to actually evaluating if you really do like this person

Vero [4:44 p.m.]

yessss

Iman [4:44 p.m.]

that's really it

Vero [4:45 p.m.]

and you're just so excited by the prospects and the possibilities (because you haven't talked about them so you're going on and on about what's going to happen in the future in your mind!!!), that the person becomes so attractive to you because they are so mysteriously unattainable

Hannah [4:46 p.m.]

and just because the relationship wasn’t “real” doesn’t mean that it can’t really hurt

feelings are justifiable no matter what!

your heart doesn't know the difference

Iman [4:46 p.m.]

that whole "girl get over it you're better than that" thing can be dismissive

Hannah [4:47 p.m.]

i think it's a good idea to treat these situations as real breakups

be kind to yourself

give yourself time to grieve

remember that you found somebody once, you can find somebody again

don't throw yourself back into dating one second later because then you can fall into the comparison trap of comparing every new to date to the person who dumped you

Vero [4:48 p.m.]

also, guys, therapy is so great

validating your own feelings and remembering you're allowed to be sad

blocking them on IG helps a lot

i mean not like i would know

but i did unfollow him and that was helpful!

out of sight out of mind

Iman [4:47 p.m.]

out of feed, out of mind

Elite Daily/Jenny Garbutt