There are relationships and then there are almost relationships, and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the two. It’s fun and exciting — and ultimately super dangerous. After all, nothing gets your hopes up faster than a situation that feels like it’s going somewhere when it’s actually not. Here’s everything you need to know about almost relationships, why they happen, and how to get out of them.
What is an almost relationship?
- You chat a lot, but only through your phone. You’ve talked about how your days were going and what your plans for the weekend were, but aside from that, the only way you really know the person is based on text messages and the occasional late night phone call. Your communication is routine and you look forward to what’s coming next, but there isn’t actually anything there.
- You talk about getting together, but never do. You mention getting together to do things you mutually enjoy, but it never results in an actual plan. You might be busy, or one of you is on the fence, but you keep the communication going anyway “just in case,” but again, nothing ever happens.
- You catch feelings. You get to know things about him, become intrigued and start daydreaming about your future together, but you never actually get there… or anywhere, actually. You may feel moments of excitement just having someone on the horizon, but you never fully connect, so they amount to nothing.
- You share intimate details about yourself for no reason. When you’re almost dating a guy, there’s something about the possibility of building a serious relationship that makes you want to open up completely in the hopes of making him want more. That rarely happens, however, and you’ll have to live with knowing that a near-stranger knows a whole lot about your life.
- You say good morning every day, but never in person. You wake up plenty of mornings with adorable messages wishing you a good day ahead. You imagine a day that you’ll be saying your “good morning” to his face rather than the screen of your iPhone, but unfortunately it never comes.
- The communication fades quickly. You just start to get used to him, and then as quickly as he came into your life, he disappears. You have all the makings of a potential beginning, a date, and maybe even a perfectly well-made match, but it never actually goes there.
- He’s special to you in his own way. It’s exciting when you start getting all the signs that a guy you’re talking to is actually into you. So you show interest, you chat, you connect, and you try to make plans… and nothing becomes of it. Later, you’ll look back on him as a guy who taught you what you want from the next one — the one you’ll hopefully actually date.
Texts you’re likely to send if you’re in one
- “How’s your day going?” This is the official almost relationship text message. You’re looking for an excuse to reach out, but you don’t have much to say. You really want to grab him and ask why you’re not actually together yet. The resulting texts will be pretty dull since no one’s day is ever that interesting.
- “What are we doing tonight?” You’re not secure enough to suggest that new Italian place in your neighborhood or even come up with a real plan. So, you leave the decision up to him. He might not have any ideas, either.
- “Want to come over?” It’s not assumed that the two of you are going to hang out at your apartment, grabbing take-out in front of the TV. You still have to ask him to come over every single time. That’s true even though you’ve been hanging out for weeks or even months by this point.
- “How was your weekend?” If it was a real relationship, guess what? The two of you would spend the entire weekend together, and you wouldn’t have to ask. It probably spells doom if you’re typing these words on your iPhone.
- “Last night was fun.” If he was your actual boyfriend, you would say this to his face. Instead, you text it, hoping he’ll say the same. It doesn’t matter if you grabbed dinner and laughed for hours or hooked up, you want him to know that you’re enjoying your time together.
- “Good morning/good night.” No one’s staying the night so you text this instead of saying it in real life. Nothing spells almost more than this.
- “Maybe (insert question here)?” You want to move things up to the next level but are terrified of getting rejected, so you send him a text. Then you ask him to the doc festival in your city next weekend, to hang out with your friends. Maybe to be your plus-one to a family gathering. It doesn’t matter what you’re asking, it just matters that you’re so unsure if he’s going to say yes.
- “So, are we still on for next week?” If you have to ask, you’re probably not. Eventually, the other half of your almost relationship will start treating you really badly in the hopes that you’ll dump him. It’s an obnoxious strategy and yet it happens every time. You text him about your plans, hoping they’re still happening, but deep down you know the truth.
- “This isn’t working for me.” This is the text you never want to send and yet you always know you have to. It’s the text that spells the end, and that usually gets the reply, “That’s OK, I understand.” Sigh.
Why you keep ending up in almost relationships
- You liked a guy and he didn’t feel the same way. Simple as that. Well, of course, it’s not super simple, but it’s definitely not as complicated as you’re making it out to be. Sometimes guys claim they’re not looking for a relationship or ready for commitment because they don’t want to admit that they’re just not that into you. It sucks and it hurts, but it’s better than being with someone who doesn’t return your feelings.
- You ignored what you knew deep down. It’s not possible to find yourself with an almost boyfriend and feel like you have no clue what happened. You know a lot more than you let on, especially when dating and love are involved. If you realize you’re in an almost relationship, then you 100% knew that this guy wasn’t all in or that something sketchy was going on — you just didn’t want to believe it.
- It can be impossible to know what a guy wants. You started dating someone and he seemed like the exact guy that you’d been searching for. There were no red flags, and everything was awesome. But you didn’t know that he was on the fence about having a girlfriend, and by the time you realized that you would never become his, it was too late. Oops.
- People are more uncertain than ever. Sometimes your own beliefs about dating get in the way and a potential relationship ends before it even really begins. You were suspicious that this guy would never be your real boyfriend — only an almost one — and he wondered if you were right for him as well. It creates a perfect storm of paranoia that never works out for either one of you.
- You wanted anything boyfriend-esque. There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s a symptom of being single AF. Sometimes you know that a guy isn’t right for you but you like chatting with him (and okay, you like kissing him, let’s be real here). Eventually things will fall apart, but in the meantime, you’ve got an almost BF and you don’t exactly hate it.
- You believed what he told you. You’ll never make the mistake again of being a trusting person who believes what a guy says to you. Just kidding (kind of). You thought this guy was for real and that he really did want to start something with you. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out that way, and it ended up being an almost relationship.
- Things never got off the ground. You liked him, he liked you, and yet you could never seem to get in sync. It was the norm to reschedule dates, you had too much other stuff going on, and eventually you agreed that the timing just sucked. Maybe you were willing to keep trying but he wasn’t, or vice versa, but eventually it ended. It’s sad to realize that real life means missing out on real love sometimes.
- You assumed his intentions were anything but good. You’ve been burned by so many guys that you couldn’t even tell if this guy was a good one or a total jerk. That turned him into an almost boyfriend before you two even truly got a chance. No matter how hard he tried to convince you that you should give things a shot, it didn’t work. You just couldn’t wrap your head around the idea, and you never committed to each other.
- Some guys just aren’t worth making your boyfriend. It’s a harsh truth, but it’s a truth nonetheless. You can have amazing chemistry, the best conversations ever, and super fun dates. But if he’s immature in any way or doesn’t seem to know how to date you properly, it won’t work. hHe’s never going to be your real boyfriend, and there’s not much that you can do about it.
- You didn’t move things forward fast enough. You were nervous about finally saying goodbye to your single status. You weren’t sure if this guy was for real, so you waited for a sign that things would work out. While you were waiting, this guy thought you weren’t interested and pulled away. Soon, the promise of a relationship totally disappeared. Suddenly, you were right back where you started: single. Sigh.
Why it’s so hard to walk away
- You’re so close. You have to give it to the almost relationship: it’s a pretty perfect name. You’re almost in a relationship, but not quite. You’ve met someone awesome that would be a great BF but for a million reasons, that’s just not happening. It’s like you’re one conversation away from making things official, and that’s what keeps you coming back for more, despite your best intentions.
- Everything feels more intense. You want so badly for this guy to be your real boyfriend that it feels like every part of you is screaming 24/7. Every kiss, every look, every inside joke feels that much more intense because you want it to mean so much more than it actually does. You take nothing for granted because you don’t know how long this is going to last or if tomorrow the crap is going to hit the fan.
- You’re determined. New guy, same crappy situation, but you think you can change him. You can totally convince him that you’re the coolest girl he’s ever met, right? You couldn’t be more wrong, and inside you know it, but you keep trying as hard as you can. You can’t walk away until you’ve given it your all.
- You totally can’t even with dating. This is totally fair, but staying in your crappy almost relationship so you don’t have to make awful small talk on dates is the worst idea ever. You’re just prolonging your total misery and you’re going to get hurt eventually.
- You think it’s your fault. It’s hard to remember that literally every person who is single and dating gets into these crappy situations. You keep thinking you’re the reason you’re always the almost GF and never the real one. So you stay longer than you should, waiting and basically wasting your own time.
- You’re really into him. You like this guy so, so much, and you can’t imagine not having him in your life anymore. You’re holding on so tight you don’t even realize he’s not really even in your life at all.
- You’re being charmed. Let’s face it: this guy is super charming and adorable or you wouldn’t like him in the first place. He’s making you believe that there’s something worth sticking around for. But if you want a broken heart and a confused mind, sure, stay. If you want an actual relationship and some self-respect, it’s time to finally break the cycle and walk away for good — not just from this guy, but from every future guy who doesn’t see how truly amazing you are.
Why situations like this might ultimately be good for you
- It’s good practice. This guy’s not your boyfriend and he never will be – unfortunately, he’s made that perfectly clear. But that doesn’t mean you can’t figure out how you want to treat your future boyfriend. Every time you text this guy or try to talk to him, you’re working on your communication skills, and those will be completely necessary when you do enter a real relationship.
- It’s never a waste of time. Of course it feels this way at first. You spent all that time and energy texting, talking, hoping, wishing, dreaming… and you still ended up single as you were before. An almost relationship is never a waste of time, though, because you experienced something. Next time, you’ll cut things off before they get that far, or you won’t get so upset.
- It was fun. OK, maybe only at first, but for at least a few weeks, you enjoyed yourself and had fun with a seemingly cool guy. Sure, you realized his coolness was an illusion and ended up totally hating him but that’s besides the point. Dating is ultimately supposed to be enjoyable so don’t forget to see the good in any situation, even if it turns out less than amazing.
- It makes you stronger. When we face rejection of any kind, there’s always a massive silver lining: we get super strong. You can see your almost relationship for what it was: an amazing learning experience and something that didn’t break your spirit or self-esteem at all. You know it’s not you, it’s him, or it was just the situation and no one’s fault.
Lessons you learn from being in an almost relationship
- If it’s already difficult, it won’t get any easier. If the relationship is an absolute struggle from the get-go, it’s only going to get worse. You realize you shouldn’t have to work so hard just to keep the relationship from sinking, and if that’s the way things are already, it won’t stay afloat for long.
- You should believe people when they show you who they are. Talk is cheap, but actions speak volumes. If all you got from him was sweet talk but his actions were nothing short of infuriating, he’s shown you exactly who he is, regardless of what he told you.
- Making your feelings clear doesn’t make you unstable. Even though he probably made you feel like the nutso girl for wanting more out of the situation, being clear with your feelings and relationship goals is totally normal behavior. If he can’t handle a simple conversation and communicate in a direct way with you, that says a lot about his maturity, or lack thereof.
- If it’s not what you want, you need to leave. If you’ve wasted tons of time and energy trying to make a relationship happen, you realize that the next time someone isn’t giving you what you want, it’s time to bail. If you want commitment and he keeps making excuses, save yourself the frustration and find a guy who would be thrilled to call you his girlfriend.
- You weren’t the problem. Any guy who will consistently lie and string a girl along for months on end, isn’t the guy you want to end up with anyway. He’s someone who obviously puts himself first and doesn’t even know how to consider the other person.
- It can be harder having an almost relationship end than a defined one. Probably because the relationship is so undefined, there’s also a serious lack of closure. Nothing really feels final because you never really knew where you stood in the first place. Not only that, but getting over the picture you had in your head of what could have been is the worst.
- Some people won’t get why you’re devastated, but your feelings are valid. Though some people might not understand why you’re so upset over someone who wasn’t even your boyfriend, it doesn’t make your feelings any less true. Not only did you like the guy regardless of titles, you were also put through months of emotional turmoil, and the aftermath is never easy.
- You’ll grow from it, big time. Nothing teaches you how strong you are, and how much more you deserve, than dealing with a terrible guy in an almost relationship. Though you’ll probably feel pretty weak and broken initially, as you heal you’ll feel more empowered and clear than ever.
- One time is definitely more than enough. Going through the emotional hell of an almost relationship pretty much solidifies the fact that you’ll never want to put yourself through it again. Once is enough to read the warning signs for next time too so you can get out of there quickly if you ever find yourself in the same situation.
- If someone wants to be with you, they will be. It’s a pretty straightforward theory, but it’s also completely true. If a guy wants to be with you, he won’t be making tons of excuses preventing it from happening. When he tells you he isn’t ready to commit, or he’s too afraid, he’s probably just keeping his options open, or keeping you around until someone he deems “better” comes along.
- You can’t make someone like you. At the end of the day, no matter how awesome you are and how hard you try, you’ll never change his mind. If trying to make things work is like pulling teeth, you’re fighting a simply impossible battle. If he doesn’t want to be with you, don’t try and change who you are to make it happen, kick him to the curb instead.
Things to consider
- Why do you like him? There are plenty of people in the world to date. If you’re seeing someone without being committed, you have to figure out why you keep coming back to that person. I hung out with my almost boyfriend for two years without taking it to the next level. I liked his personality so much that I wouldn’t replace him with anyone else, even though that meant staying in an ambiguous situation. We had fun, but eventually, I had to move on to something stable. If it’s him that you like, make it official (or at least try to). If you’re just shopping around, that’s fine too — just be aware of it.
- Does he make you feel desired? You deserve a guy who makes you feel wanted. Your almost boyfriend could be husband material if he keeps chasing you and keeping the thrill alive. If you’re in an almost relationship when he texts you twice a week, though, that won’t make you feel important or desired. Make sure to be with a guy who strengthens your confidence, not the opposite.
- Are you with him out of convenience? It’s great to have someone who’s always DTF on a Tuesday night and at your beck and call on the weekend. Unfortunately, convenience is all this will ever be. These guys are kind of like Chinese food — it’s easily available when you want it, but you’ll be tired of it in a few weeks. Find someone you genuinely feel passion for, even if it takes time. Keeping someone close just because it’s easy ends up with a fail.
- Are you afraid of loneliness? If the fear of loneliness motivates you to be in an almost relationship. you’re going to ruin your love life. Being comfortable on your own is essential. This is the best way to accept yourself for who you are and be confident. Feeling scared is normal, but don’t turn it into a motivation to waste your time in almost relationships.
- Are you using him for status? I dated a lord at one point (yes, an actual lord) and hung out at really cool places with his rich friends. It was fun, but the guy was a total player. Going to one or two fancy parties doesn’t justify committing your time to someone you don’t truly like. Ditch this materialistic jerk and find someone who’s not a snob ashamed to admit he likes pineapple pizza.
- Why can’t you commit to each other? This question is tough, but you need to be real with yourself for your own good. Don’t tell me you’ve never thought about why you can’t properly date your almost S.O. In my almost relationship, I thought that the reason we didn’t exclusively date was because I wanted the freedom to see other people. It took me way too long to figure out that it was all him who wanted freedom. Over time, he had managed to put this idea in my head, but it didn’t come from me. I left that almost relationship and found someone who didn’t want to sleep with anyone else.
- Is it the label that freaks you out? People try to roll casually with the whole “we don’t like labels” thing, but that’s just plain silly. There’s nothing wrong in being a boyfriend and girlfriend in the traditional sense. Lots of people are stuck in the almost relationship grey area and desperately want to define what they’re doing. Don’t be afraid to call yourself his “girlfriend.” You’ll feel so much better once you’ve defined it.
- Do you want to sleep with other people? If your answer is no, then you definitely want to date him and you should make it official. Are you afraid to ask if he wants to be exclusive with you? The only way to make this work is to have the talk and figure out whether you’re on the same page. If he sleeps with other people and you don’t, you’re going to get really hurt. If you do want to sleep with other people, make sure he does as well so you don’t end up breaking his heart.
- Where is this going? This is the worst question of all, but it has to be asked. Do you think you’ll end up marrying this guy or is he just a glorified hookup buddy? Do you even want to get married at all? If you do, you’d better stop wasting time in an almost relationship and go look for someone you’d like to keep long-term.
How to cut non-relationships off before they happen
- Stop the 24/7 texting. If there’s one thing that every almost relationship has in common, it’s that the guy will text you constantly. He asks how your day was, what you’re up to this evening, and he rarely asks you to actually do anything. These texts put a smile on your face and get your hopes up. If you’re looking for something real, then it’s totally cool to text back and say, “Look, you’re cool, but is there actually going somewhere?” You’ll have your answer.
- Decide after date #3 what you want. Typically, we’re pretty sure how we feel about someone by the time the third date ends. By then, we’ve spent a few hours or evenings with someone, have chatted about jobs and school and dreams and TV shows, and we get a sense of who they are. If you’re cool with something casual and you sense that’s where things are headed, there’s no shame in that game. If you’re not and you’re getting a casual vibe, then make a decision.
- Always be upfront and honest. Almost relationships seem to occur so often because we’re afraid to be honest about how we feel. One person thinks things are totally great the way they are (usually the guy) and the other person is wondering when the romance is going to officially begin. There’s no guarantee that he’s going to be open about what he wants, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be clear about your expectations.
- Go on real dates. Sure, sometimes we go for dinner and see movies and an almost relationship is still the result, but there’s no harm in going out in public to see how things develop. At least then you’ll know you did everything you could and you didn’t just sit on his couch all the time and then wonder why romance didn’t occur.
- Date around. Maybe it’s your style to see three guys at the same time until a relationship happens with one of them, or maybe you like going on a few dates with one person. We’re all different and there’s no right or wrong when it comes to how we date. If you have a feeling that one person isn’t going to be your capital b Boyfriend, though, there’s no harm in seeing what else is out there. You can always decide later who you want to be with.
- Watch the signs. You’ve been down this road before, so you can recognize the signs and symptoms of an almost relationship: the hope, the disappointment, the always wanting something a bit more than what this guy can give you. Once you start getting major déjà vu, you can definitely stop talking to him. You survived it before, you can survive it this time, too.
- Ask for advice. Sometimes we all need a little help and it’s not the kind found in women’s magazines, although that seems to be the go-to place for life and love advice. Get together with your best friend, call your mom, Facebook message and older and hopefully wiser family friend. Ask what they think this guy is thinking/doing and see how you feel when you get their response. Sometimes it takes asking for help to realize we know what to do all along.
- Ask him. It’s scary to be straight-up with a guy and yet so necessary. Why not tell him that you’ve been in this place before and are looking for something a bit more stable than just casually hanging out? If he says he wants that too, then you’ll be thrilled. If he’s not into it, then at least you know sooner rather than later.
- Protect yourself. No one should ever make us feel bad about ourselves or like we’re not good enough to be someone’s girlfriend. You 100 percent deserve to be a girlfriend, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you find yourself in a going-nowhere-fast type of situation and it’s making you feel crappy, lose his number. You’ll be so much happier – and will be free to find someone who makes you happy, too.