11 Signs He’s Not Your Boyfriend, He’s Your Insignificant Other

Some guys fall squarely in the category of casual partner while others embrace the boyfriend role right from the start. However, the majority of dudes are a bit more confusing. When you’re struggling to determine whether the one in your life is in it for the long haul or merely playing you, pay attention to the signals. If any of the following ring true, proceed with caution. A man who will put you through this crap isn’t your boyfriend, he’s your insignificant other.

  1. He’s mostly a mystery to you. You know some curated bits and pieces of his history. You have a general idea of his weekly schedule and what he gets up to day-to-day, but mostly you just know that he’s rarely available except on his own terms. When he does let a personal detail slip, you always suspect he’s more intent on cultivating his image than sharing his soul.
  2. He makes big romantic statements but lacks the ability to follow through. This guy pours it on thicker than syrup. When you try to take it from fantasy to reality, all his tenderness blends into a cocktail of excuses and vague promises. Those pretty words are dangerous because they can intoxicate even the most watchful among us. Don’t swallow them.
  3. You’ve never met each other’s friends or family. At a certain point, a real relationship grows roots. You get entangled in each other’s lives; you trade the occasional recipe with his mom, he shoots hoops with your brother, your friend groups blur a little… It would be difficult to remove yourself from that kind of bond, so a guy who doesn’t want to be your real boyfriend will never give you that kind of access. He doesn’t want to make things difficult when he inevitably decides to extract you from his life.  
  4. Some aspect of his life absorbs all of his energy. It’s possible, if unlikely, that your emotionally stunted Romeo really is legitimately too busy for a relationship. Whether work is to blame or intense family obligations, he can’t shift things around to accommodate you. Unfortunately, good intentions won’t keep love alive. The scenario is actually tougher to handle than outright jerk behavior because you know it could be perfect if only the obstacles could be removed. If only.
  5. You rarely get to see him in prime time. He can fit you in Tuesday afternoon between his dentist’s appointment and his weekly basketball game but otherwise, he’s super busy. Those rare weekend and evening hours you do spend together (before midnight, that is), you suspect someone canceled on him and you’re the last-minute understudy.
  6. You feel weird discussing your feelings with him, so you hold it in until you explode. You know there’ll never be a satisfying resolution when you try to talk things through. He simply radiates unavailability. He shows superficial sensitivity to your needs without ever addressing them meaningfully. When you can’t take another minute of his wishy-washiness, you get in his face. Somehow, though, the outburst always fails to affect the tone of the relationship.
  7. He’s totally apologetic when you finally do call him out, but nothing ever changes. Your voice is a muffle in his head. Like Charlie Brown in class, he’s not paying any real attention to your words. It’s simply easier for him to pretend he’s chastened. Yes, he needs to do better, he agrees. You deserve the world. You’re a queen. He swears he’ll hit you up next week, then he’ll woo you with wine and flowers… or he’ll get distracted and ask for a raincheck.
  8. He’s comfortable requesting favors and never reciprocates. He doesn’t stutter a bit when calling you for a ride to retrieve his truck from the bar where he was hanging out last night — with his buddies, not with you. Or, would you mind grabbing a six-pack on your way to his place? Don’t expect a return on your solicitousness, though. Those who ask the most rarely offer.
  9. His pattern is painfully obvious but you can’t walk away. You see what he’s doing — the breadcrumbing, the booty calls, the hot-and-cold are all textbook lame-guy behavior. Still, the heart wants what it wants. This boy knows he can use your kindness and patience against you because, despite all his manipulation, something about him stirs your feelings. It’s easy to let go of a loser when you’re not attracted to him, but chemistry does dangerous things to the rational process.
  10. He constantly reminds you that he’s been hurt in the past even though you’ve done nothing to damage his trust. He behaves like some tragic hero, subtly guilting you for your concerns about how he treats you. The truth is, we’ve ALL gotten too close to the flame on occasion. A fool who loves you won’t be able to play it cool, no matter how much he claims to fear getting burned again. This guy, on the other hand, never makes a misstep with you. What you interpret as deep hurt is more like a lack of giving a crap.
  11. He says he doesn’t believe in labels. If he took your partnership seriously, he’d bust out the sticker gun and stamp you all over. He’d slot your name in next to his at every opportunity when talking with his friends. He’d unambiguously claim you. When you’re crazy about someone, you can’t help but seek any possible attachment to them, so he’d damn well believe in labels if he considered you “The One.”
Jackie Dever is a freelance writer and editor in Southern California. When she's not working, she enjoys hiking, reading, and sampling craft beers.