The Truth About The Man You Can’t Call Your Boyfriend 

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I am infamous for calling anonymous crushes my ‘not my boyfriend.’ I’m finding that we all have them. We may call them other names, but there they are. These innocent crushes are usually fun and innocuous. Until they’re not.

I fell in love with my not my boyfriend. He wanted casual and easy. I obliged. Then I fell for him. My NMB was the 3 B’s: Brainy, Bearded, and Beautiful. The trifecta. We talked about books. We read each other’s recommendations. I began to have visions of a life filled with books in bed and stimulating conversation.

But the not my boyfriend dilemma is that they are not your boyfriend for a reason.

My NMB was broken. He had been hurt and deeply needed to hold me accountable for those wrongs. I thought that I could prove to him that I would protect his heart with my life. There was no proving it, no matter what I did. I gave, he took. He didn’t ask about my day. He didn’t encourage my dreams.

When I offered information about my life, he had input. It was often supportive and kind. I devoured what little connection he would give me. He gave me just enough. The day he told me to never let the negative people in my life hurt me further will forever be one of my banner NMB moments. He meant it. He wanted me to be happy. He just couldn’t personally contribute to that happiness.

On the surface, my NMB was everything I had ever wanted. I felt like my prayers and screams into the universe had been answered. His flaws only made him more intriguing. I was mesmerized.

I read his emotional distance as a cry for help. My openness was all that he needed. I wanted to give him everything I had. All of me. Everything. And I did. But he was my not my boyfriend. NOT. MY. BOYFRIEND. Casual and easy. Real relationships cannot survive casual and easy.

When he finally admitted that he cared, it lit the light in my eyes. It should have sent me running for the hills. He wasn’t capable, but I wanted him to be. Lesson alert… NMB’s rarely, if ever, survive the rigors of real, live boyfriend status. He pulled away as my heart clung to this notion of perfection.

It ended the same way it began and yet as though it had never begun.

I was highly emotional and he was unmoved. He spoke to me as though we were the same. He acted as though he had not just ripped my beating heart from my ripped open chest. Because he had no idea, no clue that he had done anything other than change his mind. He was never more than my Not My Boyfriend. Even when he claimed to be trying a new level of intimacy, he was still me NMB.

Sadly, I can pinpoint the exact moment that I fell in love with my NMB. Strong, unflappable, woman of the world that I am, and I fell. We met for drinks before a show that I was really excited about (Glen Hansard, if you’re interested). We sat at a corner table, and as I nervously rambled and wildly gesticulated, he grabbed my hand. That was it. Not our first kiss (Which was epically amazing. Seriously, my leg would’ve popped if I’d been standing, kind of amazing), not any other moment. My hand in his was all it took.

After all of that warning, I must confess, I wouldn’t change it. I’ve never felt more alive than that single year of my life. The pain was the worst of my life, but it is a comfort to me now. It reminds me that I’ve felt that fire and it will burn me alive if I don’t protect myself the next time. He still texts. My heart still breaks.

The lesson I’ve learned is that I have to set boundaries and expectations early on. If I feel that specific stirring that comes from real feelings, I have to bail or put it out there.

I can’t let a NMB call himself my boyfriend, but still act like a NOT my boyfriend. I can’t fix him. I can’t love him through it. I can’t change his mind. All I can do is love me and make sure that I remain in one piece. TC mark

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