The easiest, most knee-jerk reaction to an “almost” relationship of any kind is regret, resentment, and even pity.
We pity ourselves for being so giving, so giving with our time and so giving with our heart. And for what? Again the knee-jerk reaction is, if we didn’t get a commitment out of a man, then we failed to benefit from the experience at all. So, we pity ourselves for wanting so desperately, so obviously, so easily and feeling so vulnerable and undervalued in return. Sure enough, the ache that comes from this exposure often embarrasses us while simultaneously providing us evidence (however false it is) that we are undesirable and unworthy of committing both openly and fully too.
This ache is why we in turn resent that person we were in an almost relationship with. The common reason being, of course, that they wasted our time, that they led us on. But that resentment toward them is really a resentment toward what we allowed to have happen to ourselves. Resentment is anger, and anger is sadness turned outward. What almost relationships stir up in us is a resentment, a sadness, toward our own stubbornness, our own resistance to address our dissatisfaction with the relationship at hand.
So what keeps us in such meh relationship? Well, hope. Hope, you see, is the driving force behind any almost relationship.
And what we ultimately resent about our situation is how hopeful we’ve allowed ourselves to be, how naive, how passive. That we’ve let an almost relationship be enough for ourselves is what saddens us, more so ever than the relationship we never really were in or that never took off as we believed it could.
That’s what we regret.
We regret that we never launched ourselves beyond this hot and cold in-between, this sometimes in, sometimes out romance. And we regret it because we felt ready for more and because we chose to stay, because we chose to attach ourselves to the undefined and underwhelming reality of this almost relationship, we held ourselves back from exploring what that moreness of an actual commitment would not only require of us but inspire in us.
This is why returning to dating after having been involved in an almost relationship is intimidating at best and dreadful at worst. It’s intimidating because half-assed relationships never actually teach us how to date, let alone love. They never provide us the experience of mutuality, that steady give and take of desire and care and selflessness.
Almost relationships never give us the security of predictability, the sense that when someone is interested in you, they show up for you. Plain and simple.
Worst of all, these relationships rob us of the chance to cultivate a confidence in ourselves as partners and people in general, that we are enough as we are, so enough, in fact, that someone would be willing to go all in with us.
And, of course, because we missed out on the chance of being known and really seen, as well as knowing and really seeing another person, almost relationships don’t inspire us to date again because they never inspired any sense of true, sustained connection. They don’t inspire us to date because we feel disconnected from what we were after to begin with, which is a commitment to connecting with another human being.
So, how do we bridge the gap? How do we mend the wound? How do we make sure that what wasn’t given to us in our almost relationship doesn’t hold us back from giving in the future as well as going out there and receiving what we so long for? At the heart of it, how do we trust ourselves to make better, wiser decisions about who we invest our heart (and time!) in? And how do we summon the courage to believe that, while one person didn’t choose to hold on to us (or three or five or a whole Tinder round of suitors!), we are absolutely someone worth throwing our arms around?
First, we quit focusing on understanding the person we were with. We quit searching for reasons and therein excuses for why they could never commit to us.
We stop exploring their stories and begin understanding our own. We identify the real reason we regret, the real reason we resent, and the real reason we pity ourselves. And then we vow to never make the same choices that would land us in the same situation.
Now that we know ourselves better, we vow to love ourselves enough to only commit to what aligns with what we are ready for, to only commit to the reality of a relationship, and no longer commit to a relationship where we are waiting for it to either begin or become what we imagine it can be. And finally, we cultivate the confidence that an almost relationship drains us of by not compromising our heart ever again. We cultivate confidence by promising ourselves more and holding out for it.