How To Exist In A Dead-End 'Relationship'

Start something you probably have no business starting. Refer to your first date as ‘practice’ or an ‘experiment.’ Completely forget that you’re dealing with another human being, one who has his own complicated relationship history and may have already experienced his fair share of heartbreak. Ignore this altogether and only consider that you yourself have nothing to lose. Be selfish.

Realize after the first date that this ‘thing’ doesn’t really have long-term potential. Sure, he’s nice, funny, intelligent. He meets all the basic requirements you’ve allegedly been searching for, but there’s just something missing. It’s that it-factor, that natural chemistry that’s lacking. You always used to think that when people talked about ‘the spark’ they were full of crap, but there you are: sparkless and, consequently, uninterested.

Go on a second date, then a third, then a fourth. Make plans for a fifth. Wait patiently to start feeling attached. Keep waiting.

After every meeting, add to your list of pros and cons, hoping you’ll decide once and for all whether you want to stick around or take off running. Pros: he’s talented, driven, witty. He shares the same interests, likes the same books and television shows. He likes alcohol as much as you do. Cons: You can’t really see him fitting in with your friends, though. They’re this and he’s that (you prefer this). He’s emotional, he moves too quickly. You suspect he’s not so much into you as he’s into the idea of you and that’s always a recipe for disaster. He likes alcohol as much as you do…

And then there are the qualities that don’t fit so neatly into your list of pros and cons. Consider that he makes you feel really good about yourself; he’s a constant boost to your self-esteem. This seems like a definite pro, but you’re supposed to love him for who he is, not for the positive image he reflects of you. You’re supposed to want another person, not a flattering mirror.

Toss your list of pros and cons in the trash. Lists are stupid anyway and have no business trying to sort out a relationship.

Keep seeing him, because it’s easier to say yes than to say no. Start rationalizing the time you’re spending with him — what would you be doing anyway? Watching television? Browsing the internet? Isn’t hanging out with him better than all of that? It’s not exactly extraordinary and it’s certainly not love, but it’s definitely nice. Really nice. Isn’t that enough for now? At least you’re not being delusional about it; not tricking yourself into thinking this is something bigger than it is. You’re not settling, you’re just — you don’t really know what you’re doing.

Spend the night at his place and check things off the sexual ‘to-do’ list. Cross your fingers that escalating the physical won’t make things harder for him when the end finally comes. People hook up all the time without any strings attached, after all. Besides, you haven’t even had the talk about being exclusive yet. How seriously could he be taking this?

Go for a walk in the park together and realize how seriously he’s taking this when he tries to hold your hand. Dammit, you think, as you pull away to reach into your backpack, looking for something you can feed to the pigeons. You thought you had some crackers, but you must have been mistaken. Zip up your backpack, slide your hands into your pockets and keep walking.

Finally, when you lie in bed at night (alone, to clarify), reflect on all the things going on in your life. Stress about your job, mentally note that you’re supposed to call your sister back, think about the episode of Desperate Housewives you just watched. Plan your day tomorrow: a run, a trip to the grocery store, to the bank. You should probably get a haircut, while you’re at it. And then you remember  — you have a guy you could be thinking about! Shouldn’t you be obsessing right now? Shouldn’t you be planning your next date, interpreting his last text, writing a clever email, something that will impress him and make him laugh? That’s what you do when you like someone, right? It’s certainly in your nature to over-think everything, why is he just now crossing your mind (after remembering that you should probably do laundry this weekend)? That’s the real problem here, you think.

Someone once told you that new relationships are supposed to feel like Christmas Eve, full of anticipation and excitement. You’re not sure what gifts are going to be waiting for you under the tree, but you’re dying to find out so badly that you can’t even sleep. Yeah, this isn’t like that at all… Go back to thinking about Desperate Housewives. TC mark

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  • ATL

    Lose your shit when he stops calling. Realize how addicted you were to that “flattering mirror.” Have a knock down drag out when he calls you crazy for calling him everyday for a week until he finally answered.  Try to express that you didn’t even like him, you were just trying to have a fun fling.  Sound insane and desperate  instead. Lose your mind trying to figure out how you could get dumped by someone that you never saw a future with and the only positive trait was that he was seemingly smitten with you. Regret that you felt guilty and kept putting off breaking up with him. Run into him every 6 months or so.  Have awkward interactions that end up being drunken arguments. Try your best to get him on the same page. Sound insane and desperate instead.  Never win.

    • SS

      This. Forever.

  • Sarah

    Oh shit am I in a dead end relationship?

  • Melissa Lauren Welborn

    Sounds like my marriage. Difference is, I cant leave. :(

    • Gregory Costa

      Haven’t you seen Runaway Bride or watched Misery?  There are options, Melissa. 

      Husbands die every day, Melissa. Why… one is probably dying right now while you’re sitting here weeping. They die… and leave their wives their money. I should know, shouldn’t I? Sometimes they’re driving home from their mistress’ aparment and their brakes suddenly fail.

      • Southernvtgal

        Yes!!! I love you!!! :D

    • bliss

       you can! i did, and it was the best decision i’ve ever made.

    • Guestropod

      Yes, you can!  If you want to leave, getting out will be the best thing you ever do for yourself :)

  • Anonymous

    I just broke up with my boyfriend (now ex) after I realized that I never spent time thinking about him and I knew he was always thinking about me.  At a certain point, it’s not fair to either of the parties involved.  One person constantly feels trapped in a relationship they don’t want to be in and the other person is being led on by someone that they are falling for.  It definitely can get awkward at a certain point.

  • Lohesther

    Love this! The truth in words, the clarity that hits and the rawness of such situations covered within this post. 

  • Trololo

    I read this and all that went through my head was “…oh shit”

    Bad omen?

    • beatrice

      good luck sweetie

  • Viv

    This is the best i’ve ever read. So true.

  • Alexa

    “Keep seeing him, because it’s easier to say yes than to say no.” This.

  • Guest

    this is exactly what i’m going through now even though i didn’t want to admit it. scary. what now?

  • Audrey

    Ugh, I relate to this article too sickeningly much… except I’ve let it go on for 2+ years.  I wish I knew what I was doing.  I agreed to date him exclusively, I said “I love you”, I moved in with him, and now the subject of marriage comes up, and truthfully, I don’t want any of this, right back to the first date.

    • Anon

      You’re right. It is sickening.

    • Sally

      I hear ya – THIS IS EXACTLY ME. I literally had the conversation about how it wasn’t going to fly long term the other day, and there were boy tears. FML

    • beatrice

      i’m sorry for you but i’m sorrier for him

  • Bobby

    This is so cruel. Don’t string someone along because you’re a coward.

  • Boop

    I’m kind of having this situation…except I’m head over heels and trying to tell myself I’m not because he just got out of a 7 year relationship. Why did he ask me out then and why does he consistently call me to tell me how incredible I am? I think it’s because he misses having the other woman to do that with. Plus we have chemistry everywhere except the bedroom. Damn it.

  • Sophia

    Why am I never this person? I’m always the loser who’s actually head over heels, while the other person is this person. I’m always the one who loves more, and I don’t know how not to be.

    • Wes Janisen

       I know it seems so unfair that you always love more, but I promise
      you’ll end up happier in the long run. Eventually, you’ll find someone
      who loves as much as you do, while the ‘ones who love less’ continue to
      battle their perpetual dissatisfaction. Don’t ever curb your love.

      • Anonymous

        This is truth.

  • Maiasaura

    How old do you have to be before a known-to-be-temporary relationship becomes stringing the other person along?  Like, most high school couples won’t be together forever, but what if you’re an undergrad?  Out of college?  30-something?  When is “practice” no longer a reason to get together?

  • anon

    This is happening to me right now. BUT i’m not sure he’s any more committed than i am, which isnt very much. i’m hoping he’ll grow on me (and maybe vice versa). or that i’ll meet someone else….

  • anon

    you’re seriously making me considering breaking up with this wonderful guy who’s been the kindest to me in my whole life and who loves me more than any love i’ve ever witnessed… i’m not kidding. 
    sometimes i think it’s worth denying my inner self for my whole life in order to be with him, to make him happy because he deserves it, because he’s an extraordinary person. but i don’t honestly feel it most of the time… i don’t know what to do. 

  • Michi Ebihara

    “You suspect he’s not so much into you as he’s into the idea of you and that’s always a recipe for disaster.”  – this is generally what I suspect of every guy who has ever told me he liked me. 

  • claire

    is it too mean to show this to my roommate that just got into a relationship and keeps forgetting it?

  • Guest

    Okay, the relationship you describe probably is indeed headed nowhere–passion’s important.

    But isn’t there something to be said about a relationship that allows you, while you’re with someone, to be your individual person? That your relationship doesn’t keep you up all night obsessing about how to make this other person happy but rather provides you with the calm confidence to live your own life happily–to think about your laundry and your to-do list, about TV you watch and your personal experiences? At least that aspect of this sounds healthy.

  • Guest

    This exact thing happened to me until all of a sudden, after feeling totally lukewarm about it for the longest time, I found myself in love with him out of nowhere and it hit me like a freight train and I was so grateful to have such a great person in my life. And then he turned around and dumped me. When for so long I had felt guilty because I thought I was the one who didn’t care as much.

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