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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