When we talk about relationships, we normally think in terms of long-term partners — maybe even spouses. For it to be serious or significant, we sometimes feel like we have to be able to put a certain label on it. But the truth is, there are some relationships that can hold a lot of significance, without ever making it the "partner" category.
"'Almost relationships' are basically potential relationships that never quite get started!" relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, tells Bustle. But those weird, confusing "almost relationships" — the ones where it seems like it's all going to work out until, you know, it doesn't, can often be just as gut-wrenching as a full breakup.
Why do we get into these relationships? Well, sometimes we just don't want to see what's right in front us. "The reason someone keeps having many almost relationships may have to do with the people they are picking," Hartstein says. It makes a lot of sense — we ignore the signals that someone is sending and wait around hoping they'll commit, when it's never really on the cards in the first place. No matter how much you like someone, if they're not giving you what you want than you should take a step back — allowing it to live in murky waters and torturing yourself isn't healthy.
But regardless of the reason that you find yourself into an almost relationship, there's no denying that it can cut really deep when it ends. So, how do you get over a relationship that wasn't really a relationship?
Think About What You Want — And Remember That You Deserve It
If you don't want to be in a relationship, that's totally OK — but if you're mourning the loss of an "almost relationship", then there's a good chance you wanted something more. So as you're getting over this half-formed thing, try to remember that this person wasn't giving you what you actually want — and that somebody else will.
"If you were vague and wishy washy in terms of asking for what you want then it can really help to be clear and straightforward," Hartstein says. "Rather than tiptoe around the issue, deal with it head on. It will be worse in the end if you keep someone around by pretending to have no needs. If you understand where things went wrong with the last almost-relationship, it can go a long way towards preventing another one." That can mean some serious introspection — and maybe some brutal honesty with yourself.
Look At What Went Wrong This Time So You Can Avoid The Same Mistakes
It's important to be honest with yourself about your last "almost relationship". Sometimes, when we really like a person or want something to work, we try to force it in a way that isn't necessarily sensible. "You may be ignoring some red flags," Hartstein says. "If they are flaky, keep telling you they aren’t looking for a relationship, or only seem interested in sex, then they likely are never going to be more than an 'almost relationship'. Keep your eyes open!"
What do you really want a relationship to look like? Well, you might need to take a long step back to think about that. "If any of these [almost relationships] keep happening, it is good to take a step back, and work on yourself," Love Coach and Host of Ready for Love Radio Nikki Leigh tells Bustle. "The vast majority of us had no 'training' or few real good role models on how to date or how to be in a healthy relationship. It isn't our fault and often it isn't our parents' fault. So, we need to learn how to date, how to prepare to date, how to get ready to date and how to be ready for love." It means thinking about what you really want — and taking a break from dating until you're feeling ready to ask for it.
Move More Slowly In The Future
When you're getting over this kind of relationship, you may want to have your guard up a little more — and take things extra slowly in the future. "When it comes to 'almost relationships' what I think people should be careful about is falling too fast too soon," matchmaker and dating coach Karenna Alexander tells Bustle. "Because unless you pace a relationship slowly ... you will likely be getting into 'almost relationships' quite a bit. So take it for what it is. When in the initial stages of dating, don't fall too fast. ... When you don't go slow, relationships fizzle fast." Moving more slowly, with your eyes peeled, can help you avoid "almost relationships" in the future.
"Almost relationships" can be just as upsetting when they fall apart as any other relationship, so give yourself time to mourn that. But when you're ready to move on, think about what you're really looking for and remind yourself you deserve it. If what you want is a relationship, it's time to look for that — and not settle for less.