Here's Why You Keep Having "Almost Relationships" — And What To Do About It

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Relationships always have the potential to be confusing — but some of the most confusing relationships are the relationships that never really start. They're called "almost relationships" — and if you've found yourself stuck in one, then you're definitely not alone.

"Almost relationships are basically potential relationships that never quite get started," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, tells Bustle. And they can be frustrating as hell.

For some people, "almost relationships" can become a bit of a habit. You have people who you date, but things fall apart when you want to define the relationship — or they keep fizzling before they get close enough. When you have a few "almost relationships" that go nowhere, it's easy for your confidence to take a big knock. So what can you do? Well, you can start to look at how these "almost relationships" keep happening — and put firmer boundaries in place in the future. Here's what experts say you should consider if your relationships seem to keep ending before they've even begun.

You May Be Ignoring The Red Flags

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If you're constantly thinking the person you're seeing is going to change— even when they've told you they won't — that's an easy way to get stuck in an "almost relationship". "The reason someone keeps having many 'almost relationships' may have to do with the people they are picking," Hartsein says. "Your dates are likely showing their true colors early on. You may be ignoring some red flags. 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!""

It's totally natural to ignore some of the signs, especially if you really want something to work, but it's also important to be honest with yourself. If someone is giving you signs that it's not going anywhere, then it probably isn't.

You May Not Be Ready

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If you really want to be in a relationship, then why are you settling for anything less? "This question is one of the reasons I started my radio show — 'Ready for Love' — and why I chose that name," Love Coach and Host of Ready for Love Radio Nikki Leigh tells Bustle. "Because many people aren't ready for love. If a person isn't emotional and mentally, mature enough and truly prepared for love and a healthy relationship, they can find they will often have 'almost relationships'. Or, more even worse they may end up in unhealthy relationships that end badly. They may also find that they are in almost relationships that have the same 'patterns' over and over again — maybe they date the same type of person, or break up for the same type of reason, or have some other similar issue over and over again."

So what can you do if you're not yet ready for a relationship? Well, it may be time to take a break. "If any of these things keep happening, it is good to take a step back, and work on yourself," Leigh says. "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." Some introspection and self-care can go a long way.

But Here's What Can Help

If you keep getting yourself into "almost relationships" then slowing down and keeping your eyes open can really make a difference. "The best way to cope with them is to take your time and not jump into anything too quickly," Hartsein says. "It’s OK to be enthusiastic, but it’s also good to use your judgement before deciding that this 'almost relationship' is an actual relationship. That way, if it fizzles out you hopefully haven’t put all your eggs in that basket!" If you're taking things one step at a time, you can easily bail out if you realize that it's not working for you, rather than becoming too embroiled in something ambiguous and messy.

Moving forward, aim for clarity — in your communication, in your boundaries, and in your relationships. If you want a real relationship, then it's worth waiting for.