Breakups are hard enough when you’re in a relationship but what about those breakups when you’re only ‘kind of’ or casually dating someone? Somehow, I think these breakups can actually be harder to transition through because it’s almost like we don’t feel like we should or deserve to grieve that relationship - whatever it was.
So I thought I would talk about this topic more. A follower sent me this on instagram this week -:
Who can relate??! I think it’s a huge challenge of dating in today’s world!
In fact, I remember going through a very similar experience a few years ago. I really liked this guy - everything seemed to be going amazingly and very quickly (which in itself, when I reviewed the signs and circumstances was a red flag). In all honesty, the lifetime of the relationship was only about 6 weeks. We were never ‘official’ because he was admittedly emotionally unavailable but when things ended, it knocked me harder than a couple of my longer-term relationships.
The thing was, I didn’t quite know how to get over it or move through it because we were never in an actual relationship. I felt like the usual ‘steps’ didn’t really apply to me. I felt like I couldn’t get the closure I needed.
After speaking with so many people on this, coaching them through it and of course, having gone through it myself those years ago, I wanted to share how you can deal with it if you find yourself in this mindf**kery of a scenario too!
What You Are Feeling is Real and OK
Ok so first of all, the ‘terms’ of the relationship aren’t important. What is important are your feelings and what you are feeling is very real. You’re human. You had a connection with someone; whether that was physical, emotional, spiritual or an amalgamation of the three. That isn’t to be discounted just because there wasn’t a label or a time period that constituted it being a long-term relationship.
Some of the hardest romantic experiences to get over are the ones that lasted barely any time because they were so intense. So if you are feeling heartbroken, you’re completely entitled to feel that. Allow it.
Cry, journal it out, look after yourself physically, surround yourself with positive people, do things you enjoy - all the things you would do if you were going through an ‘actual’ breakup.
Don’t contact the person you dated. Remember, you can create your own closure. You don’t need the other person to do this. You don’t need text conversations about why they didn’t or can’t commit. You don’t need answers because the fact that the dating experience between you is over is closure enough. They’ve shown you their intentions and perhaps they’re not a bad person, but just not ready. That’s nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.
However, that still doesn’t mean you lower your standards to accommodate them. The guy I mentioned above, he wasn’t ready but he wasn’t a bad person. He just had so many things he needed to figure out for himself and I didn’t have the power to speed this up. No matter how understanding I was, how pretty I tried to look when I saw him, how intellectual, funny or empathetic I tried to be. No one had that power. It was heartbreaking walking away but it saved me so much potential heartache in the future.
The danger with these very casual types of relationships is that they leave so much room to weave in and out of each other’s lives because there are no relationship parameters. Usually when there’s an unequal balance of commitment, the person who is hot/cold and more into the whole ‘casual’ thing, they can unfortunately see it (and us without our boundaries) as the low hanging fruit. It almost gives them a free pass to text when they’re bored or even maybe genuinely missing us. They can perhaps say the right things but if they still can’t commit there is nothing we can do to change that. Texts are easy. Words are words. Actions - and consistent actions, are very different.
Know your Values
When you really like someone it’s very tempting to compromise your values and wants just to get to spend time with them. So know where the line is drawn. Don’t accept morsels of a ‘what-if’ relationship. The fact is, if the person isn’t willing to commit to a relationship (and I don’t mean for the sake of calling it a relationship, but more so, they give you all the things that a healthy relationship consists of), then you have to be really strong and put your feelings for them beneath your values, self-respect and needs.
You have to disregard ‘what if’ for ‘what is’.
Believe me, I know this one is hard but it’s the greatest gift you can give yourself to walk away from someone who isn’t prepared to offer you the commitment you deserve. Again, this isn’t about being the bigger person or doing it so they see what they’re missing. It’s about committing to yourself and walking away from people or situations that aren’t aligned to where you’re at.
The New Person They’re Dating isn’t Getting the ‘Best’ of them
Also know that if this guy/girl quickly starts dating someone else, it’s ok to feel hurt. Again, you’re human and its unrealistic to feel nothing when you had a form of connection. But please know that if you were messed around or they were emotionally unavailable in some way, just because they’re with someone else, that someone else will soon experience all the things you did too. The hot/cold behaviour, the unknowing about where they stand, the same patterns. The new person doesn’t have a special power to change them just like you didn’t. Changing can only come from within them.
If this new person does end up being a long-term thing, the exit out of the ‘kind-of’ relationship was exactly what you needed. That person was not for you and now you’re free to find the right one. It can be so hard to accept but it is true.
Even though this knowledge might not take away the pain, it can help to soothe it. I really do want you to try and take comfort in this because I know it’s heart-wrenching to go through.
What if you Have Mutual Friends?
One question I also received was how to navigate awkward conversations with the person you dated if you share a friendship group. This again can be really hard but if your feelings are that strong, creating distance with that group, especially if your ‘ex’ is always around too, can be a wise thing to do - even if it’s temporary. Put your feelings first because the more you see them, the more you’ll relive the pain over and over and it’s excruciating. It’s like rubbing salt into an emotional wound.
If you’re feeling somewhat neutral about the breakup, just make peace with the fact that the conversation will be awkward. There’s no getting away from that. I don’t think there’s any way to escape the awkwardness that comes with bumping into an ex (even the not ‘real’ exes!) for the first time?! So the best way to handle it if there is one, is with grace, ease, dignity and a degree of emotional distance.
Are These Type of ‘Drive-by’ Relationships Healthy?
This person also asked if ‘drive by’ relationships are an unhealthy coping mechanism for bigger personal issues you have yet to face. She explained that both her and the guy she was dating had recently gotten out of long term relationships. The dating situation then ended and perhaps they were seeking fulfilment in each other to avoid looking within themselves?
With this one, I think we’ve all been there when we’ve dated quickly after a relationship. I don’t believe this is good, bad, right or wrong but if part of you is questioning your reasons or deep down, you know that it’s to mask something underlying that you’re struggling to face, then that suggests that some more time is needed to heal.
It doesn’t necessarily or always mean you have deep rooted issues to resolve, more so that you’re feeling a little vulnerable and looking for a new experience with someone else is a way to relieve that. But when this comes with an aftermath of pain or mini-heartbreak, then it’s likely a sign that you just need to give yourself more time to show yourself that you can find that fulfilment within yourself and other aspects of your life. So that is what you work on.
When you feel that your life is nicely full and that a partner would add to that rather than relying on them to make it full, that’s a great place to date.
Taking time out to be alone and address any issues if there are any can be scary but it can also be truly transformational. It’s like you almost have to walk into the unknown, face that fear and go through the discomfort to get the reward that 100% comes at the other side. And the fear does lesson but you just have to give yourself that time to allow it.
Breakups and dating - of all types can be messy. It’s so important that we be kind to ourselves, take the time we need and know that not every relationship is going to work out perfectly. (Sometimes we can over-analyse things that just weren’t meant to be and drive ourselves crazy!) But also, that there is always some kind of lesson or opportunity for growth.
I really hope this helps anyone going through this right now - please let me know if you have anything to add or something you’d like me to speak more on in a follow up post!