Relationships That Weren’t Relationships
Most people on the single scene have a story to tell about a failed relationship and it can often take a long time for people to recover from them. All too often though, we hear about people bemoaning a failed ‘relationship’ which, upon further examination, doesn’t really sound like a relationship at all. The reason for this is that by rationalising that they were in a serious relationship, it justifies maintained bitterness.
As we noted in our extremely popular article The Straw that Breaks the Bear’s Back, all too often people let relationships that never really took off as an excuse to be bitter and not to move on. While people might bemoan how their relationship didn’t work out for a variety of reasons, often the case is that there never really was a relationship per se (they were, at most, just dating) and their intended simply didn’t feel the same way.
It’s perfectly normal for a person to be upset if a relationship breaks down, and it may take some time to recover. It’s also normal to be upset at being rejected by a person you wanted to be in a relationship with. It’s important, however, not to confuse the two though – if a person you know (or, let’s face it, you) is bitter about a relationship that wasn’t a relationship over the long term and is trying to pass it off as a relationship to justify their bitterness, it’s unhealthy.
Here are the telltale signs a relationship was not actually a relationship:
- Duration: There is no set time that a relationship starts to become important. Andy Garcia famously married his wife the day he met her and I’m sure early into their relationship they considered each other to be very important. That said, while often a couple that have been dating for a month or so might fall into a pattern where it seems implied that they are exclusive, it doesn’t necessarily equate to a relationship. When you hear something along the lines of ‘my ex and I were deeply in love but after a month she suddenly became confused about us’, odds are in the ex’s eyes, she was mentally stuck at the point when they were dating and wasn’t invested in their courtship. Importantly, if the time that has elapsed since is longer than the time the couple was ‘together’ and they are still bitter, it is a worrying sign.
- No Endpoint: A bona fide relationship will usually have an easily determined endpoint. There will be the time when they have a chat where it is agreed (or forcefully stated by one party) that the relationship has ended or when one starts shovelling the other’s clothes out of their 26th floor apartment window after finding their partner reenacting scenes from Last Tango In Paris with another person. A warning sign a relationship was not a relationship is when one simply stops replying to the others’ texts or when the aggrieved party has simply fired off a revenge text weeks after the last time they saw the other person. Typically where a couple was exclusive and they’ve spent a lot of time with each other, they’ll make the time to put a full stop on it.
- No shared experiences: If it sounds like most of the aggrieved party’s description of their time together sounds like ‘there was the time we had dinner at George’s, which was before we went to see Jersey Boys but after I made her a Hanson mixtape’ then they’ve just been dating.
- No sex: This is a controversial one but is almost unavoidable unless there are religious/cultural or physical reasons not to do it. The whole point of a relationship is that you are exclusively with the other person and this will usually mean regular intercourse over a sustained period. We don’t want to minimise relationships where people don’t for whatever reason indulge in coitus but let’s face it – in this day and age not many people have hang ups about sex and most of us want to do it. It’ll be happening if it’s a serious relationship.
If you think you’ve been agonising over a relationship that wasn’t a relationship, we recommend reading How to Avoid the Obsession Loop. If it’s someone you know (and not you) is in this position, then we suggest not confronting the person about it directly. Telling someone something they’ve been bitter about was meaningless will only result in them shooting the messenger. If you feel you might be listened to, then gently suggesting ways to help them get their mind off it is helpful. Life is too short to be bitter.