The Unofficial Ex-Boyfriend: Is It Still Considered A Breakup When You’re Not Technically Dating?

September 11, 2012  |  

I was single — or “between boyfriends” — for about three years before getting into another serious relationship.

In those years, I went through the hardest breakup of my life. I call it breakup even though he and I were not officially dating. No, I was not his girlfriend on Facebook and he never once called me that in real life.

I knew he wasn’t looking for a relationship when we first started hanging out; but at that time I still thought life was one extended romantic comedy and therefore every emotionally unavailable man was just waiting for a woman like me to come along and change his views on love forever.

I liked him so much and we seemed to have a great time together, so the fact that he was not officially my boyfriend barely fazed me. I wanted to be his girlfriend, but I reasoned that adults never called each other boyfriend and girlfriend anyway. Plus I figured the sky is blue whether you admit it or not and, similarly, the lack of a title did not diminish what we had.

In my mind, we had the potential to have a great relationship and so I believed it was only a matter of time before he revised his unfortunate views on monogamy and we’d live happily ever after. Of course, he’d have to stop being the occasional heartless jerk who kept his phone on silent and disappeared on me at random intervals, but men change.

Except when they don’t.

After a while I got fed up with the rollercoaster of emotions and the undefined place I had in his life. I realized the only constant with him was his refusal to be constant with me. I had assumed we were “talking” (whatever that means) but ironically the conversation never changed to him wanting to be my boyfriend. You see he wasn’t one of those guys who balked at the title, but still treated me like his girlfriend. For him, the lack of a title was license to beatbox on my heart.

So the last time he disappeared on me, I finally let him vanish. A larger part of me than I care to admit hoped he would reappear, begging for forgiveness, and confessing that he realized I was the love of his life. (Do I even need to say that never happened?) While wishing the phone would ring or that he’d show up at my front door, I forced myself to refrain from reaching out to him. As time went on, I was proud that I’d let my head rule my heart for once, but I was also utterly devastated that it was over. He’d never even given me a chance to be his girlfriend and I resented him for that.

I was disappointed that there was no real ending. There was no blowout breakup fight. No closure. There was no sending him to voicemail or ignoring his texts. His family wasn’t vouching for me and telling him to make things right (because I’d never met them). His friends weren’t asking where I was or encouraging him to not let me go. I didn’t even have the satisfaction of changing my Facebook relationship status back to “Single” and being flooded with “you’re better off” comments. Everyone can sympathize with the girl going through a split with her boyfriend, but what about the girl who simply finally got a clue? My heart was breaking over a relationship that — as far as the rest of the world was concerned — never even happened.

During that time, I used to repeat the words of Ashleigh Brilliant: “I feel much better now that I’ve given up hope.” But I didn’t feel better. I felt terrible. I felt worse than I’d ever felt when he’d hurt my feelings during our “relationship”. He’d taken me on the most nauseating ride of my life and, though I knew I needed to be done, that abrupt ending was brutal.

Then I felt silly for being so sad. How do you weep over someone you were never with? How can you miss someone who was never really there? How you can be heartsick over a breakup with someone you were never actually dating?

Looking back, I know exactly how. It was the almost of it all that was so hard to accept. The dream deferred. The being so close. I realized that for our entire pseudo-relationship, I was trapped in a weird limbo between the fantasy that kept me going and the reality that made me crazy.

In actuality, I was probably grieving the loss of what could have been and not necessarily what was. When I consider what actually went down, I should have been happy to see him go. But, I’d created this whole idea in my mind of what could be and was reluctant to let that go.

I wasn’t firmly rooted in reality at any point and that’s how I allowed him to mean so much more to me than his actions deserved. When I was finally able to make peace with the fact that my fantasy with him was never going to come true whether he was in my life or not, I vowed I would never be caught in that limbo with another man again. No more pretending I was cool with an undefined relationship. No more creating scenarios in my mind to bridge gaps in reality. No more mentally creating a future with someone who is barely invested in our present. Breakups are hard whether you’re official or not. But when I was finally done with the guy I wasn’t dating, I opened my life up for a real relationship with a man I could date — officially.

Have you ever been in a serious-to-you but unofficial dating relationship? Have you ever gone through a hard breakup with a guy you weren’t even dating?

Follow Alissa on Twitter @AlissaInPink or check out her blog This Cannot Be My Life 

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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