Almost-Relationships: or, With Regard To All The Exes Who Were Never My “Boyfriend”

I don’t care that we never had The Talk.

I don’t care that we were never Facebook Official.

I don’t care that you never actually deleted Tinder.

I don’t care that you only told your friends that we were “hanging out.”

I don’t care that I never met your family.

I don’t care that once during an argument you dropped the atomic bomb: “We’re not dating.”

Save your bullshit technicalities for the playground. I’m an adult. I won’t play this game.

You can couch it in whatever vague, cowardly, oh-so-millennial terms you want, but the fact is still that we had a relationship.

We spent time getting to know each other. We were intimate, physically and emotionally. We were invested in one another. We made plans for the future. We had shared hopes and dreams. And that doesn’t change just because you avoid putting a label on it.

Brush up on your Shakespeare, kiddo- this is a rose by any other name.

It doesn’t matter that you’re afraid of the words “dating” and “relationship” and “commitment.” Refusing to use them doesn’t stop them from being the truest definition of what we had.

It’s not just you, I know. It’s the major theme of modern dating. All chill, all the time. Nobody wants to feel pressured, or tied down, or too involved. Everyone wants to mute their feelings, preserve their sense of freedom, and protect their ego. That’s just how we do things now. It’s not supposed to matter if an action means anything. We’re not allowed to worry about where we stand.

But don’t you see how meaningless that is? Refusing to acknowledge a situation doesn’t magically stop it from existing. Your resistance against pinning a status on something doesn’t change what the thing actually is. Rejecting classification masks the truth, but it doesn’t alter it.

You never used the term “girlfriend” to describe me in the past, and you don’t use the term “ex-girlfriend” to describe me now.

It hasn’t changed any part of our story.

When I tell people about you, I still start from “when we started dating.” There’s an exact moment that I define as the beginning of our relationship, even if you’d deny that it was ever a relationship.

I still talk about all of the things that we did together, all of the places we went, all of our inside jokes and all of the songs we listened to, and it doesn’t matter if I stop to clarify that “we weren’t Facebook Official” at this point.

I still end the story by explaining “how we broke up,” even though it was when you ghosted me, and felt justified in doing so because only a “real” girlfriend deserves a “real” breakup.

And I still call you my ex.

But you’re not my “ex-boyfriend,” not technically, are you? So ex-what?

Ex-guy who used to be the first person I talked to when we woke up in the morning and the last person I talked to before we went to sleep?

Ex-guy I used to go out to shows and restaurants and movies with?

Ex-guy who I used to spend more time alone with, just the two of us, than anyone else?

Ex-guy who was the only person I was sleeping with, and vice versa?

Ex-guy who talked about moving in together?

Ex-guy who cried on my shoulder when he got evicted from his apartment, or when his brother was in the hospital?

Ex-guy who told me secrets he’d never share with anyone else because he knew he could trust me?

Ex-guy who told me that we had great chemistry, or that I was the perfect girl, or that he loved me?

Ex-guy who did all the things that a boyfriend does, but because we never signed a formal contract agreeing on that terminology, I’m not allowed to use that word?

So, just ex. That’s fine. I don’t insist on calling you my ex-boyfriend for the same reason that I roll my eyes when I think about how you insisted that you weren’t my boyfriend. Because I understand that it’s not the label that matters.

I’m not going to go out of my way to make sure the distinction is drawn. Maybe someday you’ll realize that you shouldn’t either.

If you want to hear some more on this topic, check out the podcast I recorded with Robert Dunn of The Orion Group.

Author: Bryanna Doe

Author, storyteller, comedian, songwriter.

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