There’s a dating purgatory not enough people talk about.  It’s more than friends with benefits (because we were never friends) but less than a relationship.  It’s a situationship– entanglements where I was romantically involved with someone but no commitment existed.  We pretend like it’s toally chill, and sometimes it is.  Sometimes, neither person has bought into this connection.  That’s fine.  But situationships can become dangerous very quickly.  They are cool’s playground, where chill is king and feelings don’t matter.  But entanglements are complicated.  They do matter.

Months and years at a time sunk into these falsified intimacies.  We’d marathon text, DM, bond over lunches and dinners and impromptu coffee runs.  Together, we hung in a web of our own making with no intention of staying.  All the confessed secrets would remain in the web.  And then, the web disintegrates.  The we that never was is never going to be anything.  They never really leave, though.  Through DMs, drunk texts, it’s like I was always loved, just never all the way through—enchanting enough to draw you in but never magic enough to hold space inside your world.

                Then, January 2019 arrived.  It wasn’t so much an awakening. I just knew I wanted something different. I carry no malice for my almost-baes of yesterday.  I willingly participated in my shenanigans.  I take responsibility for that without any regrets. I decided I wanted to be a priority instead of an option.  Years of my twenties featured people who treated my bed like a free motel breezed through only when lost or on the run.  The unremarkable flyover state of me was only the destination as an emergency landing.   Their hometown was in another zip code, where things are simpler.  I was always the romanticized summer camp—the thing you leave when the season closes.  We don’t participate in behaviors unless something is gained.  I wanted to be wanted.  I only knew the sound of my name coming out of another person’s mouth.  “What an honor,” I thought, “ to have been wanted at all”.

                I don’t think it was ever me that they were craving.  Rather, it was my vulnerability.  My free emotional labor was my currency, and that made these trysts transactional. It is how they knew—like everyone does—that I just wanna be good to you.  And, for a while, that was enough.   Some great moments I had in situationships include:

  • Admitting to the first guy I hooked up with that I was a victim of domestic violence.  I was so scared, and he held me so tight after I said it.  “I’m so sorry that happened to you,” he whispered.  It was the first time I wasn’t embarrassed to be a victim.
  • Being told “I love you” by someone I was romantically involved with.
  • Running around IKEA with a beautiful girl and having the best time.
  • This boy I liked called me wonder woman.  If it were anyone else, I would have thought it was cheesy and disgusting, but because it was him, I swooned.
  •  Talking politics with a man who is as passionate about them as I am, and he actually listened to me (the bar is literally the Earth’s Core).

                I’d sit next to this person in the park or at a coffee shop.  With bright eyes and fluttering hands, they’d croon about how special I am, describe the depths of their adoration for me, grasping at me closer every time.  Then, I’d open their Snapchat or InstaStory to see how trash dating is, and how single they are.  It was a slap in the face. 

                I hustled for my worth in these situationships.  I marketed myself on “Why You Should Date Me”, tirelessly leaping across oceans for people who wouldn’t traverse puddles for me.  I love a challenge.  I like the chase.  But then, I realized I’m chasing people because they’re literally running from me.  I realized that it isn’t supposed to be this hard, that a relationship is largely a decision.  I don’t need to prove that I’m worthy of staying for.  My value isn’t contingent on what I can do for you, and if I need a powerpoint presentation to convey why we’re compatible, that’s my cue to walk away.

                We all believe ourselves to be good people.  We lie ourselves into a belief of our own exceptionalism.  I thought I remained authentic as a single woman.  I thought I was being above board.  But I fell into those games.  I had too many options, got overwhelmed, unintentional ghosted and flaked.  My social media mirrored those who had screwed me over.  I’d go on great dates, and then hop online—griping about being single.  I treated golden people like trash, and I’m sorry. I am really and truly sorry for such jack assery.  I’m not a good person.  I am a flawed person trying to do better.  Shrinking ourselves into coolness, into the rules of dating and strategy, only cheats us in the end.  Stay giddy and mushy, even if it bruises you.  The bruises will heal.  When you alter your conduct, it is a reflection of your character.  We owe it to each other to be kind.

                To be clear: I am not telling you to commit.  I appreciate my previous situationships.  I genuinely bonded with those people, and my heart has nothing but affection for them.  Still, I couldn’t subsist on surface affection.  It wasn’t enough to exist in a mutually agreed upon figment of imagination.  I wanted my emotional labor to be valued and meaningful.  After all, scraps only leave you starving in the end. 

                Casual flings are fun.  There is nothing wrong with non-committedly bonding with another person.  Especially if you’re busy, recovering from a bad breakup, or just don’t want to be tethered to one person. You make your own terms for your dating life. The struggle lies in communication—being upfront with your wants and your needs.  You do not have to exist as a flyover state.  There are more fruitful bonds outside the boarders of purgatory.  You just have to know that you are the destination, the decision, the person who is worthy of a yes instead of a maybe.  Because you are.

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