Is He “Almost” or “Never?”

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I’ve had my fair share of serious committed relationships, casual sex, short-lived romances and friends with benefits. A recurring staple in my dating game, however, has been the “Almost Boyfriend.” Of all my dating tragedies, heartbreaks and hookup-fails, the curse of the almost-boyfriend has always hurt the most. These pseudo-relationships sting the deepest because they feign real commitment and keep those of us that want more, perpetually deprived. It’s no mystery that  countless men and women suffer from commitment-phobia, but with a burgeoning hook-up culture and growing anti-monogamy sentiment this phobia is growing into a full-blown lifestyle choice. Almost relationships of varying degrees are becoming more and more common as less people are opting to settle down with one person for the real deal.

In my personal experience, these almost-relationships sometimes do develop into real commitments, but with every new almost-love story that I hear, the possibility seems increasingly slim. Empaths and romantics like me can easily fall victim to a serial almost boyfriend and be swept off our feet by a Casanova wolf in sheep’s clothing.

If you’re looking for something more serious, but continue to fall into the frustrating cycle of only finding “Almost Boyfriends,” here are some ways you can tell that he just won’t commit. You deserve better, if you want it.

Tell-tale signs he’ll only ever be “almost”

1. He keeps you separate from his friends

Sure, you’ve met them. You know their names, he talks about them all the time. You almost feel like you’re a part of his friend group. But you aren’t. When you’re with him, it’s usually just you two. You think it’s because he doesn’t want to share you, he wants to give you his full attention, he’s being romantic, right?

Almost boyfriends are commitment dodgers. The closer you get to his friends, the closer you get to being his girlfriend and the more difficult it is to cut things off with you. Sure, he likes you and wants you around, but he doesn’t necessarily know for how long. As long as he keeps you separate, you are easily detachable.

2. He’s a bad texter

“I’m sorry, sometimes I lag when I text.” Ever heard something like that? Everyone knows how easy it is to text someone back. Making it a pattern of failing to respond promptly is almost inevitably deliberate. Barring chronic short term memory loss or a high-powered full time seven-figure workload, there is no valid excuse for one to repeatedly ignore such direct communication. If he sucks at texting you back and showing up to pre-planned hangs, it’s because he’s not valuing you the way you value him.

3. …And a master-bailer

When you’re together, he’s awesome. He’s sweet, loving, and sooo happy to see you. If only it wasn’t so difficult to get him to show up. He shamelessly cancels plans last minute, disregarding your feelings and your schedule. In severe cases, he can even disappear completely for extended periods of time and then reappear in your life acting as if nothing has happened and everything is back to normal.

A master of “maybe’s,” he’s hard-pressed to commit to anything ahead of time, professing, “I’ll let you know,” or “most likely.”  No matter how excited you are to spend time with him, he simply does not make you a priority. He might not always bail, but he never makes promises.

4. His life is “a mess”

In one way or another, sometimes in all ways, he just doesn’t have his shit together. He’s a damaged soul, a butterfly with a broken wing, in need of love, support and empathy. He says that he’s warned you. “I’m just so fucked up right now…” or “You met me at a weird time…” His relationship history is less than stellar. He’s usually financially and/or emotionally unstable and far from independent. Which is why he needs you, on his terms of course. He graciously accepts your generosity, and you genuinely feel good for being the wind beneath his broken butterfly wing. He’s always a taker, and hardly a giver.

5. He doesn’t actively participate in your interests

You’re such an awesome almost girlfriend that you have taken the time to learn about things that he likes. Whether it’s muscle cars, field hockey, first-person shooters or death metal you have at least become knowledgeable in the conversational hobby talk that so many of your nights together are filled with.

But has he ever been to one of your improv shows? It is your favorite singer’s new album playing in the background when you hang out? Has he even googled that new pop-up restaurant that you said you wanted to try together? Probably not. He may even be so narcissistic that he doesn’t even realize how dismissive it is. The extra effort it takes for him to learn about your interests is something that perpetual almost boyfriends keep to a minimum.

6. He’s a smooth-talker

So why do you stick around? You certainly don’t enjoy being mistreated or ignored. You’ve never marked yourself a masochist. So what is it about him that gives you the hope that he’ll someday blossom from almost boyfriend into full-fledged fiance contender? It’s likely that he knows exactly what to say to you. You two spend an inordinate amount of time together, so of course you know how to make each other happy. He functions under the idea that words speak louder than actions. He is an expert apologizer, a competent complimenter, gives you exactly enough of what you need to hear to allow you to self-soothe into complacency.

Whether he’s a master manipulator or a pillow-talk pundit, almost boyfriends are terrific talkers but horrible communicators. Beware of empty words, and painful patterns.

 

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