How do we deal with the end of a relationship when there wasn't even a relationship to begin with?
A few months ago, I met this guy at a café (the old-fashioned way), and because I am young and naïve, I gave him my number. He was cute, funny, and, honestly, amazing in bed. We went out a few times over the course of two months, until one night he told me he felt I wanted something more serious than what he was looking for, and that he’d prefer we stop seeing each other before anyone got hurt. We got dressed, he walked me to the subway station, and that was it. Goodbye, café cutie.
Of course, we were never a “thing,” and what we had was miles away from any of the real relationships I’d had before knowing him, but still, I was crushed. And I cried over the café cutie for a whole night, and then obsessed about every single moment we spent together, every conversation, and every little thing he said to me for weeks. My friends thought I was crazy, and that I was stupid for going through all this over someone I was never really “with.” They asked me how I could experience a break up if there wasn’t even in a relationship to begin with. In other words, they were saying that this guy was never my boyfriend, so I should stop thinking of him as an ex.
But the thing is, it’s not that simple. What I learned in those first few days, after I finally processed everything and got over him, is that there’s no single, absolute definition of what a relationship is, just like there’s no single, absolute definition about who “qualifies” as an ex. You might want to believe that the only exes you’ll ever have are the ones from serious, long-term relationships, but the reality is that there are no formulas or timelines for this kind of thing.
What makes someone an ex isn’t the amount of time you spent with them, but rather what you felt for them. So, even if you were only with them for two weeks, two months, or two years, if you cared about them then, you’ll care about them after you stop seeing them, and it’ll hurt. It sucks, but that’s how it works. It’s the intensity of your feelings and the experiences you had with them that count, not the exact number of days you saw each other.
It doesn’t matter if they always denied the relationship you had. There will always be players and fuckboys who date you but never admit you’re dating, and that’s their business. What matters is that you cared about them, and when everything is over, you have to take care of yourself as you process the “non-break up,” and start moving on. In the end, the most important thing about all of this is that you get over this person that isn’t a part of your life anymore. And if thinking of them as an ex helps you process the end of the relationship better, then do it. It doesn’t matter how other people see your relationship, or how short it was compared to other ones you’ve had.
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Cover image: @jesseherzog