What is a back-burner relationship? It’s when you keep in touch with someone because you think you might want to have a romantic relationship with them someday. These connections may actually be more common than you think, according to one recent study.
Researchers at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis studied a group of college students and found that those who said they were single averaged about six back-burner contacts, while those who said they were in committed relationships had almost five.
In all, 70% of the participants said they were keeping at least one potential partner in the wings.
On the one hand, such interactions may be harmless if each of the adults involved is honest about their intentions and satisfied with the relationship. Unfortunately, that is rarely how things work out.
The same study also found that only 16% of the students in serious relationships told their partner about all their back-burner prospects.
Similarly, many of the men and women who are being kept on hold are uncertain about their relationship status because they usually receive mixed signals.
Is there a more kind and constructive way to pursue your love life? Take a look at the possible pitfalls of back burner relationships and how to deal with them.
If You’re Keeping Someone Else on the Back Burner:
- Live in the present. While you’re trying to anticipate what will happen in the months ahead, you may be neglecting your current partner. It’s difficult to form a meaningful connection while you’re considering other options.
- Face your fears. You can be happy and fulfilled without getting married. However, if you avoid commitment because of past disappointments or unrealistic expectations, you may be denying yourself the opportunity to find love.
- Let go of secrets. Concealing the truth can be a burden. While you’re hiding text messages to your old flame or an attractive coworker, you’re likely to experience a lot of stress and anxiety about getting caught.
- Earn respect. Some psychologists believe that the reason we want back burner relationships is because they make us feel desirable. Try earning recognition in more positive ways by doing volunteer work or building up your professional credentials.
- Be consistent. Ask yourself if you’re stringing someone along, telling them that you care, when your actions say otherwise, or flirting with them while you claim that you want to be just friends. You’ll enjoy greater peace of mind when your actions match your words.
If You’re Being Kept on the Back Burner:
- Appreciate your worth. Allowing yourself to be treated like you’re second rate can erode your self-esteem. Remember that you deserve to be loved just the way you are.
- Make your own plans. Maybe you’re infatuated with someone who tends to call you at the last minute or cancels dates that you’ve been looking forward to. Instead of waiting around for them, start making new friends and filling your life with other rewarding activities.
- Be direct. Let others know how you expect to be treated. You may need to ask someone not to discuss their other dates with you if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
- Move on. What do you do if you’ve asked for what you want, and a relationship still doesn’t meet your needs? It may be time to meet someone new who values you more.
It can be tempting to keep alternative partners lined up if you’re afraid of being single or wondering what you would do if you and your current companion break up. However, you’re likely to find more love and happiness if you treat yourself like a top priority and work at nurturing the relationship you have now.