We walked along the trail on a cold, November afternoon.
The conversation flowed so easily, it was difficult for me not to daydream about what it would be like if we were actually a couple.
If I stared too long into her beautiful, almost aquatic blue eyes, I could begin to feel a slight palpitation in my chest.
I cannot stand to be out walking around when it’s below 40 degrees, but she was the kind of person that could suggest something like taking two weeks off and going for a road trip to Ottumwa, Iowa, and I’d be Googling it to figure out what to pack.
To me, she exemplified everything I found beautiful and irresistible about the opposite sex; and yet, we were an undefined entity. Probably not even an entity. Just a nebulous coming together of two people without an end goal.
Or at least, that’s what I told myself when I didn’t feel like facing the fact that I was on her back burner.
Being on someone’s back burner is only one step up from being friend-zoned. I mean, it’s a strange place to be. They are in a committed relationship, but you become their confidant. They text you every few days to make sure you haven’t given up on the idea, but after a little while it’s hard not to face the truth. They’ve been with their partner for years and are most likely not going anywhere. But…what if?
And it’s that “what if?” that keeps us hanging on.
Does this sound familiar to you? There are ways to tell for sure if you are their back burner:
1. Most of your communication is in typed form.
As in the situation I initially described, the ratio of texts and DMs to actual face-to-face time is close to 10:1. In other words, you’ll get a text every day, but you’ll see them once a week—if you’re lucky. At first, this is exciting, but after a while you begin to realize that they are reaching out to you to make sure you’ll be there if their present relationship starts to fall apart. Unfortunately, that will start to wear on a person’s self-esteem.
2. The word “maybe” gets used a lot.
Most of your conversation with this person you desire is of the “not very serious” variety, and when you try to nail them down on what they are feeling for you, their response is usually cloudy or nebulous. If you wake up for a minute and look at the situation for what it is exactly, you are nothing more to them than an option. People like to keep their options open, so on your side of the fence you think they’re showing interest, when in reality, they are fanning the flame and keeping you on minimal maintenance.
3. They confide in you too much.
At first, when you fall in love with a committed person and they start to make you feel like there might actually be a chance, it can make your heart race. As time goes on and they begin calling or texting every time things get unmanageable in their current relationship, it can seem like you’re “on deck” at a baseball game and the current batter has two strikes. You begin to think your time at bat is moments away. If that feeling seems to never go away, guess what? You’re on the back burner.
4. Plans get cancelled more times than not.
If it seems like every time the two of you make plans to go out or meet up something gets in the way, you can almost be assured of the fact that the “something” is their current lover. It’s really not as if they don’t want to see you. But look at it from their perspective. They are likely trying to navigate a failing relationship, and you are standing there like a fool waiting for true love to bloom. It’s an awful feeling.
5. They always hint about what a great couple you’d be.
Last, and probably most annoying, is when they get your hopes up high by hinting about how wonderful life would be if the two of you were an item, but you know in your heart that they are, once again, just trying to fan the flame. If you’ve ever been someone’s back burner, you know that should you confront them about the possibility of leaving their boo to start something with you, the vibe changes real quick. It messes with your head, and, if you really start to fall in love, you begin to accept what should otherwise be considered unacceptable.
The bottom line is this: you may have the deepest feelings for someone, but when you are their contingency plan, it is just not good for you emotionally or psychologically. What can be even more frustrating is the fact that when someone is inaccessible, they become a lot more appetizing—either consciously or subconsciously.
This is something we need to be aware of. There is nothing we, as humans, are turned on by more than what we can’t have.
So, if you find yourself in a situation where you know you should remove yourself but it feels impossible, you should really try to examine why that is. Are they such a great catch, or are you just trying to get what you can’t have?