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My brother just recently got married.
His wife is a gorgeous, black-haired work of art, a force of nature, and one of the most spectacular women I’ve come to know.
Each time I see my brother with his wife, I see how much he loves her, how enamored he is with her, how he is bursting at the seams with love for her. If he could shout his love for her from the highest point on earth, he would. He probably has already.
I told him at their rehearsal brunch, “I’m so happy for you, bro.” He smiled beneath his mask and then looked at the tattooed beauty standing before him in a cream-colored, hand-stitched dress.
“It’s like this every day, Kel.” He said. Although a vague comment, I knew what he meant.
Every day was a cherished and magical adventure with her.
“That’s pretty special,” I said back, standing beside him to admire her too. I loved hearing a man I love and respect talk about his lady this way. He would do anything and everything for her, and it was obvious.
I’ve seen tears of joy gather in his eyes each time he uttered words about her.
That was the kind of love I desired. One that brought a man to tears.
I have never had that.
It’s funny how weddings can make you painfully aware of just how single you are.
Over their rehearsal brunch, my desires for a love like theirs lead me to thoughts of my most recent failed relationship.
Even after two months, I still analyze what went wrong, examining it from every angle, desperate to name a culprit so I could ease my mind from the heartbreaking rejection I’m still working to overcome. At times, I fixate on where I could’ve possibly gone wrong myself.
My last relationship was quite the opposite of my brother’s. While there may have been many things that were likely wrong with my last relationship, there was one thing I’m convinced contributed to our relationship demise.
I suspect the culprit was a bromance.
I’m increasingly becoming more aware of the phenomenon of bromances and how they are slowly creeping in to take the place of romantic relationships.
Bromances are defined as non-sexual, same-sex relationships, which, at the same time, are affectionate and intimate.
I believe bromances or friendships with bros, in general, to be healthy and encouraged—I want to make that clear. Everyone should have someone they feel like they can rely on for anything. But there is a darker side to bromances – one that is taking precedence over a woman’s ability to get close to a potential mate.
(Looking at my brother, it’s clear bromances don’t dominate his relationship.)
Aside from my own personal experience with a bromance, there was a study conducted among 30 men, which touched on bromances and why some men are choosing them over romantic partnerships with women.
The study is somewhat flawed and only explores bromances within the college demographic. Yet, I am still intrigued by the reasons men find it easier to enter into an affectionate bromance before considering a romantic relationship. Why they attach fiercely to a bromance even while in a relationship with a woman is also intriguing.
In the study, one of the top reasons men chose a bromance over a romance was because they felt more safe and secure with a bro. They even felt less judged by a bro than a female partner. Some have even admitted to cuddling with a bro on occasion.
I find these reasons ironic, considering I’ve heard many women’s genuine pleas for their male partners to be more raw, open, present, and willing.
My experience with a bromance was so profound, I actually felt like I was in competition with a bro for my boyfriend’s affection. I felt like at any given opportunity my ex would choose his bro over me. I worked to ignore this, and as a result, tried harder to win his affection.
My ex was two years younger than me. He pursued me, funny enough. He worked 55-60 hours a week and usually numbed himself with marijuana or alcohol as soon as he crossed over the threshold into his apartment. His bro was a childhood friend and also his roommate. They spent pretty much every single day together, playing video games, watching adult cartoons, smoking, and drinking beer.
You might be thinking, “This is a boy, not a man.” Believe me; I know that now. I still want to make my point about bromances.
At first, I thought it was really sweet how the two of them cared for each other, and proactively did things for each other. It’s rare for me to see men embrace a friendship that way. But as I got deeper into my relationship with him, I started to see how codependent they were. It was getting in the way of me really bonding with my boyfriend, and I started to resent it.
How could you create a place of comfort and safety and love for your man when they’re already able to get it from their bro?
I was never a pushy girlfriend, especially since the relationship was new. I never demanded that he spend every day with me. I asked for two days of quality time per week, and I asked him to talk to me for a little bit after he was done with work. If he needed space or was going to spend time with his friends, I asked him to just tell me. If I felt like things were off, I tried calmly speaking with him about it.
As for me, I was blatantly transparent about who I was, my flaws, and how I was working toward my own growth. He had promised he was in this all the way, so I chose to be 100 percent vulnerable with him. I was going for an honest and communicative relationship this time around.
I am a benevolent and loving partner. I’ve never really been the type to be hard on my partners or obviously difficult. I like to be supportive, loving, and far from the Why Men Loves Bitches mentality. Maybe that’s where I went wrong.
When the opportunity arose to spend quality time with him, I would try and devise fun things for us to do together. Things that might fill him with the energy his soul-sucking job took from him.
He appeared to be present in our relationship. Texting me and sending me video messages every single morning, being there when I had a meltdown, and on one occasion, bringing me dinner after I’d had a bad day.
The potential was there.
Yet somehow, all my efforts put toward being a good, understanding, and supportive girlfriend resulted in the most common phrases I hear from the men I date:
“You’re too good for me.”
“I’m not good enough for you.”
“I don’t deserve you.”
It didn’t take him long to very lazily break things off with me, take the coward’s way out of a relationship via “a break,” and retreat back to the most secure relationship he knew: his bromance.
The day we had basically ended things, he had ditched me to spend time with his bro. When I went to his house to confront him about our relationship, I could hear their laughs from outside the window. It was clear where he wanted to be, and it was not with me.
I envied their bromance and was angered by it. I wondered if they talked about me when I wasn’t around. I wondered if the bro had influenced our breakup in any way. I even wondered if they had even been physically intimate at some point in their friendship.
Based on the pain I endured from this relationship, I was able to see more clearly how often this bromance intervened. And it was often.
I don’t want other women to fall at the feet of this kind of heartbreak. There were signs I ignored.
What are some signs a bromance might be intervening with your budding romance? Here are some:
1. When the bro says things like, “I could tell him to stop dating you if I want, and he would listen to me.”
This was a phrase uttered to me over a video message—my boyfriend was right there when he said it. It felt like an act of dominance on the bro’s part, which made me feel my place in my boyfriend’s life could easily be removed. When I asked my boyfriend about it, he just said, “Obviously, he is important to me, but you are becoming important to me too.”
2. When your boyfriend ditches you to hang out with his bro.
On more than one occasion, my boyfriend ditched me to hang out with his bro, or he was late to our date because he was doing something for his bro. Listen, I don’t care if you do nice things for your friends. I do them for my friends all the time. But when it’s cutting into time we planned together and I already know you see your bro every single day, it’s frustrating and hurtful.
3. When your boyfriend takes more pictures of his bro than he does of you.
My ex-boyfriend’s Instagram has several pictures of him and his bro or just pictures of his bro. Over the five months we spent together, he didn’t snap a single one of me. Maybe he’s not that type. However, when I’m with someone, I want to be their muse, their model, their something to brag about. I didn’t get that, and if you’re not getting that either, run.
4. When your boyfriend makes dinner for his bro, but not you.
I had planned a date with my boyfriend, who was relaxing on his day off while his bro was at work. We were supposed to meet at 5:00 p.m., the same time his bro got off work. But right at 5:00 p.m., he texted me saying, “I’m gonna be late, I’m making dinner for my bro.” He had never cooked for me but insisted on countless occasions that he would.
5. When your boyfriend is more affectionate with his bro than he is with you.
Bromantic affection was usually always initiated by the bro and welcomed by my boyfriend. They hugged a lot more, sat next to each other, laid on top of each other, made very affectionate touches, and shared brief moments of cuddling. All while I was right there. Meanwhile, it was a feat for me to have sex with my boyfriend on account of him being too tired.
6. When the bro throws temper tantrums about you being around.
On two occasions, the bro threw temper tantrums whenever I was around longer than he deemed appropriate. Once, the bro barricaded himself in his room for a full day because I was staying an extra day to hang out with my boyfriend. I actually had to leave mid-date to help dissolve the tension between the two of them. This is definitely not normal. My boyfriend was more concerned about avoiding a petty conflict with his bro than spending what little time he had with me.
7. When your boyfriend engages more with his bro than with you.
There were times I had to literally beg for a conversation with my boyfriend. Yet, a conversation never failed to fall into place when he was with his bro. Whether it was deep or nonsensical, it was always there. Meanwhile, I’m sitting here thinking, “why doesn’t he ever ask me about my life or try to get to know me more? Am I just not interesting or something?”
8. When the three of you are always hanging out together.
When we first started spending time together, I was quarantined at their house after getting back from China during COVID-19. There was no way to avoid being together most all of the time, and I was grateful to have stayed there since it was my only option. However, my boyfriend had every opportunity to take my hand and escape to his room for a six-pack and conversation, but that never happened. Not once. We always spent time in the living room together. Later, if we had to go out somewhere, the three of us were always together and I was almost never included in conversations.
Everyone wants to feel like a priority—like we matter most to the person we’re with. We want our lover to dedicate their precious time to us. We want to feel like the person we’re with is investing in us and being present in the relationship.
We want an authentic connection, transparency, honesty, willingness, and rawness.
I don’t fault men for wanting a bromance. It’s more comfortable, less intimidating, and less committed. It’s risky being vulnerable with a new person. Giving someone the power to take care of your heart, or break it, is terrifying.
Believe me, I know it’s terrifying because I’ve done it.
For women out there experiencing an unbreakable bromance, you should never have to ask for time with your boyfriend. He should give his time willingly.
If you mean something to him, he will make you a priority. Yes, even over his bros.
If you’re convincing yourself the bromance is a normal and healthy addition to your relationship, I’m here to tell you: it’s not normal.
Your place in his life, however short, is not undeserving of time because it’s standing against a long-term bromance.
If you’re competing with a bro for your boyfriend’s attention, it’s time to evaluate how much more of yourself you want to give.
If he wants to marry his bro, he should.
If he wants to be in a committed relationship with you, he will.
You deserve more from your relationship.
Your love should be so powerful that your man weeps with happiness and gratitude.
A man should love you the way my brother loves his black-haired beauty.