I know the pain of feeling an emotional “breakup”, even if the label of dating was never truly there. Maybe this relationship was primarily over social media, or maybe it carried over into “real life”-hanging out without the label of boyfriend or girlfriend, but feeling more than friends, physical intimacy, or emotional intimacy much different than any other male/female friendship. These situationships, as they are often referred to, are so confusing, and can lead us to overthink and spiral. Unfortunately, if, or inevitably, when they go sour, can be even more hurtful than a defined relationship.
When we are trying to get past the end of a situationship, there can be an added level of guilt or shame. You might feel sad, even intensely so, but think, “I can’t be upset, we never even dated! This is stupid of me to be sad about.” If this thought comes to your head, I want you to stop it in its tracks. Perhaps there were aspects on your end that could have been more virtuous- maybe you allowed yourself to fantasize about being with this person far too often, or maybe you chose to be physically intimate with them in whatever capacity-but shaming yourself because you are grieving the loss of something you desired does not help your healing process.
Let yourself grieve what could have been. I use the word “grieve” with great intentionality. Depending on how long this pseudo-relationship lasted, as well as its intensity, there could have been great emotional investment on your end. With this investment, you were putting your hopes in this person and desiring to love them and be loved in this particular way. Especially if you put up with less-than-stellar behavior, like hot-and-cold communication or mixed signals that result in severe overthinking, with every act of hope in your heart, there is greater vulnerability. I know for myself, after the relationship ends, there can be great internal embarrassment at this aspect, with me thinking, “how could I be so naïve?” If this is a sentiment you relate to, I want to speak truth to you.
Be gentle on yourself. Naturally, I tend to beat myself up in most circumstances, with this being no exception. But remember, even if mistakes were made, there was a part of your heart that was searching for authentic love. The desire within you to be loved and to love another, even when misguided, is a desire that is good. If we can approach ourselves with the gentleness we would approach a dear friend, sibling, or younger child, also searching for love, we can provide a space for healing. Instead of approaching a wound with the question, “how could you have let this happen?”, you can approach it as “I can see you are hurting. Here, let’s bandage it up.” As well, instead of being upset at how long it takes to heal, we can acknowledge to ourselves, “Wow, this wound was a lot deeper than we initially thought. This will take a while to fully heal, but that is okay.”
When we are particularly harsh on ourselves as well, we do not allow the room to genuinely reflect and learn from mistakes. When through processing the situation, we reprimand and scold ourselves, we do not allow ourselves to even try to objectively see the situation, but instead choose to see it through a lens of shame.
Reflect productively on what you would have done differently. It is possible that some aspects of this were unavoidable or were not your fault. I am not saying to take blame for aspects beyond your control. But, if your situationships were anything like mine, when you do some serious reflecting, you might see times that you settled for less than you deserve. You are deserving of a relationship where you do not have to wonder where you stand. A mature person ready for a dating relationship must rise up to the occasion and accept responsibility to care for this other person’s heart well by offering sincerity or clarity. You also deserve the title of “boyfriend/girlfriend” if your relationship mirrors one. While there can often be gray areas between friends and a dating relationship that predictably takes place while each party sorts through feelings, this phase should not last more than a few weeks at most. If you are spending exclusive time with another, acting in romantic ways, or other “couple-y” things, you deserve to have the clarity of a title, as well as clarity in the direction the relationship should take. A dating relationship’s purpose is to figure out if this is a person you could marry. While that might sound scary straight off and you might think, “that is so far away!”, you deserve the clarity that the other person has that potential end in mind. It seems often with situationships, they attempt to reap what feels good in relationships- the affirmation, emotional or physical intimacy, and the human connection-but cut out commitment and the harder conversations. Although uncomfortable, you deserve someone who is not merely using you, but sees your emotional well-being as worth protecting through honesty in intentions.
Take your broken heart to the Holy Family. For me, when I am hurt by the actions of a man, it can be difficult to pray to Jesus because I want to project my frustration and hurt on him. My teammate reminded me in these situations where when it is too hard to look at Jesus, we can look at his Blessed Mother. That completely changed my prayer! Instead of forcing myself in my heartache to pray exclusively to Jesus, I could ask the intercession of Mary, as well as other female saints. I also found it very helpful during my worst heartbreak, to lean into Saint Joseph, a man who loved Mary wholeheartedly and purely. Asking him to intercede in the protection and healing of my heart, as well as his intercession in leading me to a man of integrity and care has given me great peace.
In the end, healing emotionally from these breakups-without-the-title can be exhausting and take time. Give yourself grace and know that by taking the proper time and energy to heal, you are setting yourself up to demand greater treatment in the future, and your future-self will thank you for healing the wound instead of brushing over it.