Why Backup Relationships are a Waste of Time and why you shouldn’t Settle for them

A friend of mine, let’s call her Katie, has been dating the same guy for about 5 years. They are both well educated, have good but demanding jobs, enjoy travel and spend weekends doing outdoor activities. For the last three years they have also been living together in a conveniently located apartment where they often host chic dinner parties. Recently they even started talking about getting a dog. Things couldn’t be better, but Katie is now having doubts about the future of their relationship.

A few months ago she brought up the idea of marriage and having kids. Katie is 34 years old and feels that her clock is ticking. The conversation apparently didn’t go so well, because her boyfriend, let’s call him Matt, revealed to her that he’s not interested in getting married, nor having kids.

He declared that he is happy with the way things are.

My friend, on the other hand is not happy with the status quo and desires something more than just sharing her bed and rent with Matt. She feels stuck. Should she leave him or, stay and accept this arrangement?

This is not the first time I came across a similar situation. In fact I’ve experienced in my own life, and I equate it to flying standby.

Why? Because that’s exactly what my friend is, a “standby”. Allow me to explain…

Don’t choose a standby option when you have a firm destination in mind  

Let’s say you’re planning your dream vacation. You probably have a place in mind. You look at best dates to travel, then book your flight and a hotel room. You make a plan because this vacation is a big deal. You want to ensure that when you arrive at the airport, you have a seat reserved on the plane that will take you to your destination, and that when you arrive, you will have a comfortable place to stay.

On the other hand, if you just need to get away and don’t really have a place in mind, your approach might be very different. You’re willing to take a chance because you’re not committed to where you’ll go or stay. Without a plan set in stone, you can show up at the airport, keep your fingers crossed, and hope that a seat to some tropical destination becomes available. Even better, you might save a bundle by taking a risk and flying standby.

If the stars align, you just might have an awesome vacation, at a bargain. However, if you’re not so lucky, you might end up back on your couch going nowhere.

The bottom line, if you consider something or someone very important, you’ll be more deliberate in your approach. Whether you do this by purchasing an actual airline ticket to ensure that you have a seat on the flight, or making a relationship official to ensure that the person you can’t imagine your life without, is with you as you grow old.

When someone holds little value, your approach towards them will probably be less deliberate, because the consequences of loosing them don’t seem so severe. Matt and Katie travel to exotic places, go hiking to beautiful places, share expenses, go to trendy restaurants for dinners, enjoy watching action and adventure movies and snuggling at night together. But, having a pal to spend time with is not enough for Matt to leap in and commit to Katie for the long-haul. Plus, why should he get married if he already has what he needs, with no strings attached?

Just because you’re a good company, it doesn’t mean you’re exceptional 

Katie might be fun to hang out with, but judging by his actions, Matt does’t think she’s exceptional because he’s not afraid of losing her. She is a good backup option if nothing better comes along. So, he keeps his options open. Just like flying standby, he doesn’t have to fly to Chicago, if he can fly to Paris for the same price when it’s convenient for him. However, if a seat to Paris doesn’t come along, then at least he’ll have Chicago to go to rather than stay home.

Time is precious, don’t waste it on someone who does’t consider you precious

After five years together, if Katie hasn’t gotten what she desires from her relationship with Matt, she probably never will. Because even if Matt conceded to Katie’s resolve to get married, and they ended up having kids, the fact that she wasn’t his ultimate choice to begin with, means that Matt settled.

Relationships are not easy because even when two people love each other, external forces create challenges that often require determination, mental strength, resources, and dedication. Regardless of how much you love the other person, to keep a relationship going, it takes work. If someone settles, it means that when the relationship starts sinking, they likely won’t fight to keep it afloat because they didn’t want it to be buoyant in the first place.

No one deserves to be a “standby” option to someone who does not consider them their first choice.  

Matt deserves to be with someone whom he considers his first choice, just like Katie deserves to be with someone who will consider her the ultimate prize.

When it comes to relationships, no one should settle, if you want your relationship to last.

About the Illustration: Chasing a Butterfly

Sunflowers and Girl with a Butterfly

In my painting I chose to paint a girl chasing a butterfly in a field of sunflowers. She is chasing an illusion represented by the butterfly. It’s beauty is captivating but fleeting because a butterfly only lives for a very short time. Even if the girl were to capture it, she can only enjoy it for a short while. Yet she is persistent, like the sunflowers growing in the fields. The sunflowers are hardy, unlike the delicate roses growing by the side. The boy stares at her from across the field and wonders why she wastes her energy on trying to catch something that can only give her joy for a short while. He wants to walk away, but is amused and doesn’t, wondering if she’ll ever catch it.






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