In the past year, I’ve had about four boyfriends. I know that seems like a lot and most of you are wondering how that’s even possible (especially when I write about being single all the time). Well, here’s my secret: None of these boys actually know we’re dating.
As hard as it is to admit to myself, these relationships have largely taken place in my head, grown out of mild flirtations and a few drunk hookups. If we’re getting technical, the actual number of boyfriends I’ve had in the past year would be zero. But what fun is that?
When a friend recently asked me if I’m seeing anyone, I actually had to pause and rethink my answer. Saying that I’m outwardly together with someone in real life would pose as a blatant lie; however, in the realm of my mind, it was a different story.
Inside my head I was very much emotionally involved with a mutual friend named Jake* (*I’ve changed his name because this would be remarkably embarrassing if he found out the kind of storyline I devised for us) who, while I knew was interested in me as well (we had sporadically kissed a few times), hadn’t really progressed to full-on dating territory.
“I was hooking up with Jake for a little bit. But I don’t think it’s going anywhere, he’s super frustrating,” I replied, mentally categorizing this as a three on the lying scale. We had hooked up, we just weren’t that serious.
“How so?” my friend inquired.
“Well, there’s a lot of back and forth that goes on between us. He hasn’t explicitly asked me out, but the attraction is there. He just, like, can’t understand when he’s upsetting me. Oh, also, don’t like, tell him I’m saying this. He kind of doesn’t know.” I took a big sip of the cayenne cocktail and prayed she wouldn’t tell Jake of the head games I had conjured up and proceeded to mentally torture myself over.
My friend wasn’t going to talk to him. She was more puzzled by the whole thing and I couldn’t blame her. I wasn’t in a real-life relationship with Jake; 72 percent of our interactions took place in my head and the other 28 percent was casually flirtatious fodder between us that I then sickly twisted and blew out of proportion because I am that pathetic and want to be alone with my thoughts rather than an actual male human for the rest of my life.
There I said it. It was now time to end this fantasy relationship that clearly wasn’t going to happen in real life. The only problem: How do you get over a boyfriend that largely existed inside your head?
It’s not like you can have this big blowout breakup scene. You don’t actually have any concrete reasons to be mad at him besides, “He didn’t give me enough attention,” which, yeah, makes sense because he doesn’t even know he’s dating you! You can’t say “he cheated on me” or “he doesn’t make time for me.”
There isn’t a talk about how to improve your struggles as a couple. You’re not a couple. You’re not even a “thing.”
You’re make-believe, a dreamt-up part of my imagination that I use to pretend I’m sleeping next to someone at night. And this is why breaking up with someone who only exists in your head is so hard: when you think about a person so much, he seems all-too real to you.
It’s kind of like when you have an intensely vivid dream about someone and the next day you see him in person. You feel like you were with him. You feel like you know him. And yet, that was all made up in your mind.
To the outside world, I was single. Inside my head, I was emotionally closed off, already in too deep with my own thoughts of my fake-boyfriend.
Jake and I had a super-exciting dating life. I was convinced we had a strong attraction one evening when he bought me a drink and none of my other friends, and naturally blew that gesture out of proportion when I smiled about it on my walk home.
He said things like, “I bet your sister is really cool,” which I then heard as, “I can’t wait until you introduce me to your sister.”
We rarely fought (obviously), but yet he always seemed to (naturally) let me down when I caught glimpses of him chatting up other girls at the bar.This is because you two aren’t actually dating, I had to remind myself.
I know this saga might raise a few eyebrows, friends might question my sanity, others will tout about how pathetic I am that I can’t hold down a real relationship or at least make the move and tell this guy that we’ve been seeing each other for three months and it’s finally time we see each other some place other than my brain.
But if we were to get together in real life, what would happen then? Would it live up to this hyped-up fantasy I’ve been building up inside me? Would he be the kind of boyfriend I already scripted him to be?
Perhaps, when you already have the mental drama to fulfill, you eventually become numb to the real thing.
So how was I to break up with Jake? Clearly it wasn’t going to work between us. I decided to stop seeing him both in person and in my head.
His presence as a constant visual reminder wasn’t helping to erase him from my mind. And no good could come out of me wanting someone that badly who didn’t want me back.
What was the appropriate response, though, to such a tragic ending? I couldn’t help but feel a little empty and down. There wasn’t anyone special to preoccupy my thoughts anymore. There wasn’t someone who I was dressing up for in hope I’d see him out that night.
I didn’t have that internal farce to fill me up or complain about when my girlfriends and I discussed our love lives. Even though we technically had never been boyfriend and girlfriend, a piece of me still felt like we had.
Aside from facing the cold, hard truth, the best solution to ending things with your mental fantasy, I believe, is to find someone who wants to be your reality.
Someone who you don’t need to obsess over in your head because he is right there in front of you, wanting you back. Let go of the people who won’t turn into anything more than a delusion — they might give you some artificial comfort, but they’re also holding you back from experiencing the true thing.
Eventually, I got over Jake, just like I had gotten over those other three “boyfriends.” I laughed at how ridiculous these fake relationships were and the stupid anguish they caused me when they didn’t really need to.
My friends didn’t stop making fun of me, though. Which I guess is a good thing because we all need a dose of reality now and then.
And I’ve learned a valuable lesson: Don’t dream about what other people can do for you, instead make it happen for yourself.