“Are you breaking up with me?”
His words were incredulous with a hint of amusement. Probably because we hadn’t actually been dating.
I was having this phone conversation in my car minutes before going to meet a group of friends for a concert. There I was telling this Christian guy I’d met on an airplane (yes, that actually happens) — a great guy I’d gone on a handful of “dates” with over the course of six months — that I thought whatever we had was over. My friends and I later coined the term “fake up” to describe this awkward anti-DTR (defining the relationship) conversation.
By the end of it, I’d found out that he still had feelings for an ex-girlfriend and was barely interested in hanging on to our on-again-off-again friendlationship. It was a good conversation. We parted well, and I felt much lighter walking in to meet my friends for a night of music.
Just Stop Talking
Maybe you have experienced something similar — a relationship that falls somewhere between platonic friendship and dating that seems to drag on and on. With the absence of other possibilities, it can be tempting to “hang in there” with a friendship we hope will blossom into something more, especially as you get older and consider the possibility of settling more and more appealing. But how long should you spend getting to know each other, hoping romance will develop? And when does hanging on become a waste of time in a dead-end relationship? Here are three signs you’re losing the waiting game:
- Your feelings become obsessive. I remember being in several romantic relationships that were almost entirely in my head. Sure that guy had taken me out to lunch once after an event we both attended. But beyond that, there was no actual evidence that we were more than friends. It’s so easy to agonize over what could be, and too often our friends only encourage our fixations. I’m thankful for godly, sensible girlfriends who reminded me of reality — I was still single. I encourage singles who are experiencing feelings like this to pray. Pray that God would release you from those obsessive feelings and clarify His will for the relationship. When I prayed this prayer, God was faithful to answer quickly and decisively, but sometimes feelings can linger (and even grow) after praying. We should always be intentional in bringing every thought into submission, especially those that create unhealthy expectations. Give it to God once or once an hour—whatever you need to fully surrender your hopes for a relationship to the reality of what exists.
- You’re missing out on other opportunities. We’ve probably all known couples we felt certain were dating and later learned were just friends. This “talking phase” that many people linger in is helpful in getting to know each other, but it can be detrimental. If a relationship is flourishing, great! It’s fine to give it a little time to see where it’s headed. I remember telling (let’s be honest, texting) my now-husband, Kevin, these words a few weeks before we began dating: “I feel like our friendship is on Miracle-Gro. It’s so amazing how many things we have in common.” His reply? “I’m smiling so big right now.” A growing relationship can be a sign that a relationship is destined for more. However, if you’ve been talking for six months and he remains inconsistent or she seems to always be busy when you suggest doing things together, it may be time to call it and move on.
- You lack peace. There are many, many verses that promise peace to believers (2 Thessalonians 3:16, Psalm 29:11, and Isaiah 26:3 come to mind). God deeply desires peace for His children. Many times, when I was chasing after the wrong relationship, I felt a lack of peace. My gut felt twisted as I desperately tried to figure out how to make it work. This unsettled feeling can be an indicator that it’s time to let go.
That September afternoon, I knew putting an end to that confusing friendship was the right thing to do, and it gave me a lot of peace. Of course, I had no way of knowing that I would find a love connection with a tall barista/children’s pastor a mere four months later. Deciding to quit the waiting game requires discernment and boldness, but the time and energy spared can make it well worth the effort.