The Back-Up Boyfriend

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Most relationships have signs of the bitter end long before the break up actually occurs. Sometimes no matter how much or little effort is put into reconciling faults, you can barely detain the inevitable. But what happens within the mindset of the individual who wants the consistency of a relationship, while having their other needs met through someone else? This is what I refer to as, ‘The Back-Up Boyfriend.’

A Back-Up Boyfriend (or girlfriend) emerges in two different ways: As an affair or a ‘friend zone’ companion.

With affairs, an individual sees that the relationship is ending soon and starts seeking out a new mate with which she feels comfortable around and wants to get to know better. She doesn’t mean for this to go further (and sometimes it doesn’t) but the bonding often gets serious and leads to a full-blown affair, justified under the banner of “My relationship is ending anyway.” If you think you might be headed down this road, a simple test to perform is to ask yourself this: Would I be able to invite my partner into this scenario or would he smell an affair immediately?

With the “Friend Zone” companion, there is an understanding that you are never going to hook up physically, but there is an emotional attachment that develops such that the individual in the friend zone becomes a back-up when the real boyfriend fails. As someone in the friend zone, you give the girl all the comfort she craves in her relationship without her actually having to give anything in return. She knows that you will always be the shoulder she can cry on and the person who will drop everything to aid her regardless of your own situations or circumstances. Usually you are put in the friend zone because of the lack of action to attempt to pursue anything with her even if your heart wants more. And your heart wanting more is what will always keep you as a Back-Up Boyfriend.

The psychology behind why women and men alike do this varies from case to case. Obviously at the root of it there are basic needs not being met in the failing relationship, and sometimes it stems deeper into the inner psyche, going as far back as uneasy childhood memories. If a parent was absent for most of your early development you may tend to keep people around with a deeper emotional attachment because there is a constant fear of abandonment. You don’t want to be alone, so you stay in a failing relationship. Then you fear losing that person, so you find a back-up. It’s not pretty, but it’s pretty simple.

There is no easy way to confront a lover who is falling into a pattern of keeping some extra baggage around, especially without sounding jealous. But recognizing the signs of those who cheat and emotionally stray, as found in my previous post, can help you identify specific key behaviors that might prevent future damage to the relationship.

If you are the individual in the relationship who is watching your significant other latch on to other males in an emotional way, speak out. Have a night where you two can sit down together and discuss some of the things that you need or want of each other and this should be enough for her to call it quits with her Back-Up Boyfriend. But you have to be realistic, if what you both need from a relationship is just too much of a demand, be honest with yourself and each other and don’t be afraid to call it off before you hit the point of no return. There is nothing worse than a dramatic break up that eventually affects everyone around you.

So what if you are the Back-Up Boyfriend? You have a very tough decision to make right here and it’s going to have to be based in a realistic evaluation of yourself. Does the girl know you care for her? Do you actually see yourself having anything more serious with her? Answering yes to these questions still doesn’t give her the right to use you for anything you wish to give to her emotionally or materially. But there are a few simple steps you can take to either get out and get on with your own life, or make a move into her life.

Stop Being Her Lapdog

It may be hard, but the best way to get out of the back-up boyfriend role is to make yourself less available. It may hurt to say that god-awful two letter word, ‘no,’ but in the long run staying around and becoming her lap dog will hurt you more deeply than putting her on the back burner. Show her you have a life without her!

Start Dating And Be Proud About It

Dating other women is one of the best things you can do for you. So what if each date only happens once, it’s the fact you are seeing people that will break you out of your codependent behavior for the girl who put you in the friend zone. Another great thing is if you let her know you are seeing other people, and that you just want to be friends, ask her for advice or her opinion about the current girls. If she even gets the slightest bit jealous you may have a chance with her!

Man Up

If you don’t want to date other people, man up and ask her out. Of course she’ll remind you about her boyfriend at which point you say that while you don’t want to be a home wrecker, you have to wonder how successful her relationship is if she’s spending this much time with you. If you don’t want to intrude on her current relationship, just be honest and let her know how you feel and maybe even say that you’d like to take a break from hanging out until she figures out what she’s doing with her failing relationship. You never know how things will play out until you put it out there, and having the courage to do so is a big turn on for any lady.

Ladies, if you have the habit of creating Back-Up Boyfriends, just stop. You may think it’s morally acceptable because of whatever justifications you can create in your own head, but it’s not. The dominoes you are setting up only lead to emotional damage for you, the individual you’re having the affair with (or the guy in the friend zone), and your current partner who deserves honesty. If you aren’t happy with your relationship speak up. Nothing changes if nothing changes, so if you can’t communicate, how will anyone ever know what you truly feel?

Boston based writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Founder & Editor in Chief of and