Dating and Relationship Advice

So you might have already heard of dating terms such as ghosting and submarining... but what about a “back-burner” relationship?

If this phrase doesn’t sound familiar to you, we have all the details you need to know — especially since it's gotten more common during the pandemic.

First, let's define it: “Back-burner relationships” are when someone keeps an interest or ex “on the back-burner” for later. They may do this in case their current relationship doesn’t work out, or in case they want to hook up later.

Being in this kind of relationship doesn’t feel good — especially if you’re the person on the back burner. If you recognize the following signs, you may be experiencing this relationship sitch.

1) You two keep in touch, but not super often

Maybe you two text every week or so, but not as often as you’d like or expect. When you do talk, you feel like an afterthought or like you’re being led on, and your conversations tend to go nowhere. You sense the need to define the relationship but also feel too awkward to bring it up.

2) Your relationship is a secret

If the other person is in an official relationship with someone else, that “someone else” doesn’t know about you or see you as a threat. The person back-burning you may attempt to keep your relationship a secret out of fear they’ll get caught for, well, cheating.

3) Your relationship is only platonic or only sexual

You may feel you’re only being kept around for sex or as a friend. The line between sharing romance, a friendship, and a friendship-with-benefits may be blurry. You might connect mostly late at night in bed, or you may lightly flirt but not to the extent you would with someone romantically.


Back-Burner Relationships During COVID

If you identify with these signs, know you’re not alone — especially now. According to a recent study about back-burner relationships during COVID, 62% of participants said they're keeping someone on the back burner, despite 93% also saying their relationships were “exclusive.” Further, some adults even had more than one person on standby.

People are hooking up with their exes because they need a sense of familiarity as they navigate the uncertainty of the pandemic. While that’s not an excuse, it can be an explanation.


What to Do If You’re on the Back-Burner

Other than reminding yourself you’re not alone, you should remember you’re worth more than being someone's back-burner. You deserve to be someone’s first and only choice. You deserve a consistent relationship where you feel wholeheartedly loved and satisfied.

It’s okay to talk it out or cut things off with the person who's back-burning you. I’m confident you can find an even better relationship afterward.