If You Have A 'Back-Burner Relationship,' It Might Be Time To Let Go

Instant messaging and social media play a huge role in today's dating world. After all, text compatibility can be a serious factor in many people's relationships. From swiping on dating apps to FaceTime sessions with long-distance lovers, much of the dating scene is shaped by the virtual world. In some ways, this has improved human connection. In other ways, it has put extra obstacles in an already difficult landscape. One negative element of dating that the technology of the modern world has intensified is the "back-burner relationship."

If there is someone that you are not exclusively dating but regularly keep in touch with as a potential romantic option, this is considered a "back-burner relationship." The internet makes it easier to maintain these connections because we're able to interact without ever having to actually put in the effort and commitment to actually meet up with the other person. Whether you shoot an occasional text or react to their Instagram Stories, it's all about keeping your foot in the door without ever really intending to go further.

Why we keep 'back-burner relationships'

In a study published by the journal Computers in Human Behavior, 73% of survey respondents reported having more than one back-burner relationship. In addition, they found that of the subjects who were in committed partnerships, 56% still confessed to having a backup love interest. It's not surprising how common this sort of deceptive habit is. We're all human, meaning we're prone to worrying about the future and the possibility of being alone. If it was entirely ethical, having some backup romantic attention would sound like a pretty attractive option.

Dating coach Hayley Quin explains this behavior to Stylist, saying, "If you're single, you may want to keep the possibility of reconnecting with someone open as it feels nicer to have an option than no one at all. If you're in a relationship, keeping contact with a past partner or crush could also be a way of not placing all your eggs in one basket." However, whatever your reason for keeping a back-burner relationship, it's likely healthiest for you and the other person involved to let it go.

When you should let your 'back-burner relationship' go

If you are holding on to an ex or continuing to flirt with someone while in an exclusive partnership, this could risk putting your relationship in trouble. Certified therapist Sally Baker tells Metro, "It is a strategy to emotionally hold yourself back from full commitment in case you get hurt and let down ... Communicating and expending emotional energy on someone else in secret is dishonest, and it can make you cheat yourself out of the opportunity of a committed relationship."

And even if you're single, that doesn't make the practice any better. It gives someone the belief that you're interested in them even if that's not the case, and that's unkind for obvious reasons. Think about Kate Winslet's character Iris Simpkins in "The Holiday." Do you want to be Jasper Bloom, the jerk who's always swooping back in, stopping Iris from ever getting truly getting over him and moving on with her life? Sure, it's tempting to keep these little confidence boosters in your back pocket. But rather than depending on these, save people's feelings and focus on developing genuine self-esteem that doesn't depend on romantic validation.