Being The Backup: The one who gets the text when no one else is available

March 15 | Guest post by RedVonix
U Up? cross stitch by Etsy seller stephXstitch
U Up? cross stitch by Etsy seller stephXstitch

We meet a lot of people out there — wonderful people, terrible people, awesome people, sad people — all flavors and varieties of The Human cross our paths. And some of these we even become friends with. Some we become lovers with, you know… the people whom you meet and become someone you can send a "you up?" text one night and a "want to see Star Wars?" text the next.

Though for some of us, we start to realize that some of those friends are always busy… Or at least that's what they say. Yet they still frequently message you….

"I miss you!"
"I'm so busy."
"I am sooo horny!"
"I'm sorry I'm so busy!"
"I just had the most amazing sex with this new person I just met!"
"I wish we had time to spend together!"
"I miss you!"

… all interspersed with random nude photos.

Eventually, the months of conversation turns into a single night of laughs, fun, and pleasure. Then it's back to text-based banter. Days, weeks, and months of it. Them having time for everyone else — including people they just met — but never for you.

Finally, it becomes clear: You are The Backup.

You are who they go to when nobody else is available. They flirt to make sure you are there when they have nobody else. You are the backup. But they keep you around, because you have 1% of what they want.

Why are we not good enough to spend quality time with? We may never know — they won't tell us, because the more you ask the more they insist nothing is wrong and they are "just busy." But we know the truth.

So, fellow backups, what are we supposed to do? Should we just smile and be happy that someone wants us, even if we are their last possible choice?

Holy fuck, no!

We need to realize that we mean nothing to these people. If someone is constantly telling you how much they miss you, but finds time weekly to spend with other people they just met, and can't even find 60 minutes in a one month period to enjoy coffee, lunch, a quickie — ANYTHING with you — then it's clear how much you and your time actually means to them. You aren't even really a friend to them, let alone a lover. That random new person they just spent an entire weekend with is more important than someone they have known for months or years.

We are better than that. And there are people out there who will treat us better, be a better friend, and want us equally. Not only when you are the only last available option.

Stop it. Stop it right now. Stop being their backup, and find the people who truly care about your time and friendship. You are awesome, and you deserve it.

Even if it means everyone you know has made you their backup. That just means it's time for a change. Cull them all from your life. Remind them you are not a backup — you deserve equal desire. And if they cannot desire you or even be a friend to you on a level equal to people they just met, then it's time to remove them from your lives. Because you deserve better.

If you read this and realize you have made someone a backup — there is still time. Make a change in your life. Either make them the equal they deserve to be to the other lovers in your life, or just tell them you are going to move on. Otherwise… someone might make you a backup one day too.

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  1. I am bummed that you believe this! I'm often reminded how very different friendship styles are (thanks to social media, where I can witness all kinds of approaches to human relationships in real time). If some of my best friends were to follow your advice here I'd be very bummed: "Even if it means everyone you know has made you their backup. That just means it's time for a change. Cull them all from your life." Oof!

    This idea that everyone has time for everyone else just because they care enough is privileged. (I will excuse the eye roll.) Some of us simply do not have the time, we are struggling to work, get shit done, and steer precarious ships. On a personal level, some of us are simply a lot less outgoing. Combine those two things and you can have a loyal friend who only sees you once every few weeks … or even months! Proximity of time and space do not, thankfully, have to define our relationships.

    I'm not saying it's okay to feel put-upon, or act like a doormat, but if you want to spend more time with friends you don't need to "cull" the ones you have to make space for New, Improved Models. Instead you can just add to your oeuvre, so that your needs are met.

    11 agree
    • Lindsay, I think the author says "friend" for lack of a better word, and that she actually means "lover", though (to me) the article is a bit confusing… she probably has the best intentions in a "(s)he´s not really into you" kind of way

      8 agree
      • Yeah, I agree that the OP seems to be suggesting a "booty call" scenario (particularly with the line "… all interspersed with random nude photos.")

        But to Lindsay's point, I think there's definitely merit to friendships wherein life is just too much in the way. But the difference should always be all parties feeling valued. You can only speak to someone once a year and make them feel special, valuable and important.
        Consistently texting someone at 2am with "u up?" and bitching about your day then falling asleep without ever asking them about their life isn't valuing them. Asking them about their life just to make yourself feel better about launching into a twenty-text tirade about yourself doesn't count, either. You have to actually, for real give a shit about them and not just how they make you feel. And you deserve to be friends with people who do give a shit about you, who–even if just once a year–really listen to you and make you feel special.
        If that's not something you're getting from someone and they're not your best "if I lock myself out of my car they'll come pick me up" person, then drop them by just not replying. If you feel badly, support them only when it's convenient for you–after all, they're only asking for support when it's convenient for them. Limit your support to your normal waking hours and cut it off an hour before you'd like to sleep, when you're doing your own life stuff and when you know other people they might lean on are sleeping.
        Obviously, this advice is very different for a crisis or situation involving Very Real Issues, but for people who just want someone–anyone–to talk to? You don't have to be just somebody. You can be, if you want to. If you enjoy it. But you don't have to.

        14 agree
    • I don't think this post has anything to do with friendship styles. I think this is a matter of having balanced power dynamics and expectations in a relationship/friendship.

      If one person constantly feels neglected, then the relationship is not healthy and mutually satisfying. If you're regularly inviting someone who lives in the same city as you to hang out, yet they always decline and rarely suggest alternate plans, while their facebook is populated with them checking in at museums and brunch with a whole cast of characters, "I'm busy" is just an excuse.

      If your alleged friend has all this time for other people, it stands to reason, they could find some time for you. That time doesn't necessarily have to be spent hanging out in person.

      I certainly don't think the author is implying that one shouldn't have long distance friendships. It could be a heartfelt card in the mail, a weekly phone call during their commute, a monthly Skype date. True friends invest time in each other, they make sacrifices for each other. Sure, there's some ebb and flow, give and take. You won't always be in perfect equilibrium, but you shouldn't fall into an emotional black hole or a one-side waterfall either.

      9 agree
      • From your perspective (per the comment) a lack of time and a certain level of physical attention mucks with the power dynamic in a relationship. I believe that’s not always the case. And just to clarify my original statement, I was not referring to long-distance friendships. One of my closest friends, someone I’ve known decades, lives twenty minutes away… and I haven’t seen her in almost two months. This is normal to me. I’m an introverted person, and just because I only text sometimes doesn’t mean I don’t care. More importantly I’m extremely busy trying to not capsize a business I’m running. There are variables.

        All that’s a long way and an anecdote to say that people see things differently and sometimes for a person who is especially “high touch” (nothing wrong with that!) things can feel bad for different reasons and more acutely than for someone else who is really busy or introverted.

        That said, no one owes anyone friendship or time really. Both are among the most precious things we have to offer and if a person feels they’re in a one-sided relationship, they can certainly focus their energies elsewhere, where they feel better appreciated. My response was mostly to the concept of “culling” friends and the interpretation of someone else’s lack of attention as a lack of caring. There are people I haven’t seen for years who I still think about regularly—I care about those friends. Do I expect them to set aside a bunch of time for me, given how we never see each other? No. I understand that things change and there isn’t enough time in the day to talk to everyone (or anyone, sometimes). But that doesn’t mean I didn’t care about them then, or now.

        2 agree
        • I'm not suggesting there should be some universal absolute quota of quality time. If your friend who lives twenty minutes away is content with seeing you once every two months, that's great, but that's not what my comment was about. If someone is willing to bend over backwards and move the moon to accommodate your schedule (and you actually care about the relationship–if not, at least be honest with them, don't pretend you miss them and make up conflicts), you should try to meet them halfway. Relationships are about communication and compromise. I have wonderful friends from college that I haven't talked to/seen in months. The point is that that is a comfortable silence. It's not one person putting in all the effort and the other person ignoring the other or making excuses. If I needed them, they would be there for me and vice versa.

          I believe Maya Angelou said it best: "Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option."

          4 agree
        • You've said most of what I wanted to, and this discussion reminded of that 5 Love Languages book that was so popular years ago. Are you a "quality time" person? Or do you communicate love through intimacy, acts of service, or words of affirmation? Maybe you're a gift-giver? It's overly simplistic, but I find this applies to friendship as much as romantic attachment.

          I'm an extreme introvert who is married and a full-time mom to a toddler, and we are juggling enormous extended families who come to stay with us pretty much every six weeks. I also have social anxiety. My emotional well is tapped dry 100% of the time. If my friends "culled" their relationships based on how often they see or speak to me, I'd be gone a long time ago.

          But they grant me the grace to be the person I was born to be–passionate, introspective, a loving but infrequent communicator, introverted but extremely loyal. I never forget a birthday, an anniversary, a holiday card. My friends do wish I was more available, but that is impossible for me. They love me anyway. Yes, both people need to be comfortable with the relationship parameters, but that doesn't mean the person who communicates less is in the wrong when they don't agree. There are many different ways to "put in the effort" in a relationship.

          2 agree
  2. I'm sure I have friends who feel this way, but the truth is the friends I see every week are the ones who come to my house and hang out around my schedule. The ones I see two times a year are the ones that require planning. Not just us both finding mutually available time to get together, but mutually available time to TALK about getting together. Someone who is involved in the hobbies that are the time commitments that keep my schedule full is going to be in my facebook photos and end up with more of my time, even if I "just met them." If you join my LARPs, show up at my house every Sunday, etc, I will see you more. If you don't, making plans becomes genuinely difficult. Not because I *don't* genuinely miss you, but just because I have to find a day or time that doesn't already have a commitment for EITHER of us as opposed to just seeing you during a time and place I was going to be anyway. When deciding how to spend my time, the event where I can see 10 friends will usually win out over the event where I just see one, because I AM busy.

    3 agree
  3. This post feels confusing and vague to me. I think the author is trying to draw life-lessons from a personal situation that sucked. (yeah you for regaining power!) However I don't feel the advice exports very well to others.

    Every relationship is different and you have to decide if it works for you.

    13 agree
  4. I wholly believe there are many different kinds of relationships a person can have, and each one serves a unique purpose. I am married now, and long past my time for casual sexual partners, but there was I time I really valued my "backup" – not because it's only what I needed, but because it worked for both of us. We trusted that our relationship existed under specific parameters, and if there was ever a time when my "backup" wasn't ok with the way our relationship was working, we talked openly about it.

    I now also have friends who I would consider to be "backups." Those friends you call when you really need a wild night of drinking downtown, or the ones who you haven't called in years but you need to vent about your mother and there's nobody else who knows the situation quite like they do. Even my mom has been my "backup" friend to get sex-advice from. My backup friends are no less valuable to me, and at different stages of my life, each of my backup friends was once a front-burner friendship.

    The only person, at this moment, I would never want to consider my "backup" is my husband but that's an entirely different kind of relationship that I intentionally prioritize above most of my other relationships. And even so, he would willingly be my backup for going to the ballet if my backup ballet friend bailed.

    I think the problem in this situation, is the OP's lack of clarity with their friend about what kind of relationship they want to have with their friend. Do they want to be more of this person's top priority? If so, does the friend know that? Do the OP and their friend talk about the parameters of their relationship?

    4 agree
  5. I think the OP was talking about being the backup booty call, in which case I totally agree if you're pursuing a more 'formal' relationship. If it's just a 'you up, you horny, me too, let's get it on' then it's no problem at all and you shouldn't be expecting more from the other person if you're not invested either.

    That said, I don't think that can apply to every different kind of relationship. I usually hang out with my best friend from school about 2-3 times a week. I have a hard time contacting people and making plans because I am very introverted and going through a rough time now, but this girl hasn't given up on me ever (for which I can never be thankful enough) so now we have a routine and I know I can call last minute and cancel if I'm not feeling well (and so can she, of course).

    There are other friends from other walks of life that know that I am always up for coffee/talk/movies but they have to call me first. I am trying to change that.

    You know what they say about friends being like plants. I just hope mine are cacti, because I just don't have the ability to water them every day.

  6. Talking about friendship rather than hookups,I am always a backup or secondary friend, and I gladly take whatever crumbs of affection are thrown at me because being a second tier friend is better than having no friends and that is what cutting people out would lead to.

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