Playing The Substitute Game. Part 1
In sports, substitutions are generally made to replace tired or injured players or to replace those who are not performing well. In relationships, the game of substitution is also played. Someone else is being used as a filler or to replace a significant other for a variety of reasons. Often, it is a game where the party involved doesn’t even know he/ she is playing it. The substitute boyfriend/girlfriend just seems to creep up on you like a habit you didn’t know you had. It doesn’t even matter whether one or both of you are in a relationship. Chances are it can still happen if you’re not careful.
At the outset, the said person just seems like a good friend-someone who gets you and that you really connect with but later on becomes a filler for a relationship in more ways than one. Let’s take a look at some of them
Characteristics of substitute partners
1. They are right beside you: Most often, the substitute partner is someone who you often come in close contact with. They might be your neighbors, flat mates or people you work with but they are people who you very likely have to see every day. The regular contact is usually the stimulus that plunges you into the relationship in the first place.
2. You make plans together both short term and long term: You find yourself hanging out a lot with this person whether it’s going to the movies, to have dinner or just to spend time together to talk over your day. Sometimes they fit you into their long term plans like ask you to go with them to their sister’s wedding coming up in three months or invite themselves to your social event at the end of the year as your escort.
3. People start regarding you as a couple: You have to answer embarrassing questions especially from your same sex friends. Endless teasing about how this person likes you and when you guys are going to start officially dating. Your explanations of your just being friends even begins to sound hollow to your ears.
4. You communicate throughout the day: Just like a regular relationship, you keep on communicating even when you’re apart for some hours whether it’s with phone, text or e-mail. If the other person has to travel even for a day, there are expressions of how much he/she misses you.
All in all, you guys act like you’re a couple! And at the back of your mind, you begin to believe that you really are a couple even though nothing has been said. Now that we have noted some of the characteristics of substitute partners, let’s examine why people have them in the first place.
Reasons for having substitute partners.
1. Loneliness: One party may be single and the friendship started out of a desire for companionship but rapidly progressed into something else yet there has been no mutual agreement for dating. Another scenario is that this person seems to be more readily available than the person you are actually in a relationship with. Some people started dating so early that being on their own terrifies them and they need someone to depend on so they don’t mind filling in with substitutes.
2. Greed: One or both of you may already have a partner and everything is going well in the relationship but you love the thrill of seeking for more out of plain greed. The truth is, no one person has it all. Even if both of you are single, you are doing yourselves a disservice by robbing the other of the opportunity to meet other potential partners.
3. Less communication with the real partner: Perhaps due to one problem or the other there is not enough communication with the real partner. There is something about good honest communication that keeps a relationship going. If it is not happening there might be the temptation to look for a substitute.
4. Long distance relationships: This increases the risk of it happening because if both partners are far apart physically, there is room for someone else who is much closer physically to fill up that need. This does not mean that everyone who is in a long distance relationship automatically has a substitute. Some couples have discovered how to cope and yet remain emotionally faithful despite the distance. (more on that later)
5. As filler for a breakup: After a breakup, the substitute game can be like a rebound thing. One party is hurt and feeling vulnerable and will accept any form of comfort that comes their way even from a substitute.
Whatever the reason is for having substitute partners, it is dangerous. In nearly all cases, one or both parties might end up getting hurt. Things usually get messy. The real partner may dissolve the relationship. In the long run, playing the substitute game is never worth it. No one scores any goal or makes a touchdown. At the end of the day, a lot of energy and time has been invested in something that wasn’t meant to be. Never get tempted to play the substitute game. Stick with the player God has given you and try to fix whatever is broken. Chances are that’s when you’ll score a winning goal in the game of life.
P.S: In Part 2, we examine how to avoid entering the pitfalls of the substitute game.