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11 Signs You Might Be a Placeholder

Worried that you're just his plaything until he finds "The One?" If you notice these things happening in your relationship, you might be a placeholder.

By Mackenzie Z. KennedyPublished 5 years ago 8 min read

I remember the first time I realized that my now-ex was using me as a placeholder. I thought we had a perfect relationship. We were young. We were attractive. We had nights filled with laughter, adventures, and lovemaking galore.

By all definitions, people thought we were the perfect couple—and in my eyes, we totally were. But, as days began to march forward, something started to feel off.

He seemed more distant. I noticed him flirting with other people. The talk about future plans and vacations began to dwindle, and he started to talk about his own future separate from me. These were red flags and I picked up on them.

I got nervous and started to push for commitment. We had already been together for years, so why not get married? He kept telling me he'd do it later, but then would come up with another stumbling block that would inevitably delay a proposal.

People started to ask what was going on. Why wasn't our relationship progressing? I couldn't come up with an answer. I tried to overcome each stumbling block. I'd get thinner. I'd make more money. I'd smile and wave at our friends, hoping it'd be enough—but it never was.

One day, I overheard him talking to a guy friend on the phone. What I heard, I'll never forget:

"Yeah, she's a nice girl, but I'll never marry her. She's good for the time being, though."

It hurt on a visceral level.

It was then I found out that I was a placeholder, nothing more than a stepping stone he used to remain entertained while he searched for "The One." I knew what I had to do.

That night, I packed up all my things without saying a word. I stopped answering his calls and told people what was going on. He denied it, then claimed I was abusive—and because he had an innocent veneer, people believed him.

It was a very rough breakup, to say the least. People didn't believe me at first, and I was treated like a bad guy. After he dated my friend and behaved similarly, people realized I was being truthful.

Since then, I've made a point not to be a placeholder. I also make it a point to warn others when I think they are getting placeholder status. It's way more common than you think.

Worried you're being used as a "right now" rather than a "right?" Watch for these signs that you might be a placeholder.

"Marriage" might as well be a four-letter word.

Most people who get into committed relationships do so with the understanding that the relationship could turn into something serious. So, eventually, the person you're dating will talk about marriage or something that's similarly committed.

If your partner doesn't really talk about marriage, then you should be concerned. This is an indicator that you might be a placeholder while your partner gets their shit together for "The One" to enter their lives.

There will be people who say they'll protect your heart, but in reality, they have no intention of seeing the relationship through.

Or, if they do mention marriage, it'll be negative or perennially postponed.

The thing about placeholder relationships is that most people who "run" them tend to have a strategy to keep their partners around. The two most common strategies they will use are mockery and deflection.

Some will flat-out mock marriage and say it's stupid as a way to make their partners feel embarrassed or wrong for asking them to commit. This keeps their partners quiet, but may also make some people try harder to please them.

Another method would be to deflect marriage questions. So, they'll say that it'll be "later" without giving a date. Or, the partner in question may end up saying that they'll only marry when certain (nearly impossible) requirements are met—then move the goalposts.

Either way, they will make it clear that they are not going to commit in full.

He doesn't prioritize you.

People who want to commit are people who will prioritize their partners. They will date them, even when it's not convenient for them to do so. They will make it a point to shower them with gifts and do things that take effort.

Take a look at your relationship and see how your partner treats you. Though there are some placeholder relationships that involve a partner that treats you well, most are lacking in one way or another. It's one of those serious red flags.

Does it often feel like your partner calls the shots when it comes to where you go, how they see you, and what you do? Does it feel like you have to fight for his attention? If so, you might be in a placeholder relationship.

Your partner doesn't introduce you to his family or close friends.

For someone that's looking for a placeholder relationship, the worst possible thing to happen would be having their placeholder form bonds with their family and friends. It's easy to understand why, too.

If you bond with their loved ones, their loved ones may pressure him to marry you. The last thing he wants to do is talk about marriage. To prevent that, people who view their partners as placeholders will avoid introducing you to friends and family.

Isolating you from parts of his life isn't good. It's one of those toxic traits we're too scared to recognize. He doesn't have plans for a long term relationship.

You have to force your partner to show you on social media.

A person who wants to commit to you will make it a point of showing their good intentions by flaunting their partnership. They will post their partners all over social media, talk about how great their love is, and also just bring them everywhere.

Committed relationships involve a lot of integration into each other's lives. Most placeholders won't get that same amount of integration—or if they do, it's because one partner keeps pushing for it.

If you feel like you have to force your partner to flaunt you or include you in their lives, you might be a placeholder. If they straight up refuse to do so, you definitely are a placeholder.

It's all about your partner.

If you haven't figured out, being the type of person to use another human being as a placeholder means you have to be selfish. Heck, I'll call a spade a spade, "place holding" a person is an extremely narcissistic thing to do.

People who place hold their partners tend to have a very high self-esteem, often to the point of delusion. They may honestly think no one is good enough for them, or that they deserve a partner who is leagues above them.

If you're dating a seriously self-centered, narcissistic, and arrogant personality, chances are that they have used placeholders before—or that you're their current placeholder.

You often feel like your partner has an entire PR campaign going on about him.

This should have been the biggest tip-off that something wasn't right with my ex, but hey, love is blind, right? A person who's dating someone while also looking for "The One" is going to try to keep their options as open as possible—and that includes coming up with excuses as to why he's taken.

My ex was excellent when it came to "framing" the relationship and shaming me into scuttling away. He'd regularly present himself as an eligible bachelor in an open relationship, flirt with other women, then deny everything when I'd confront him about it.

If I started to act up, he'd be the one to dismiss it, saying that I was acting out and being bipolar. He'd often speak on my behalf, and then tweak things to put him in a better light.

What he was doing was gaming the people around us, making it look like I was an overbearing, clingy girlfriend. That way, if he met someone better, it'd look like she "saved him" from me.

Trying to plan things never works with him.

Plans are for people who have commitment in mind—and this is true in both the long and short term. So, what does that mean for you? It means that you can tell where you stand with a person by how your plans with them pan out.

When you're a placeholder for a person, you will not be able to nail down long-term plans. At times, you might not even manage to get short-term plans to work out. Red flags abound here.

If you want some really solid evidence of placeholder relationship status, check how they handle holiday plans. A person who somehow always fumbles holiday plans or finds excuses to go solo is a person who probably sees you as a placeholder.

You've caught your partner on Tinder, OKCupid, Match, and more.

Here's the thing about being a placeholder that you need to understand: They are still looking for "The One." That means that your partner, whether you want to acknowledge it or not, is still on the prowl.

My relationship with my ex was a perfect example of this. He would actively flirt with other women in front of me, or behind my back after claiming I was forcing him to be with me.

Most guys and girls who have placeholders will go to online dating sites to try to find a better match. They also will cheat until they're ready to leave for a "better" partner.

If you regularly find your partner cheating on you or cruising for other women, then you might be a placeholder. Or, he could just be a cheater. Either way, it's not a good look. Dump his filthy, cheating ass.

It's a rebound relationship.

Rebound relationships are very rarely relationships that blossom into commitment. Rather, they tend to be bandaids that are slapped on open emotional wounds or ways to prove to an ex that they can have a happy relationship.

Does it seem like your partner is still getting over an ex? Did he breakup with someone not too long before the two of you got together? You might be his bandaid, rather than his "one."

These are dreadful signs that a breakup is imminent. I know that it's hard to think about when you care about someone, but there are rules for breaking up. If pain is imminent, it's better to rip that bandaid off sooner and work on bouncing back.

He sometimes makes comments that suggest you two won't be together.

Finally, one of the most telling signs you might be a placeholder for your partner deals with what they say to you. When you're committed to someone, there's no way you would tell them anything that'd suggest you'd dump them.

On the other hand, a lot of placeholders will make it a point of hinting that the relationship has an expiration date. They may mention breaking up after school, saying that you'll "make someone really happy someday," or may tell you they don't want a long term relationship.

If someone tells you that they don't want to keep you, believe them. It'll save you a lot of heartbreak in the future.


About the Creator

Mackenzie Z. Kennedy

Socialite and dating guru Mackenzie Kennedy knows all about the inner workings of people and society as a whole. It's not only her lifestyle - it's her passion. She lives in Hoboken with her pet dogs, Cassie and Callie.

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  • CK Floralabout a year ago

    I need to speak up and say the marriage thing is more your opinion than actual truth. YOU might believe that you must be married and have a legal contract to prove (or in some cases, keep) love - based purely on the fact that "everyone else" has told you that that is how you supposed to think, behave and feel. However, you cannot try to wish your beliefs on everyone else. Not everyone wants to follow or do things just because other people say that that is what you're "supposed" to do. Besides, I would much rather be in a natural genuine loving relationship where both people are together (and remain together) because both genuinely WANT to, as oppose to feeling the need of an unnatural contract legally forcing us to stay together with threaten of financial or other punishment whether we truly and naturally continue to want to be together or not. I would not want to be with someone who needs a contract in order to force them to be with me, and for men who date in western culture, it is very wise NOT to marry these days (or date in western culture in general... but that is another story). While some points made here are legitimate, it sounds very much like typical case of someone being bitter over chasing or giving themselves to the "wrong type" of men then being mistreated in typical ways. I see a lot of "typical evidence" typed here that I have seen from every western woman who chase men they complain about while rejecting the type of men they claim to want that tells me my assumption is right (such as the obsession with labeling people and the overuse of words like "narcissist," etc. that negative minded westerners love to use to label others, often doing it only because everyone else is doing it without even really knowing the actual definition of the negative labels they use on others. That word is actually overused (by typical minded westerners) to the point that I cannot even take someone seriously anymore once they start tossing out that label at others - as it sounds like, yet again, another person just doing something because everyone else is doing it or thinks it is cool/cute, etc). Anyway, I am not really here to get too in depth about anything else other than the marriage aspect. Whatever happened between you and your exes is your business. But you cannot wish your beliefs about marriage on anyone else. You have been conditioned to believe marriage is a requirement because everyone else or maybe even a religion told you that that is what you're supposed to believe. But, like I said above, not everyone wishes to follow other people's beliefs. One thing that can factually be said is that two people who are and remain together *by natural personal choice and desire* are much more genuine than anyone dating anyone who believes a legal government contract must be present for both people in a relationship to feel complete. But some people love to invite unnecessary stress and chaos into their lives or relationship by trying to follow rules of society or a religion or any other things other than each other's raw, genuine feelings and desires. Then we wonder why the world is the way it is and why we are unhappy. Lastly, if anyone is having an actual pattern of being mistreated in similar ways in a relationship, they probably should be thinking less about marriage or traditional expectations of others and start thinking about discontinuing to give themselves to the type of people that they are constantly complaining about. After all, it is apparent that all the warning signs are known if an entire article can be written about it. Therefore, no similar experience should easily happen again - unless, of course, the men you're complaining about are truly the type of men you're seeking and attracted to. Continue with this typical western lifestyle combined with trying to follow traditions and beliefs you were conditioned to believe and you will find yourself typing with experience about divorce. You should also really take time to think and ask yourself, does marriage even make any rational sense in reality? Forget what others have told you or expect of you and forget rules of society and trying to impress people and focus purely on the question. Have you yourself even naturally kept anyone (who isn't obligated by being defined as family) in your life forever (or plan to)? Do you genuinely believe you can feel GENUINE natural desire and attraction for someone for the remainder of your life if you were to both live past 80? Keep in mind that without attraction and romantic desire to be with someone intimately, you are nothing more than friends or roommates, regardless of whatever contract you use to convince yourself you are happy and make yourself feel like you are doing the right things just because others have taught you that you "have to" go that route. Do you even know the actual basis and initial historical reasons for the existence of the beliefs you're now following and trying to wish on others? Do you realize marriage can also be used not only as a placeholder, but as an attempt to get a reward from or punish the person who has become the placeholder? I would advise you to REALLY think about it all rationally and ask yourself why you believe a government contract (marriage) is a necessity to feel a relationship is genuine. Were you born with that automatic belief, or did someone teach you to believe that? Really think about it instead of being quick to emotionally respond. I won't be back to read any replies. I only came to try to remind people that marriage is a belief/ belief system that is not an actual requirement for a genuinely desired romantic (not friendship/roommate!) relationship to exist. People have been in love and genuinely together BY CHOICE well before marriage was even invented. Have a great day.

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