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Sick of being the "foster girlfriend" in every relationship? Here's how to avoid it.

My friend Erin is a "foster" girlfriend. She’s what Urban Dictionary defines as, "A guy/girl who dates someone until that other person finds their forever partner."

The last four men she’s dated have each gotten engaged/married to the woman they dated directly after her, and she has specific characteristics that has made it difficult for her to have and maintain long-term relationships.

While some people might feel happy for their exes because they hadn’t seen a future with them, Erin didn’t feel that way. She’s beautiful, whip-smart, and responsible, yet time after time, she’s been upset about being just a brief footnote in someone’s romantic history.

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"Why am I the one to help these men find their wife while I stay single!" she’s said to me more than once.

She longs to find her "home," of feeling close and complete with another person. Yet she, and other "fosters" generally have some behaviours that make it hard for them to get "taken." They are:

  • spending most of their energy focusing on their career or crossing things off their bucket list.
  • communicating sporadically with the people they’re interested in.
  • not enjoying the "romantic" part of romantic relationships.
  • preferring to spend time alone.
  • going on low-effort dates.
  • never bringing up long-term plans.

If a "foster" really wants to be in a long-term romantic relationship, then their actions need to align with their words. There’s absolutely nothing wrong in being single, but if you want a serious relationship, here are ways to start moving toward that:

1. Evaluate your priorities and long-term goals.

A job will never hold your hand while you’re waiting to go back for surgery. It won’t show up at your parent’s funeral or kiss you goodnight before bed. 

In essence, no matter how much you love your job and your career, it will never love you back.

Crossing items off your bucket list or obsessing about ways and means to make more money are fine too, but you might realise eventually that hiking Mt. Everest or spending lavishly isn’t as enjoyable without someone to share it with.

Having close relationships is a prerequisite for a happy and healthy life. The stronger your relationships correlates to the greater your happiness. This can mean close familial or friend relationships, but for many, it means a romantic one as well.

If you truly want a long-term relationship, that means your priorities and goals will need to shift to accommodate that.

Cut down on your excursions and try to spend a little more time in one place. 

Leave work every night at 6pm instead of staying until 11pm. 

Be more discerning about who you accept or ask on dates. 

Make sure the people you’re pursuing are also interested in pursuing a long-term relationship by letting them know what you’re interested in upfront.

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2. Work on your issues around relationships.

Dr. Amir Levine and Rachel Heller in their book, Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find — and Keep — Love, call "fosters" those with "avoidant" attachment issues.

They define avoidant people as those who "equate intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly try to minimise closeness."

If you have another issue that makes you want to minimise closeness (such as PTSD from previous sexual abuse, etc.), this doesn’t apply to you. 

This is for those who feel a romantic partner would impinge on their ability to do whatever they want.

Her issues, Erin would attest, come from her past. She’s recently started addressing them by seeing a therapist. 

You too could get help by seeing a therapist, counsellor, or relationship coach, and/or reading some books on attachment issues, such as Attached by Dr. Levine and Heller.

3. Make an effort on dating and dates.

One of my readers said they had no desire to change any aspect of their life for someone they didn’t know well yet.

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Love is a risk that may not pay off. You may spend months or years with someone that doesn’t end up being your spouse. 

You may even move across the country for someone who dumps you as soon as you arrive. There’s no guarantees in this life, especially not in love.

The only thing you can do is continue to put yourself out there. Put an effort into your appearance. Purchase the services of a professional matchmaker, or thoughtfully screen dates on your own. 

Say in your dating profiles that you’re interested in relationships that may become serious, and only accept and go on dates with people who say they are interested in the same thing.

Once you’ve begun dating someone, regularly communicate with them, even if it’s just a "How are you doing today?" or a quick response to their text.

Schedule plans when you can and keep reminding yourself that you prioritise time with special people.

Remember to pay attention to their actions instead of their words. Is this person you’ve begun dating telling you they want a serious relationship, but they’re always too busy to schedule time with you? 

Just because they’re dating you doesn’t mean you should be dating them. They may not be the person for you, and that’s okay. Learn from it and keep going.

None of us can live without healthy relationships, including you. 

While it may take some work on your part if you’re interested in a romantic relationship, anyone can make the necessary changes if they truly want to, and who doesn’t want to have greater life happiness?

This post originally appeared on Medium and has been republished here with full permission.

Tara Blair Ball is a freelance writer and author of The Beginning of the End. Check out her website here or find her on Twitter: @taraincognito.

Feature Image: Getty. The feature image used is a stock image.

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