Beware of the Fall-Back Guy
Any smart, resourceful woman knows the value of a back-up plan. Whether it’s lining up your mother in case your babysitter falls through on the day of a crucial job interview or creating your own wealth in case happily ever after doesn’t last very long, a back-up plan can be incredibly useful and rewarding.
Except, of course, when the back-up is seriously fucked-up.
I met my fall-back guy several years ago. He was tall and fine and came along at just the right time. I wasn’t emotionally strong enough for anything serious. This man filled my needs for companionship and comfort without all the scary commitment. He was exciting and fun. I got a thrill when he’d call in the middle of the night and say he was on his way. I liked the fact the he wouldn’t stick around long enough for us to run out of things to talk about. Still, in the back of my mind, I thought that we’d eventually settle into something more traditional.
Over time, as I grew stronger, commitment seemed less scary and more like a necessity. I knew that by asking for more I was altering the terms of our informal agreement, but surely he wanted more from me, too.
He made it clear that he never would. I swallowed this and other indignities like gummy bears, knowing the damage they’d do to my internal organs. Fall-back was sweet and sticky and the source of many a late-night craving. I quit him. Over and over again. Any reformed addict knows that you can’t quit cold turkey! So I took a different approach and set out to wean myself off of him.
Instead of weaning, I settled into a dynamic that was far less than what I now wanted: a proper, grown up, mutually satisfying, committed relationship. At the time, I didn’t feel like I was compromising (i.e. playing) myself. I told myself that I was free to pursue other interests and I eventually did just that. It never occurred to me that I wasn’t fully invested in my new romantic pursuits because I hadn’t completely disentangled myself from the old one. I embraced the idea that having a back-up plan was both practical and smart. No different than the spare tire you keep in the trunk in case of a flat.
I began to think of him like an old blanket that I’d occasionally throw over my body for warmth and comfort. However, the old blanket was starting to get itchy and holey. Between romantic dalliances with far more suitable men, I continued to “fall back”, wrapping myself ever tighter with that itchy, old blanket, knowing it was stupid and unhealthy. The biggest itch was that he became less available to me. He always seemed to expect me to be on standby with my legs open, but he was never open to me in any meaningful way. Unlike the adorable Linus from the Peanuts comic strip, I was a grown-ass woman. It was well past time to throw that security blanket away!
I can do bad all by myself. I’d rather be alone than be in bad company. I admire women who not only say these things, but truly believe them and live their lives this way. Scared as hell, and honestly, a bit unsure of myself, I took a page from their playbook and finally let go of my sweet, sticky, itchy, holey fall-back guy.
So wrapped up, I couldn’t even see that I was the Fall-Back girl. Forget about being the main chick, or the sidepiece or even a friend with benefits. Somehow I’d allowed myself to fall into a category even less desirable than those. I wasn’t able to turn to this man when I needed someone. I had to wait for him to be bored enough to call me. The arrangement wasn’t equitable or fair and was starting to have an adverse effect on my psyche and self-esteem. I no longer felt like a bold, empowered, modern woman with options (if I ever truly did).
I’m not opposed to the idea of having a fall-back guy. I just didn’t do it right. I was too emotionally involved for far too long. While I didn’t come to the conclusion quickly, I’m glad I finally realized that I’d rather fall on my face than fall back on my fall-back guy ever again.
A Fall-Back guy can be a very useful tool, when used correctly.
The Top 3 Reasons Women Have a Fall-Back Guy:
You don’t want to be alone. Even when you’re fed up with men and/or don’t have the energy to be in a real relationship, you still don’t want to feel totally alone.
You need sex. Getting a tune-up. Clearing the cobwebs. Gettin’ your mind right. Whatever the euphemism, sometimes you just need to get laid. And getting “strange” can be awkward and unsafe.
You need a confidence booster. When you’re feeling unattractive or unlovable, you know there’s at least one guy out there who totally finds you attractive.
Warning Signs that Women should Get Rid of a Fall-Back Guy:
You’re catching feelings. Turning a fall-back guy into a keeper is a tricky, nearly impossible task. You may be setting yourself up for heartbreak if you fall in love with your fall-back.
Things become lopsided. As long as you and your fall-back have a mutually beneficial arrangement, there’s nothing wrong with falling back on each other from time to time. If he becomes inaccessible (perhaps because he’s found himself a girlfriend?), it may be a sign that you should move on.
You’re spending too much time together. If he is too accessible, then he’s probably getting in the way of you finding a meaningful relationship. A fall-back is meant to be a temporary crutch, not a man stand-in.