I am blessed to have a friend in my life who is not inhibited by social graces like tact. If I ever need an opinion, I can depend on him to speak hard truth into my life, generally in the most blunt form possible. Fortunately, he is almost always dead-on in his observations, which is why I go back to him again and again, regardless of the form in which his wisdom is dispensed.
For example, he recently introduced me to a term that I have since found to be both descriptive and extremely accurate. The term is “girlfriend place-holder.” According to my friend, a lot of guys will have a female friend in their life that virtually functions as a girlfriend in every way–they talk a lot, spend a great deal of one-on-one time together, even go on pseudo-dates and act flirtatious. For all intents and purposes it would seem that the guy is interested, yet he never actually wants to commit. In fact, he never even broaches the topic of dating.
Why? Because, as my friend describes it, this girl is serving as a “girlfriend place-holder.” Though probably doing so unintentionally, some guys will keep a female friend around to hold the place of a girlfriend. In a sense, they are filling their time until they meet the girl they *really* want to date.
As my friend explained it, we all want companionship in some form or another, so even if we haven’t met Mr. or Mrs. Right just yet, many of us will find someone to meet those desires until the “real thing” comes along. And guys aren’t the only ones guilty of doing this. Girls do it just as much. Ladies, I’m sure you can think back to someone in your past, if not someone RIGHT NOW, who is serving as a boyfriend place-holder for you. He’s great because he’ll pay for things when you go out, and he’s always available if you’re bored, but you have absolutely no intention of dating him.
What is interesting about this form of guy-girl relationship is that it is deceptively intimate. Unlike blatant serial flirting in which you can easily spot the players you need to avoid, place-holding seems more real and more deep. After all, it is based upon an actual friendship, so there is more to it than simply having fun. And that is what often keeps the “place-holders” hanging on so long–because there is depth to the relationship, they hold out hope that sooner or later the guy or girl will snap out of it: “One of these days he’s going to wake up and realize what a good thing he has right in front of him.” That sort of thing. In this way, these relationships can actually result in far greater emotional damage than shallower versions of its kind. Place-holders will more easily open up and make themselves vulnerable since they feel they can trust the other person.
This ultimately leaves the “place-holder” feeling confused and hurt, and sometimes devastated. I have a number of girl friends right now who are in this exact situation. They have a close guy friend that they spend a great deal of time with, but he just won’t commit. In fact, he won’t even bring up any sort of conversation relating to the romantic nature of their relationship. Perhaps the guy is simply afraid of commitment, but in many cases, as my guy friend explains it, these guys have no intention of dating at all. They are unintentionally using these young women as girlfriend place-holders.
Now I think it’s pretty obvious that this kind of relationship is not honoring to the “place-holder” involved, so if you can think of someone in your life who plays that role, then you should seriously consider cutting it off. Even if you are both using each other, and neither person necessarily has the upper hand, you are still not treating them as the brother and sister in Christ that they are. And more importantly, if you think a guy or girl might be treating YOU as a place-holder, then get out of that relationship, and fast! That is NOT how God intended you to be treated–you are to be loved and desired extravagantly, so anyone who makes you feel inadequate or unworthy of love is falling way short of that mark.
In addition to all that, if you have a friend who is treating someone as a place-holder, call them out! Guys, don’t let your friends treat girls that way–if you look the other way when your friends do this, then you are no better than they are since you clearly don’t respect your sister enough to stand up for her. And ladies, the same goes for you. No guy deserves to be strung along, so hold your friends accountable on their behalf.
And finally, don’t forget to reflect on why it is you need a place-holder in the first place. God is always sufficient, so if He hasn’t provided you with a spouse yet, He is still more than enough for you to be content. At the end of the day, that is the key issue here, so be sure not to cover it up with a girlfriend or boyfriend place-holder. Place-holding is little more than the symptom of a dissatisfied heart.