A literal example (image via The Tab)
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A literal example (image via The Tab)

Chances are you’re either currently backburning someone, have backburned someone before or are simmering on someone else’s backburner.

What exactly is backburning? Whether you’re single or in a relationship, at some point you have most likely had that one acquaintance whom you could see yourself dating, but just didn’t date for some reason. You don’t constantly text or even see each other very often; you just shoot them a “hey there, how’s it going” message once every two weeks or so.   

The two of you keep it relatively platonic, with the occasional flirty text or winking emoji just to let them know that the two of you might possibly enter a full-blown relationship at some point. However, for whatever reason, that time is not now. That’s why you put them on the backburner. 

Maybe you’re already in a relationship, but you’re still backburning a casual friend. They’re not your primary choice as a partner; still, they check off enough boxes on your “ideal partner” list to put them in a close second. So you keep them around, just in case things don’t work out with your current significant other.

However, the truth is that it probably would never work out between you and your backburner. Even if you did get together, they’d always register in your brain as your second choice. And that won’t be fun for anyone.

To make it clear, backburning doesn’t mean cheating on your significant other. While in a relationship, you usually keep the situation between you and your backburner mostly platonic because you really do want things to work with your current relationship. The backburner is just a safety net. 

If you do cheat on your partner with a backburner, you have officially changed their status from “backburner” to “side piece.” But that’s another story.  

Of course, you don’t necessarily need to be in a relationship to backburn somebody. Maybe you’re just too focused on school or work to have time for a relationship.

That guy you keep on the backburner probably isn’t a viable relationship option (Image via Broadly)

You just keep a couple prospects on your backburner; when the time comes and you’re ready for a relationship, you’ll already have them right at your fingertips. That way, you don’t have to worry about being a lonely cat-lady or cat-man forever (unless that’s what you’re into, of course).

Additionally, you might just keep backburning people out of boredom. Whenever you have some downtime and you realize that your phone is dry AF, it can be a little disheartening. You tell yourself that something is probably just wrong with your phone because there’s just no way that not one person is hitting you up, but you and I both know that isn’t the case. 

So, backburning a few people can come in handy whenever you feel bored and lonely. When nobody else is available, they can provide that sense of connection and attention that you really need but don’t want to admit to needing. 

Then, whenever you snap back and realize how much of an amazing person you are, you don’t have to text that backburner back. Most importantly, you don’t need to explain yourself to them on why you didn’t respond to that conversation about your favorite ice cream flavors. 

While backburning may seem like just another relationship trend for millennials, it really isn’t a new concept. Maybe social media and texting have made it easier for people to engage in backburning, but they didn’t start the trend. In fact, your parents have probably engaged in backburning at some point.   

People used to refer to it as the “little black book,” a list of people they could call on the land line to engage in conversation (or more) but had no real intentions of making things official with. I won’t go any further than that though; thinking of your parent’s little black book can be a tad bit disturbing. 

And here lies all of your backburner relationship options (Image via Texas Tech Journalism)

Although having a backburner might seem like a shady thing to do, when you think about it, it’s totally natural. Most people have that instinctual drive to be intimate with another person, so it makes sense to have someone there that you can bring to the forefront just in case you run out of other options. 

Even so, it sucks when you’re aware that someone else is backburning you. Sometimes it does all work out, and you both have that mutual understanding that you are each other’s second choices. Still, if you really do like this person and want a relationship, it definitely is not fun to be on the backburner. 

If you recognize that you’re being backburned and aren’t okay with it, then do yourself a favor, cease communication and block them. Even if they can’t see you as anything but a backburner, you are too tasty to not be someone’s main entrée. 

If you’re currently backburning somebody, didn’t really realize it until you read this and now feel guilty about it, then hey, now you know! Turn off those other burners and focus on the one you care about the most. That way, you may place all your energy on the main dish without having to spread yourself thin making sure you still have those pots simmering in the background. 

However, if your backburner is backburning you too and everything is working out great with your mutual understanding, there’s no harm in keeping it simmering. Just make sure you have a mutual understanding. That way, nobody has to get burned.

Writer Profile

Sarah Marchan

University of Texas at San Antonio

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