Back Burners – those ‘maybe one day’ relationship candidates. Those guys we keep on standby in case our current relationship hits the skids, or for when we’re feeling lonely or need help getting through a sexual dry spell. They are the guys we know that due to other obligations or priorities, current partner or basic incompatibilities, a real relationship with them just wouldn’t work out. Or would it?
Studies show that whether you’re single or in a relationship, it’s perfectly natural for individuals to have a “little black book” of alternates. The statistic holds true for both straights and gays. Although most of our straight counterparts understand the security and validity that second-string partners can provide, as a gay man, the BBB is more than a convenient accessory, he is an important element of survival. A lesson I learned from Auntie Blanche and the Golden Girls.
Remember Mel Bushman, “The Zipper King”?
Picture it: 1991, The Golden Girls, season 6, episode 19; “Melodrama”. Mel Bushman, may have been “The Zipper King” of Miami, but was far from socialite royalty and more like “Fred Flintstone, with a better car.” He was an average, rough around the edges, blue-collar type. In contrast to Blanche, Mel was neither refined nor sophisticated, and yet he was Blanche’s ‘go to’ guy whenever one of her dates stood her up or when she was feeling old, unattractive, or suffering through a dating slump. “The Zipper King” was Blanche’s BBB.
The perils of dating in the gay community are well documented and most of us have the scars to prove it. No one makes it through life unscathed, and it’s best not to have to go through it alone. And why should we? At some point, don’t we all need to have our own “Mel Bushman”?
These days through social media, cell phones, computers, etc., it’s easier than ever to keep up with, and maintain our list of relationship alternatives. A simple ‘Like’, or the mention of an inside joke in their comment’s section, even something as innocuous as sharing a meme, can keep our back-ups meals simmering. The goal is to dangle your carrot just out of reach so when/if you decide to crank up the heat a bit, that dish is hot and good to go.
So, is there anything wrong with having a Back Burner Boyfriend? Why shouldn’t we hedge our bets and keep a spare or two lying around for emergencies, if our existing relationship hits the skids, or our current object of affection turns out to be a major twat? What could possibly go wrong?
In case there is any doubt, as a single gay man, STILL in the dating game, I can tell you that the Back Burner Boyfriend is very much a key player in relationships. And rightfully so.
The BBB offers several advantages. For starters, a BBB can take the edge off of a fresh breakup. I’d say close to 90% of gay relationships are ticking time bombs. And when that tick goes BOOM, it’s nice to have a couple of options in your back pocket to help you through the heartache. Of course it’s healthy to take some private time to process and come to grips with the end of any meaningful relationship but when it’s 3 a.m. on a Tuesday morning and you’ve grown tired of listening to your Adele playlist and crying in your herbal tea, believe me when I tell you that the quickest way to get over a man is to get under one.
The Back Burner Boyfriend is also convenient to have around for the reliable ego boost a BBB can provide. On those days when your hair won’t cooperate, you’re feeling ugly and your ‘fat’ clothes are getting a little snug, a romp in the hay with a BBB can be a nice reminder that you that you won’t be alone forever; you are still dateable, likeable, attractive, and desirable. Even at your lowest, isn’t it comforting to know there is someone who will still suck your dick and tell u you’re pretty? Yes. It is.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of having a BBB is the opportunity to enjoy all of the hot sex and stimulating adoration we seek from our partners, minus the day-to-day drama or shackles of commitment. That’s a pretty good perk.
However, there is a caveat. If you are a commitment-phobe who chronically puts potential mates on the back burner for fear of the responsibilities and commitment of a real relationship, these ‘advantages’ could be a red flag. Keeping a potential suitor in limbo while you wait for the day when that you’re finally ‘ready’ to take the plunge is a crapshoot. What if that day never comes, or comes too late? No one likes feeling second best so don’t be surprised if on the day you’re ‘ready’, they already left.
Another mistake that should be avoided in Plan B relationships is the practice of putting a relationship candidate on the back burner because he doesn’t meet every requirement on your idealistic, life-partner checklist. Constantly searching and holding out for something better can sometimes leave you holding nothing at all.
The ideal Back Burner relationships are the ones where there’s a mutual understanding that any attempt at a real commitment just wouldn’t work. Neither is leading the other on. They may care deeply for one another but for whatever reason, the pursuit of anything more than what they already share is futile.
It’s important to remember that, be it front burner or back burner, you’re playing with fire; when that mutual understanding begins to tip, someone usually gets burned
And that’s what happened to Blanche Devereaux and “The Zipper King”. Unable to reach Mel during one of her needy moments, Blanche becomes concerned. When several of Blanche’s phone messages go unanswered, she assumes the worst. Fearing him dead, Blanche decides she wants their relationship to get more serious. That’s one of the pitfalls of having The Back Burner Boyfriend; more than likely one of you will begin daydreaming about the ‘what if’ aspects of your relationship, and will start wanting more. Surveys suggest that in every back-up or alternate affair, someone is going to tire of being another man’s left-overs and will want to move from being a tasty midnight snack, up to the hot flaming entrée.
Of course, the obstacle being that the relationship was founded on the agreement that anything more than the occasional Netflix and chill wasn’t an option. As a result, a once sizzling dish gets put on ice, as it did with Blanche and Mel. The lesson to be learned here is to leave well enough alone.
The BBB dynamic can be a healthy one as long as you’re wearing your Big Boy pants. Intimacy, emotions, honesty, and integrity are adult topics that need to be dealt with in an adult manner. Be crystal clear with your intentions. Playing games with people’s emotions is cruel, and it isn’t fair.
When you are single, the concerns of having a Back Burner Boyfriend are virtually non-existent. What consenting adults do behind closed doors is nobody’s business. Within a committed relationship however, the presence of any sort of Back Burner Boyfriend is like dousing gasoline on a flame.
Once you’ve decided to enter into a relationship with the mate of your choice, staying in contact with your pre-boyfriend Back Burners isn’t advisable, and will only serve to chip away the trust factor that you should be trying to build with your new man. Holding onto your Plan B options when you are in a relationship becomes almost a self-fulfilling prophecy, as it suggests an underlying belief in the relationship’s demise. And if you’ve already conceded to impending doom, how much of a fight are you really going to put up when the sky begins to fall?
Relationships are hard. Every relationship needs a firm foundation if it’s expected to go the distance. Those first few months together, are critical to the building stage. Any indiscretion, no matter how insignificant can destroy that foundation. That’s why it’s important to leave your stand-in lovers at the threshold. Keeping a line of communication open with past or present Back Burner Boyfriends, while in our current relationship, can be considered by many (myself included) to be a form of emotional cheating. Not quite sins of the flesh, but not far from it. Let’s say that you’re using an old Plan B as a source of comfort when the road gets rough with your current partner. It isn’t that far of a leap for your latest beau to think that Plan B may be urging you to jump ship and abandon the new relationship drama in favor or calmer waters.
If you are lucky enough to find someone who actually wants to have a relationship with you and is willing to work at it, for fck’s sake, man up and give it everything you’ve got. The Back Burner Boyfriends are on the back burner for a reason; leave them there. Part of being an adult is clearing your sandbox of a boy and his toys, and making room for a man and his furniture.
Blanche and Mel came to a similar conclusion. They realized that, heating up and moving their back burner love affair to the front, wasn’t an improvement. Elevating their relationship status from ‘Single’ to ‘In a relationship’ only made things worse. They knew they weren’t compatible enough to officially be together so they made amends and returned their on-again, off-again relationship back to its original version. All was well again in the Kingdom of Bushman
Here’s the thing. Relationships are work. Romantic relationships require more work and I believe that maintaining successful, and healthy gay relationships require even more effort and commitment than any other. How each couple defines ‘successful’ and ‘healthy’ is entirely up to them, but mutual respect and consideration for each other and the commitment to create a life together should not be compromised by the presence of Back Burner Boyfriends.
Temptation will always be the devil on your shoulder. How you handle it will not only tell your partner what kind of person you are but it will also spell out, in no uncertain terms, how serious you are in honoring your commitment. The struggle is real. And there will be times, many times, during your relationship when things get rough, feelings get hurt, miscommunication and misunderstandings will cause you to wonder if you made a mistake. That’s temptation’s cue and suddenly you’re being cruised by every sexy m.f. on the street. Studs you tossed your number at years ago are sex-ting you from out of the blue. The sun is shining and the grass is looking a whole lot greener over at the Single Mingle.
The truth is, the grass is greener where you water it. Instead of pulling up your roots, and running for the hills, try planting them deeper. Exhaust yourself in the effort to do your part in making a home.
So, does the Back Burner Boyfriend deserve a legitimate space on the accessory shelf? I say ‘Hell, yeah.”
I can’t speak for everyone (although I’ll bet I speak for most) I know that when I find myself in a sexual slump or wrestling with bouts of low self-esteem, or lonely depression, I begin to hear the mating call that used to bring Auntie Blanche such comfort: “Bushman AWAITS!” That’s when I crack open my Little Black Book and in thirty minutes or less, all is right with the world.