My imaginary boyfriend

(This article was originally written for and published on The Tempest)


I appreciate that as a grown adult, admitting you have an imaginary anything is cause for concern as people wonder if this is the start of your mental breakdown. However, this imaginary man of mine has existed for some time now so unless I’m in the middle of a ten-year meltdown (plausible), I don’t think there’s any need to worry.

He first came into my life once puberty hit and I came to the shocking realisation that nothing was like the fairy tales and the men in reality were far less forthcoming then every chick flick I’d ever seen. I couldn’t have been more ill prepared for reality than if I’d spent my formative years living in Narnia, and so my imaginary boyfriend began to take shape.

By imaginary boyfriend, I don’t mean someone I talk to and pretend to go on dates with, but rather a manifestation of the qualities and fundamental values I would like in a partner. And we’re not talking about the inane stuff like ‘great arms’ and ‘dreamy eyes, and nor is this about wealth or physical possessions. He doesn’t need to earn six figures, own a mansion or a private jet. If I want those things I’ll handle them myself, but instead, the important things like loyalty and trust. Communication and a shared moral framework. The things that will determine whether you have a shot at a life together because fire, passion and great sex will only take you so far.

And the imaginary boyfriend is important because all that fire and sex can look a lot like love and that’s when things start to get tricky. That’s when things start to get out of hand and lines become blurred, and the modern state of love doesn’t help one bit.

We’re living in a time of Tinder, Fuckboys, DMs and Situationships. This latest evolution of love is messy, complicated and downright confusing. Things have changed and that brings new compromises and challenges, and what’s worse, you can find yourself falling into these new games because you haven’t figured out the alternative and you don’t feel like dying alone in your old woolly cardigan just yet.

Some time ago, I found myself in a situationship, the result of a few ill-timed DMs, and after the initial sliding in, found myself embroiled with a man who was, well, never really there. Once upon a time I’d have sat him down, asked where we were heading, if this was a relationship, are we exclusive, you know, the usual stuff you tend to bring up when you really like someone. Except the game has changed and I stupidly played along, keeping my mouth shut and my legs…well, not so shut. And it’s easy to go along with all of this because you’re trying to be blasé and keep up with modern relationships, until your imaginary boyfriend pops up into your head and you realise actually, this wasn’t what you imagined at all when you pictured the man you want to spend your life with.

If you’re in something with a man, whether that’s situationships, relationships or one-night stands, and your imaginary boyfriend keeps making appearances, it’s a sure sign that it’s time to move on. That whoever you’re currently with is not fulfilling you in the right ways and why the hell are you settling?

I’ll tell you why, because the hype around dying alone is terrifying, social media is screaming for you to be a ‘cool girl’ and you’ve found yourself in a strange ‘kind-of but not really’ relationship and you’re not sure if you’re even allowed to comment on him seeing other women. It’s a minefield out there people, A MINEFIELD, and as you’re running through it desperately trying to find the love of your life, you risk getting your leg blown off, and by leg I basically mean your heart.

So although it might sound crazy, hold onto that imaginary boyfriend as a constant reminder to hold out for the things you want in a partner. Our society, and other women, are not very good at telling us to hold out. We might be in 2017 but ‘winning a man’ and marriage are still measures of success for us, so it’s not always easy to remember that you’re allowed to wait. Or that you’re allowed to be single. Or even that you’re allowed to ask for more from your love life instead of settling for the scraps that come your way. You’re allowed to turn away potential love interests because they’re not suitable or worthy of you. THAT’S OKAY.

I’ve always found that my imaginary boyfriend, with all the qualities I respect in another human, constantly reminds me if I’m settling for less and reminds me to hold onto the things I want. So dream on ladies, dream on as much as you need to and only ever get rid of that fantasy, if and when, you’ve found the reality. Anything less is not worth it.

Salma El-Wardany