What It's Like To Always Be The 'Starter Girlfriend'

Being the starter girlfriend sets off all of the worst "what ifs" you can manage to think up.

girl crying, looking at her phone Cast Of Thousands / Shutterstock

It was a Thursday night at 8:30 PM and I was ugly crying on the corner of 49th and 10th into my friend Alli's shoulder ... about a Facebook status.

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Our single ladies' night out had gone from good (drinking wine by a fireplace on a chilly November night) to bad (talking about our recent breakups, and wondering about our exes) to ugly, when I begged Alli to let me creep on my ex's Facebook page (he still hadn't unfriended her) and discovered that, just two months after our breakup, he was in a new relationship. With a girl in his circle of friends. Who I had the pleasure of meeting before.


Aside from the new girlfriend, he had found sans the pain of swiping left and right, and a sweet new apartment I had helped him choose after seeing, quite possibly, every apartment up for sale in all of NYC, he recently landed the dream job he had been pursuing — a process that involved many cover letter and resumé revisions done on my part, and a LinkedIn page built for him by yours truly.

After a great deal of pushing, he finally sought out therapy for the anger issues that had ultimately led to our relationship's demise. And now, this girl was reaping all of the benefits while I was sobbing on a street corner on a Thursday.


Maybe this wouldn't be a strange story if not for the fact that this exact situation had already happened to me once before. 

The last time I went through this, I was 22. I moved out of the apartment I shared with my then-boyfriend — the one we had painstakingly picked out paint colors for, the place that gave him a much-needed push to move out of his parent's house. The apartment was my last ditch effort at saving our relationship, which had started when I was just 17, and I had clearly outgrown it.

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A few weeks after I had packed everything I owned into garbage bags and moved back into my parent's basement, he was dating someone else. A friend from high school who, yes, I had met. Shortly after, he landed a new (better) job.


I can laundry list the reasons why I chose to end each of those relationships. I know that my ex isn't 100 percent cured when it comes to his angry outbursts. I know that my first boyfriend is better off with who he's with now. Heck, his fiancé and I are even on friendly terms.

But watching someone else make a go of something that you worked so hard at for so long — and ultimately failed at — makes you question every decision you made.

What is a starter girlfriend? Well, being the starter girlfriend sets off all of the worst "what ifs" you can manage to think up. It puts a bitter taste in your mouth and leaves you unreasonably angry without anyone to take it out on — except yourself. You feel like you've been ripped off, that you're getting the short end of the stick... because, well, aren't you?

There is surely this one, simple thing you didn't try that this new girlfriend is getting right, and if you had figured it out in time, you wouldn't be where you are right now. You might have had a better shot at making things work if you'd met him now that his life is in order, now that he's in a better place.


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Pair all the worst first dates you've forced yourself to go on post-breakup, and couple them with the fact that your ex got to skip all of the hardest parts of getting over someone — the part where you find yourself taking an alternate route home so you won't pass the restaurant that was "your place," when you almost break your fingers changing the channel on your TV when one of the shows you used to watch together comes on; when you can't even eat food that used to be your favorite because the two of you shared it so many times — and it's pretty damn hard not to find yourself sobbing on a street corner at how all of this is unfair.

"I can't go through this again," I told Alli that night.

I had reached my breaking point. Having been through this once before, I already know the emotional roller coaster I'm going to have to ride in the coming months. I'm going to have to muster up the willpower not to take a look at the photos they're posting together, and resist the urge to peek in on the holidays they'll celebrate, and the milestones they'll reach.


Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Comparison is the thief of joy," and while I believe that wholeheartedly, I wish he would have offered some solid suggestions on how to abstain from a said comparison in a time where comparison is always just a few short clicks away.

Men, if you're looking for a new career, searching for an apartment, or having trouble realizing that the girl for you is hiding out right under your nose, please don't give me a call. While I'm all for being in a relationship where we bring out the best in each other, I'm not interested in going through this a third time around.

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Danielle Page is a writer and editor whose work has been featured on Woman’s Day, Bustle, Cosmopolitan, The New York Times, Thought Catalog, and Huffington Post.