With the flurry of emotions that overwhelm us in a romantic relationship, it’s not always easy to tell if we’re truly falling in love or just desperate not to be single.
I never had a boyfriend in middle school – I was neither cool nor confident enough. But for the clan of pretty, popular girls in my grade, it was a different story. They’d have boys asking them to the dance, holding their hands, asking them to be their girlfriend, and presenting them with a box of chocolates and a bright bouquet of red roses on Valentine’s Day. Despite not even being teenagers yet, it felt like everyone was in a huge rush to snag a boyfriend.
In seventh grade, one girl in particular started “dating” a boy in our grade just in time for the school dance. Oohs, aahs, and teasing them about being in love ensued, as was par for the course in middle school. But eventually, rumors started swirling that she’d only agreed to be his girlfriend so she could have the experience of calling someone her boyfriend and to have someone to go to the dance with, like the rest of her friends. Needless to say, their relationship didn’t survive the rest of the year.
Sure, middle schoolers can be silly and immature, but even as we grow up, our desires and fears don’t shift all that dramatically. If we were afraid of being seen as undesirable, feeling like the ugly duckling, or being the odd one out in middle school, in all likelihood, these worries and fears won’t have disappeared just because we got older. In fact, unless we’ve addressed them head on, they might have just worsened.
Because romances are typically filled with a flurry of overwhelming emotions at first, it’s not always clear to see when we’re in a relationship for the wrong reason – namely, out of desperation not to be alone. I doubt the girl in my middle school necessarily knew that, and a grown woman might not either. So how can we tell if we’re not in love, but instead, in desperation?
1. Your Time Together Feels Forced
The early days of a romance are bound to have their fair share of butterflies, shyness, and reservations. After all, we’re still not completely certain of ourselves around this new person that we want to impress. But eventually, these feelings should subside, making way for comfortability.
You shouldn’t feel the need to perform around your boyfriend.
If we’re constantly feeling the need to perform around them, aren’t comfortable to be our true selves, find ourselves searching for good conversation, or feel as though we’re forcing ourselves to enjoy our time with them, it’s a clear sign that we aren’t with them for the simple reason of clicking with them.
2. You’re Embarrassed To Talk about Him
Before things are official, it’s common to be a bit coy about discussing our budding relationship with our friends and family, creating a sense of intrigue and mystery that only we and our new guy are in on. We relish feeling like our romance is only for ourselves and him.
But as things progress, and our relationship isn’t so new anymore, we should feel at ease talking about him, proud to call him ours, and excited to show him off to the world. If we consistently change the subject when someone asks about him, are embarrassed at the mentioning of his name, or feel a strange need to keep him hidden from certain people in our life, something’s definitely not right.
3. He Doesn’t Make You Feel Lucky
The one thing cheesy, romantic movies never tell us? We won’t always be in awe of our boyfriend. Sometimes, we’ll be frustrated with him, feel unheard, or wish he weren’t so [fill in the blank]. This is an inevitable part of being in a relationship.
If we don’t feel like we "won" by being with him, then we’re in the relationship for the wrong reasons.
However, despite his shortcomings, if we’re in a healthy relationship, we’ll be able to take a step back and see his unique qualities that made us fall for him to begin with – the qualities that make us feel lucky to be with him. If we genuinely don’t feel like we "won" by being with him, then we’re in the relationship for the wrong reasons.
4. You’re Constantly Overlooking and Excusing
Every single person we date will have their own little quirks, personal values, and life ideals. Sometimes, it’s astounding how much we have in common with our significant other, down to the amount of kids we want. Other times, there’s some adapting and compromising to be done. We’ll never find a guy who fulfills every need and matches every desire.
But it’s important that we carefully consider the things we’re willing to compromise on and stick to our values above all. If we have the nagging feeling that we’re settling beyond what we feel is fair, or are overlooking and excusing immaturity or objectionable behavior, chances are, we’ve been sticking around because we’re afraid of being alone, not because of how in love we are.
5. He’s Not the First Person You Call
...when we’ve got incredible news to share, desperately need a trusted opinion on something, or are looking for a shoulder to cry on. The wonderful thing about a boyfriend is that they’re so many things we need, all rolled into one. They should be a cheerleader, advisor, safe place, and best friend. While we need other friends and support systems in our life, a boyfriend needs to offer these things.
Your boyfriend should be a cheerleader, advisor, safe place, and best friend.
But what if he’s not the first person we want to call? If we know deep down that our mom would make us feel more celebrated when we tell her about a big promotion, or trust our friend’s opinion over his on how to handle a sticky situation, or have more faith in our sister to be there for us during a rough season, then why be with him?
6. Your Friends and Family Really Don’t Get It
The emotional intimacy that a romantic relationship brings us often leads us to believe that no one’s ever understood us so thoroughly or known us so fully. We frequently forget that our friends and family have known us a lot longer – and since they aren’t the ones walking around with rose-colored glasses, they’re able to see our relationship from a unique perspective that isn’t emotionally involved.
If we find that the grand majority of our loved ones really don’t understand what we see in our guy, then in all likelihood they’re not all wrong. It’s worth it to hear them out and see if their concerns are valid.
7. You Often Think about Other Guys
Being in a relationship doesn’t make us blind – we’re bound to see someone attractive here and there – but if we’re happy in our relationship, we won’t want to be with anyone else, even if we find them handsome, because we’ve already got what we want in our significant other.
If we’re happy in our relationship, we won’t want to be with anyone else.
On the flip side, if we find ourselves harboring full-on crushes, checking other guys out frequently, or wondering what it’d be like to date our cute coworker, then it’s time to reassess why we’re with our current boyfriend – because it’s definitely not love.
There are a million reasons why we might stay in a relationship that we know isn’t right, but one of the worst reasons to stay is out of total desperation, a fear of being all on our own. It’s unfair to our partner to keep them hanging around someone who isn’t totally in love with them, and it’s certainly unfair to our future selves to not confront this fear sooner rather than later.
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