8 early signs a relationship lacks emotional depth, according to psychology

When I entered my first proper romantic relationship, I remember thinking, “Is this all there is to it? We just cuddle and have sex? Where are all the deep conversations until 2 AM? Where is the soulmateship?”

As it turned out, our relationship had one fatal flaw: it lacked emotional depth.

Although we loved each other, we were simply too different, and no matter how hard we tried to make it work, that deep sense of understanding between two souls continued to elude us.

When we broke up, we both knew it was the right thing to do.

Does your relationship lack an emotional connection, too? Here are the 8 early signs to watch out for.

1) Your sexual attraction overrides your sense of friendship

While it’s wonderful to find someone with whom you have intense sexual attraction, it’s basically impossible to build a long-term relationship upon the foundation of sex.

Sure, it’s fun and thrilling that you can’t keep your hands off each other, but the truth is that sexual attraction is one of those things that tend to decrease over time.

If you have nothing else to keep you connected, there is nothing left to hold the relationship together when sexual desire fades.

Leading expert in the study of emotion, Aaron Ben-Zeév PhD, agrees:

“Friendship is not an emotion but a personal relation that is essential in enduring, romantic flourishing. Friendship, which is based on shared history, often increases over time—unlike sexual desire, whose intensity diminishes over time.”

This isn’t to say that sex has nothing to do with emotional depth, of course. It is often through sex that our feelings strengthen and that we get to be most vulnerable with one another.

However, a relationship that isn’t rooted in friendship isn’t likely to result in a happy companionship spanning decades upon decades.

And how do you know that you and your partner aren’t exactly best friends?

Read on to find out.

2) You feel like you’ve run out of all interesting things to talk about

The best way to tell whether you’re a good match with someone is to watch how your conversations progress from the first date up until the fourth or fifth one.

The truth of the matter is that everyone’s got stuff to talk about on the first date.

Even if you are not compatible whatsoever, you will be able to cover multiple topics simply because you’re either meeting up for the first time ever or you’re changing the dynamic from a friendly to a romantic one.

The following dates are the true make-or-break.

Once you’ve moved past the basics, what else is there to discuss? Do your conversations flow easily or do you have to work hard to keep the momentum going?

This isn’t to say you can’t share a companionable moment of silence here and there, of course.

However, you shouldn’t feel like you’re labouring a large piece of rock up a hill just to have a decent conversation with the person you might possibly spend the rest of your life with.

Trust me, I know. I used to have a bad habit of dating people with whom I had zero conversational chemistry, which meant our relationship not only lacked emotional depth but also got very boring very quickly.

3) You prefer to Netflix and chill rather than create memorable experiences

If you don’t have much to talk about, what’s the best way to avoid those situations in the first place?

Watch TV together.

There are so many couples whose main bonding activity is watching a TV show or going to the cinema. And while I absolutely love both, I also know from personal experience that these activities can only get you so far.

And that’s because when you’re watching TV together, the only thing you’re really doing is enjoying the same kind of escapism at the same time.

It’s fun and all, but it doesn’t help you understand one another better or feel connected on a deep level. Not if it’s the only thing you do, anyway.

People who have an emotionally rich relationship usually set out to do something that brings them closer, from having a romantic dinner to going on walks in nature or sharing a fun hobby.

They want to actively enjoy each other’s presence. Instead of choosing a TV show as their main activity, their attention is targeted at one another.

In other words, they are their own entertainment.

4) You don’t feel like you “get” each other

They say that differences attract, but while vastly different people may find one another fascinating, there’s a high likelihood they will also sense a large divide between them – a divide they may never be able to cross.

What’s more, there’s a huge difference between having personalities that fit into each other like pieces of a puzzle and getting into massive arguments when it comes to your integral values and opinions.

Psychotherapist Nicholas Balaisis PhD, RP, writes:

“It is important to be aligned in what we might call ‘core values.’ This is something that Stan Tatkin stresses in his work with couples. To paraphrase him, we can’t always live on love, but we can live on values. These could be things like a shared sense of respect, responsibility, or notion of justice, especially as it concerns the relationship.”

In one of my past relationships, I remember I always felt a bit like my ex and I were from two completely contrasting worlds.

He never truly “got” me. When people spoke of romantic soulmates, I struggled to grasp the concept because it often felt like we had to work hard just to understand each other a little better.

And while a strong emotional connection does take work, there’s no doubt about that, there should also be an element of flow and ease.

5) Your communication is very ineffective

unmistakable signs youre in a one sided relationship 8 early signs a relationship lacks emotional depth, according to psychology

When there’s an issue in a relationship, the best course of action is to bring it up and invite the other person into a respectful and calm dialogue that will allow you to resolve the problem as a team.

As a result, you grow as both individuals and as a couple.

Unfortunately, the reality is often quite different. I have been guilty of poor communication patterns in the past myself. For example, I used to sulk and pout for hours instead of just telling my ex what troubled me.

“If I give him enough time, he’ll figure it out on his own,” I thought.

Spoiler alert: he didn’t. We just ended up having a fight.

In order to connect on an emotional level, you’ve got to possess the courage to lay your heart bare. You’ve got to allow yourself to get vulnerable with your partner so that you both understand the complexities of one another’s minds.

Research agrees – studies show that couples who communicate in a collaborative way report higher overall relationship satisfaction.

 If your communication suffers…

It’s yet another sign you may not be a great match.

6) You feel more socially fulfilled when you’re with your friends

I still remember the moment when I realized I had much more fun with my friends than I did with my ex. It was a bit like getting punched in the face.

This isn’t to say your partner has to be your absolute bestie – you can have many close friends who play different roles in your life. That’s completely normal.

But if there’s a huge disparity between the sense of fulfilment you get from hanging out with your friends and from being around your partner (and we’re talking emotional and intellectual fulfilment here), it points to a much deeper issue: your relationship lacks emotional depth.

After all, the main reason you and your friends love each other is that you love one another’s minds and personalities.

There is no sexual attraction or cuddles. There are only fun conversations, emotional support, and a feeling of pure love.

Surprise, surprise, the person you could very well be with for the rest of your life should be on the same level.

Measure your romantic relationships by your friendships, and suddenly, you may realize just how little understanding there is between you and your significant other.

7) You’re not fully yourself when you’re with your partner

According to psychologists, an authentic connection is one of the three core features (alongside positive responsiveness and stability) that determine true love.

If you feel like you have to apply a filter over everything you say in the presence of your partner or if you’re afraid to come out of your shell for fear of being judged, it’s time to take a step back and re-evaluate your relationship with this person.

Do they bring out the best in you? Do they make you feel comfortable and safe?

If not, they’re probably not the right person for you. Full stop.

8) You’re reading this article

The last sign your relationship lacks emotional depth is that you’ve clicked on this article and related to a lot of what I’ve said above.


Because your gut instinct knows more than you realize.

If you have doubts, if you feel misunderstood, and if you keep wondering whether there is someone out there who would understand you much better than your current partner…

It’s further proof you may need to take a hard look at the relationship in question and figure out whether it’s the right one for you.

Picture of Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

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