10 subtle things people do when they don’t really want to be in a relationship

Many people think they want a relationship…until they’re actually in one. 

Then they don’t. 

They may not even realize it, but they end up subconsciously checking out of the relationship and even indirectly sabotaging it in subtle ways. 

What are some of the clues that a person doesn’t truly want to be in a relationship? Here are ten not-so-obvious signs to be aware of. 

1) They want to be close…but not too close

One of the most beautiful parts of a relationship is baring our soul to our significant other. Being vulnerable and letting them into inner lives. Expressing our insecurities; our hopes and dreams and vice versa. 

But if your partner purposely avoids getting close to you emotionally and prefers to keep conversations surface-level, they may not really want to be in a relationship. 

If they know everything about you, but you don’t know a whole lot about them, then they aren’t reciprocating—something that is essential in a mutually-fulfilling relationship.

2) They talk about their aspirations…but it’s not obvious if those dreams involve you

Speaking of hopes and dreams, say your partner does open up about what they desire, which is wonderful…except they don’t seem to directly involve you. 

They talk about wanting to move across the country to the West Coast for example, even though they know how much you love being a born and bred New Yorker. 

Or they say they’re going to get their Masters, but you had hoped the next big thing would be taking the next big step, like getting engaged. 

3) They spend long hours at work…even when they don’t have to 

One of the most common things people who don’t want to be in a relationship deep down is they spend a lot of time at work.

Sure, many people have demanding jobs, or they want to put in extra time at work for a while so that they have a better shot at being considered for an upcoming promotion. 

But if you significant other is always taking on extra projects—even when they don’t have to—and are constantly volunteering to take business trips, then this may be an indicator that they aren’t relationship material.

4) They like doing their own thing most of the time 

Even when they are at home, people who might not truly want to be in a relationship tend to live like they’re still single. 

They might only do their own dishes, for example, and expect you to do your own. They might prefer spending a Saturday with their nose stuck in a book rather than do something with you. 

When they cook, they might make the things they like to eat rather than asking what you would like. 

We’re only half joking, but you might have to remind yourself that this is someone you’re in a relationship with—not your roommate.

There should be a difference. 

5) They spend more time with their friends than they do with their significant other

You don’t have to be joined at the hip to have a harmonious relationship but you should want to spend the majority of your time with your partner.

Psychologists advise adhering to the 70/30 rule: that is, you spend 70% of time (other than when you’re at work) together, and the other 30% doing your own thing. “That gives each of you enough freedom to explore your own interests while still being rooted and invested in your relationship.”

If the scale seems to be tipping the other way around, then it might be worth exploring if you—or your partner—is making the relationship a kind of secondary priority, and why that is. 

One of you may not be ready to fully commit to a full-fledged relationship—at least for now. 

6) They like to keep things separate 

people who are unsuccessful in relationships often do these things wrong 10 subtle things people do when they don’t really want to be in a relationship

This includes bank accounts, social activities, friends, families—and the list goes on. 

This is a big indicator that a person is not ready to amalgamate their life and resources with another person. A year into dating, for example, they may still be reluctant to make the jump and move in together.    

Wanting to keep financial autonomy is something that works for a lot of couples and it can work well. But if a person is doing it because they have one foot out of the relationship and want to make sure that there’s an easy exit “just in case,” then they may not be ready for a relationship. 

Whether this is you or your partner, you have to wonder and question why this is. 

7) They don’t put much effort into the relationship they’re in

Relationships must always be moving forward and evolving in order for them to be successful. This doesn’t mean that a relationship should be rushed to a commitment before it’s ready, but it should still be growing. 

This can only happen with ample effort from both partners, says relationship writer Rachel Pace at Marriage.com

“Effort is crucial in building and maintaining a healthy relationship,” she says. “It shows your commitment, dedication, and willingness to work towards a mutual goal. Without effort, relationships can become stagnant, unfulfilling, and eventually fail.”

A lack of effort can look like anything from not giving emotional support, a disinterest in spending time together, as well as a lack of communication. It can also mean neglecting physical intimacy, refusing to compromise, and taking each other for granted. 

Not taking accountability when you need to can also be a sign that a person isn’t fully invested in the health of the relationship. 

8) They aren’t really interested in your interests 

This one doesn’t mean that just because you love reading historical fiction that your partner has to have the same interest. It doesn’t mean that you have to love college football like they do. 

But it does mean that you like that they like what they like. In other words, you support their interests, and love them enough to take an interest in once in a while. 

This means asking about what’s happening with the latest escapades Henry VIII, or asking your partner if their team has a chance to get to the finals. It also means going to a game with them once in a while even if you still don’t get what the heck is going on despite the fact that they have explained it a million times. 

9) They don’t want to define the relationship 

If you’ve been together for some time and your partner is reluctant to put a label on the relationship, this is something that needs a conversation, says relationship therapist Shena Tubbs

“Having a lane is not the same as having a commitment,” she says. “Labeling your relationship does not necessarily mean you’re in a committed relationship, nor does saying ‘you don’t do labels’ absolve you from having a conversation about commitment.”

If you don’t want to be in an exclusive or committed relationship, you still need to have a conversation to define the relationship, adds Tubbs.

But you do have to come to a mutual agreement on a label or set of terms that works for you—whether it’s marriage, a monogamous relationship, consensual non-monogamy, casual dating, or friends with benefits. 

Tubbs advises labeling your relationship because a lack of clarity will always cause more harm and hurt than good. 

10) They don’t update their relationship status on social media or don’t post pictures of the two of you together 

This one can be a bit iffy depending on how a person uses social media. If they’re regularly posting photos of their family, their friends, and their dog, but never post pictures of the two of you together even though you have been together for some time, they may not truly want to be in a (or the) relationship. 

If they’re regularly adding or following other people on social media that you’re pretty certain they’re doing based on sexual interest and attraction, then this is probably a pretty good sign that a committed relationship is not on their list of priorities

This could be especially true if they stubbornly keep their relationship status set to “single” even though you’ve brought it up to them. It may seem like a small or insignificant thing, but you have to question why. 

One more thing…

If your partner’s go-to response to many—or most—things tends to be “It doesn’t matter,” this can be a sign that they’re checked out of the relationship. 

It can be worthwhile to have a conversation to take stock of the relationship to assess where you both are, if you’re both emotionally invested in your partnership, as well as what needs to change. This might even mean having to let go of the relationship altogether. 

Even if you find that moving on is inevitable, then at least you know and can do something about it to move forward.

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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