Because yes, there is a difference.
In a relationship, it's easy to fall into a pattern. And I'm not saying there's something wrong with routine. One of the best parts of being in a partnership is finding a person who can be your rock through life’s uncertainties. It may not always feel exciting, but a long-term relationship should still feel fulfilling, not something you stick with out of complacency. What you may not realize is that it’s possible to be comfortable in a relationship but not in love, and figuring out the difference can help you (and your partner) from feeling majorly dissatisfied down the road.
As Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, a licensed clinical psychotherapist, relationship expert, and author of Training Your Love Intuition, previously told Elite Daily, the fear of being alone is what makes many people stay in relationships that are comfortable but not all that exciting. "Being alone and lonely in the world is not only an uncomfortable feeling, but it can also be a scary feeling," she said. "It's not surprising that we tend to choose someone who's 'comfortable enough.’” If you’re not sure what the difference is, then here’s how to tell if you love them or are just comfortable with them.
Your Sex Life Feels Stale
Sex with your partner of 10 years probably isn’t going to feel as dynamic and fresh as sex with your partner of 10 days, but being in a long-term relationship shouldn’t mean the end of desire. As spiritual author, guide, and matchmaker Heather Kristian Strang previously told Elite Daily, if both partners are "willing to try new sexual practices, and be committed to making love on the regular," the spark never has to die. "When you do this, your 'comfortable' relationship becomes the best relationship you've ever had,” she added.
If either your or your SO is not only unwilling to try new things in bed but totally uninterested in doing so, then chances are you’ve lost that spark — maybe even for good.
You Don’t Feel The Need To Make An Effort
While you likely won’t feel the need to wear makeup 24/7 once you settle into a relationship with someone, a person in love will still want to make an effort to impress their boo. Whether that means planning special date night or buying surprise gifts, you’ll know it’s love when you go the extra mile to keep things fresh. "Safety and predictability are important, but it’s possible to experience this while also having a relationship that feels enlivening and exciting,” Daniel Sher, clinical psychologist and a consultant for the Between Us Clinic, previously told Elite Daily.
Transitioning out of the honeymoon phase is inevitable, but if you fall into complacency, then you probably won’t find it worth your while to keep things enlivening and exciting.
You Have Nothing New To Say
Feeling comfortable with silence when you’re together is one of the hallmarks of a great relationship. But if you have no desire to even engage your partner in conversation, then you’re probably feeling boredom more often than butterflies. As Dr. Binita Amin, a clinical psychologist, previously told Elite Daily, "Comfortable silences can be healthy, but if you are going out to dinner and have nothing to talk about or are staying within safe and predictable confines, this is a flag."
No matter how long you may know a person, you can never know everything about them. However, if you’ve become too comfortable with someone, then there’s a chance you’ll stop caring to learn new things about them.
You Suspect You’re Settling
There’s a difference between settling down with someone and simply settling. Take some time to reflect on the reasons why you’re in this relationship. If you can’t imagine life without that person, then you’re probably in it for the right reasons. If you can imagine a different life for yourself — and that life actually seems pretty enticing — then you may just be comfortable. As Dr. Wish suggested, "Ask yourself: Do I want to spend the rest of my life with this person? Do I actually like 'the me-who-I've-become' in this relationship?”
If the answer to those questions is no, then that's a good indication you're holding onto a relationship that isn't actually serving you anymore.
You Never Fight
Loving someone means wanting what’s best for them and for your relationship. And sometimes, conflict is the only way to achieve results. However, if you find you’re more likely to go with the flow then broach points of contention, then it may not be love you’re feeling. “Usually, relationships get boring because partners start to hide parts of themselves — their ‘single’ selves — and stop saying difficult truths to each other. They sweep conflict under the rug,” Megan Lambert, a relationship and intimacy coach, previously told Elite Daily. “If a couple is simply co-existing without reasserting their differences, things are going to get stagnant.”
As strange as it sounds, a relationship built on love is going to have more conflict in it than one built on comfort and ease, simply because people in love are willing to fight to make things work.
You Feel Stuck In A Rut
Even in a long-term, mutually-beneficial relationship, there should be constant growth and change. When you become too comfortable, it’s tempting to abandon goals and dreams you once had for yourself, either because you don’t want to rock the boat or simply don’t feel motivated to pursue them. “If you find that you are letting go of your core values or passions to make your relationship work, you may be settling," Cayla Buettner, matchmaker with Three Day Rule, previously told Elite Daily. "A healthy relationship will allow both partners to thrive, learn and grow — both separately and together."
If you’re in love with your partner, then you’ll never feel limited or held back from trying new things. However, if you’re merely comfortable, then chances are you’ll settle for routine over new opportunities.
You Can Imagine Being With Someone Else
It’s perfectly natural to develop crushes on other people when you’re dating someone, but it’s one thing to think someone is cute and another to actually imagine yourself with them. According to Dr. Wish, the main thing that separates a deeply satisfying relationship from one that's just comfortable is whether you feel restless or doubtful at times. "You might start 'looking around' for a new person in your mind," she explained. "For example, you might be out with your friends or other couples and think to yourself: 'I wish my partner was like theirs.'"
Even though it's normal for things to become a little less exciting when you've been dating for a while, a wandering eye may indicate that your partner is losing your attention all together.
Yes, being comfortable may not be nerve-racking. But living without love means settling, and it means not allowing yourself to experience what could be a life-changing relationship with someone else.
Daniel Sher, clinical psychologist and consultant for the Between Us Clinic
Dr. Binita Amin, clinical psychologist
Heather Kristian Strang, spiritual author, guide, and matchmaker
Megan Lambert, relationship and intimacy coach
Cayla Buettner, matchmaker with Three Day Rule
Editor's Note: This story has been updated by Elite Daily Staff.
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