It’s no secret that some people fall head over heels with the idea of being in love. They fill their Spotify playlists with sappy songs, swipe away eagerly for hours on their dating apps, and fantasize about their hopeful happy endings. Some are convinced that romance will solve their problems and improve their quality of life. But here’s the thing. When you’re so blinded by this fixation on having a partner, it can be pretty tough to tell whether you’re in a relationship for the right reasons. If you find yourself wondering, "Do I love my partner or love having *a* partner?" rest assured that there are ways to figure it out.
Right after I finished college, I was roomies with a girl who was completely obsessed with meeting “The One.” She was quick to fall for someone, and her relationships escalated at an unusually rapid pace. Each time things started getting serious with someone new, we'd sit on the couch and share a bottle of pinot grigio while she excitedly plotted out their happily ever after — how many kids they would have, where they would have a summer vacation home, etc. And each time a relationship ended, she was single for all of a couple of weeks before she’d found “The Next One.” It dawned on me that she was far more in love with the idea of being in a relationship than she was with any of these individual men.
This phenomenon is not uncommon, either. Many people become fixated on this idea of falling in love, no doubt in part thanks to the slew of rom-coms that place such an emphasis on the value of being in a relationship. According to Chris Armstrong, relationship coach and founder of Maze Of Love, there are ways to determine whether you just love having a partner, rather than the actual individual you’re dating.
Here’s a question that might help you figure it out: What, specifically, do you love about your significant other? If you’re struggling to think of anything substantive or meaningful (hint: the fact that they have a dope sneaker collection or make a phenomenal omelet doesn’t count), Armstrong says that could be a red flag.
Another issue to look out for is if you’re lacking in an area of intimacy. You may feel as if something is missing, though you can’t quite put your finger on what it is.
“The physical and intellectual intimacy is completely absent whilst part of your need for emotional intimacy is being satisfied because you are not feeling alone,” explains Armstrong. “Still, you are missing the other piece of the emotional intimacy, which is a deep connection to their soul, and they to yours.”
Emotional intimacy refers to a particular kind of closeness. It means being able to share your inner-most thoughts, feelings, dreams, hopes, and fears with your SO, and knowing that they can share theirs with you, too. Furthermore, it means feeling totally accepted by them and unconditionally accepting them in the return. So, if the majority of your communication with bae is small talk, that's a sign that you may be lacking in emotional intimacy. Surely, there are ways to boost your intimacy if you feel like it's faded — but if it was never there to begin with, that's a red flag. And if you're lacking in one or more forms of intimacy, you may be "settling" simply because you love having a partner.
If you’re realizing that you may love merely having a partner more than the actual partner you have, Armstrong says it’s crucial to consider your SO’s feelings in figuring out how to proceed.
“If you do not love your partner but they love you and they believe the relationship is going somewhere, you must be transparent with them,” he explains. “Otherwise, you are leading them on. What's more, the relationship will likely continue under false pretenses which isn't helpful for you or them.”
However, if you’re not in love with your partner and you have no reason to believe they love you, either, then it’s a different story.
“Two people can date and even cohabitate if they both like each other and have fun with each other,” adds Armstrong. “As the immortal Tina Turner sang, 'What's Love Got to With It?' Sometimes, the answer is a big fat nothing.”
Ultimately, building a relationship is more about being with a person who compliments your personality, needs, and goals — not about checking a box because you dislike being alone or need a significant other to feel “complete.” That said, it’s certainly possible to grow into love with someone. So, just because you’ve been dating someone for a few months and you haven’t said those three little words yet doesn’t mean you’ll never get there. As long as you’re able to identify what you love about your partner specifically and you feel like your intimacy is strong across the board (physical, emotional, and intellectual), then it’s safe to say you’re in this relationship for the right reasons.