Do I Want A Relationship Or Am I Just Lonely? 9 Signs You Just Want To DTR
If you're early in the relationship process — say, you moved things off Tinder fairly recently or have gone on a couple of pleasant dates — and you find yourself daydreaming about how to finesse the "girlfriend," "boyfriend," or "partner" label, ask yourself one thing: Do I want a relationship or am I just lonely? To be fair, society puts an undue pressure on women and femmes to be coupled up. But beyond external, societal pressure, sometimes you can put pressure on yourself.
A relationship can be a status symbol: Along with having an academic career, a job, and a social life on point, you get to add "successful love life" to the list. Sometimes, you might racing to the DTR finish line because you're sick of the gray area in your situationship or FWB arrangement — you want something more solid. Or, you're tired of being the only single Pringle in your coupled-up crew.
Other times, it could just be a matter of loneliness. "Being in a relationship is one of the most meaningful experiences we can have as human beings," sex and relationships therapist Todd Baratz says. "Therefore, it is not uncommon for folks to pursue relationships just to be in one or provide protection against loneliness." It's why cuffing season exists. And it's often easier to latch onto the first semi-viable fling (that has potential for a romantic partnership) than to be alone, if being alone isn't your jam.
"This isn’t necessarily a bad or unhealthy thing to do. It’s important, however, to pay attention to relationship pursuit behaviors that make you unhappy," Baratz says. If any of this is ringing a bell, here are nine signs that you might care more about snagging a relationship than actually establishing a romantic connection.
1. You Really Care About Making It IG-official
It might want to pause before you post if you're daydreaming more about your first IG picture with bae more than, say, meeting their parents. If you find that you're a social media junkie when it comes to outpourings of love, or are all-in on IG when bae wants more privacy, chances are you care more about the idea of a relationship than the connection, says dating coach and TEDx speaker Hayley Quinn.
"You're so busy establishing relationship milestones that you forget to enjoy the moment and be in the present," Quinn explains. That being said, you might want to take a step back and examine just why you're extra thirsty for likes, comments and story views of you and bae together.
2. You're Super Worried About What Your Friends Think
It's natural to be a bit nervous about your friends and your partner hitting it off — after all, you do want your two worlds to mesh well. But if you're agonizing over whether this potential partner is the perfect fit for your friend group, you might be more worried about having a girlfriend or boyfriend as a concept than worried about whether they're a good fit for you.
Marquita Johnson (aka the Millennial Dating Coach) says to keep in mind: At the end of the day, it's up to you to figure out if someone is a good partner for you — not your friends. "If your friends are not head-over-heels with your significant other, don’t panic. It is OK to be open to their feedback, but know that it is your decision on who you decide to be in a relationship with," Johnson says. "No one knows you better than you."
3. You Won't Acknowledge Bae's Bad Behavior
If you dearly want to be in a relationship (for the sake of being in one), you might find yourself making excuses for your bae's bad behavior. That can mean anything from giving them a pass when they're rude or not piping up when they do something that makes you uncomfortable.
If you aren’t enjoying yourself and/or your [potential] partner, then it’s something to pay attention to," Baratz says. "Conflict is normal, but a lack of overall satisfaction is something significant." Letting bad behavior slide in hopes of earning that golden "girlfriend" or "partner" title isn't fair to you. The relationship label isn't worth your happiness.
4. You'd Rather Have Harmony Than Authenticity
On the other hand, adamantly glossing over any interpersonal conflict you and bae have — particularly when this potential partner brings it up to you — is also a red flag.
"You don't like it when your partner raises a concern. You see all problems as a threat to the relationship," Quinn outlines. "And when you're not in a 'honeymoon' phase, you become concerned that it's not meant to be." If you're more upset over the fact that you and bae are butting heads (than the actual cause of friction), that's a sign you care more about the idea of relationship than the connection you need to be establishing.
It's perfectly natural to have a bit of conflict here and there in a healthy relationship. Instead of anxiously dwelling on the fact that you're arguing, see conflict as an opportunity to problem-solve together and build a stronger relationship foundation.
5. You Worry That Your Dynamic Isn't "Romantic" Enough
Another behavior Quinn brings up is a tendency to care about how many ultra-romantic gestures bae is doing for you — and nothing else. In practice, that looks like not recognizing bae's particular way of expressing affection in favor of more stereotypical romantic gestures, like swanky dates and expensive gifts. "Everything falls short for you. So instead of noticing the small gestures of how they turn up for you, spend time hanging out with you, or help you out by tidying your house, you miss this as you're too busy complaining that they're not making enough big romantic gestures," Quinn says.
Setting aside your desire to DTR, it could be useful to take the love languages test. A concept explored in pastor and author Gary Chapman's book (The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate), the love languages are: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. Taking the love languages quiz will help you figure out just how bae defines romantic gestures.
6. You're Reaching When It Comes To Romantic Compatibility
Trying to stave off loneliness by getting into a relationship means you're probably ready to get boo'd up — even if you're not compatible with your current hookup or casual date buddy. Incompatibility can encompass a number of things: misaligned values, refusing to compromise, endless fights, or your gut just telling you that something's not quite right. You've got to remember that — romantically and platonically speaking — no company is better than bad company. It's easier said than done, though, when you're tired of being lonely.
Again, this is where love languages could come in handy. Taking the test could help you figure out how to create a more genuine romantic connection. In general, the quiz can help you strengthen platonic relationships as well as knowing your love languages can spice up your sex life, as well.
7. You've Been Thinking About Commitment Since Day 1
If you were dead-set on DTR'ing from the beginning, that's a tell-tale sign you care more about labels than actual romantic intimacy-building. "The early stages of dating are all about getting to know someone and having fun," Quinn reminds us. It's for that reason you should more interested in getting to know them rather than locking in the girlfriend/partner/boyfriend title. Ask yourself: How well do you really know each other yet? Run through the "Would you rather?" questions. Pile on queries about favorite films, pet peeves, and hobbies. Use this juicy, sparkling time to ask about their family, their dreams, and their regrets, too.
It's crucial that if you really want the relationship title, that you're aware and comfortable of what you're getting into. "You don't know them well enough to know if you want a commitment from them or not," Quinn says. "So, drop the [DTR] question."
8. You Want A Serious Title Without Serious Feelings
A relationship may make you feel satisfied and more secure, but what pay-off is there without compatibility? Or if you don't have romantic feelings for them? "If you don’t have romantic feelings for the other person and, yet, are still pursuing something serious with them, something is up. At the end of the day, you want to be with someone where you feel some type of connection," Baratz says.
Ask yourself some critical questions, like, "Do you actually like them or are you pursuing them because you just need someone to step into the girlfriend role in your life?" and, "Would I actually be satisfied if this person became my boyfriend?" This is where, Baratz says, "You can be a little judgmental in a way that supports your own relationship goals."
9. You Keep Pushing For The DTR Conversation
As dating expert Julie Spira points out, the DTR conversation should come about organically. "The conversation should have a natural flow to see if you’re on the same page about how you’re feeling about your SO, to take it a step up," Spira told Elite Daily. "And not for the purposes of planing your entire future together or not. That can kill a relationship and send someone running for the hills."
Dropping hints and trying to nudge bae into DTR'ing is one thing. Having the conversation and not getting the result you wanted is another. Both are equally frustrating. That being said, it's important to wait until the time is right and both parties feel like putting a label on your relationship is the right move for the two of you.
If you're sick of relationship ambiguity, being alone, or feeling like you don't have your life together (because you don't have a partner), know that these feelings are very human. Also recognize it isn't healthy to put such great pressure on yourself, and that the best way to alleviate some of that stress is by talking it out.
You have to remember: "Relationships don't all follow the same trajectory and they're not a race," Quinn says. That being said, have the DTR conversation if it's going to give you peace of mind. If it ends up being what you need, great. If not, move on to that potential partner who you feel might be a better fit for you.
And who knows? Just because you're moving at a slower pace than you'd like right now doesn't mean you're not going to end up together, in a happy, wholesome, committed relationship eventually. It might just take some time. So, step back and re-evaluate — journal if you have to. And switch gears to intimacy-building, rather than zooming to the relationship finish line. When it comes to romantic love, sometimes it's about the journey — not the destination.