Feeling Like An Option In A Relationship? 6 Reasons And 5 Things To Do

Dating experience | | , Researcher & Content Writer
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feeling like an option in a relationship

Are you feeling like an option in a relationship? This reminds me of the Twilight series, wherein Bella would get cozy with Jacob, only when she didn’t have Edward in her arms. Jacob continued to love her, even though her priority was always Edward. This looks romantic in movies but please don’t wait around for someone if they are not giving you the love that you deserve.

If you often find yourself asking the question, “Why do I feel like an option?”, don’t worry, we got your back. With insights from emotional wellness and mindfulness coach Pooja Priyamvada (certified in Psychological and Mental Health First Aid from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Sydney), who specializes in counseling for extramarital affairs, breakups, separation, grief and loss, we’ll help you figure out why someone would treat you like an option in a relationship and how to deal with this situation.

What Does It Mean To Be An Option In A Relationship?

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Pooja says, “Feeling like an option in a relationship is certainly not a good feeling. This may happen if your partner is not fully committed to the relationship as yet and they think of you as one of the several options and not as their one and only.”

So, what are the signs you’re not a priority to him or her? Pooja answers, “There can be several signs that indicate you’re not a priority for your partner – they are always busy, they ignore your calls and messages, they don’t make time for you in their schedule, they prioritize their friends or social circles over you.”

Related Reading: Emotional Neglect In A Relationship – Meaning, Signs And Steps To Cope

So, ask yourself some important questions. Do you feel like your partner does not spend enough time with you? Do you have this horrible feeling of being unappreciated in your relationship? Are you going through the toxic cycle of continuously trying to prove yourself to your partner and show them how amazing you are? 

Are you always trying to carve out space for yourself in your partner’s life? Do you always feel like you are just not good enough for your partner? Do you feel like you are not important to the person who is the most important to you? If the answer to the above questions is in the affirmative, these are signs you’re just an option to him or her. What could be the possible reasons behind feeling like an option in a relationship? Let’s find out. 

7 Reasons You Feel Like An Option In A Relationship

If you are not feeling like a priority in a relationship, the character of Tom from 500 Days of Summer might feel relatable to you. This reminds me of a scene, when Summer says, “I like you, Tom. I just don’t want a relationship…” to which Tom responds, “Well, you’re not the only one that gets a say in this! I do too! And I say we’re a couple, goddamn it!”

Tom wanted consistency from Summer but she was always so confused and fluctuating that it ended up frustrating Tom. Feeling like an option in a relationship is devastating, after all. Here are some of the reasons why you feel this way.

1. Your partner takes you for granted

Not feeling like a priority in a relationship can feel like being taken for granted. For example, my friend Paul keeps telling me, “My girlfriend only spends time with me when she wishes. She knows I am not going anywhere and I feel like she takes advantage of it. I don’t feel valued in my relationship. It’s frustrating. Whenever I need her to show up for me, she gives excuses but expects me to show up at all hours. Why do I feel like an option?”

The answer lies in Paul’s question. Being always available could be one of the reasons behind not feeling like a priority in a relationship. Are you someone who would cancel your gym or yoga class to go on a date with your partner? Or do you end up talking for hours on the phone even when you have a mountain of pending work to finish? If you put yourself second, others will also treat you the same way too. If you take yourself for granted, others will take you for granted too. 

2. Your partner treats you like a third wheel 

When you feel like your relationship is one-sided, it can really affect your mental health and sense of self-worth. Clients come to Pooja with problems like, “My partner keeps comparing me to their ex. When I go out with them and their best friends, I feel like a third wheel. Is this some power move my partner is trying to pull?”

Pooja emphasizes, “Being compared to a partner’s ex is certainly uncomfortable. Maybe they want to keep you on an emotional leash by doing this, their friends and them could be still treating you as an outsider.” If you are your partner’s priority, they wouldn’t try to bring you down by mentioning their ex and will do everything they can to make you feel comfortable around their friend circle.

3. Your partner is unsure about you

What are the signs you’re just an option to him? He gives you breadcrumbs of affection and is very inconsistent in his behavior. On some days, you feel like the center of his universe. On other days, you feel neglected and ignored. A, what are the signs you’re just an option to her? In private, you feel like she is obsessed with you. But when it comes to being in public, she acts distant.

What could be the reasons behind feeling like an option in a relationship? Your partner is confused about their feelings and not sure about you. Perhaps, they are commitment phobic. It could also have something to do with their past relationship trauma and fear of getting hurt again. Making you feel like an option helps them keep their guards up, instead of being vulnerable and intimate with you. It could have something to do with their insecure attachment style. These could be the signs you are a standby lover.

4. They have feelings for someone else too

If you are not feeling like a priority in a long-distance relationship, it could be because your partner has developed feelings for someone else. Research points out that only 31% of relationships survive the distance. Cheating was reported in 22% of long-distance relationships, and 5.1% of LDR were open relationships. 

Are you feeling like an option in a relationship? You could be dealing with a classic love triangle. Not feeling like a priority in a long-distance relationship sometimes means that your partner is pursuing someone else or seeing someone else. If she mentions someone’s name too often, it could be one of the signs she is just weighing her options. Or if he is spending too much time with a particular person, it could be one of the signs you’re not a priority to him. It could also be that your partner is having an online affair.

not feeling like a priority in a relationship
Maybe your partner is pursuing or seeing someone else

5. Reasons for feeling like an option in a relationship? Your partner is a workaholic

Remember the series Sherlock Holmes, starring Benedict Cumberbatch? On his role of workaholic Sherlock (who avoids love because it is a mere distraction from his investigations), Benedict said in an interview, “Sherlock is asexual for a purpose. Not because he doesn’t have a sex drive but because it’s suppressed to do his work.”

Maybe it’s a love triangle involving you, your partner, and their work. Being ambitious and passionate about work is one thing, but being married to one’s work is a different story altogether. If you are in love with someone who resembles the latter, it could be one of the reasons for feeling like an option in a relationship. In fact, it could be one of the silent red flags that no one talks about.

6. Your partner gives too much importance to lust

Pooja says, “For some people, their partner can be just a sexual option. If you feel sexualized in a relationship, then you must have a conversation with your partner. If your expectations are not just casual sex but more, your partner must be on the same page.” 

Related Reading: 9 Definite Signs His Love Is Not Real

So, another reason for feeling like an option in a relationship could be that you and your partner have different expectations from the relationship. Good sex is a bonus after all but only having a physical spark but no depth or emotional connection could hamper your relationship. Even Taylor Swift has talked about putting on lust goggles. She said, “Here’s what I’ve learned about deal-breakers: If you have enough natural chemistry with someone, you overlook every single thing that you said would break the deal.”

5 Things To Do When Feeling Like An Option In A Relationship

American columnist Eric Zorn wrote, “There’s no sense talking about priorities. Priorities reveal themselves. We’re all transparent against the face of the clock.” If your partner’s priorities have revealed themselves over time and if they don’t involve you, then these are some of the steps that you can take:

1. Communicate your needs specifically

What to do if you are not feeling like a priority in a relationship? Jessica Biel, who has been married to Justin Timberlake for a decade, was quoted as saying, “Communication, communication, communication. The ability to be really honest about how you’re feeling and what your needs are. Just be able to communicate really honestly with your partner. That’s worked for us so far.” 

Pooja concurs. “Communicate better with your partner, that’s the key. Let them know that you are feeling unwanted in this equation. If they still do not make any attempt to make amends, you must look for an exit or other options,” she says. So, be brave enough to be honest when you feel like your relationship is one-sided. Ask for what you need, when feeling like an option in a relationship. 

Point it out to your partner when you don’t like something. Tell them about the things that matter to you so that they at least have a chance to correct the course. Learn to communicate. This should come from a place of strength, self-respect, and self-worth. Let go of your fear that your partner would leave if you express your needs. Due to this fear, you are depriving yourself and your partner of a deeper relationship. 

2. Rationalize your expectations

What to do when you are not a priority in your relationship? If you are feeling like an option in a relationship, some introspection can do you a world of good. Do you expect your partner to treat you as the center of their universe? Or do you want them to worship you and drop everything else the moment you ask them to? Are your expectations coming from a needy place or are you trying to fill a void within yourself?

So, what to do when not you are not a priority in your relationship? Evaluate your expectations. Make sure that they are realistic. The last thing you want is to be in a codependent relationship. If your partner starts fulfilling your unrealistic expectations, you would probably lose interest in him or her. But also remember that if your expectations are realistic and rational, then you don’t have to compromise in your relationship.

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3. Not feeling like a priority in a relationship? Build self-worth

Why are you not able to express that you are not feeling like a priority in a relationship? Because you are too scared that the person that you love might leave you. And why are you so scared? Because you lack self-worth and don’t see value in yourself. This is why you settle and compromise, even when you know that the relationship no longer serves you and even when you see signs that you should walk away when you’re not a priority.

Are you looking for tips on what to do when you are not a priority in your relationship? The most important piece of advice we have for you is to work on building your self-worth i.e. become worthy in your own eyes. Take a moment and make a list of your successes and accomplishments. Create short-term goals and when you achieve them, pat yourself on the back. At the end of the day, highlight your blessings and note all that you are grateful for. This will help you build your self-worth and self-respect. And once you respect yourself, you wouldn’t be okay with people disrespecting you.  

4. Don’t obsess over it

If you are feeling like an option in a relationship, don’t worry or obsess over it too much. This is not a life or death situation. This is not a litmus test of your self-worth or self-esteem. It could have a lot to do with how your partner is as a person and also how compatible you both are. Maybe you are dating an immature person. Dating is just a discovery process. Know that your options are also always open and it is not the end of the world if you are not a priority to your partner.

Also, if you are not living a happy and fulfilling life on your own, you will end up expecting your partner to fill the void. So, start filling your own cup. Indulge in activities and hobbies that make you feel like yourself. If you don’t fill your time up with things that you genuinely enjoy, your energy will come off as unattractive, clingy, and needy, and that can push your partner away. 

5. Walk away

It is totally normal if your partner prioritizes their health, job, or family over the relationship sometimes, if the situation demands. But if you notice a continuous, unchanging pattern, it is better to walk away when you’re not a priority. Clients keep asking Pooja, “How to know that it is time to leave a relationship?” Pooja emphasizes, “It is time to walk away in some situations – abuse, no communication, betrayal of trust, gaslighting.”

Related Reading: 12 Tips To End A Toxic Relationship With Dignity

So, if they are your priority and you are their option, there is no point in overstaying your welcome. It is better to walk away instead of letting it affect your self-esteem. You don’t have to beg them to meet your needs. You don’t have to wait for them to cheat on you. It’s better to be alone than to be in an equation that makes you feel alone.

Also, therapy is the greatest gift that you can give to yourself when feeling like an option in a relationship. When you talk to a licensed therapist, you feel heard and validated. Finding a release for your thoughts during a therapy session could be a good way to cope when not feeling like a priority in a relationship. A therapist can help you identify problems (rooted in childhood trauma) and can even give suitable solutions. If you’re looking for help to make sense of your situation, counselors on Bonobology’s panel are here for you. 

Key Pointers

  • Feeling like an option in a relationship could have a lot to do with your partner’s unsure feelings and their habit of taking you for granted
  • If you feel invisible, ignored, and under-appreciated in your relationship, it could be a sign that you are not a priority
  • Make sure your expectations from your partner are realistic and you are not trying to fill an internal void of loneliness by expecting too much
  • Communicate your needs to your partner clearly, build self-worth and consider walking away if you feel you deserve better

Don’t be afraid of walking away from a toxic relationship and being single if you are feeling like an option in a relationship. Taylor Swift has some strong advice to offer on the matter, “I think it’s healthy for everyone to go a few years without dating, just because you need to get to know who you are. And I’ve done more thinking and examining and figuring out how to cope with things on my own than I would have if I had been focusing on someone else’s emotions and someone else’s schedule. It’s been really good.”

FAQs

1. Should a relationship feel like work?

A relationship is not always a cakewalk and definitely requires consistent efforts. But if your relationship feels like work all the time and not something that adds fulfillment and fun to your life, some things need to be evaluated.

2. What’s the difference between priority and option?

Feeling like an option in a relationship makes you feel not worthy and not good enough. It puts you in a position of constantly trying to prove yourself and win their approval. On the other hand, being a priority makes you feel safe, stable, confident, and secure.

3. Do feelings fluctuate in a relationship?

Yes, feelings fluctuate in a relationship. People go through phases of doubt. Feeling confused about your choices is totally normal. But how you deal with those doubts is what matters the most.

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