Relationships can get pretty complicated. All sorts of relationships too. From time immemorial, many stories have been told about how difficult and challenging romantic love can be. From the love between the famous Romeo and Juliet that was forbidden by society to the vastly differing desires and values of the two leads in the movie Marriage Story, I think you have a fair idea of what we are talking about.
A lot of people nowadays use the label “complicated” for a relationship that is hard to define. Alex, a 28-year-old working in a software company says, “I never knew what it meant when a girl says it’s complicated until I met Rita. We met on an online dating app and quickly became very intimate. We got caught up in the passion and never really talked about our expectations, to begin with.
“Soon, her job was making her travel and so was mine, and suddenly we didn’t have much time together. Six months in, I realized we weren’t on the same page at all. She wanted to explore her career and wasn’t ready to commit. I was looking to settle down. I think that was enough for me to finally realize that my relationship is complicated.”
While labels can sometimes fail to encompass all the nuances of a complicated relationship, avoiding labeling a relationship can lead to a blurring of boundaries and a lot of confusion. In such cases, it’s important to understand why a relationship is complicated and how both partners can work it out. Let’s delve into the question of what essentially is a complicated relationship.
What Essentially Is A Complicated Relationship?
The world of human relationships is rapidly changing and people are starting to desire many things that are different from the conventional happy married life notions that we had earlier on. We’re starting to explore more in terms of finding a partner who is suitable for our wants and needs.
“I always thought Rick and I wanted the same thing. We had been close friends for several years, and would often talk about our shared dreams for our future. Rick had been through toxic relationships in the past where his exes had cheated on him. A few months after we started dating, he started feeling insecure and jealous of my male friendships,” says Sylvie.
A year into the relationship, Sylvie realized that she and Rick were incompatible. “My freedom was important to me, and security was important to Rick, so it was never going to work out. If only we had opened up to each other earlier, we would have avoided our relationship becoming strained and that’s what gave us the complicated relationship status,” she adds.
Since relationships are labeled ‘complicated’ when they are hard to define, there isn’t one single complicated relationship meaning that is common for everyone. Depending on the source of the problem, there are many reasons that can trigger the “my relationship is complicated” dilemma. Here are just a few different examples of complicated relationships and how can one describe a complicated relationship based on their problem:
1. Friends with benefits – a sure-shot complicated relationship status
You started off as friends first and all was going well. But then someone expressed a sexual attraction and the dynamic quickly shifted. Maybe one of you wants to be a little more than friends but doesn’t say it out loud too much. Even though the sexual compatibility and chemistry are still there, you’re not sure how you actually feel about each other.
You have sex every now and then, trying to keep it casual and trying to hide your feelings from one another. But one person is clearly more invested than the other. Or it’s possible that both are. So when one of you mentions hooking up with somebody else, the other seems to get distressed and jealous. But sadly, unable to voice their jealousy and their concern.
Maybe you’ve considered something more but you’re afraid to dive in because a valuable friendship is at stake. You swing between keeping it casual and having moments of intimacy. Soon, you don’t know what you are to each other and now it’s feeling very complicated.
Related Reading: 18 Friends With Benefits Rules To Swear By
2. The distance between us
What does it mean when a girl says her relationship is complicated? In the modern world of being career-oriented and climbing the corporate ladder, you may quickly develop a close relationship with someone who doesn’t share the same long-term goals as you. You try juggling career and love but struggle to stay in sync with one another.
You wonder if your diverging futures foretell that the relationship isn’t in the cards. You try to focus on the present but a huge and menacing degree of uncertainty looms over the relationship. You try so very hard because you love each other passionately but love is not enough. And that’s what makes it complicated.
3. Need for family approval can lead to a ‘relationship is complicated’ situation
We often find that our modern values, notions and ideas often conflict with family traditions. From the choice of job to lifestyles to even adopting Veganism, there is a lot your family might disapprove of. This same applies to our choice of partners as well and might even give you and your partner a complicated relationship status.
A relationship may become complicated if you love someone who needs that familial validation to officially be part of your life but doesn’t get it.
What does it mean when a girl says her relationship is complicated? Meeting the parents probably didn’t go too smoothly for you. You end up confused between standing up for your partner and fighting for them or reevaluating your life choices because you do know that your family only wants the best for you.
4. There and back again
Finding yourself falling into the same pattern with someone you previously dated? Well, that’s a recipe for a complicated relationship right there. Familiar feelings cloud your decision to break up and you start seeing them again, even if you want different things. This type of complication arises often when there is codependency between ex-partners, and it can evolve into a toxic relationship unless nipped in the bud.
Beverly Knope, a nurse based in Dubuque, Illinois, had been in an on-and-off relationship with Daniel for the longest time. After three years of back and forth, Beverly says, “My relationship is complicated because his feelings for me change like he’s flipping a switch. One day, he can’t imagine his life without me, and the next, he’s convinced he needs to focus on himself and his own mental health. I’m feeling very lost and don’t know what is good for us anymore.”
5. All out in the open
This is a new one on the block as couples are becoming more open to the idea of ‘opening’ up the relationship and trying new forms of commitment. But this can give a complicated relationship status to your dynamic very quickly if you two are not on the same page the whole time.
So here’s how an open relationship works: You or your partner may suggest not to be exclusive as you want to continue to enjoy a taste of what is out there. But you’ve also set rules and decided to draw the line at sexual relationships.
Do consider this though. If you or your partner are unsure about polyamory, then jealousy is inevitable. You may even develop feelings, and without clarity, it becomes emotional infidelity very quickly. What started off as a little experiment or leeway might turn into a full-fledged breakdown of your relationship. If you don’t express how you feel at the right time, things are going to get complicated very soon.
Related Reading: 8 Open Relationship Rules That Have To Be Followed To Make It Work
6. Hidden and forbidden
Here is how one can describe a complicated relationship that happens when one person strays from their path and gives into temptations that can wreck their connection with their primary partner. Cheating on our partner feels taboo and is probably not right but you think that it may breathe new life into your stagnant sexuality. You may find someone who fulfills you in a way your partner doesn’t and that’s enough for you to cross the line.
You may enter a relationship with someone who is already committed, and love blossoms between the two of you. The kind that you haven’t felt in the longest time. However, infidelity or extramarital affairs always become a ticking time bomb of hurt that eventually leaves both relationships complicated.
7. What does it mean when a girl says her relationship is complicated? Commitment phobia
Yes, it could just be a commitment phobia. So you meet someone new and vibe well with them. The sex is great, and there’s definitely a spark otherwise too. The conversation comes easily, they get you well and you just love spending time with each other. But there’s a catch. And here’s how that goes.
Your distressing fear of committing holds you back, consigning your relationship to the complicated zone. Maybe he asks you to be in an exclusive relationship with him or wants to give it a label but every time he brings it up, all you do is brush him off or change the topic. Maybe because of past hurt, self-esteem issues or a general unwillingness to be accountable to someone is making one feel this way and acting like a commitment-phobe.
Related Reading: What Is Fear Of Commitment And How To Deal With It
8. Feeling like you are stuck in a rut when a relationship is complicated
You stay in a relationship past its expiry date, hoping to rekindle a spark because you believe so strongly in this relationship and in your love. You are so hopeful that you actually start pretending you’re in love with them, wishing it to be true as it once used to be.
You’ve invested a lot of emotional energy in each other and don’t want to see all those memories and effort go to waste. Yet you realize you’ve grown apart, and grown into different people. What was previously a relationship with a secure future has now become complicated as the love is not there anymore. Just a desperate need to keep it together is one way to describe a complicated relationship.
11 Signs You Are In A Complicated Relationship
Now that we have seen some examples of complicated relationships, it is important to know how to identify if you are indeed in one. At times, we want everything to be rosy and cozy, so we avoid looking at our complicated relationship problems. We casually live in ignorance until the bubble eventually bursts one day.
But here’s an alternative way of doing things: instead of neglecting the problem, let’s spot it early on and work on it. Only after you read the signs can you start improving the relationship or decide if you want to leave it completely. If even a few of these 11 signs of a complicated relationship ring true for you, then it’s time to take action.
1. You’re not sure how they feel about you
One of the top signs you are in a complicated relationship could be this one. Your partner might not be expressing much affection, leaving you unsure about your relationship. It might stem from your own insecurity, or your partner’s inability to express themselves.
If that’s not the case with them and you’ve only noticed this shift recently in their personality, then it’s a sign that something’s up. Maybe they’ve lost interest, are going through a tough time personally or have found someone else. Have a frank conversation with them and see if they are clear about their feelings or not.
2. You’re not sure how you feel about them
So you find yourself fantasizing about other people or even seeking them out. Maybe you love someone else – an ex or someone new – or maybe you just don’t feel a strong desire toward your current partner anymore. Either way, if you’re doubting your feelings, it’s time to take notice before things get worse.
Don’t brush your feelings off. If you’re not feeling strongly about this relationship, it’s okay to look at it with fresh eyes. It’s also okay to ask yourself and your partner tough questions to see how things are really going in the relationship.
Related Reading: My Fantasy Sex Life
3. You’re not sure where your futures will take you
You seem to want different things in life and avoid talking about your future. Maybe you can’t even picture a future with them or that they don’t figure into the picture you paint for your own future. If that’s not what you’re looking for, you need to check in with each other and reevaluate because this is definitely going to become a difficult relationship.
Ask the hard questions – where do they eventually want to live, what are their career plans, and do they want kids. These are important questions to ask before marriage or committing to a serious relationship. Don’t shy away from them, even though the answers may not always be what you want to hear.
4. Your status of exclusivity is vague
Maybe you’re monogamous and have found yourself in a relationship with someone who is already seeing someone else. Or perhaps either one of you has decided to open up the relationship. If either one of you is uncomfortable with the lack of exclusivity, it’s time to have a conversation about it.
5. You’re lacking commitment
Another word for a complicated relationship is commitment-phobia. Do you feel like you don’t want to fully commit to your partner or are they being hot and cold with you? Sometimes we stay in relationships because we’re afraid to be alone or perhaps complacency in the relationship has left you festered with doubts about a future with your partner.
If your lack of commitment does not stem from fear, then maybe they aren’t the one for you. There’s nothing wrong with not wanting commitment, but if you’re not on the same page about it, it’s going to cause plenty of trouble. So, again, communicate clearly with your partner about what you want out of this relationship.
6. You’re not involved in each other’s lives
You don’t make an effort to share each other’s interests or even spend time together. Maybe you don’t hang out with each other’s friends or haven’t met each other’s family. This is a sign that you’ve reached a plateau, and eventually you have to either cross the next milestone or take the next exit.
7. You’re too involved in each other’s lives
Codependency is bound to develop if both of you spend too much time together and don’t maintain parts of your life independent of each other. You might have started relying on your partner to do things you should be doing for yourself. You no longer do things for yourself or spend time alone or with your own set of friends.
If you can’t separate the individual from the couple, then it’s time to set some healthy boundaries before you lose your mind. After all, if you don’t take good care of yourself, how are you going to take care of anyone else, let alone an entire relationship.
8. You fight often
Some amount of fighting in relationships is normal. However, if you find yourself fighting way too often about petty issues, there may be some larger underlying problems at play, which in itself is one of the signs of a complicated relationship. It’s time to stop avoiding the issue and start reflecting, especially if the fights are getting ugly or abusive. Remember, abuse doesn’t only come in physical form. Emotional abuse is very much a thing to look out for as well.
Related Reading: 5 Signs Of Emotional Abuse You Should Watch Out For, Warns Therapist
9. You feel constantly unhappy
When we feel sad or even depressed, at times it can be hard to pinpoint the source. If one part of our life is making us miserable, we might want to sweep the complicated relationship problems under the metaphorical rug. But if you’re unable to be happy, it’s high time to address the problems of this difficult relationship. No relationship is worth your peace of mind, so if you’re constantly shedding tears over your relationship, ditch it.
10. You keep falling back into the same pattern
You’ve been through the same strokes: breaking up and getting back together again. Maybe you both are codependent and can’t move on. This is one of the definite signs of a complicated relationship. If it’s not healthy anymore, then it’s time to break the pattern.
Repeating relationship patterns is exhausting and toxic for all parties concerned. There’s no point being miserable all the time. Think about why you keep falling back into the old ways and then take serious action to get yourself out of this relationship rut.
11. You feel out of sync with each other
If you’ve been together for a while, you might start to notice a shift in the relationship. While it is normal for partners to fall out of sync with one another every now and then, it may be a sign that you’ve grown apart. If you find each other’s behavior out of the ordinary, it’s time to check in and see if you’re still on the same page.
Do you feel the same way about important issues? Are your basic expectations from the relationship the same? Do you both want the same outcome from this relationship? If the answer is no, think about moving on.
What Do I Do If I Find Myself In A Complicated Relationship?
Remember, no relationship is ever as simple as asking yourself the question, “Do I love them?”, and it’s not easy even if your partner loves you back. There are always going to be factors, whether from outside the relationship or from within, that make it complicated. Sometimes you might think everything is going smoothly and suddenly, your beloved boy or girl says it’s complicated.
However, if you ignore your relationship problems, then they will only fester, like untreated wounds, and result in one or both partners getting hurt. So, if you find yourself often saying, “It’s Complicated”, then it’s time to change your complicated relationship status.
1. Communication is key to solving the problem of being in a difficult relationship
It is important to regularly check in with your partner to ensure that both of you are on the same page. It may be important for both of you to share your side of the story to feel acknowledged and to admit your mistakes in order to work on the relationship. It’s okay to not always have a ready solution or to be uncertain about your future. It’s important that both of you are on the same page about it.
2. Define boundaries
Lack of boundaries is basically another term for a complicated relationship. Clearly state what this relationship means to you and set goals for the future. Are you in for the long haul, or looking for a summer fling? Openly talking about your feelings and desires will help you work through your complications, and ultimately make your relationship stronger.
Related Reading: How Do You Set Emotional Boundaries In Relationships
3. Commit to putting in work
Complicated relationship problems can hurt, especially if you are emotionally close and frequently vulnerable with your partner. However, if you see a future in the relationship, then working through them is completely worth it. Both you and your partner must be ready to invest time and energy into working through it if you are serious about them being your life partner.
4. Ask yourself if it’s really working
Do you actually see a future in the relationship? In some cases, talking it out might reveal a lack of compatibility, leading you to realize that it wasn’t meant to be in the first place. If your gut feeling is really strong about that, it might be time to trust it. Maybe the time has come to finally end things.
5. Seek support if you see signs you are in a complicated relationship
You might need to have multiple conversations over a course of time before you break new ground. Sometimes, you may be moving in spirals, and it may become important to seek help from outside the relationship. You can talk to close friends or family for some much-needed perspective or even seek therapy and counseling to work through the issues.
6. Show that you care
If you decide to stay in the relationship and work through it, you need to show each other that you still care. Remind each other that in spite of your problems, you still love each other. Healing takes time, so meanwhile, do little things for your partner to express your love and show them how much you care for them.
Whatever may be the complication or the outcome of dealing with it, it is always better to work on removing uncertainty from a relationship, rather than to simply label your relationship as “complicated” and let it hang in the balance. We hope you can identify what is going wrong in your relationship, what is the reason for your unhappiness and figure out what to do next.
A complicated relationship is when you may love/like the other person but are not sure if you want to be in a relationship with them.
Yes, absolutely. And both the partners are pretty troubled as well. A complicated relationship means that the partners aren’t in this relationship with both feet in and have to figure out a few things before they are absolutely committed to one another.
On Facebook, a complicated relationship means that you do have somewhat of a connection or romance with someone but it is not a full-fledged commitment to call it a proper relationship. However, you are also not single yet since your heart is involved somewhere else.