You get into a relationship with someone because you’re in love with them and want to be with them out of your own will. You get a sense of safety when you are around them. You feel loved, appreciated, acknowledged, and adored. However, when all these warm feelings are missing in your dynamic with your significant other, you may well be in a forced relationship.
Simply put, you’re staying on out of a sense of obligation, not because the relationship brings you joy. For more clarity on what being forced into a relationship looks like, we reached out to counseling psychologist Akanksha Varghese (MSc Psychology), who specializes in different forms of relationship counseling, from dating and premarital to break up and abuse.
Akanksha says, “Forcing a relationship isn’t limited to romantic connections. It also exists in platonic relationships. Even a relationship that starts out happy and joyous can turn into an enforced relationship.”
What Is A Forced Relationship?
Before we get to identifying the signs of this clearly unhappy dynamic, let’s address an important question – what exactly is a forced relationship? According to a study on forced marriage done in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, it was found that most of the unwilling marriages have witnessed intimate partner violence and sexual violence.
Forcing a relationship to work is like forcing a cat to speak. It will purr and meow. But it won’t speak your language. Akanksha explains, “A forced relationship is one where either one or both partners hold on to the idea of togetherness even when deep-down they know full well that their connection is on its last legs. When you force a relationship onto the other person or on each other despite a clear absence of love, it can quickly turn into an emotionally abusive relationship.”
One of the shotgun relationship examples could be of a closeted gay person who is unable to embrace their sexuality openly and ends up starting a relationship with someone they aren’t attracted to. Since there is no love in the connection, this person inevitably ends up forcing a relationship to work, and in the process, treats their partner unjustly and dishonestly.
13 Signs You May Be In A Forced Relationship
Forcing yourself on someone or forcing someone to love you can never end well. At least one or both partners are bound to feel trapped in such a relationship. That’s not love. Love is when you feel liberated. If you have been reeling under a similar sense of suffocation but haven’t been able to put a finger on why that is, the following signs you are being forced to love someone may help you find the answers that have eluded you:
1. Never getting over fights and arguments
Akanksha says, “People in a shotgun relationship or marriage argue constantly and it’s never water under the bridge. The same fights will take place almost every day without a solution or resolution in sight. You and your spouse will say hurtful things to each other without meaning them.”
Disagreements and fights between partners are inevitable. The difference is that in a healthy relationship, people accept the differences and let them go because of the love they have for each other. When the relationship feels forced, you will never let go of even the slightest of conflicts and hold on to that resentment. There will never be any resolution.
2. A forced relationship is marred by negativity
Speaking about negativity when you are forcing someone to love you or are being forced to “stay in love”, Akanksha says, “A forcible relationship will be fraught with negativity. There will be jealousy, suspicion, manipulation, and gaslighting. So much so that the outsiders can clearly tell there’s something wrong about your relationship.”
All of this toxicity will give way to the following signs that you might be in a negative relationship:
- Your partner only takes but never gives anything in return. Be it love, compromise, gifts, or even time
- Your partner judges you for everything
- Your partner is selfish
- You feel like you are walking on eggshells around them
- Your partner isn’t supportive of you
3. There is no genuine affection or love
When a partner forces their love on you, there won’t be any genuine affection between you two. While you may indulge in a lot of PDA to paint the picture of a happy couple for the world, when the two of you are alone, you will barely feel any connection to one another.
Akanksha says, “In a compulsory relationship, two people will be on their own despite living under the same roof. They may put on a show of love and adoration for the world but in their personal space, they won’t touch, make love, or look into each other’s eyes.”
Related Reading: How To Stop Feeling Empty And Fill The Void
4. There is no respect
There can be multiple reasons behind your partner not loving you. It could be because you hurt them, or they lost their feelings for you, or because they fell in love with someone else. But there should be absolutely no reason why this person can’t respect you. Your partner calling you offensive names, mocking you, and passing sarcastic comments when you are in a private setting are all signs that they feel forced to stay in the relationship.
5. Signs of a forced relationship – There are no boundaries
A person who is forcing you to love them won’t respect your boundaries. They will invade your privacy and won’t let you have any time to yourself. There will be no individuality left and you will eventually feel caged in the relationship.
Speaking of the characteristics of a person who forces love, a Reddit user shares, “Someone that doesn’t respect your boundaries or discomfort is forcing you to love them. There are many more boundaries that this person will push. You have to figure out some way to leave, get a new place set up, find some new friends, and stay out of the house as much as possible.”
6. Feeling intense emotions
Akanksha shares, “Considering all the conflicts that are taking place in forcible wedlock or relationship, you will end up feeling intense emotions like hurt, frustration, resentment, anger, disappointment, and heartbreak. Whereas all the positive emotions will be missing because of a lack of affection, love, care, and empathy.”
These negative emotions that are so intense will harm your mental health sooner or later. If you’re struggling to cope with a forced relationship, it’s imperative to prioritize your mental health. Should you need professional help, Bonobology’s panel of experienced counselors is only a click away.
7. When they love the idea of loving you and being loved
There is a thin line between loving someone and loving the idea of loving someone. Let’s say you see a cute person at a bar, but you don’t make a move nor do they. When you go back home, you imagine what it would feel like to fall in love and have a relationship with them. That’s what it is to love the idea of loving someone.
Selena, a telemarketer from Boston, wrote to us, “I don’t feel like I’m in a relationship with my boyfriend. I give my everything and he barely lifts a finger to keep the relationship going. He says that he loves me but his actions don’t match his words. I feel he loves the idea of being in a relationship more than he loves me.”
This is exactly what it feels like to be in a forced romance where your partner relies solely on their words and lofty promises to keep you around but their actions rarely measure up. This individual loves to be in a relationship or likes the idea of this relationship. But one thing is for sure, there is no love present.
Related Reading: How To End A Long-Term Relationship? 7 Helpful Tips
8. Emotional abuse takes place
A forced relationship can have insidious markers of emotional abuse. As a result, the person trapped in it may end up feeling depressed, stressed, anxious, or even suicidal. Akanksha advises, “You need to ask yourself whether you are in love or forcing it because the person you’re with has been abusing you emotionally.
“Tread carefully when you are involved with a person who uses emotional abuse because their tactics will never be transparent to you. You will only realize you were emotionally abused when the relationship is over or when your mental health takes a hit.” Some other signs of emotional abuse in a relationship include:
- Name-calling and using derogatory terms to address your partner
- Character assassination
- Embarrassing your partner in public
- Insulting their appearance
- Insulting, belittling, and being dismissive
- Gaslighting, manipulation, and love-bombing
9. You have a trauma bond
Another involuntary relationship example is when you’re bound together not by love but by an unhealthy attachment, also known as trauma bonding. Trauma bonding can look different depending on the dynamics of each relationship. However, it has two main characteristics – abuse and love bombing. First, they will abuse you and then they will shower you with love, kindness, and care, and this cycle repeats on a loop.
Another sign of a trauma bond includes a power struggle in a relationship. One person will try to control the other and the person being controlled won’t know what they’d do if they left the relationship. That’s why they continue to be with this person despite knowing they are being abused.
10. Constant hope of things getting better
Akanksha shares, “Even when there are clear signs that a person is in an unhappy and forced relationship, they will cling on to the hope that things will get better. They know that they are being forced to love their partner but they don’t walk out because they are giving their relationship another chance.”
It’s an unwilling relationship when both parties know they don’t love each other. But they still give it time because they want to see if they can make it work. They keep hoping and waiting for things to change and improve.
11. When there is no emotional intimacy
You need vulnerability and emotional intimacy to sustain a relationship. When there is no emotional connection between two people, you deliberately avoid talking about your feelings. Just the thought of sharing your feelings with your partner fills you with a sense of futility because you know they are going to disregard your thoughts.
Some other signs of emotional intimacy in a relationship are:
- You only talk on the surface level
- You don’t share your fears, traumas, and secrets
- You constantly feel unheard and unseen
12. You don’t talk about the future
Akanksha says, “You are in a forced relationship when your partner doesn’t discuss their future plans with you. Even when a third party asks you about your goals, you’re likely to dodge the question.” When you love someone, you want to have a future with them. It doesn’t have to happen immediately but someday down the lane you envision a house with them. When you don’t ever talk about your future, it’s one of the signs of a contrived relationship.
13. You imagine breaking up with them
Breakups are painful. Just the thought of breaking up with someone you love can be terrifying. But when the relationship feels forced, the thought of a breakup doesn’t bother you. In fact, it brings you relief. This is what happens when two people are exhausted from each other. And it’s usually because of a lack of communication, boundaries, and trust.
How To Get Out Of A Forced Relationship
Forcing someone to stay in the relationship or forcing your partner to marry you is never okay. It is even considered a crime in the UK. Under The Forced Marriage Act, of 2007, a wedding ceremony can be legally stopped if it’s taking place without the consent of both people.
This reflects how potentially dangerous such an arrangement can be. And that’s why it’s important to plan an exit strategy once you identify the signs you’re in a forced relationship. It takes grit, courage, and correct redressal of emotional traumas to be able to walk out of a forced relationship.
Akanksha shares, “Low self-esteem is one of the biggest factors why a person chooses to be in a forced alliance. When that person starts valuing themselves and chooses their happiness over their partner’s, it’s the first step to getting out of a forced relationship.”
The breakup healing process is never quick. It is slow and it will make you feel like you are alone. All you have to do is be brave and take the first step. Once you’ve taken that first step, the following tips on how to get out of a forced relationship can help you in your onward journey:
- Stop thinking that you won’t find love outside of this person
- Believe that you are capable of being loved without begging for love
- Talk to a trusted family member or a family therapist
- Place your mental health above everything else
And if you suspect you may be pressuring your partner to stay with you, here are some tips on how to not force a relationship on someone:
- Talk to them
- If you have established healthy boundaries in the relationship, then respect them and don’t invade their privacy
- Ask them if they want to be in a relationship with you
- Don’t force a relationship and act of spite when they tell you they don’t love you
- Don’t be selfish
- When either one or both partners stay in a relationship out of obligation, not love, it’s a forced relationship
- Don’t force a relationship without asking for your partner’s consent; at the same time, don’t let another person coax you into staying in a relationship you want to get out of
- Emotional abuse, manipulation in relationships, and lack of emotional intimacy and respect are some tell-tale signs of being forced into a relationship
- If you’re in a forced relationship, walking away is your best bet. But for that, you first need to work through your emotional traumas and build your self-esteem
Forcing love and being forced to love can be difficult to get out of. Even though walking out on someone you don’t love may seem like the easiest thing to do, the dynamics of such relationships are often a lot more complicated. But remember, you deserve to be in a happy, fulfilling relationship. To get there, you need to take that first step toward your personal growth.
Yes, it’s possible to force yourself to love someone. You may continue to stay in a relationship for the convenience it brings. Or because you love the idea of being loved. It’s the easiest solution for loneliness. However, it’s not healthy or sustainable in the long run.
Know your boundaries and respect their privacy. When this line gets crossed, you have forced yourself on someone. Don’t assume that they want to exclusively date you and jump the gun by telling people you are in a relationship with them. Always ask for consent before telling people about this relationship, ask consent before taking them out on a date or before touching them.