Ah, the coveted, glorious feeling that is being in love. Enough has been said and written about it, and for good reason. Everyone yearns to love and be loved. Feeling this single emotion earnestly and deeply remains one of our life’s biggest quests. But what happens to this quest for love when you’re not ready for a relationship?
Well, naturally, that’s where things get murky. When you’re not ready for a relationship but in love, you neither go all-in nor let go completely. From heartbreak to playing hot-and-cold, being stuck in ‘it’s complicated’ equations, and wanting no-strings-attached, or as the cool kids say, ‘together without labels’, every complex romantic equation is the result of at least one partner not being ready for commitment.
None of these is a pleasant place to be in, even if you’re the one perpetuating it. When someone is not ready for a relationship, they should take some time to figure out what they want for themselves and put their romantic pursuits on the backburner for a while. The trouble is not many people have the self-awareness to understand their lack of readiness for a relationship or commitment. To help you on that front, let’s explore the signs someone is not ready for a relationship.
Not Ready For A Relationship – 11 Signs
Table of Contents
“I really like him but I’m not ready for a relationship.” “I’m not ready for a relationship but I like her.” “I like the way things are between us, but am I actually ready for a relationship?” If these questions weigh on your mind the moment things start getting serious in a romantic connection, there is little doubt that you’re terrified of the emotional intimacy and vulnerability that come with serious, long-term relationships.
You are not emotionally ready for a relationship. And you’re not alone. Taking a step back or being swept up in a tide of doubt and then using excuses like “I’m just not in a place where I can be emotionally invested in someone” to justify backtracking is the story of so many singles today. Take the example of my friend, Lauren, who has been caught in a string of relationships that just don’t work out.
She has tried a host of different dating apps but has had no luck in finding a steady partnership. Over a coffee catch-up, she said to me, exasperated, “So, there’s this new guy I’ve been talking to. Once again, I’m getting all the signals he’s not ready for a relationship but likes me. Frankly, I’m exhausted with these guys I meet on dating apps.”
I gathered all the courage I could, to break it to her. “Lauren, have you ever considered the possibility that it is YOU who is not ready for a relationship?” Predictably, she was taken aback and somewhat offended at my insinuation. And so, I drew her attention to the tell-tale signs she was not ready for a committed relationship. If you’re in a similar place in life as Lauren, pay attention to these 11 signs you’re not ready for a relationship:
1. The idea of a relationship doesn’t make you happy
You enjoy the flirtation and the chase but the idea of a relationship doesn’t make you happy. The moment things begin to get serious or the other person starts seeming emotionally invested, you want to bolt in the opposite direction. “I’m not ready for a relationship but I like him. I like him so much. I don’t want to let him go. Why do we need labels?” I’ve heard Lauren say this so many times. Yet, she remains in denial about her lack of readiness to put both feet in and take the plunge.
Perhaps, you’re not sure that the person you’re with is the one for you, even though you like them a lot. Or maybe the idea of commitment fills up you with the dreaded FOMO. What if there is someone better out there and you miss out because you settled for this person? This has been a common side-effect of the endless loop of left-and-right swipes brought on by the online dating culture.
If being in a relationship makes you feel like you’re settling for someone or are getting tied down and losing out on your world-is-the-oyster way of life, then naturally it won’t bring you happiness. That is one of the biggest signs you are not ready for a serious relationship.
2. You’re still hung up on your ex
Lauren’s unsuccessful run at the dating scene began six months after her long-term boyfriend ended things with her. She still pines for him. Even though she doesn’t admit to it, his frequent mentions in conversations, the memories of their time together carefully preserved, all give away that she was not over her ex.
When you’re not over your past, it’s near-impossible to make room for someone new in your life. Even if you do, it’d be half-hearted at best. People who still yearn to get back together with an ex or are secretly hoping that the ex would come back are typically not ready for a relationship. At least, not with someone new anyway.
That’s what often leads to the “I’m not ready for a relationship but I like her or him” emotional mess in romantic pursuits. When you find yourself unable to progress from the dating stage to a relationship with labels, commitment and expectations, you need to introspect and zero in on the reasons why you’re not ready for a relationship. If you find that it’s the ex-factor holding you back, you have your work cut out for you. Focus on healing and moving on before you even consider being in a relationship.
3. You’re not ready for a relationship if you’re too busy
Perhaps, you threw yourself into work to deal with a painful heartbreak or are just career-driven and ambitious. Maybe, you’re at that critical juncture in your career where work trumps all else in life. Or you’re trying dating as a single mom or dad but always feel that between work, children, social commitments and all else, there just isn’t time to go out on dates or meet someone.
Whatever be the reason, if you’re too busy, it indicates you’re not mentally ready for a relationship. Even if you do try, in all likelihood, the relationship will crash and burn because you just don’t have the mind space to nurture a new bond. If you find yourself canceling and rescheduling dates more often and not and texting a romantic interest seems like another chore on your to-do list, you need to ask yourself, “Am I actually ready for a relationship?”
4. Trust issues mean you’re not emotionally ready for a relationship
One of the tell-tale signs you’re not ready for a relationship is that you struggle with trust issues. Typically, this happens if your trust has been betrayed in an intimate connection before. Nigel, for instance, had walked in on his girlfriend in bed with his best friend. The setback, followed by an ugly breakup happened almost two years ago. The solitude brought on by Coronavirus-triggered lockdowns made coping with the heartbreak even harder for Nigel.
Even though he is back on the dating scene now, he maintains he’s not ready for a relationship and won’t be anytime soon. “It’s going to be flings and one-night stands for now. I’m not ready to entrust someone with my heart again yet, and not sure if I’ll ever be,” he says.
If, like Nigel, you too find yourself torn over “I’m not ready for a relationship but I like her/him”, you need to prioritize working on yourself over making up your mind about whether or not you’re ready to go all-in in a new romantic connection. Because if you don’t heal from what hurt you, you’ll bleed on people who didn’t cut you.
Related Reading: What Is Fear Of Commitment And How To Deal With It
5. You play hot-and-cold when not ready for a relationship but in love
What happens when you’re not ready for a relationship but in love? Well, you have at your hand the classic recipe for making a bad situation worse. While, on the one hand, you’re not ready for a relationship, on the other, the intense feelings you may develop for someone can be hard to let go of.
Thus begins a tussle between the heart and the mind, the rational and the emotional. When you distance yourself from them, you start yearning for them. When you’re with them, the need to protect yourself makes you want to run away. It invariably leads to you playing hot-and-cold with the object of your affection.
One of the most telling signs you are not ready for a serious relationship is that your romantic connections are always on-and-off, hot-and-cold. You cannot make up your mind about whether to stay or leave. Whichever you choose, the other seems more alluring, and so you keep going in circles, turning a potentially beautiful connection into a toxic mess.
6. You’re not sure how you feel about the other person
Among the signs someone is not ready for a relationship is a lacking clarity of thought. Lauren has been doing the hot-and-cold dance with the guy she described as “he’s not ready for a relationship but likes me” for a while now. To help her gain some perspective, I asked her, “How do you feel about him?”
“That’s the whole god-damned problem. I don’t know. I’m clearly not ready for a relationship but I like him. But I don’t know if I like him enough to push myself to do something I’m not 100% sure of. I don’t even know if I see myself being with him even 6 months from now. So why bother, right?”
Does that sound familiar? Have you ever found yourself confused about how you feel about someone? I want you to revisit that feeling again and answer this honestly – Were you actually confused about how you felt or in denial about the feelings that were very much there and you wanted to make them go away? In all likelihood, the answer is the latter, right? So, then, you need to ask yourself, “Is ‘not ready for a relationship’ an excuse for protecting yourself from any perceived hurt in the future?
7. You’re not mentally ready for a relationship if you crave drama
If you’ve been in a toxic relationship before, you may have on some level internalized and normalized the drama that comes with it. Now, that has become your baseline expectation in a relationship. If a potential new partner doesn’t bring drama to the equation, it unsettles you.
So, you create it out of thin air by dilly-dallying about your investment in them. This is a clear sign that you’re not mentally ready for a relationship yet. In this case, the reasons why you’re not ready for a relationship – a healthy relationship anyway – are amply clear: it’s unfamiliar territory and it terrifies you. So, you push the other person away and seek refuge in the good-old “not ready for a relationship but I like her/him”.
You need to work on yourself and heal from the residual effects of toxicity of the past to be able to foster wholesome and meaningful relationships in the future. Consider going into therapy to break free from the pattern of toxicity and heal from the trauma it caused you. Only once you’ve resolved what’s broken inside you will you be truly ready for a relationship.
Related Reading: 12 Tips To Get Over Commitment Issues
8. You’re not ready to let them in
When someone is not ready for a relationship, they remain guarded and closed up. For instance, even if you’re dating someone and like them a lot, you may still find it hard to open up your heart to them. Your conversations with them remain superficial at best. Any attempt from their side to get to know you on a more intimate level gets you to clam up even more.
You’re happy to talk about your favorite Netflix series, your most loved book and how exactly you like your pizza. But if they so much as broach a topic that is even remotely emotional, you feel an instant urge to push them away. Roger, a stockbroker from New York, struggles with emotional intimacy. Even if he likes a girl, he cannot express those emotions beyond being hyper-sexual and passionate with her. This is often misconstrued as him only wanting to get into a girl’s pants and proves to be put-off.
“I’m not ready for a relationship but I like her. Why can we just live in the moment and have fun?” he often quizzes his friends, most of whom are now married and have children. What most people fail to see here, including Roger himself, is that he is displaying classic patterns of an avoidant-dismissive attachment style. The reasons why you’re not ready for a relationship can sometimes be rooted in your childhood or formative experiences. Breaking these patterns is the only way to move forward and embrace a wholesome, fulfilling relationship.
9. You want a relationship to save you from yourself
One of the signs you’re not ready for a relationship is that you don’t feel whole on your own. Something in your past has chipped away at you, and you’re now seeking a relationship to fix you. Being alone seems too painful and you’re exhausted from spending sleepless nights trapped in your own head.
Somehow, this notion that a partner can rescue you from this agony has taken hold in your mind. If that’s the case, not only are you not ready for a relationship but are also seeking one for the wrong reasons. Since you’re looking for someone else to complete you and make you whole, you’re invariably going to hold them to a very high standard of what an ideal partner is.
You may expect them to be your partner, friend, lover, confidant, support system, parent-figure and more. That’s a tall order for any mere mortal. Even if you do end up with someone, the relationship is likely to be marred with unrealistic expectations, jealousy, anxiety and clingy behavior.
10. You love your independence too much
Commitment-phobic tendencies are among the signs someone is not ready for a relationship. Maybe you’ve been single for too long and have become set in your ways. Now, even the idea of having to compromise on that independence scares the living daylights out of you.
Just the thought of sharing the bathroom with another person or having someone sleep in your bed makes your skin crawl. These are all indicators that you’re not mentally ready for a relationship, and in all likelihood, are happy to keep it that way. And so, you keep all romantic love interests at an arm’s length. Statements like “I really like him but I’m not ready for a relationship” or “I like her but I want to keep things casual” are the common refrains in your love life.
You may want someone in your life but only on your terms. You want to be in control of the relationship and steer in a direction and at a pace you’re comfortable with. For instance, a partner is welcome to your place for a hookup but not to stay the night. If that’s something you can relate to, there’s no doubt that you’re not ready for a relationship.
Related Reading: 9 Signs You Are In A ‘Right Person Wrong Time’ Situation
11. You’re in love with the idea of love
You’re not emotionally ready for a relationship if you’re in love with the glorified idea of love. You crave the nervous excitement, the butterflies in the stomach, the rose-tinted lenses that come with falling in love. But that’s as far as your desire goes.
The real dynamics of a relationship that begin after the honeymoon phase ends, the constant work and commitment that it takes to stay in love and make a relationship work intimidate you. You want love in all its glory but without the effort and hard work that goes into sustaining it.
If you relate to a majority of the signs that suggest you’re not ready for a relationship, it’d be a good idea for you to get off the dating bandwagon for a while. Clearly, some underlying issues are holding you back from becoming emotionally invested in a potential partner. Take the time to resolve those, and revisit your pursuit of a lasting connection once you feel ready.
Going into therapy or seeking professional counseling is the best way to develop self-awareness about the reasons why you’re not ready for a relationship. We’re here to help you with that. Bonobology’s panel of certified therapists is only a click away