A friend and I were hanging out and watching Sex and The City (the show, not the movies!). I commented on how Carrie was so often single in a relationship as she chased Mr. Big all over New York, while he continued to be emotionally (and even physically) unavailable.
My friend was quiet for a bit, then she said she related to Carrie completely. She’s spent a large part of her 20s being single in a relationship since most of her partners simply weren’t as involved as she was. It was her doing all the heavy lifting and yet feeling sad and lonely in a relationship.
“But, can you be single in a relationship?” she asked. After all, you’re still technically with someone even if you’re acting single in a relationship. It was an intriguing question since the very phrase ‘in a relationship’ supposedly negates being single.
As with all matters of the heart, it’s not quite that simple. Love, relationships, and the problems they inevitably bring, lurk in the gray areas between the absolutes of “yes, I’m in a relationship” and “actually, I’m totally single”.
In other words, you could be in a relationship, and yet feel that not much has changed, that you’re still living the single life, but it’s less fun. Confused? Don’t be, we’ve put together some signs that you might be single in a relationship and what the red flags are.
What Does Being Single In A Relationship Mean?
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The thing is, there’s no one clear way to gauge whether or not you’re single in a relationship. It’s all kinds of sneaky elements that come together and hopefully make you realize that you’re essentially single but in a relationship.
You don’t get to actually be single i.e. go out and flirt with strangers at the bar and live life as per your choices and routine. Oh no, you still do the relationship stuff like making reservations for two at restaurants, movies etc. You still have to keep their dentist’s appointment in mind and remind them. And if they’re in the mood, you occasionally engage in physical intimacy but you’re pondering the difference between sex and making love.
Notice how it’s you doing all of it. When you’re acting single in a relationship, the person you think you’re in a relationship with isn’t a partner who takes on equal emotional labor. Oh no, they’ll throw you a bone of affection and attraction every once in a while, but you’re mostly on your own in this supposed love affair. And you’re left wondering, “Why do I feel single in my relationship?”
Well, it’s because you pretty much are. You’re exhausting yourself being the only person in this relationship and convincing yourself that it’s actually a partnership. You’re not alone, so many of us would rather be in a one-sided relationship than be alone. But remember, you deserve more. Let’s look at some signs that you are single in a relationship, and know when it’s time to quit.
11 Signs You Are Single In A Relationship
There are always warning signs when you’re single in a relationship. But again, they might not be blatantly obvious, especially if you’re someone who really wants to be in a relationship and value togetherness. Here are some signs you’re probably single but in a relationship.
1. It’s always you taking initiative
Listen, I’m all for taking initiative, in the bedroom or out of it! But that’s not what we’re talking about here. There’s a difference between being a strong, opinionated person and constantly shouldering all the heavy lifting in a relationship, whether it’s emotional or physical, which is definitely a relationship red flag.
Think about it. Are you the one always making plans? Suggesting you go out, take a vacation, hold hands while walking? Is it always you trying to make the relationship work, figuring out ways to be together, to give your intimacy a boost? And your supposed partner may or may not go along with it, depending on their mood.
The difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships is that a healthy relationship is a partnership in every sense. You split bills and responsibilities, and you definitely share the labor that a relationship entails. Be it household chores or making appointments, it is a shared endeavor.
When you are single in a relationship, one side will be doing nothing; in fact, it may seem that they aren’t interested in having a relationship at all. When you suggest outings or romantic dinners, they may agree but with a sense of disinterest. Or they may make excuses, saying they’ll let you know and simply never call back. Can you be single in a relationship? We think so.
2. Everything is done as per their convenience
Now, everyone has their own particular routine and in a healthy relationship, both parties make adjustments and compromises as and when needed. If you’re single in a relationship, though, you’ll soon find that it’s you who’s always having to adjust your schedule and make compromises, all because your so-called partner cannot be inconvenienced at any cost.
Related Reading: 8 Ways To Cultivate Emotional Safety In A Relationship
It’s near impossible to attain perfect balance in any relationship, of course. There will always be a tip in the scales. One partner may compromise a little more than the other in certain circumstances but these roles are also reserved depending on the headspace each partner is in. However, if this is just how your relationship at any given time, with your compromise scale tipping over, we hate to break it to you, this is what being single in a relationship feels like.
Ask yourself – are you always having to fit your routine around theirs? Whether it’s meeting for a drink or planning a weekend away, your routine and convenience never seem to matter. And by extension, you never seem to matter. Now, you might argue that you’re just a naturally giving person and you don’t mind adjusting for people you love.
Trust us, eventually, you’re going to grow tired and resentful of always having to change things around for a partner who never does the same for you. Not to mention, do you really want to be in a narcissistic relationship with someone who takes and takes and gives nothing in return? Think about it.
3. They are rarely available when you need them
“I was seeing this guy for almost a year before I realized he was just never there,” says Andie. “It wasn’t just that he was an absentee partner, he was never around even if I just wanted to talk about a bad day or if I was down and needed a hug.”
Andie soon realized she in an emotionally exhausting relationship and she didn’t want to wait around to find out if he would change. “I was always there when he needed me. Even if it was something small like driving him to work on days his car needed work. But if I needed help or just needed him to be there for me, he was rarely or never available,” she says.
If you find yourself constantly wondering, “Why do I feel single in my relationship?”, you may want to take a good look at your relationship to see if they are there for you at least as much as you’re there for him. A classic sign of being single in a relationship is that while you’re always physically and emotionally present when they need you, they have no qualms about leaving you in the lurch when you need them.
4. There are very few things you share
We’re not just talking about sharing the remote on a Saturday night or sharing ice cream while walking in the park, although if they’re antsy about sharing the remote, I’d recommend getting rid of them immediately. But, more than that, more than hobbies and shared interests, look at the intimate, integral things you share, or not.
When you’re single but in a relationship, you’ll soon realize that things like relationship responsibilities fall squarely on you. Responsibilities could mean anything from sharing household chores to making the effort to keep your relationship afloat to ensuring you get your share of pleasure during physical intimacy.
Maybe you’ve introduced him to your friends and your cat but he never seems to want to include you in his life. Maybe you always end up at your apartment and he keeps making excuses about taking you to his house. Whatever it is, ultimately, you’re not sharing anything important.
In a healthy, two-way relationship, intimacy and effort run both ways. When you’re acting single in a relationship, you’ll soon find it all coming down on you. When this happens, you know you’re in a one-sided situation and it’s time to walk away from this relationship.
5. You’re always second-guessing yourself
When you’re single in a relationship, you’ll soon find yourself losing confidence in your ability to make choices and decisions for yourself. So much of our self-esteem is tied up in how lovable or desirable we think we are to others and a one-sided relationship will always leave you doubting yourself.
Related Reading: Expert Suggests 9 Reasons You Feel Insecure In Your Relationship
“I was seeing this girl I really liked and I thought we had a great connection. But in just six months of being with her, I barely recognized myself anymore,” says Charlie. “I’ve always been a fairly confident person, and I like doing things a certain way. I had become this uncertain, shaky being, always second-guessing every decision. Every time I thought I was doing something positive for our relationship, her response was so lukewarm that I pulled back.”
If you’re sad and lonely in a relationship all the time, second-guessing every choice you’re making, both for your own life and your relationship, know that this probably isn’t you. Maybe it’s time to take stock of these relationship doubts and see if they’re sapping you of your strength and confidence. And if your answer to that is ‘yes,’ it’s time to get out and never look back.
6. They are unwilling to commit
It’s time to talk about commitment-phobes and their ‘contribution’ to one-sided relationships. Now, it’s one thing if you’re in a no-strings-attached relationship and you’re both on the same page about the rules. But quite another if you’re someone who wants a committed relationship and you’re with someone who simply won’t commit or worse, is vague about where they stand.
Can you be single in a relationship? Absolutely, and especially if you’re the only one who is committed. Think about it. Do they shy away from any conversations about the future? Do they frequently throw in terms like ‘open relationship’ or simply shrug and say, “Who can predict the future? Let’s focus on the now.”
There’s nothing wrong with open relationships or casual dating as long as all parties concerned are aware of the rules and want the same thing. But when you’re single in a relationship, it’s you who truly wants commitment, stability, etc., while the person you think you’re in a relationship with is casually seeing other people or is unwilling to take any steps toward building a future with you. No relationship is worth your peace of mind, and a one-sided relationship certainly isn’t.
7. You feel insecure all the time
When you’re insecure in a relationship, you’re overwhelmed with a sense of dread at all times. Where is this going? Are you really as special to them as they are to you? Why do they always look cagey when you tell them you love them or try to hold their hand in public? These are questions that will plague you at all times when you’re single in a relationship.
Related Reading: 9 Things Ghosting Says About You More Than The Person You Ghosted
“I realized I was acting single in a relationship when the guy I was seeing would disappear for days on end without contact,” says Margo. “He would quite simply ghost me and I had no idea where he was or where we were in the relationship. And he didn’t think he was doing anything wrong either. I was insecure in the relationship all the time, wondering if maybe it was me, that I wasn’t interesting enough for him.”
Being single in a relationship means your sense of security is slowly but surely stripped away. You’ll always be wondering where you stand with them, whether you’re good enough. You’ll obsessively analyze every text message, looking for hidden meanings. Who needs this level of drama? Not you.
8. They accuse you of being demanding
Ah, yes! A major sign you’re single in a relationship is that any time you ask for time, attention and so on, you’re immediately accused of being too demanding. Now, every relationship has moments when one party is terribly caught up and is unable to attend to their partner as much as they would like to. But here, you can barely even ask them for a goodnight phone call without being branded as demanding.
There’s a fine line between asking for basic rights in a romantic relationship and becoming a dreadfully clingy boyfriend or girlfriend. But listen, you deserve attention. You need to be able to speak up and ask for what you want without being made to feel bad about it.
Yes, there are always times when work, family commitments and me-time will take precedence. But in a one-sided relationship, you’re the one always trying to minimize even the smallest demands for signs of affection and being told to back off. In no way is this a healthy relationship and you deserve way better. So, stand up and do your demands and balance those relationship power dynamics.
9. You always make excuses for them
I’m guilty of making excuses for people I love even when they behave badly. It’s tough to see our romantic partners or people we’re generally close to clearly – we’d rather see them through rose-tinted glasses and assume they’re the pinnacle of perfection. Unfortunately, they’re not.
Now, it’s human to make mistakes or act terribly sometimes. And it’s just as human to forgive or simply brush bad behavior under the rug. But is this what you’re doing for your partner all the time? Are you constantly having to make up stories about how they’re just busy and that’s why they missed date night/your birthday dinner/a family gathering and so on?
Related Reading: 5 Excuses Your Partner Gives For Cheating On You
When you love someone, you make an effort to be there for them. You definitely ensure you show up when they need you to. If that’s not happening at all, and you find yourself constantly making excuses for where they are, why they don’t show up, and/or how it’s okay that they’re not ready for a commitment, it’s time to take charge and ditch this one-sided relationship and either embrace the awesome single life or look for the partner you deserve.
10. They don’t introduce you to friends or family
We did touch on this earlier, but let’s take a better look. We’re all part of communities, even if you’re a loner like I am and have to be dragged into family and friend circles. For better or for worse, we have families, friends we would trust with our lives and so on. No one exists in a vacuum (though some of us would like to sometimes!).
Most loving relationships tend to spill over into the lives of both partners. You don’t have to be best friends with your partner’s family and friends, but you will know them and know of them. And they, in turn, will at least have heard of you and want to meet you.
It’s all right to keep your romantic relationships separate and private, but again, your family and friends are a major part of who you are, so if you’re not introducing a partner to them, how important are they to you, really? Even if you need to talk to your partner about your dysfunctional family before making introductions, it still needs to happen.
You’re definitely single in a relationship if you’ve introduced your partner to close friends and family, and they keep avoiding doing the same and never give any concrete reasons. You deserve to be shown off to people who are important to your partner. And you deserve to be with someone who sees that.
11. The relationship exhausts you
We know life isn’t a Disney movie. Love isn’t all about starry eyes and moonlight all the time. But neither is it meant to tire you out and keep you in a fog of gloom at all times.
We’re constantly told that relationships need work, that marriage can become a chore, and that romance fades eventually. Agreed that this is the reality mostly. But in my mind, a great relationship isn’t like junk food that gives you momentary satisfaction but then leaves you empty and exhausted. A great relationship will have your back and give you warm fuzzies even when it needs work.
Related Reading: Tired Of Being Strong And Doing Everything In The Marriage
So, if you’re constantly tired because you’re always trying to figure out your partner’s needs and where your relationship stands, take a good look at yourself and at them. Do you barely recognize the person you’ve become – tired and still desperately trying to sustain a one-sided relationship? Are you feeling sad and lonely in a relationship and asking yourself, “Why do I feel single in my relationship?” Well then, it’s time to pack up and leave.
One-sided relationships aren’t always ones where a partner is malicious and deliberately trying to hurt you. Maybe they’re just not on the same page, not ready to commit yet, etc. And that’s fine. But it is important that you recognize this and don’t spend your time trying to revive a dead-end relationship.
When acting single in a relationship, your strength and self-esteem fade and that’s not what you need. So, if you’ve been asking yourself, “Can you be single in a relationship?”, and are now realizing that you are, we hope you find the courage you need to get out.
You feel single in a relationship when your feelings aren’t reciprocated, when your partner refuses to discuss the future and constantly tells you that you ask for too much. Being single in a relationship means that you’re the only one doing the emotional labor required in a relationship.
No relationship is worth it if it constantly exhausts you and leaves you feeling empty. If your partner is not on the same page as you with regards to what you want out of a relationship, it is far better and healthier to quit the relationship and move on to something that actually nourishes you.