Sometimes, love can exist more in our heads than our hearts. The truth is that we can fall for someone’s potential as easily as we can for their reality, but that feeling isn’t really love; it’s attachment, projection, and hope. Ultimately, you cannot be in a relationship with an idea of someone, and this is how to tell if you’re confusing who you would like them to be with who they really are.
1. You’re more in love when you’re apart.
If your relationship does better (or, let’s be honest, just exists) more over texts and messages and FaceTimes, then you’re probably facing the first, biggest sign that you’re really more in love with an idea than a person.
Of course, this doesn’t apply to couples who are long-distance, or separated by other means. This applies to people who really technically have no reason not to spend time together, move closer to be with one another, or at least carve out space for one another in their lives.
It applies to people who don’t have to be apart, but choose to be apart.
If your relationship works better when you’re not actually in each other’s lives, that’s the first sign something might be amiss.
2. You don’t actually get along when you spend time together.
When you do spend time together, what happens by the end?
Do you leave feeling excited and peaceful? Does it always erupt into an argument? Do you find yourself needing alone time pretty quickly? Are you bothered by their presence, do they feel like a burden?
This is another major sign that you might be more in love with an idea. While every couple argues and feels tense at times, it shouldn’t be the predominant pattern in your relationship. If you can’t get through a single day (or even a hang-out) without getting on each other’s nerves, the truth is that you might not be as compatible as you believe you are.
3. You wouldn’t want to have them as a friend.
If this person were just an individual with whom you had no romantic or sexual connection, would you want to just hang out with them as a friend?
If the answer is absolutely not, then you are absolutely not compatible. It might be tough to imagine them without the layer of desire you feel, but if they aren’t the kind of person you’d want to spend time with if they weren’t filling a role as a partner or some other kind of need, then they might not quite be the person you are hoping they are.
4. You wouldn’t want to work with them as a colleague.
Another way to frame this question is to consider whether or not you’d ever want to work with them.
This might be a really technical way to think about it, but if this isn’t a person you’d ever want to work or collaborate with, consider that your primary life relationship is one ongoing collaboration, that could absolutely be compared to partnership in a work-sense.
Is this a person you would trust with your money, or your livelihood?
Do you trust their vision, or their opinion?
Would you want to work with them in any capacity?
If the answer is a hard “no” to all of the above, that’s another sign you might be seeing them through lust-colored glasses.
5. You have huge differences in your values, priorities or future plans.
When you’re young, you assume that love will conquer all and that feelings are all that matter.
When you get a little older, you start to realize that love is not enough, compatibility must be present, too.
Compatibility is more than just “do we get along in general,” it’s also, “are there enough similarities between the way we want to live our lives?” The truth is that people can only compromise so much, and if there are any major and distinct differences in what you want going forward (where you want to live, the timeline of your relationship, kids or no kids, religion or no religion, etc.) it might be something you want to address before you go any farther.
6. They’ve verbally told you that they aren’t going to commit.
Sometimes, people tell us the truth about who we are, and we simply don’t listen.
It’s a common thing to hear people say that, looking back, they knew the relationship would pan out as it did because the other person more or less told them that it would.
Phrases like “you shouldn’t trust me,” or “I’m not looking for anything serious right now,” are signs that they aren’t really interested in you, but are somewhat interested in something you can offer them. Therefore, they’ll keep you around to fill a need, but won’t fill yours in return.
7. They’re giving you extremely mixed signals.
If you’re confused about where they stand, the answer is no.
The answer is no even if you have a laundry list of reasons why it should be yes. The answer is no even if you are absolutely certain this person was fated to be with you, that you have an electric, once-in-a-lifetime connection, and so on and so forth.
The answer is no unless that person is committing to you in the moment and showing up for you in a way that is respectful and honors your dignity, integrity and presence in a relationship.
Anything less is a “no” that they, or you, are too afraid to accept.
8. You sabotage any efforts to move forward with the relationship.
Sometimes, when we don’t want to accept that we don’t want a relationship, we subconsciously self-sabotage it instead of making a clean break.
You might see these behaviors in yourself, or in your partner.
Either way, you’ll probably find that you sabotage efforts to move in together, or take things to the next step in one way or another. This is because deep down, you know this isn’t what you want, but you’re not ready to come to terms with it.
9. Deep down, you know this isn’t your person, but you’re afraid of what’s next.
The reason why we hold onto people who aren’t right for us is because we are afraid of what is (or isn’t) next in our lives.
Those people steady us, they act as anchors and life-preservers. They make us think that we have a plan. What we don’t realize is that another person cannot be our path. Another person can walk down a path parallel to ours, but if we don’t know where we are headed, we risk walking along theirs, never to find who we really are or what we really want.
We never hold onto wrong relationships more than when we’re terrified of what might be next in our lives.
Instead of trying to sleuth out whether or not you’re meant for someone, consider trying to figure out what’s meant for you.