Deciding to enter a serious relationship can feel like checking boxes off a list: Are you into them? Are they into you? Are they emotionally available? And, most importantly, are they willing—and able—to commit? That last one is tricky, especially because every person and relationship moves at a different pace. However, there are a few key red flags that you're dating a commitment-phobe. Here, therapists tell us the easy-to-miss signs that the person you're dating isn't ready to lock things down. Memorizing them could save you from wasting time in the long run.
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They say you're too good for them.
We've all heard the classic breakup line: "It's not you, it's me." Well, you can consider this line its precursor. "People use the 'I'm not worthy of you' card when they want to make you feel good about yourself," says Tatyana Dyachenko, psychologist and sex therapist at Peaches and Screams. "It's a tactic they use to [build] you up but also plant a seed that they may leave."
What's more, the line can also be weaponized down the road. "If they do something bad, such as cheat, they can say, 'Well, I did warn you,'" she adds. Categorize it as a manipulation tactic and a sign of a potential narcissist—and consider if you'd like to focus your romantic efforts elsewhere.
They're unclear about future plans.
If a person doesn't see a long-term future with you, they might be hesitant to book that trip to Italy or those concert tickets for a few months from now. The phenomenon also plays out with short-term plans. "[That] can look like someone saying, 'Yes, that sounds great,' but not following up with 'let's plan this for next Saturday,'" says Lauren Ogren, MFT, PsyD, a licensed psychotherapist in Marin County, California. "Specifics mean interest, and interest means that you are a priority and that this person is making space for you in their life."
Without that specificity, you just might be an afterthought, which "no one deserves," says Ogren.
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We've all had the experience of dating someone who keeps us on our toes—perhaps a bit too much. "One day they'll spend three hours on the phone with you being vulnerable and opening up, and the next, they're closed up, casual, and not willing to talk about themselves," says Holly Schiff, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist in Greenwich, Connecticut.
This issue can also take on the form of making lots of plans one week and none the next. The person could even brush it off with an "I'm busy" excuse. Unfortunately, no matter the reason, inconsistency still means they're not ready to commit to a serious relationship. If they were ready—or cared enough about your feelings—they'd communicate with you what you could expect from them.
You feel good when together, but not when apart.
We'll be the first to admit that this situation is tough. "If you worry about where the relationship is going in between dates but enjoy the dates themselves, they may not be ready to commit," says Paul DePompo, PsyD, ABPP, a clinical psychologist and director of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Institute of Southern California.
Again, this one can sometimes be brushed off by telling yourself the person is busy. However, DePompo notes, "busy people make time for what they value when they are motivated to do so." If you don't feel like a priority between dates, then you likely aren't.
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They say they need to find themselves.
If a person says they still need to find themselves, they're likely not ready to settle down just yet. "Sometimes, we can confuse the idea that our prospective partner wants to find themselves as a growth mindset, which can be seen as an attractive quality of someone who wants to know themselves deeper," says Ogren. "But many times, this is a signal that this person is not in a place to make a long-term commitment or make long-term plans."
Sit down and have an honest conversation about what they really mean by this phrase.
They're always looking for the next party.
If the dates you go on are always parties, cocktail hours, and group events, it could signal that your partner isn't in the space for an emotionally committed, long-term relationship. "We can spot this through avoidance of intimate-type situations such as long drives alone, cooking dinner together, or doing a 'just the two of you' activity that might be mundane but would allow for connection," says Ogren.
This sign can be easy to miss because you may assume your sweetie is simply excited to introduce you to their social group, says Ogren. "Yet, in order to have a strong and healthy relationship, we also need to know this other person, and want them to know us, on a more intimate level," she notes. That means having in-depth conversations and experiences in a one-on-one setting.