What to Do When Someone You're Interested in Says They Don't Want a Relationship

An expert shares the red flags to look out for.

Couple leans against building, listening to music via headphones

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For as much as we'd prefer for it never to happen, there comes a time in almost every person's life when they need to face the fact that the person they think is right for them may not have the same feelings in return. No matter what stage the relationship is in up until this point, if you do not share the same view as your potential partner, you will hit an impasse. 

Read on to figure out if your relationship is worth pursuing or if you should leave it to find someone else who is ready to commit, according to the relationship experts. 

Signs They Don't Want a Relationship

People will explicitly say, "I don't want a relationship," yet this clear statement often gets glossed over. Additionally, if you're always the one to initiate plans, they haven't invited you to meet their friends and family, and you're constantly wondering where you stand in your partnership, you are probably in a one-sided situation. In other words, these are all common signs that they don't want a relationship (or maybe they do, but just not with you).

Perhaps most telling, however, is whether or not your partner is making an effort to spend time with you. In today's fast-paced, technologically-driven world, face time is a premium. "If your significant other isn't interested in spending time with you, then they are probably not looking for a relationship," says relationship expert Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, MS, LCPC. "Even if they don't tell you explicitly, they probably aren't interested."

We're all busy, but if your significant other isn't willing to make time for you, their priorities may be elsewhere.

Why Don't They Want a Relationship? 

Even if you're able to determine that your partner does not want a relationship, the reason why this is true may remain unclear. Here are some common reasons

They Want to Keep Their Options Open

Some people are just at a stage in their lives when they want to meet new people and casually date. Perhaps they're still getting over a breakup and are just dipping their toes into the dating pool. Or, they prefer to prioritize their career and other interests over a romantic relationship at the moment, which is understandable, too. There are many aspects that make up a fulfilling life in addition to a committed relationship, like friends, family, and personal interests like travel and other pursuits that lead to self-discovery and fulfillment.

They're Emotionally Unavailable

Painful memories of past failed relationships may cloud the judgment of someone in the present. They may also worry about causing disappointment or being unable to keep up with the type of relationship you are looking for. "Sometimes people aren't interested in relationships because they have had an insecure attachment in the past. Being in a relationship may not be safe. Commitment is too scary. So they may come close, but when push comes to shove, they don't take the plunge," says Slatkin.

According to Slatkin, an individual needs the self-awareness to recognize when they are truly ready to be in a real relationship, which includes being willing to work through past disappointments and insecurities.

They May Want a Relationship, Just Not With You

The truth is, your partner may be emotionally stable and open to a commitment, though just not with you. "Sometimes people are also so self-absorbed that the idea of giving to someone else is foreign and not on their radar," says Slatkin. Most mature, emotionally-intelligent adults are capable of deciding what they are willing and not willing to do, and no amount of convincing from an outside party is going to change that.

How to Move Forward

If what you want is a committed relationship, and you've communicated this to your partner and you two still aren't aligned, then only you can decide whether your current arrangement is right for you.

If you are finding it hard to move forward, despite knowing your relationship is headed down a dead-end road, then speaking with a licensed mental health professional may help guide you. Other options include considering putting yourself in the other person's shoes: If you aren't willing to commit to another person fully, from this perspective, would this situation still be attractive to you? And finally, this situation may instead be an opportunity to work on self-compassion. Sticking around too long may beg the question: What am I gaining from this relationship?

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