It's not like anyone's expecting to get married in the next five minutes (for the most part, anyway), but have you been getting a lot of flack from your partner, family, and friends about when you plan on taking your relationship to the next level? Does it make you want to put everything you can fit into the trunk of a car into suitcases and flee the country? Sounds like you have some fear-based relationship issues going on.
I worked with tons of couples with fear-based relationship issues during my time as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator. Usually people fear taking their relationships to the next level because past heartbreak and loss has made them over-cautious. No one wants to be in that dark place of grief and regret, but on the other hand, if you keep everyone you could build a life with at arm's length, you'll miss out on some of the best parts of life.
If you or your partner have any or all of these situations below going on, it may be time to have a serious talk about the past instead of about the future.
1. You're Label-Phobic
Do you have a "friend" who you have strong feelings for and who you spend most of your time with and who you also have a lot of sex with, who you also coincidentally refuse to call your "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" or "partner" or anything? I mean, I get it when a passionate feminist gives me a well-researched speech about not liking labels. but at the end of the day, it is what it is, no matter what you decide to call it. This is classic fear-based behavior.
2. You Don't Even Leave A Sock
Are you the ghost of hookups? Even months later, do you refuse to leave so much as a sock at your partner's house? You could just be trying to be super respectful, but you could also be afraid of getting too comfortable in a joint space. Leaving a sock, or a toothbrush for that matter, isn't the same as moving in, but it can feel like it if you're afraid of that step.
3. You're Not Introducing Your SO To Your People
If you've been dating long enough to know your partner's pants size and bank balance but you somehow don't know a single friend or family member, it could be a sign of fear. Introducing the person you love to your family means that he or she is important enough to be a real part of your life. It also means that you have begin intertwining your lives, which can be scary stuff for people afraid of commitment or weary of long term relationships.
4. You're Considering Jobs All Over The World
Master's program in Europe? Job across the country? Sure, why not, right? If this is you, and you're considering these things without even mentioning them to your partner, let alone considering their opinions or the future of your relationship, it either means you're not serious about your relationship, or you're making a fear-based escape plan.
5. You Haven't Said "I Love You" When You Do
I'm not talking about not being sure you're ready. I'm talking about how, deep down, you know you're totally head over heels in love. You just won't say it. Because saying it makes it real. Saying it takes things to a whole new level. When you love someone, things tend to stop being casual and start being serious in a flash. If you won't say those three magical words, it could be that you're just afraid.
6. You Don't Do A Lot Of Entwining
You're not about entwining your lives. No joint bank accounts. No shared pets. Maybe you live together, but that's where the coupling ends. Everything you do, you're able to undo with one clean break, if need be. You don't even buy dishes together. Or if you do, they're dishes you can just leave behind. Maybe you don't even know you're doing this, and maybe your're just doing it because things are really new, but if it's been a while and you're still planning your clean escape, you're probably avoiding next-level love.
7. You Keep Looking
Maybe you're in love and you hope your relationship works out, but some harsh life experiences have taught you that people = leaving and heartache. You might deal with this by keeping a list of backup candidates for when your current partner inevitably disappoints you.
Of course, we're all different, and so is every relationship, but in my experience, these are key signs that you or your partner has some relationship demons to sort out before you'll be getting any more serious.