Hinting at something isn't the key to healthy communication, but sometimes, it's what you've got. No one says "I love you," for example, without a few nonverbal cues first. So if you're looking for signs your partner wants more from your relationship, but you aren't ready to ask, luckily there are a few common clues that scream "hey, I see a future with you."
Why would a partner drop subtle signs about something rather than say it outright? "[It's about] fear of rejection," Dr. Jennifer B. Rhodes, licensed psychologist and founder of Rapport Relationships, tells Bustle. "Most of us have been hurt and putting yourself out there can be really scary so people will indirectly say things rather than ask for what they really want."
Although trying to push for your needs without being clear first rarely gets you what you want, understanding the signs can help open the door to a future conversation. "People who want a bigger commitment in their relationship often sense that their partner isn't feeling the same," Raffi Bilek, marriage counselor and director of the Baltimore Therapy Center, tells Bustle. "They worry that if they make an open push for more commitment — moving in together, getting engaged, getting married, whatever the next level up is — their partner will start to feel pressured, suffocated or overwhelmed and choose to check out of the relationship instead of moving it forward. The best approach for dealing with this discrepancy is an open conversation."
Once you know the signs, the rest might follow. Here are seven subtle signs your partner wants a bigger commitment from you, according to experts.
1They Make Plans In The Distant Future
Ever have a "casual" partner ask you to a weekend wedding six months in advance? That might be a sign of something more than just a person with a busy schedule.
"[People who are hinting at committing] talk about making plans in the distant future," says Bilek. "They share ideas about all the places they'd like to travel, about your 25th college reunion, about retirement — things that won't be happening any time soon — because they're hoping or expecting you'll be together then."
Similarly, people who are looking for the next step may hint at it by subtly pointing out to you what they see for their future, and that could include how they want to have children. "[People who want to commit may] bring up children a lot," says Bilek. "They point out cute babies, kids doing funny things, and happy parents. [When they do that,] they're nudging you along towards the idea of becoming parents yourselves."
So next time they ask whether you're free way in advance, take note that maybe you should add a relationship talk to your schedule, whether you're ready to be more serious or not.
2You Feel Their Needs Aren't Getting Met
One super-subtle hint that your partner wants more from your relationship is that they might seem slightly unsettled, like they're not getting enough.
"There could be an underlying feeling that your partner’s needs are not being met," Nicole Richardson, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, tells Bustle. "You may feel pressured to give [or] do more even though you are happy with the current arrangement. Your partner may be telling you they want [or] need more than they are getting." Whatever you feel about what you want next, your partners' subtle pressure could be a big hint about their needs.
3They're Trying To Get More Time With You
If you're happy seeing your partner a couple times a week, but they are angling for more, that could also be a sign.
"[A big hint is if] they want to spend all their time with you," Bilek says. "They're trying to reach for the security of the next level of commitment in the relationship. They don't want to let you go, and in the absence of further commitment, they angle for more and more time with you." Your partner may be too afraid to say the words "I'm looking for more," so instead they look for more time with you, hoping the next steps with naturally happen.
Dr. Rhodes also notes that this could look like someone trying to increase their communication with you, like a textwe turning into an evening phone call type of person. Be kind an honest with them, and make sure your boundaries make sense for what you both want.
4They're Showing An Interest In Wedding-Themed Everything
Although commitment doesn't mean marriage for everyone, take note if your partner already seems to hear the wedding bells ringing. Pay attention if you see your partner looking at wedding websites or magazines, says Bilek. "They're obviously thinking about marriage and hoping you are too."
While lots of people might plan their dream wedding, your partner dropping hints about the particular Venus Et Fleur or first dance song they want might mean more than you think. Maybe open up the conversation around marriage, and see where it goes, especially if you don't see this happening for you any time soon.
5They Test The Waters
Dropping hints isn't always obvious. People often miss signs that their partner wants more because one person is just gently testing the waters and the other person isn't paying attention to the indirect communication, says Dr. Rhodes.
These hints could look like little jokes when driving past property listings ("what if we lived there?") or sexy comments like "I wish you were all mine." If you hear one, take note, and see whether it comes up again. And if you feel like your ideas of what your relationship is might be mismatched, it's time to have a discussion to clarify.
6They Look For A Reaction
One way for someone to see whether their partner is looking for something similar is baiting them with an idea just to see how they'll react. For example, they may bring up their friends who are in a serious relationship, to see what you will say. "In relaying the commitments of others, your partner is hoping to prompt you to think in the same manner," Susan Winter, NYC Relationship Expert, tells Bustle. "They may use cases of their friends [or] relatives who've become exclusive, engaged, or are planning to wed."
"Did you know James and Riley are exclusive now?" might be a way to see how you feel about monogamy. Or a comment about a college classmate getting engaged may be a gauge of whether you're ready for that next step.
Whatever it is, your partner is hinting to you because they are thinking about taking a step forward. And their fear of how you might respond is likely one of the things holding them back from actually talking about it. Whether or not you feel the same way, your openness and kindness will mean a lot. Go out there and get honest; they're probably just as scared as you.