11 signs you’re not ready for a relationship (even if you’re sure you are)

by Paul Brian | April 11, 2024, 11:33 pm

Wanting a relationship is a healthy and reasonable standpoint:

You’re looking for love and feel ready to be in something serious with a new person. 

And yet it either doesn’t happen or keeps happening with the wrong people. 

Are you just looking in the wrong place, experiencing bad timing or meeting the wrong people?

Or are you not ready?

It may indeed be the first option, and it’s crucial not to gaslight ourselves or be down on ourselves for wanting love. 

But there is also a chance it’s the second option, which is why it’s important to look at some signs you’re not ready for a serious relationship even though it seems like you are. 

1) You’re weighed down by past baggage 

Toxic relationships in the past are still haunting you.

You want to find love and move on, but inside the pain that went down isn’t truly over. 

Your ex is still on your mind, and they’re still in your heart (even if it’s just in a painful and resentful way). 

As Licensed Clinical Social Worker Jenni Jacobsen writes:

“At its core, emotional baggage occurs because you have not processed and resolved a problematic relationship from the past. 

“Sometimes, emotional baggage goes back to unresolved childhood issues. 

“Other times, it can result from a more recent situation from adulthood.”

2) You still crave external validation

You still feel a need for external validation and approval.

As much as you’d like to say it’s no longer a thing, the need to be liked and approved of is still very strong. 

You dread being seen as strange, unloveable or uninteresting. You want positive feedback and are terrified of not getting it. 

As Darius Cikanavicius writes:

“To give a few simplified examples, if someone likes your post on Facebook, then everythings well and good. But if they don’t, then you feel terribly anxious or empty or invisible. 

“If someone agrees with you, then you must be right and you feel confidence and joy. But if they don’t, then you feel threatened, lonely, upset, self-doubtful, socially anxious, and so on.”

3) You’re not quite sure what you’re looking for

You want to find love, have fun, meet somebody interesting or just…something. 

But you’re not quite sure about the details of it. 

In fact, you aren’t clear on your own needs and boundaries and you’re quite open to adjusting them. 

It really depends on who you meet. 

This over-openness is a sign that more inner work, clarity and boundary-setting needs to be done first before getting too serious with somebody.

4) You know what you’re looking for but not willing to hold out for it

On the other hand, you may be quite sure what you’re looking for in life and in a relationship, but you feel impatient about it. 

When you aren’t meeting the right person or achieving what you want, you have a tendency to just go with whatever is in front of you. 

This impulsivity is usually a sign that there’s more maturing to do in order to really be in a place where a relationship will be the right thing.

“I still had to forge my path along the long road of life, learning from experience and hardship,” notes relationship writer Joe Duncan

“I wasn’t yet responsible and on my feet, with my future set up and waiting to accept me.”

5) You’re emotionally unavailable 

There are long periods of time when you don’t feel in a place to emotionally open up to someone. 

You know deep in your heart that part of you is emotionally unavailable, either due to unresolved past traumas or a lack of readiness.

There are more things you need to work out on your own, and experiences you still need to process and understand. 

As psychiatrist Abigail Brenner M.D. puts it:

“We feel the desire to open our soul to someone who cares enough about us to understand and support us fully in most everything we do. 

“Intimacy implies vulnerability: we are willing to show parts of ourselves we are not so sure about…”

6) You find conflict and disagreement very hard to deal with

You don’t just dislike arguing, you dread it. 

Disagreements and conflict truly scare you and you’re not ready to be in that sort of situation. 

In fact, you avoid or shut down discussions about conflicts or disagreements when they happen with friends or family. 

The problem is that every relationship has some tensions and conflicts, which means there is more work to be done first on acclimatizing to the inevitability of conflict at times.

7) You feel stifled when you’re around somebody for too long

You have a strong desire for freedom and independence, which is perfectly fine. 

You want to do your own thing when you want to do it and you’ve grown accustomed to that in almost every area of your life. 

However this exceeds just wanting time when you’re free and your own space:

You find any real requirement or obligation to be too much. The problem here is that even the freest relationship is going to have times and moments when choice and freedom are quite limited. 

8) Your external and career goals are still your priority

You’re primarily focused on external goals and milestones, such as career advancement.

This isn’t a bad thing at all, and sometimes it’s the right move. But it leaves little time or energy for nurturing a relationship.

“It’s great if you love your job. I’m sure your partner is happy that you’ve found a career that lights you up,” observes therapist Danielle Wayne.

“But you can’t let work be the detriment to your relationship. Because if you keep putting work before relationships, eventually there won’t be a relationship.”

9) Your life is socially and financially unstable 

Your finances, career, or living situation is in flux and unstable. 

As much as you feel ready for a relationship emotionally and psychologically, your life isn’t at the pragmatic level of being ready. 

You’re at loose ends financially and you aren’t even sure where next month’s rent is going to come from.

While you feel ready for love on other levels, your practical life just isn’t currently where it needs to be and there are practical concerns to work out first before getting involved with someone. 

10) You still don’t know who you are in life

You’re still on a path to finding out who you are and what your identity is. There’s nothing wrong with that, we’re all on it. 

But when you’re near the start of that path you may still be living with a lot of what’s expected of you or socially conditioned rather than what you’ve chosen.

This means any relationship you get into from that point will tend to be unfulfilling and just a social reflection. 

Nathan Dennis put this well:

“Here’s the painful truth: much of our identity was forced upon us. This inorganic identity causes us to experience a tremendous amount of stress…

That’s why it is important to discover the answer to the question “who am I?” 

Because the alternative is depression and meaninglessness.”

11) Compromise just isn’t a word in your dictionary

Wanting to get your own way is natural. But learning to compromise is crucial for any relationship to work. 

Even the most ideal partner is going to have times when they genuinely disagree with you or want something different than you do, and vice versa. 

Compromise doesn’t mean just rolling over and always agreeing or being passive; but it does mean occasionally accepting a situation or event that you don’t like that much or agree with, for example. 

Learning to compromise and make that part of your approach is a definite must for relationships, and if it feels like something you’re not ready to do then there’s still inner work to do before getting serious with somebody. 

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