As its been said hundreds of times before, the heart wants it wants. The only trouble is that sometimes strong romantic feelings can make it difficult to notice the signs you’re with the wrong person. This can happen whether you’re way too busy looking at them with heart eyes to notice that
they’re a bad match or there’s some other major, red flag in the relationship.
More often than not, these situations never really end well. If you think you’re in love with the wrong person for you, relationship experts and authors
Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola tell Bustle that you’re not alone. “Almost all of us have been there, too,” they say.
Of course, being in love with the wrong person can mean different things to different people, says
Oddesty K. Langham, MS, LPC, NCC, a licensed clinical mental health therapist and owner of Oddesty K. LLC. It could mean they aren’t good for your mental health or well-being, she says, or that you don’t want the same things in life or share the same values. In short: “The general consensus is that it means you have connected with someone who is not a good fit for you,” Langham tells Bustle.
Just because you’ve found yourself in this situation doesn’t mean your love life is doomed — it’s just a natural, incredibly common scenario in the dating world. If everyone
fell in love with the right person immediately, no one would have to deal with the pain of going through a breakup. You wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not your partner would cheat or why they seem to be checking out. You certainly wouldn’t have to look for the various signs that they’re “The One,” because you’d just know. Instead, you’d be spending time looking up signs you’re in love, just so you can validate all the wonderful, yet overwhelming, feelings you have for your partner.
Even though it hurts to think about parting ways with the
person you thought was “the one”, it’s best to rip off the rose-tinted glasses and see things for what they really are. “The sooner you know, the sooner you can take the necessary steps to position yourself to end the relationship and heal from it so that you don’t end up spending a significant time with the wrong person,” Langham says. Here, experts reveal the subtle, easy-to-miss signs you’re loving the wrong person.
1. Your Schedules Don’t Line Up
Bethany Ricciardi, a relationship expert with Too Timid, there’s a reason why scheduling conflicts are often a dealbreaker. “We all have wants and needs,” Ricciardi says. “Sometimes I like to think of people as flowers; we need to be given a little bit of sunshine and water every day.”
While it’s totally possible to maintain a relationship with someone who lives on the other side of the country, or someone who works the night shift when you’re in a regular 9 to 5, it’s also possible
your mismatched schedules are taking a toll. And it often doesn’t matter how much love you feel. When you can’t give each other “water and sunshine,” you may realize this relationship just isn’t meant to be.
2. You Communicate Your Needs But Nothing Ever Changes
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being optimistic, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. But “waiting for your partner to change is a recipe for heartache,”
Caitlin Killoren, relationship coach at relationship training app, Relish, tells Bustle. In a healthy partnership, you and your partner will express your individual concerns and find a way to tackle issues together. But if you love the wrong person, you can have all the tough talks you want, and communicate your concerns as often as you like, but nothing ever changes. That’s because you can’t ever really expect to change a person.
As Behrendt and Ruotola say, most people are reluctant to change on their own accord. In situations like this, it’s important to realize that this might be a long drawn-out breakup in disguise. “Eventually you will need to be honest with yourself about where this relationship is or isn’t going,” they say.
3. Your Relationship Is A Never Ending On-Again, Off-Again Saga
After a breakup stint, it always feels good to get back together and “give it another shot.” But the hard truth is that an
on-again-off-again cycle isn’t good for anyone.
As transformation coach
Jenna Matlin notes, “The danger with on-again, off-again relationships is that you are inadvertently training yourself to return to the very thing that does not work.” Instead of recognizing that things aren’t working, you lean into the relief and the hope that the good feelings will last.
If you break up and get back together regularly, consider stopping the cycle cold turkey, Matlin says. While it’s tough to let go, you’ll soon see that you feel
so much better without all the ups and downs.
4. You’re Giving More Than You’re Getting
Take note if your relationship isn’t reciprocal, however romantic it may feel in other ways. “If you find yourself giving so much and not receiving the same energy in return, you may be giving to the wrong person,” Langham says.
Not only does it hurt to be with someone who doesn’t chip in, but it can also be a
sign of codependency, says relationship coach Jenna Ponaman, CPC, ELI-MP. A codependent partner may want to be with you out of necessity, ease, or comfort, rather than true love or compatibility. They also may not care if your relationship is unbalanced in other ways because they’re getting their needs met.
If this trend continues without any change, it won’t matter how much you love them. Life with this person will start to feel unfair and exhausting, which Ponaman says can turn into resentment, arguments, and even more dissatisfaction down the road.
5. You’ve Started To Adopt Unhealthy Lifestyle Habits
If you practiced
self-care before the relationship but have since let your good habits fall to the wayside, Ponaman says it may be a sneaky sign you’re with the wrong person. For example: “If you were once a healthy eater and decided to ‘ease up’ on the lifestyle after you began to see your partner, it shows you and your partner’s lifestyle habits may not be fully aligned,” she tells Bustle.
Did you stop because your partner expects you to be available 24/7? Or because you have to put in a ton of effort to keep your relationship afloat? Or is there some other nefarious reason why you’ve stopped caring about your own well-being?
Whatever the case may be, your lack of self-care is a big sign that you may need more than love to make this relationship work.
6. They’re Not Into “Labels”
Not everyone is big into labels, and it’s perfectly OK to agree to “see where things go.” That said, if you’re in love with someone and want to commit to a relationship but they refuse to give you a straight answer, it is considered a red flag.
“That’s a pretty big disconnect,” says Ashley Campana, a certified matchmaker at Lisa Clampitt Matchmaking. “It’s reflective of a major difference in values.” Not to mention, if they promise to commit to you “one day in the future” but never do, it may be a sign of breadcrumbing.
“If your partner isn’t into it, you need to think about what that means for you,” Campana says. “What are your
relationship goals and will your goals align with this partner?” If waiting around doesn’t feel right, it may be best to move on.
7. You Feel Like You’re On The Back Burner
Don’t let go of a sneaking suspicion that your partner has other options — and is actively considering them. While it’s totally fine to date more than one person in the early days, be honest with yourself about what it means if your love interest continues to reach out to other people months down the line. When that happens, “they probably want to keep you in the mix and in their rotation and on the roster,” says
Holly Schiff, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist. But they likely don’t have any plans to commit.
8. You’re Only With Them Because It’s Comfortable
It’s always going to be easier to stick with the status quo than it is to break up, move on, and try all over again with somebody new. And yet, “just because a person has been in your life for a long time or it feels comfortable doesn’t always mean that they are a good fit for who you are now, or will contribute to your growth moving forward,” Matlin says.
If you feel like your partner isn’t good for you, or if you’ve noticed that your passion is lacking, she says you need to be willing to “step out into the wilderness” and trust that the right person will come to you. “Be willing to embrace ambiguity,” Matlin says. “Trust the unknown. Be radically honest with yourself and what you truly want.”
9. You’ve Confused Being In Love With Having A Crush
intense crush on someone may seem like love, but it’s important to differentiate between a painful crush and true compatibility. According to Matlin, “A crush is often an obsessive, overly-emotional, and idealized focus on another person,” she says. Most importantly, there’s a huge distance between you and your person of interest. When that crush turns into unrequited love, you know you’ve fallen for the wrong person
Love, on the other hand, is a lot more realistic. As dating and relationship coach Rosalind Sedacca, CLA tells Bustle, “Love is usually based on a deeper sense of respect for who this person is.” It isn’t based on looks or a lusty desire to be together, but something a lot deeper.
Sometimes it can feel like a relief to realize it’s just a crush and that this person isn’t the be-all and end-all. Once you get to that point, you can let this “love” go and move on.
10. Their Behavior In Public Sometimes Embarrasses You
Consider how your partner makes you feel when you’re out and about in the world. Maybe they have an annoying habit of getting super rowdy or maybe they don’t show respect for servers. “You don’t want to be apologizing for your partner’s bad behavior,” says relationship expert and
spiritual counselor Davida Rappaport. If you find yourself in situations where you feel the need to make excuses or apologize for your partner’s behavior, you’re probably in love with the wrong person. It’s OK to cut ties over something like this and move on.
11. They Don’t Seem To “Get You”
According to relationship and mindfulness expert
Case Kenny, a subtle sign that someone isn’t “the one” is a lack of understanding. They don’t accept how you feel or understand how you feel. Instead, you need to explain it over and over again, and they still sometimes don’t get it.
It can take some practice, patience, and time to truly get to know a partner. But take it as a sign if your love interest never quite gets there. Or, in a worse scenario, if they make you feel bad for feeling a certain way that they “don’t understand.”
12. You Don’t Feel Comfortable Talking About Sex
The definition of “good sex” varies from person to person, which is why it’s so important to be able to
communicate what you want to your partner. If it seems like you lack the intimacy or connection to do so, take note. As Ricciardi says, “It’s unrealistic to think you’re going to be craving your partner’s body 24/7, 365 days a year like lovebirds do in the movies, but having a healthy sex life with lots of passion and desire is super important.”
If you find that your partner isn’t as
interested in things as you are in the bedroom or you find yourself not being sexually pleased, she says you may have fallen in love with the wrong person. “When you’re with the right person, your pleasure should be important to them,” Ricciardi says. They’ll want to listen and meet your needs, and they’ll also be open to sharing what they want, too. If they make you feel weird or uncomfortable, it may be time to hit the road.
13. You Overthink Everything You’re Going To Say
While it’s important to watch what you say, it’s even more important to have the freedom to express your feelings. When you’re in love with the wrong person, you will have a hard time being your true self around them. As
Ellen Bolin, certified professional relationship coach, tells Bustle, “You’ll never want to disappoint or ‘rock the boat,’ so you worry about how your partner is going to react to what you may want or need.” The right person will make you feel 100% comfortable being yourself. You’ll be able to say whatever you want without feeling like you’re going to be judged or ridiculed. If your partner triggers your deeply rooted insecurities or fears, reconsider whether this is a relationship that’s worth staying in.
14. You’re Always Anxious
This lack of compatibility might also manifest in a feeling of low-grade
anxiety. In the right relationship, you won’t feel worried or like your nervous system is constantly on high alert, Schiff says. “You’ll feel a sense of calm, safety, and security,” she tells Bustle. “So although you may think you feel instant hot and heavy feelings or butterflies are a sure sign of chemistry and that this is ‘the one’ — you actually want to find someone who calms your nervous system down and who you feel at ease and comfortable with.”
15. They Aren’t Willing To Compromise
Another sign that you’re with the wrong person? If it always feels like you’re the one making compromises. Maybe you’re the one who changes their schedule to hang out, or you’re the one who puts their needs second. Whatever it may be, an uneven dynamic is a recipe for disaster.
A 2021 study of 181 heterosexual couples published in the
Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that couples who feel like they have an equal say in what goes on in their relationship are much happier than those with an unbalanced power dynamic. The couples who were the most satisfied felt like they had more freedom and personal power in their relationship.
“If you have a partner that is a bit selfish and has to have their way all the time, you may be with someone who has not grown up sufficiently enough to be in a relationship,” Rappaport says. A healthy relationship with the right person is one where there’s balance and compromise. You should be able to feel like your voice and your opinions truly matter to them. If you don’t, you might have fallen for someone who’s all wrong for you because they don’t respect you enough to see you as an equal.
16. They Are All About You & Your Needs Only
On the flip side, having a partner who’s all about your needs may seem like a dream come true. But as dating coach
Julie Spira says, this is an easy-to-miss sign that you’re in love with the wrong guy or gal.
For example, it might seem sweet if your partner doesn’t care where you eat for dinner and often says things like, “I don’t care! You choose!” As Spira says, this constant catering to your needs could indicate that they don’t feel comfortable speaking up for themselves, and that isn’t as cute as it seems.
It’s possible they don’t feel comfortable or confident yet as a person to speak up, she says, or they may have certain hangups or insecurities. While it’s possible to work through these things, you may decide that you’d prefer a partner who’s already on your level, and that’s OK.
17. You Can’t Trust Them
If you can’t
trust your partner, it really shouldn’t matter how much you love them. “Your safety in every aspect should be a priority,” Langham says. So if they ever make you doubt that they have your best interests at heart, it’s best to leave ASAP.
18. Being Around Their Family Makes You Uneasy
In a perfect world, what other people say, do, or think, wouldn’t affect your relationship at all. But that’s not realistic for everyone. This is especially true if family is super important to the both of you. In this instance, you may have to eventually admit that the chemistry feels off whenever you hang out with your partner’s family, and you need to cut ties. “You may need to find someone to be in love with whose family is a better fit for you,” says
Susan Trombetti, a matchmaker and CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking, tells Bustle.
19. You Don’t Care If Your Friends Or Family Like Them
It also isn’t great if you’re weeks or months into a relationship and still don’t want to introduce this person to your friends or family. In fact,
Samantha Daniels, dating expert and founder of Samantha’s Table Matchmaking, tells Bustle that this is a big one for the majority of people in relationships — and may be a sign you know something isn’t quite right. “This typically indicates that you might not feel as strongly about this person as you thought,” Daniels says.
With the right person, you’ll want to start incorporating them into your life, whether that means inviting them to meet your fam, spending a night out on a double date with friends, etc. Consider why you don’t want to do these things and what it might mean.
20. You Have To Work Hard For Attention
When you’re in love with the right person, they love you right back. You don’t have to work hard for an ounce of validation or a tiny bit of attention. Instead, the love flows freely and you know they’re 100% on board.
If that isn’t the case, you’ll start to feel drained mentally and emotionally, says
Myisha Jackson, LPC-S, a licensed professional counselor and the owner of Healing Journey Counseling Center. While it may hurt, Jackson notes it’s better to notice these things sooner rather than later.
Speak up and communicate how you feel. If your partner is “the one,” they’ll make a change. If not, it’ll be that same status quo that leaves you feeling drained and alone — even though you’re in a relationship.
21. They Ignore Your Insecurities
The right person will be interested in hearing about your insecurities so that they can make an effort to be the best partner possible. “The opposite of that is someone who requires you to rationalize your feelings,” Kenny says. “As in, they need to know why for it to be valid to them.” So take note if your partner always shrugs off your feelings whenever you vent or doesn’t want you to ever discuss what’s making you feel uncomfortable.
22. They Seem “Good On Paper”
It’s easy to love someone who is good on paper and checks all the right boxes. But therapist
Terri DiMatteo, LPC recommends considering whether or not you truly love them… or just the idea of them.
“A sign that the person you are with may not be right for you is if you catch yourself talking yourself into the relationship with logic, rationale, or with a list of reasons they might be perfect for you,” DiMatteo says.
23. You Love The Potential More Than The Reality
When you finally meet someone who has a lot of potential, you can’t help but start daydreaming about the future and what your relationship could be like. And while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, it’s important to keep yourself in check and stay grounded.
“To be in love with the wrong person is to be in love with potential,” Kenny says. Here’s how to tell the difference: Potential is defined by future ‘maybes,’ he says, while reality is defined by current actions.
“Loving the wrong person means focusing only on potential,” Kenny adds. “So that’s loving the idea of someone who might change, who might finally do the right things, and who might make you feel the way you deserve to feel. Potential is something we put our hope in as a means to escape the present reality that clearly isn’t what we deserve.”
So ask yourself, if nothing were to ever change, could you really love this person as much as you think?
Körner, R. 2021. Power in romantic relationships: How positional and experienced power are associated with relationship quality. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. https://doi.org/10.1177/02654075211017670.
Oddesty K Langham, MS, LPC, NCC, licensed clinical mental health therapist, owner of Oddesty K LLC
Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola, relationship experts authors of How To Keep Your Marriage From Sucking
Bethany Ricciardi, relationship expert with Too Timid
Jenna Ponaman, CPC, ELI-MP , relationship coach
Holly Schiff, PsyD, licensed clinical psychologist
Jenna Matlin, transformation life coach, clairvoyant intuitive of The Queen of Wands Tarot
Davida Rappaport, relationship expert, spiritual counselor
Ellen Bolin, certified professional relationship coach
Samantha Daniels, dating expert, founder of Samantha’s Table Matchmaking
Susan Trombetti, matchmaker, CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking
Myisha Jackson, LPC, licensed professional counselor, owner of Healing Journey Counseling Center
Ashley Campana, certified matchmaker, director of recruiting at Lisa Clampitt Matchmaking
Terri DiMatteo, LPC, licensed professional counselor, owner of Open Door Therapy
Rosalind Sedacca, CLA, dating and relationship coach
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This article was originally published on
July 18, 2018