(Relationships)

How To Tell If Someone’s Underinvesting In You

Why are you doing all the work?

One-sided relationships are never fun, whether we’re talking about platonic or romantic ones. If you feel you’re putting in more effort than the other person, it may make you question the authenticity of your connection. But, there are definitely signs your partner is not invested in your relationship and knowing how to spot them is the first step in protecting yourself from heartbreak. “Relationships require intentional effort to thrive,” David Bennett, relationship coach, tells TZR in an email. “Many people will gladly invest time and money into their hobbies, but refuse to intentionally invest time or money, like for counseling or coaching, into their relationships.”

He says that part of the disconnect can be due to the fact that people have different ideas as to what it means to actually “invest” in a relationship. “Getting on the same page as to what investment means can be helpful as an initial step,” Bennet says. Thomas Edwards Jr., relationship coach, agrees with this sentiment of mutual understanding (or lack thereof). “When we think of investing, there are so many ways to look at it, from physical and emotional to energetic and financial,” he tells TZR in an email. “The first thing is to consider which of these areas you feel a lack of contribution and fulfillment in. Oftentimes, I find someone feels underinvested when there isn’t consistent presence and attention being given to that person.”

That said, if you’re looking for more concrete signs that someone’s just not on the same page as you, experts say there are certain things to watch for.

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They Are Not Very Communicative

Whether we’re talking about texting, phone calls, or in-person communication, if you feel there is an imbalance, the person you’re with may be underinvesting. While not everyone may be into texting, if their overall communication patterns seem poor, it could indicate a deeper issue. “Communication is key to a strong relationship,” says Bennett. “Refusing to do so is like claiming to invest in a business project, but not giving any of your time or money.”

They’re Often Distracted

While we live in a very digital-heavy world, that doesn’t give the person you’re coupled up with a free pass to constantly pay attention to everything but you. “The biggest culprits are laptops, phones, and TV/iPad screens,” says Edwards. “These can make the other person feel like you’re not paying attention and not directing (read: investing) your focus and energy toward them.” But it could also be just not having time to sit and be present. “This becomes apparent if someone's ‘too busy,’ and always has to be doing something instead of stopping and being present with you,” he adds.

They Prioritize Others (Consistently)

Matchmaker and Dating Coach Stef Safran, says to watch for how much the person prioritizes you — or doesn’t. “Is the priority their friends or family? And instead of making plans with you, do they always seem to be waiting to see if ‘better’ plans — with others — become available?”

They Don’t Express Acknowledgement Or Gratitude

“One thing that makes people feel special is being appreciated and acknowledged for their effort and who they are,” says Edwards. “It’s the type of external validation that is actually necessary in relationships.” He says an example of this would be a couple living together and one person working really hard to keep the place clean, including picking up after the other one, who isn't contributing as much (or at all). Or this could look like one person cooking all (or most) of the meals. And so on. If there’s no acknowledgement — appreciation or expression of gratitude — of the person’s effort, they’re likely underinvesting and taking them for granted.

They Don’t Plan Dates Or Other Activities

Edwards says planning date nights can often seem one-sided when one person overinvests while the other underinvests. “In longer-term relationships, marriages, and, most commonly, in marriages with kids, I find there is a complacency in the relationship and not feeling the need to keep the courtship and romance alive,” says Edwards. “Date nights then become a rare event or just something that never happens due to their lower reprioritization.” And if you’re the one planning or initiating all of them, it may make you wonder how interested the other person really is in you and the relationship.

They Don’t Want To Do Things That Interest You

Safran says to also explore what you two do when you’re together. Do you do an equal balance of things that interest the both of you? “If they don't care to do activities that you like — if you are a person who hikes or camps and they don't even want to try them — it shows that the relationship works if they get to decide what you two do as a couple,” she says. “In general, we’ve seen a lot of couples where you can clearly see that one person seems to do all of the things that they want — but does not care to invest in the other person's needs.”

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They Are Emotionally Unavailable

Let’s say you ask a rather new love interest about their relationship history — not for 101 details about their exes, but you just want an idea of how many long-term relationships they’ve had and that sort of thing. But rather than have a back-and-forth conversation about it, they shut down and switch topics. Or you may have been seeing each other for a while now and, while you don’t hesitate telling them how you feel, emotionally, they don’t reciprocate. “This means they may not be emotionally available,” says Bennett. “Investing in a relationship means opening up enough to actually have a relationship. This requires vulnerability and honesty. If a partner is not vulnerable or honest, they aren't giving what a relationship needs to thrive.”

They Don’t Want To Meet Your Friends Or Family

“If someone doesn't want to meet your friends (and later your family) it's a sign that they might not be interested enough in you,” says Safran. When a relationship is growing, people want to spend more time together and get to know each other’s social circles. If they resist, this could be an indicator of underinvesting.

They Are Not Interested In Helping The Relationship Grow

Of course, no relationship is perfect, and perhaps you and your partner are having more conflicts lately. “You may suggest couples therapy or counseling, or even couple-oriented activities to strengthen your bond,” says Bennett. But if they are resistant to these things — growing as a couple or trying to resolve issues you two are having — they may not be as invested as you are in the relationship.

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What To Do If Your Partner Is Underinvesting

If you feel your partner is underinvesting, it’s best to talk it out — even if it may be uncomfortable. “It is important to be honest about the state of your relationship and how your needs are being met (or not met),” says Bennett. “It can be exhausting being the only one who cares to invest in the relationship. Once you realize it, you can determine if it is repairable or if you need to take steps to end it.” On a related note, Edwards suggests using a simple three-step process of saying, “I feel,” “I want,” and “Here’s what I need from you.” “This way, you’re not pointing fingers or blaming anyone, potentially causing the person to be on the defensive and shutting down,” he explains. “Instead, you’re making this about you and what you need in order to feel invested in.”

Bennett points out that it’s a good sign if your partner is willing to listen and communicate — then it can work. “They may not realize you consider them to be underinvesting,” he says. “It is possible that they have just become overwhelmed by the struggles of their life and are stressed out — and that it has nothing to do with you. However, if they show no interest in investing more of their time and energy into making it work, but instead double-down and just retreat into focusing on other things, then I don't see it working out.”

Safran also says how long you’ve been together may be an indicator of whether or not things will work out. If this is a long-term relationship that has been built with a strong foundation, then there might be a chance that things can work out and you become a stronger team,” she says. “But if this is the beginning of a new relationship, the person is showing you who they are and it might be best to just cut ties now.”