6 Signs You're Settling For Less Than Love

It's not always obvious when you're in the wrong relationship -- especially if you really, really want this one to work.

1. The Sign: You've built an invisible border.

You thought moving in together would bring you closer -- physically and emotionally. But when you stand back and survey the landscape of your home-in-common, you realize you've put all your books and CD's to one side, and his to the other. Come to think of it, you've been steering clear of using his kitchenware because the utensils are "his," and you've not shown him the spice stash because it's "yours."

2. The Sign: You lie about where you've been, because you don't want to hurt his feelings.

Dinner, dancing, a spontaneous party with co-workers -- all forms of socializing energize you. But being around more than a handful of people drains your boyfriend. Your ideal night in includes hanging out with close friends and drinking wine, but your boyfriend prefers it to be just the two of you. You'd love for him to join you on your adventures as much as you join him at home; and, while you manage just fine when he stays in, he gets hurt when you go out, leaving you feeling guilty. He's a great guy, he treats you well and he even makes you laugh, so you're not quite sure...is this a big deal, or not? (Hint: You already know the answer.)

3. The Sign: You invited your boyfriend and friends over for your world-famous paella and you're still not sure he likes your food.

You had a blast chopping, dicing and soaking all the ingredients. Nothing brings you more joy than cooking. You love feeding those you love and, okay, you'll admit it, you love the compliments. But...you're never quite sure if your boyfriend even likes your food. Sure, you know he's low-key and understated, but cooking is how you best express yourself, and you can't help but feel disappointed when, after each three-course meal, the only thing he says is, "Let's clean up tomorrow." You tell yourself you're expecting too much, but maybe you're getting too little of what you need.

4. The Sign: You compare him to a man you've never met.

Why can't he be as affectionate as your co-worker's husband—or as emotionally in-touch as the main character in the last novel you read? When friends tell you stories of their playful, adventurous or thoughtful new boyfriends -- men you don't even know -- you feel secret pangs of envy. It would be one thing if you felt jealous of someone whom you had some kind of past relationship with (upsetting, yes, but understandable). But if you're longing for your lover to be more like strangers, it may just be time to meet...an actual stranger.

5. The Sign: Your cold is a week old...

and you're still kissing him on the cheek.

6. The Sign: Your friends only invite you out when they know he's away.

Is it your imagination, or are they really changing the subject every time you mention his name? When you were single, no one ever tried to set you up, but now that you're coupled, your pals seem to offer you an endless supply of eligible men. They don't have to love your boyfriend. You may tell yourself that they don't even have to like him: He's your guy, not theirs...and yet, the reason your friends are friends is because, fundamentally, you agree on what makes a good life partner.

Amanda Stern is author of The Long Haul.



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