Signs That You're A Placeholder In A Relationship

Some relationships can seem authentic, but there's that underlying feeling that something is off. You and your partner look like you're doing all the things that a normal couple would do, at least from the outside. You spend a decent amount of time together, you talk every day, you share hobbies together, etc. But you can't shake off that nagging feeling that there's a lack of security in your relationship. If this sounds familiar, you might be a placeholder in your relationship. If you're the placeholder, it is exactly as the name denotes — you're holding the space of a significant other until someone better comes along. Your partner may be conscious of this, or they could even be doing it unconsciously, but the result is the same. 

In some instances, a rebound relationship can look like a placeholder situation. But even in a rebound scenario, if your significant other shows interest in building a life with you, then there's a chance it could work out. In a typical placeholder situation, however, your partner is waiting for "the one" — and only staying with you because they're afraid of being alone or haven't found their person yet. As hurtful as that may sound, it might be the reason you're stuck in a cycle of short-term relationships. If you're the placeholder, it is important to see the signs early on so you can decide for yourself what to do. Here are some clues. 

Your partner doesn't like defining the relationship

Have you ever been with someone for a few months — or even years — and they always find a way to avoid talking about your relationship? Whenever you bring up the topic of where the relationship is headed, they either shut down or change the subject. 

You might try to ignore it, but their constant refusal to engage in meaningful conversation about your relationship or where you both are commitment-wise could be a sign that you're a placeholder in the equation. A relationship is like most living things around you — it needs sustenance to live and grow. Defining the relationship is a part of that growth, and it's a journey you're both meant to take together. At no point should it feel like only you are interested in talking about the relationship, and it should definitely not feel like your attempts to discuss the topic are being rebuffed or ignored. In fact, this could potentially be one of the biggest dealbreakers in a relationship.

As zen psychotherapist Michele Paiva told Bustle, "If you feel like your relationship is like a pond that is stale and murky, then don't have a symbolic Titanic ending with someone emotionally freezing. Instead, get on the single-and-ready-to-mingle paddle board and make waves."

Future talk never happens, and serious conversations are another story altogether

A relationship that's growing will have a future, and both people in the equation should be able to talk about it. Mackenzie Kennedy — who has shared her own experience of being a placeholder — wrote for Vocal Media, "Most people who get into committed relationships do so with the understanding that the relationship could turn into something serious. So, eventually, the person you're dating will talk about marriage or something that's similarly committed." If there's a lack of conversation about your future or the future talk from your partner doesn't have you in any of it, this might be a warning sign. As sex educator and author Danielle Sepulveres told Bustle, "Someone who doesn't take you into consideration for the long-term wants to take each day as it comes rather than focus on a future with you, which is signaled by not following through on plans that are made."

Serious conversations — whether that be about a vacation together or dealing with conflict — are also a natural part of any relationship. If your partner is averse to discussing anything serious and always wants to keep the topics light, you might be a placeholder. 

You've never met their family or friends

If you find yourself spending time exclusively with your significant other and you've never been asked to meet their family or close friends, you may want to think twice about the relationship you're in. In fact, this might be a relationship red flag when it comes to the placeholder situation. 

"For a relationship to have a future, you should know the people in each other's lives. If you feel like your partner is hiding you from their friends, he/she probably is," shared researcher and part-time psychologist Flavia Medrut for Goalcast. It's the same story with family. Meeting your partners' parents, siblings, etc. is a natural part of a relationship evolving, and if any requests to do so are turned down and your partner seems content only hanging out with you all the time, you may want to rethink things. 

You deserve someone who's not afraid to introduce you to the important people in their life. 

Life seems to revolve around their schedule (always)

It's natural to have a sense of ebb and flow when it comes to whose life takes precedence in a relationship — especially if one partner is sick or going through an important career transition. But if this is the norm and not the exception, it's a sign that your relationship might be in trouble.

If plans to meet up are always based on the convenience of your partner's schedule, you might be a placeholder in their life. Even worse, every time you do get together, the focus is on sex. Relationship coach Melinda Carver told Bustle, "If you experience being downplayed in their life for their schedule, family, friends and only called for sex, then you are a placeholder and it is time to decide whether you will move on or stay."

Being a priority in your partner's eyes is a sign that they are invested in the relationship. It also means they value you and think you're important. Content creator Jareen Imam, who has had experience being a placeholder, wrote in Medium, "If your partner fails to make you feel like you're a part of the relationship, that's not a relationship at all. That's a person who is taking advantage of your time and energy."

You know deep down that something isn't right

Most of the time, our gut feeling can be pretty accurate. For Mackenzie Kennedy, it happened when her partner started becoming distant from her, but it was only when she overheard a conversation they were having with someone else that things became clear. She shared in Vocal Media, "One day, I overheard him talking to a guy friend on the phone. What I heard, I'll never forget: 'Yeah, she's a nice girl, but I'll never marry her. She's good for the time being, though.' It hurt on a visceral level."

As painful as the experience can be, it's better to listen to your intuition than stay in a situation where you're not valued. You have to feel included in your partner's life, and that's not something you have to fight for. Because as Jareen Imam shared on Medium, "Despite being a placeholder in a relationship, that placeholder person is still investing their time in the relationship. They are working on the relationship. And they are contributing to the relationship." Why put in all that effort for someone who's only stalling time before they move on? 

Realizing you're a placeholder in a relationship doesn't have to be a bad thing — it might push you to have a serious conversation with your partner. If they sincerely value what they have, they might become more invested. If they don't, you're better off without them.