10 Signs To Know That You Are In A Complicated Relationship

Look out for these indicators if you suspect your love life isn't as simple as it should be.

Reviewed by Dr Nancy B Irwin, PsyD Dr Nancy B Irwin Dr Nancy B IrwinPsyD facebook_icontwitter_iconlinkedin_iconyoutube_iconinsta_icon
Written by , MA (English Literature), Certified Relationship Coach Shivani Chandel MA (English Literature), Certified Relationship Coach linkedin_icon Experience: 4 years
Edited by , MA (English) Asmita De MA (English) linkedin_icon Experience: 3 years
Fact-checked by , Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach Sneha Tete Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach Experience: 4 years

Our favorite rom-com always shows the build-up of a perfect romance between two people and then a happy ending. But, they never say what happens after the curtain call. If the filmmakers had to put down the story to screen after the end credits, it would very well turn into a drama! Often couples do find a happy ending indeed but, sometimes they also get stuck in a complicated relationship, and that is when things can get messy!

“Relationship status: It’s complicated!” This is no more just a Facebook status but a relationship choice that couples make these days. A relationship is a lot of work and requires two people to put in quite a bit of effort. But often, couples tend to merge in the greys of a relationship rather than keeping it light and simple. If a relationship full of endless complications is what you are in, read on to know how you can deal with it or avoid it altogether!

What Is A Complicated Relationship?

Ok, let’s go back to the basics! Nope, it’s not just a Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin movie. These kinds of relationships do exist. When either or both the participants in a relationship are not sure about what they are doing, about each other or their relationship, things tend to get tangled and pretty complicated. You would often hear them declare very coolly that their relationship status is complicated. But, we can tell you that there is nothing cool about romanticizing a relationship that is so difficult to maintain. On the contrary, it is emotionally taxing even if you pretend that everything is just fine.
Every relationship comes with its own set of problems like insecurities, jealousy, lies, and deception, and often there are ways to handle them all. Indeed, few relationships are simple; relationships are inherently complicated. But, when there is a recurring pattern of hurtful behavior, it could turn into a relationship that is borderline complicated.

Every relationship comes with its own set of problems like insecurities, jealousy, lies, and deception, and often there are ways to handle them all. But, when there is a recurring pattern of hurtful behavior, it could turn into a relationship that is borderline complicated.

Okay, so a complicated relationship definition? Well, if either or both partners have trouble staying committed, you can say that they are in a relationship that is called complicated. Suppose you ask them a fundamental question (not so personal) about their relationship, and the answer is not simple and does not flow out of them with ease. In that case, you could understand that there is trouble in paradise and that they have crossed over to the other side. And if you see a “but” coming in one of their sentences, you will know for sure.

Let us dive deep into these signs in the next section.

Ten Signs You Are In A Relationship That Is Complicated

When you are in a relationship, things can get hazy sometimes. You could start questioning yourself – “Am I too complicated for a relationship?” But, the wise way is not to question yourself or the other person but your relationship together.

If you have no idea how to understand if you are in this difficult relationship, we have broken down a few signs for you to figure out.

  • Casual Dating (No-strings Attached): This type of dating is a textbook definition of a messy relationship that you must, in any case, avoid. You might just be fooling around with no strings attached, but one or both persons are always bound to get hurt in this relationship. It is very rare for you to get out of it unscathed, and the friendship also goes down the drain.
  • A Secret Relationship: If both the partners want to keep their relationship a secret, it could be fun for a while, but after some time, you would want to stop. Some people become addicted to the secrecy, and when the relationship becomes public, it falls apart. The ability to show affection to your partner in society shows a lot of importance to validate a person in a relationship. If you are prey to your partner asking you to keep it a secret a while longer because it’s fun, girl, you need to start analyzing the relationship!
  • No Label Relationship: You can comfortably say, “My relationship is complicated,” even when you or your partner are not willing to label it after being with them for a long time. You do everything that a couple does, but if you are still not adequately confident to term it as a relationship, then you might as well go ahead and call this relationship a “complicationship”!
  • Going Back To The Ex: We would recommend you never retrace your steps. My pal, you can’t go back to the road that you abandoned and not for just a few moments of fun! What would you call a relationship like that? Complicated, in bold letters!
  • Not In A Relationship Just Yet: You started dating someone, you like them, like hanging out with them but have no idea where it is leading, and neither are you both talking about it. You are smart to wait and assess and see if this can blossom into a relationship. If this phase continues past 3-6 months, you might consider moving on. One or both of you are being passive or simply do not see a future and are “buying time.”
  • When There Is A ‘But’:

Analyze your complicated relationship


When they say, “l like you, but” or, “I love you, but,” you should know that that is your cue to analyze the relationship. The “but” or hesitancy means that they are not sure about you, or they like somebody else, or they do not want to commit. And all of them are big red flags that you should deal with.

  • Are We On Or Off? If you are in a relationship where you both are confused about whether to stay together or not to stay together, you need to make a firm decision to end the drama and move on or stick to it and solve the problems. You will be dealing in the grey area and googling “how to end a complicated relationship” if you are not sure about each other.
  • Not Being Exclusive: If you are in a serious relationship, exclusivity comes without much say. But, if the relationship is a complicated one, you would want to keep your options open and test the waters further. Best to be sure of each other or move on! You can’t just keep wondering what is complicated in a relationship when there is no exclusivity.
  • Frequent Fights: One clear sign of a complicated relationship is the presence of frequent fights. If disagreements escalate into heated arguments more often than not, it may indicate unresolved issues or communication challenges. The inability to effectively communicate or express emotions may contribute to disagreements escalating into heated arguments. As tensions persist, the emotional toll on both partners can be draining, creating a cycle that further strains the connection.
  • Crashing Values: If you and your partner find yourselves at odds over core beliefs, such as lifestyle, priorities, or future goals, it may lead to complications. These clashes often intensify over time, leading to a sense of emotional distance and tension. When fundamental values clash, it’s a red flag in a relationship.

Ky Star, a blogger, recounted her experience of being in a complicated relationship with her sexual partner for over a year. She writes, “I’d had unresolved feelings for him from a previous fling so that probably paved the way. He insisted this was one-sided. He was certain he had no feelings for me and treated me incredibly poorly in order to keep me at arm’s length.” She mentions that every time she tried to leave, one way or another, he would drag her back. She continues, “We danced the same dance a time or two before I finally decided that I’d had enough of this complication (i).”

protip_icon Quick Tip
Complicated relationships have the potential to become toxic when one or both parties get obsessively attached with unresolved emotional baggage. It is a situation with many risks. Even casual relationships must have clearly communicated boundaries that lack here.

​​How To Deal With A Relationship That Is Complicated?

If you have figured out that you are in a relationship that is not as simple and happy as it feels, you need to know how to deal with it by reading on.

  • Don’t Give Up: Our first reflex is always to run away, escape and break up. But, if there is any hope in your relationship, you should find ways to stick it out with each other rather than part ways and being hurt.
  • Open Communications is key: One of the biggest challenges of a complicated relationship is clear communication. When things are complicated, it can be ambiguous and uncertain. When you don’t know where you stand, it’s tough to move forward or make decisions. Unclear signals and confusing or confounding interactions can make you feel like you are walking on eggshells or are in a perpetual state of limbo. If you want to know the best way to mend ways and get to the other side of a relationship that is complicated, you need to communicate with your partner. The best way out of the biggest of problems is to talk it out and understand each other’s emotions.
  • Set Up A Few Boundaries: If you want to know how to fix a complicated relationship, setting boundaries could be your answer. Every relationship comes in a package of its own set of limits depending on the couple. You could make your own by understanding your partner and their expectations from you.
  • Think Of The Good Times: When everything is blurry, just think of the good times that you have spent with your partner. It will not only make you feel good but also will help you gain some perspective if you want to be with the person at all. Remind yourself of what attracted you to this person in the first place.
  • Take Some Time Off: When everything gets messy, it’s best to call for time off. In this period of time, you can introspect about yourself and your relationship as the relationship you have with yourself is the most complicated at times. It would be great if you could try to better yourself as a person for yourself and for your partner too. It is an excellent time to think of why you are with the person and if you would want to go back to them, and it is always healthy to take some time off from each other to sort out your mind.
protip_icon Quick Tip
It is important to be self-assured about what you want from a relationship. If you are certain that a person is everything you need in a partner, then be brave and take the next steps.

Love is a beautiful thing, but it can also be an intricate and convoluted emotion that can leave you feeling at once involved as well as entangled and knotty. Relationships are expected to be straightforward, but sometimes they can be thorny. When love is perplexing and puzzling, it can be difficult to understand why things happen the way they do. The truth is that relationships can be as enigmatic as they can be abstruse. If you find yourself in a complicated relationship, you may feel like you’re in a maze of opaque, obscure emotions that you just can’t seem to navigate. When things are inscrutable, it can be challenging to know what to do or where to turn.

Hence, the first step is to acknowledge that it’s complicated. Admitting that there are issues and things aren’t straightforward is an essential step towards finding a solution. From there, it’s crucial to work on communication and to try to clarify the situation as much as possible.

Infographic: 5 Signs You Are In A Complicated Relationship

The tag “It’s Complicated” is not just a movie cliche; it also happens in real life. Rather than keeping it simple and light, you let your insecurities take control and make it complicated to decide whether you should continue the relationship or just let it go. If you are not sure whether your relationship is complicated, check out the top 5 signs mentioned in the infographic below.

5 signs that you are in a complicated relationship (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Ultimately, remember that relationships are complex and that it’s okay to not have all the answers. It’s okay to feel uncertain and to not know what the future holds. What’s important is to be honest with yourself and your partner, to communicate as much as possible, and to work together to navigate the twists and turns of love.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a complicated relationship work?

Yes, it can work as long as you put in the required additional effort. It is up to you to decide whether it is a healthy relationship worth your time and energy.

Are romantic relationships complicated?

No, not all romantic relationships are complicated. Open communication, mutual trust, and respect can help keep things simple and sorted for both the partners.

Is a complicated relationship bad?

If you are not communicating clearly with each other about your needs and expectations from your relationship, then your relationship might take a toxic turn and at that point, ending the relationship might be the only way for you to protect yourself.

How can I set boundaries in a complicated relationship and maintain them?

You can begin by stating your limits and expectations rather than dictating theirs. You should be considerate to accept their limits for them to be able to reciprocate the same.

Should I seek professional help for a complicated relationship and what type of therapist should I look for?

Yes, it might help you make informed decisions about your relationship if you seek professional help. It might also empower you to address and discuss your concerns so that you can make an informed decision about whether you want to move forward in your relationship or end it entirely.

What are some self-care practices I can adopt to manage my emotions in a complicated relationship?

You can start by accepting your feelings and emotions about your relationship. You can create a safe space for yourself where you can indulge in some meditation to ground yourself or you can seek guidance from a loved one or a professional who might help relieve some stress so that you can make informed decisions.

How can I communicate effectively in a complicated relationship?

You can start by accepting your feelings. The next step is to find the right timing so that you can convey your feelings and thoughts without getting overwhelmed. Make sure to listen as well, rather than just conveying your thoughts. Set goals and clear boundaries for your relationship and start at the beginning by getting to know each other.

How can a complicated relationship affect my mental health and well-being?

A complicated relationship with your partner might increase your anxiety, stress, or depression. It might also affect your physical health and cause more problems in the long run.

Key Takeaways

  • A relationship can be considered complicated if the partners want to keep it a secret.
  • Lack of commitment can make a relationship complicated in the long run.
  • It is important to establish open communication with your partner if the relationship begins to show signs of complications.
complicated relationship

Image: Stable Diffusion/StyleCraze Design Team

Explore the true essence of complicated relationships in the following video. Dive deep into the complexities, challenges, and emotions that come with such relationships.

Personal Experience: Source

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Dr Nancy B Irwin

Dr Nancy B IrwinPsyD

Originally from Atlanta, Dr. Nancy Irwin graduated from UWG in 1977 with a Bachelor of Music in Opera Performance. She moved to New York City in 1985 to pursue a career as a stand-up comedian. She worked all over the country and abroad and moved to Los Angeles in 1994 when she heard that Hollywood needed more blondes.

Read full bio of Dr Nancy B Irwin