No one wants to feel like an option in their romantic relationship.
Even with family and friends, feeling insignificant is, at best, stinging and, at worst, devastating.
But in an intimate relationship, feeling uncherished creates self-doubt and heartache.
Your romantic relationship is where you are most vulnerable and should be the most secure.
When you care for someone, it is only natural to want to prioritize them in your life.
But sometimes, they don’t reciprocate, causing you to feel unwanted or unappreciated.
If someone treats you like an option, it’s hard to know what to do or how to react without seeming needy or controlling.
Before reacting, it helps to explore why you feel devalued and the best course of action based on your new awareness.
What Does It Mean to Feel Like an Option in a Relationship?
Being an option in a relationship can manifest in different ways. Some partners want you for your sexuality or beauty but don’t see you as long-term romance material.
Some might view you as a guaranteed partner when they are bored or have nothing else to do.
You may get your hopes up and feel the relationship is solid, only to have them dashed when you are callously ignored or cast aside.
For anyone in this confusing relationship, it’s devastating. But it is more than just feeling unloved and used. We’ve all been in a situation where our presence is no longer required, and it can be extremely awkward.
Optionality reinforces the thought that you are unwanted and unworthy.
But when this is the daily feeling within your relationship, it creates a desperate dynamic, like a small child vying for attention and approval.
Some examples of attempts to garner our loved one’s attention can include:
- Over-worrying about your appearance.
- Playing the victim, nagging, or arguing.
- Trying to make them feel guilty.
- Trying to make them jealous or miss you.
- Keeping them under constant surveillance through social media.
Signs of Being Treated As an Option
Are you always waiting for your partner? You do everything they want, but your efforts go unappreciated.
A lack of respect for your time indicates that you are considered an option. The more you try to fix the situation, the worse it gets until all you do is fight, cry, or both.
And when you are together, you feel like you are just decoration or a seat filler.
And that feeling of being treated like an option causes worry. Consider that you may be an option in your partner’s life. Let’s look at a few of the signs.
Does your partner
- Put everyone’s needs ahead of yours?
- Refuse to commit to solid plans?
- Always contact you at the last minute?
- Always show up when they’ve had a bad day?
- Show up for sex but then ignore you?
- Forget to call you back when promised?
- Always have plans with everyone else?
- Sidestep when you want to meet their family and friends?
- Control the terms of the relationship?
9 Reasons You Are Feeling Like an Option in a Relationship
It’s not a bad thing to want to be someone’s priority. The reality is that there will be times when you are not your partner’s priority, and that’s OK.
Occasional priority shifts can include family obligations, health issues, a work project, or even a deployment. But these differ from never being at the top of the list.
1. Your partner’s career is a priority.
It’s OK if your partner’s career is a priority – even a top priority. But when a career becomes an excuse to avoid a more intimate relationship, you may feel he is treating you like an option.
When this happens, the primary questions are what are your expectations, and how will you handle them?
2. You are overly available.
Let’s consider how you react to being treated as an option. Why should anyone respect your time if you are always available? It may compound the situation.
The best way to handle being treated as an option is to put your needs and priorities first. Don’t cancel appointments or ignore work obligations to be with them.
3. Your partner seems ambivalent.
If someone treats you like an option, you may feel that they do not care or are ambivalent. Many describe optionality as feeling like a third wheel or neglected.
Those feelings could signal insecurity or your partner’s inability to communicate their feelings. That’s why communication is key to keeping the relationship on track.
4. Your partner is inconsistent.
It is often hard to understand all of the reasons why he treats you like an option. He may not care or just be unsure of his feelings. Casual relationships may be part of his business, social culture, or a bad habit.
Determining the significance and meaning of every action will drive you crazy. Try not worry about it too much if the relationship is new. Let things evolve as you continue to prioritize yourself.
5. Lingering feelings for another.
Many breakups are messy. But, occasionally, relationships end with those involved still having feelings. These emotional ties may affect the next relationship in a host of ways.
A new love interest may be kept at arm’s length or made to feel like a second choice. With enough time, those feelings usually dissipate. If you want more, acknowledge it. And consider ending the relationship as friends.
6. It’s all about sex.
If you feel your relationship is only about physical intimacy, without personal interaction, then say no. Your partner may only want a physical relationship while you are looking for the whole package.
One of the hardest things to hear is, “I don’t have to like you to have sex with you.” It is an eye-opener, but it can give you the strength to choose yourself over the need to be in a relationship.
7. Your partner is oblivious.
Along with being ambivalent, partners can also act oblivious. All the time spent, your little efforts, sacrifices, and kind gestures are ignored or taken for granted.
While it is easy to say that your partner has no idea how hard you work in the relationship, it is more likely that they do and in some way expect it. People who do not value and respect you will never respect or appreciate your actions or efforts.
8. You always initiate contact.
Relationships, even platonic friendships, are two-way streets that require effort. The fact that you are the one who is constantly calling, texting, or setting up dates, is a billboard screaming that you are not a priority.
9. You are unhappy.
One of the few things we can control is whether or not we remain in an unhappy relationship.
Don’t sacrifice your dreams. If you are sad or have a growing feeling of unease and insecurity when he treats you like an option. It’s time to rethink your priorities.
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How to Make Him Treat You Like a Priority
Everyone wants a happy and loving relationship. But you can’t make someone want to be with you. Nagging will never change where you stand in your partner’s esteem. And ultimatums never turn out as expected.
Men change their life’s priorities out of need, ambition, love, and respect. And they tend to focus on one thing at a time. So when you are shopping, working, and planning a dinner surprise, he is just at work.
But if your relationship is faltering and you are wondering what to do? There are a few ways to improve the situation.
1. Communicate your feelings.
Communication is a give-and-take – talking and listening. And intimate communication can heal a relationship. Begin by addressing issues as they come up. Calmly express your needs and feelings.
Don’t accuse; stay away from blame or finger-pointing. When calmly conveying your feelings, don’t defend them – they’re yours.
As you discuss an issue, try to avoid counter-attacks. A counter-attack is bringing up additional or other transgressions during a conversation. Once you do, chances are communication will stop.
Counter-attacks are an arguing style; unless you’re an attorney, they are counterproductive. It is usually not about the subject matter but victim signaling. It centers around who can win the argument.
Stick to the topic and pick another time to address the second, third, or fourth issue.
2. Increase your self-confidence.
One way to stop feeling like an option is to work on your weak points. We’re not suggesting that your perceived deficiencies have caused your partner’s actions. But they may make you feel less confident.
If you are uncomfortable with your body, work on it. Finish college. Learn a new hobby or take that promotion. Your small successes will add to your self-worth, minimizing the need for your partner’s validation.
3. Stop obsessing.
OK, so answer honestly. How many times do you call or text your partner? Do you check their social media accounts? Stop. There is a fine line between interaction, stalking, and obsession. Let your partner be who they are.
There is an old saying, “if you love something, set it free.” If your beloved loves you, they will want to be around you.
You won’t have to force the issue. All in all, a little space may change how your partner treats you. If it doesn’t, and you still feel like an option, maybe it is time to move on.
4. Stop being so understanding.
Agreeing with everything your partner says or going out of your way to please could send the wrong signals.
Instead of validating your love, your agreeable nature indicates that you do not value yourself and that it’s OK to take you for granted. Next time your partner takes advantage of you, try saying no.
5. Reevaluate your expectations.
Many times, rather than being in love, we are in love with the idea of being in love. It’s fun and exciting. But is the relationship you are working so hard to hang on to a “til death do you part” partnership, or have you created a fairy tale bubble?
Are you expecting that first date anticipation for the next 50 years? Is it reasonable to expect your partner to entertain and smother you with attention and gifts, rushing home to listen to you and fix your problems every day and night?
6. Pursue your dreams.
New relationships are intoxicating, literally. Hormones and pheromones abound, driving our desire to be with someone and giving us an actual physiological high.
But once those wear off, what will you do with your day, month, or year?
Without personal goals, a career, hobbies, or separate friends, you will soon be complaining that you are not a top priority in your partner’s life.
7. Find someone else.
Walking away from a relationship is hard to do. But it may be the healthiest option when dealing with a partner who does not consider you a priority.
You can’t force someone to want to be with you. Instead, take control of the situation and focus on your needs. Take yourself off his list.
Social convention suggests that we will find a lifelong partner to fulfill our every need. While compelling in its ideal, this may not be realistic. Not all relationships last forever.
If you feel this relationship is worth saving, then communication and hard work are essential. If you are unhappy, find someone who will treat you the way you deserve.