There are two reasons why people choose to keep their relationships “vague”.
In the first instance, that decision is made to benefit the self. Keeping things vague is a way to keep as many doors open as possible, so that when one door closes, there will always be others that are open and welcoming. It makes us feel better that we have a safety net to fall into, and more interested parties to give us that stroke of our ego when things get rough with our partners. Life is a gamble – you put your chips down for one bet but there is always a risk that the one you set your sights on will fall through; so you keep your eyes open for other opportunities. That’s why you choose to keep it vague, because certainty may burn bridges.
And then there is the intention of keeping it vague because you don’t want to hurt others. You don’t want to tell the person you just broke up with after a week that you’re already seeing someone else, you don’t want to use harsh words on your partner that you can no longer stand, and you don’t want to give an interested party false hopes that things would be a happily-ever-after. Because certainty can be brutally harsh and it’s not something that everyone can take, “keeping it vague” is a face-saving mechanism, an act you reserve for people you care about to help ease the pain.
Can Vague Relationships Become Committed Relationships?
There are few relationships as difficult as those with a partner who likes to keep things vague. You don’t know where you stand, what level of commitment you’re at or what you should tell friends and family. And to make matters worse, a partner who prefers a vague relationship doesn’t want to talk about why they like to keep things vague. But you need to talk about it, so let’s start the conversation with a few of the biggest reasons why people might prefer to keep things vague in their relationships.
We’ve all been hurt, but some people tend to take it harder than others. These people may keep their relationships at arm’s length to protect themselves from more heartbreak. While there is a chance they may let themselves get closer to their partners with time, keep in mind that relationships have the best chance of survival if both partners are invested the same amount. But the partner who prefers to keep things vague sets the pace of the relationship and that’s a recipe for disaster.
Hollywood’s Bad Influence
According to a study by Jeremy Osborn, watching romantic television shows and movies gives people a skewed view of relationships. This is especially true if the person watching them believes that these kinds of love stories actually exist. They compare these stories to their own relationships, which actually exist in the real world, and feel like their relationships aren’t as good.
According to Benjamin Karney, a co-director of the Relationship Institute at UCLA, there are several ways that people commit to each other. The first way is to think, “I really want to spend time with you because you make me happy.” This is a vague form of commitment because it is one-sided and doesn’t say much about the future. It’s all about what your partner does for you. The second form of commitment is “during good times or bad, happiness and sadness.” In other words, this is a strong commitment because it is a commitment to stay together, through the good and the bad, and it is a commitment to work through the bad. When a partner is willing to make sacrifices, they’re making the type of commitment that allows you to know where you stand.
The Joy of Independence
The world is full of independent people who put their careers, money and lifestyles first before anything and anyone else. They are more than happy to allow someone to tag along for the ride, but as soon as the word “sacrifice” is introduced, they begin to edge towards the door. This is another way of saying that someone may like you, but they’re not sure if they like you enough to commit, so they keep you at a certain distance. Over 45 percent of people have at least one person on their back burner. These arrangements could turn into romantic relationships, but they are most likely just alternatives in case their current love interests don’t work out.
Too Many Attractive Alternatives
Research suggests that people are less committed to their partners when they feel like they have plenty of other people to choose from. Why would they commit to one person when they can have their pick of many awesome choices? If they think there are attractive alternatives out there, they may be less likely to commit to their partner.
Testing the waters before marriage can include enjoying the many benefits of a committed relationship, with very few consequences. It’s called a “stay-over relationship,” and it involves a couple who stays over at each other’s homes for several nights per week, while also maintaining a separate home to go to anytime they need space. These vague relationships make it easier to avoid commitment, and there are few consequences if things don’t work out.
Blame it on the Brain
Research suggests that some brains are better set up for communicating and commitment than others. The gene variation, allele 334, seems to cause some people to become more vague and conflict-oriented with their relationships. And the variation, 5-HTTLPR, seems to make some partners less responsive to their lovers, especially when it comes to reading and expressing emotions. The important message here is that you can’t change everyone, so if you are not happy with your partner’s love style, you need to consider moving on.