11 red flags your relationship lacks emotional depth

It would be nice to think that every relationship we go into would naturally progress into a strong and deep connection. 

Sadly, that’s not the case for everyone. Some relationships get stuck at surface-level, and they don’t really hit the mark or reach us at the core. 

I was once in a relationship like that. While we had a lot of chemistry and common interests, for some reason, I felt like there was something missing.

It was emotional depth. A deeper emotional connection that feels much more complete and satisfying. 

Looking back, I realize that it shouldn’t have taken me that long to figure it out. Because I should’ve noticed these red flags that point to a lack of emotional depth: 

1) There’s no intimacy beyond the bedroom

Let’s start off with chemistry, since it was something I had with my ex. The problem was, any intimacy we shared didn’t really go beyond the bedroom. 

That’s not exactly a good sign. Because it showed that what we had was superficial. 

Don’t get me wrong, sexual intimacy is no doubt important. But non-sexual intimacy matters just as much. 

In fact, numerous studies have already established that couples who touch each other more (e.g. backrubs, hugging, etc.) tend to be more satisfied with their relationships. 

Not to mention that some people do need more, like those whose love language is affection. 

Imagine that being your love language and rarely receiving it beyond the sheets. It’s going to be hard to feel connected and emotionally satisfied, won’t it? 

2) It feels more like a convenience than a real choice

Does your relationship feel more like an arrangement of convenience than a conscious choice driven by deep connection

It may have started out with strong attraction and a lot of passion, but now it feels more like you’re in it just because. 

Maybe there’s a void you’re trying to fill or it’s better than not being alone. 

Whatever the reason, it certainly doesn’t feel like an intentional choice. 

And if that’s the case, then you probably just get together out of habit or convenience. That’s a glaring red flag, if you ask me. 

Because when there’s real emotional depth, you will WANT to spend time together. Not just because it’s a time-filler, but because the interaction is meaningful.

Plus, more often than not, when you’re together out of convenience, this next flag also pops up…

3) Your status isn’t clear

Are you exclusive or not? Are you just friends with benefits? You could even be married, but then why do you feel like you’re just roommates?

Ambiguity is a red flag that your relationship lacks emotional depth. When you can’t even define what you mean to the other person, it shows that what you have is superficial. 

For me, being in this kind of unclear situation was really tough. I never quite knew where I stood. And frankly, I wasn’t sure what he meant to me either. 

So, it felt a lot like being in limbo – is this relationship something to take seriously? Or are we just killing time/playing games? (Which by the way is another sign of a superficial relationship, but more on that later.)

In an emotionally deep relationship, you won’t have to ask yourself these questions. You’ll know without a doubt what you mean to each other. 

4) Your future isn’t clear

Naturally, if you don’t even know where you stand, how would you know what the future holds for your relationship? 

Of course, nothing is ever certain. Even the most solid of couples could break up. But in an emotionally deep relationship, there should at least be some measure of certainty. You should at least be able to envision a future with your partner in it

When the emotional bond is strong, discussions about the future come naturally. Imagining a life together feels not just possible, but exciting. 

I knew that my husband was the real deal when we were both openly sharing our dreams, goals, and fears about what lies ahead. We had no idea what the future held for us, but we did know that we’d be there together. 

Like I said, you’ll know. 

5) Withholding information and frequent lying

Not much to explain here, really. When you feel emotionally connected to someone, you don’t want to hurt them, period. 

And that’s what withholding information and lying can do. And you can’t even say it’s accidental, because it’s definitely intentional. 

Your partner might say they love you and feel connected to you, but if they do these things, then obviously there’s a disconnect somewhere.

6) Playing mind games

Mind games may be more subtle than outright withholding and lying, but make no mistake – they are a glaring red flag

I wish I could say that playing mind games merely indicates a lack of emotional depth, that yes, it may be superficial but at least it’s still benign. 

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Mind games are far from benign; they’re downright destructive. 

These games often involve manipulative tactics like:

…all of which are designed to keep one partner off-balance and uncertain. 

Not only does it mean you haven’t reached a level of true connection, but it also creates a toxic environment that ensures you’ll never get there. 

Because at the core, playing mind games on your partner means you don’t respect them. Without that basic requirement, you’ll never achieve emotional depth. 

7) There’s a lack of communication

Mind games are just one example that show a lack of communication. But this lack could also show up in the ways that issues go unaddressed. Or in how you don’t exactly touch base throughout the day. 

You see, people who are emotionally connected are that way because they know how to communicate. They perform small acts of communication that keep them bonded, such as: 

  • Addressing conflicts head-on instead of letting them fester
  • Doing little check-ins throughout the day
  • Being willing to be vulnerable

In relationships lacking this level of communication, partners often find themselves feeling isolated or misunderstood

For instance, in my past relationship, we would often ignore the issues between us. And while that kept things peaceful on the surface, it also turned the relationship into exactly that – surface-level. 

Over time, these issues acted like an earthquake, the small fissures underneath widening and widening until they became undeniable gaps. With gaps like that, it’s no surprise that we couldn’t really connect. 

Not in the way that we both felt seen and satisfied. 

Which brings me to my next point…

8) You don’t feel understood

This is perhaps the closest way to describe that feeling that something’s missing. 

Truth is, a relationship feels complete when it satisfies the one thing we humans crave most – to be seen and heard. 

For us to feel that way, our partner must have the ability to listen, empathize, and truly understand the emotions behind what we say. 

Let’s say you’ve been complaining about how your partner is always late to your dates. But behind that complaint is the underlying idea that you feel disrespected, that you feel you’re not important enough. 

An emotionally intelligent partner would tune in to that (actually, they wouldn’t always be late if they were truly emotionally intelligent, but let’s say they were, for the sake of this discussion). 

They’d know that what you’re really saying is, you’d like a little more respect. 

When this level of understanding is absent, it can feel lonely. That’s ultimately how superficial relationships tend to feel – even when you’re together, you still feel alone. 

9) There are a lot of petty arguments

I’m no stranger to petty arguments. I’ve bickered with my ex over:  

  • What to have for dinner
  • An offhand remark one of his friends said
  • The way he drives
  • The way he parks
  • What movie to watch on movie night

I’m not proud of it. But I should’ve known then that that was a sign that our relationship was a superficial one

You see, pettiness means we’re focused on trivialities. On the superficial. On what does NOT matter. 

Or, pettiness could be a front for something deeper, but we’re not comfortable voicing those deeper issues. 

Either way, both cases point to a lack of emotional depth. 

Couples with a deep emotional connection have already shifted from a mindset of “I” to “we”, so they are able to express what they feel in a healthy way. 

10) You’re not yourself around them

What if you do love your partner, but you’re not really 100% yourself around them

I hate to break the news, but that’s another sign that your relationship is still on a superficial level. 

In the early days, it’s absolutely normal to put your best foot forward. But if you’ve been together a while and you still haven’t shown them who you really are, then all they’re working with is an image, really. 

A relationship can only deepen when there’s authenticity. When you both see and accept each other for who you are, not for the image you present. 

Otherwise, it’s a lie, and it isn’t fair to both of you. You’re not giving yourselves the chance for some real, honest-to-goodness love. 

11) There’s a lack of vulnerability

Earlier I talked about how vulnerability is really important in achieving emotional connection. And it’s true. 

Think about it – to whom do you feel most connected? To the person you’ve bared your heart and soul to, right?

As Deepak Chopra said, “Embracing vulnerability allows us to connect deeply with others.”

However, being vulnerable isn’t easy. It takes a lot of courage. 

But think of it this way – anything that calls for courage is worth exploring. After all, that’s the only way we grow. 

In the same way, that’s how a relationship gets to the next level. If you don’t feel the urge to share yet, then that’s a sign that you’re not yet ready to take it there. 

But if you do, oh boy, that’s a green flag right there. It means you’re ready to break down your walls and let someone in, and that’s the very first step towards emotional depth. 

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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