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What is a Superficial Relationship and How to Identify it? [30+ Signs] 

What is a Superficial Relationship and How to Identify it? [30+ Signs] 

Updated on Sep 13, 2023

Reviewed by Julianne Cantarella, MSW, LSW , Certified Relationship Coach

What is a Superficial Relationship and How to Identify it

Love was pure when it was letters and flowers, now superficial relationships have taken the front seat. How often does your hopeless romantic self believe this?

Emotional connections have become so rare these days, that the bare minimum is celebrated. No matter how much we are connected to one another, there’s a wall of disconnect that doesn’t allow us to bare open.

And it’s often one-sided. You go on dates, and parties and even get intimate only to find out that they were not as attached as you. Breaks your heart, doesn’t it? So, I understand why you want to protect it now. I would love to help you to know if your current relationship is becoming superficial or not.

As much as I would love your relationship to bloom, it’s important that you stay cautious and give your love to someone who deserves every bit of you. Only then you’ll know what real love is. Are you ready? Let’s get started.

Superficial Relationship Infographic

What is a Superficial Relationship and How to Identify it
What is a Superficial Relationship and How to Identify it

What is a superficial relationship?

A relationship that seems perfect from the outside but is absolutely hollow on the inside, is called a superficial relationship.

Once, in all our lives (never, if you are lucky) we find a person irresistible to our hearts. The chemistry is so great that you only focus on the fun. You are okay with adjusting as long as they are with you. And then one fine day, they are gone.

You are there, left dealing with mixed-up emotions as to what went wrong. It is only then you will realize that you were in a superficial relationship all this time.

You aren’t alone. That attraction is so intense that it blinds us from seeing the actual reality. In the beginning, it’s barely noticeable but slowly things become clear.

Superficial relationships are ones that lack depth and emotional bonds with each other. Everything is merry and roses on the surface level. You meet, go to clubs, and spend time with each other but there’s no willingness for commitment. Such relationships are shallow because only you desire each other physically.

When you spend time with your partner, you’re either making out, kissing or enjoying sexual intimacy with each other. There’s hardly any emotional or vulnerable talk between both of you. You might think what you have is great but that isn’t really the truth.

In these relationships, one partner is always commitment-phobic. In some cases, both. Anyways, you need to understand the signs before your heart gets broken.

So, please read the next section to understand some examples and signs to spot if you are in a superficial relationship.

Superficial relationship examples

Superficial relationships start as romantic relationships but only at the surface. The passion is so intense that knowing whether it’s going to be a long-term relationship is blurry. But only when time settles, the superficiality of nature creeps up.

In this section, I have curated some hypothetical examples of what a relationship looks like in a superficial relationship. If you find yourself anywhere near to in any of these examples, chances are you are in it:

1. Let’s say Alan and Caroline are in a relationship. Alan is a mysterious, hot, model who doesn’t like to commit whereas Caroline is a beautiful painter who loves all things romance.

Caroline loves him, he is hardworking, charming, and very patient. Alan, on the other hand, doesn’t know anything about Caroline or her life.

She asks him to put effort into the relationship but that’s too much for him. Their passionate nights soon turn into arguments. Alan soon starts cheating on Caroline and blames her for ruining the relationship. That’s when she knew it was a superficial relationship.

2. Rue met Jules in a bar. In an instant, she fell in love. Jules was everything Rue was looking for. She was there when she needed her, loved her in silence, and did everything to change herself, just for her.

One fine day, Rue doesn’t feel well, she spirals into a deep depression and asks Jules to be there. Jules asked her to be okay but never called her.

No one came that day to see her. Her confrontation with Jules gave her only one answer “I was really busy”. That’s when she knew she fell for a superficial person.

3. Lexi just got out of a 7-year-old relationship. It’s been a long time since she was on the “field” and she wanted to have sex and Karan was everything she could ask for. He was smart, polite, respectful, and caring towards her.

He would call her to make sure she reached safely and got her “A first edition harry potter novel” only because she would go gaga over it. It seemed like destiny played its game well. But that’s when he caught her cheating with someone. His confrontation didn’t bring any peace.

She confessed not wanting to be with him and his heart broke and that’s when he realized everything was so superficial.

4. Mindy was a very attractive girl. She has the perfect face, the perfect body. When she fell in love with Nate she thought her life was perfect too. They started their own Instagram page and soon took it by storm.

They traveled together and moved into a small house. At the same time, Mindy delivered a beautiful baby. But the pregnancy was too much for her body. Weight gain and huge stretch marks left her dull than before. Worse, she fell into an eating disorder.

Instead of being supportive, Nate started pulling jokes on weight. He always complained about how she never dresses like before or her skin is too soggy and there’s no sex anymore. One day, Mindy saw him getting flirty in texts, on confronting he accepted that he was cheating on her.

Mindy felt betrayed and left him for good. She was wise enough to leave that superficial relationship.

5. Robin has always been a believer in love. She loved the idea of being loved, she would always go above and beyond to make her partner feel happy. In short, she fell in love with every guy she ever dated and there was Jamie, a heartbreaker.

Jamie met Robin in a bar and immediately decided he wanted her. He had never seen anyone like Robin. He stepped forward for their first kiss and he was the one who initiated their first time. Jamie made Robin feel very happy inside the bedroom.

He told her he loved her while being on top and that’s all he wanted to hear. She thought everything was good until her friend Max pointed it out. She asked her if he ever said “I love you” outside the bedroom and Robin was numb.

However, she never realized Jamie was being superficial in a relationship until then. She spent the next day pointing it out to him and he just left. Robin understood that this is not worth it. She spent the next 2 days scratching her hair out and decided she deserved better and walked out of this superficial relationship

I hope with these examples you’ve found some clarity about what is a superficial relationship. It starts passionately and you will be over each other all the time. Only with passing days and time, you will realize that it’s the only connecting bridge between both of you. Emotional needs are never fulfilled and that’s how these relationships end. They always do.

So, if you are looking for some signs that help you identify if your relationship is superficial or not, keep reading…

30 Signs of a superficial relationship

Every relationship is different. Every partner has their own way of expressing love and emotions. But there are some things that are non-negotiable – which separates a genuine relationship from a superficial one.

Tip: If you spot a few from this list, make sure to talk it out with your partner. If the response is not serious, rather casual, back out. You are way too precious for them. 

1. No talks after sex?

Sex is an important part of a relationship, but not the whole. Sexual intimacy helps two people bond on a deeper level but only if you really love the person. If your sexual life is just bang-bang-bang, well that’s when you know it’s just about sex.

Superficial relationships are often limited to sex, unlike healthy relationships where the couple also indulges in love-filled discussions after sex.

So, if you’re in a superficial relationship, you will soon realize they don’t like to spend time together unless hormones ask them to.

2. There’s no such thing called emotions

As I mentioned before, these types of relationships involve a lot of sex and nothing else. Couples who genuinely love each other also care about each other’s emotions and often read your mind just by the look of your face.

Superficial partners on the other hand would never bother about their partner’s emotions because all they are looking for is fun. They just want the happy, sunshine version of you and nothing else.

3. It’s just convenient

“It’s going good, I don’t want to jinx it.”

“Whatever’s happening, I am happy with that”.

If you have said/heard these lines at least once, you are in a superficial relationship. Healthy relationships require both partners to put in equal effort to thrive and emerge stronger. So, if you or your partner is not putting any effort into this relationship, there’s no better sign than that.

You are in this relationship only because it’s convenient. Your basic physical and sexual needs are met and that’s enough for you. You don’t have any emotional needs.  

4. Relationships work like a switch

Have you noticed that your favorite couple never breaks up no matter how hard the situation is? They stick to each other and in the process, the love deepens. Yes, that is how a real relationship works. Couples that are serious about each other never break up.

But this is not the case for your relationship. It works like a switch, on at one time and off again. You break up and patch up multiple times but never face the problem. You have learned not to bring up “that topic” anymore or else it will lead to worse consequences.  

5. Got a secret? Better lock it

This is the best tell-tale sign of a superficial relationship. If you love someone you share things with them. You share your secrets, your deepest desires, your mistakes, and whatnot. But this doesn’t apply to superficial relationships.

In superficial relationships, partners never share any secrets with each other. They don’t feel the need to bare their soul open to each other and always tend to avoid difficult conversations.

6. Future discussions are like sweating under the sun

You know a relationship is casual when there is no discussion about the future. Casual partners want relationship perks with no commitments.

They just want to enjoy it while it lasts. That’s why “what is our future like?” talks bother them. They don’t want to hurt your feelings directly either (how kind of them) so maybe they will just shut it out or divert to a different conversation.

If you have brought up this topic a few times and they tried to dodge it, it’s maybe because they are not as serious as you.

7. Communication is one-sided

Superficial relationships are so about sex that communication eventually takes a back seat. Even if it happens, it’s mostly one-sided. That’s because it is you who is in love and not them.

Communication here doesn’t limit to knowing what is their favorite TV series or why they choose pizza over nachos. It’s about having deeper conversations on why you love clouds, and why romantic novels make you cry. It’s about sharing those intimate thoughts and feelings with your partner.

If you think conversations between you two are always one-sided, it’s a sign of a superficial relationship.

8. Out of sight, out of mind

You might have heard the phrase, distance only makes your heart grow fonder.

A little distance is necessary for every relationship. It shows how much you miss a person. If you love each other and are spending time together, you will naturally replay those moments and want to see them more.

But if you two are not missing each other when you are apart, that means it’s only a surface relationship. Yes, one is allowed to blame busy schedules but who hasn’t got 5 minutes for a simple text?

9. You both don’t understand each other

Do you know what kind of relationship has no understanding? A superficial one.

Everyone has emotional values they’ve been brought up with and when one comes into a relationship, it’s natural to share them with your partner. But if there’s a gap in understanding, the relationship will never be able to thrive.

A superficial partner doesn’t try or want to understand your feelings. That’s why you feel that awkward vibe in the air every time you get a tad bit emotional.

So, instead, buckle up and move on.

10. Your needs are not their problem

This is probably the biggest red flag to spot in a superficial relationship – your partner doesn’t care about your needs.

Or even if they do, the concern shown is always limited at the surface level. They will see you are probably upset and ask you what’s wrong. They will even get kind and ask you to cheer up (verbally) but it stops there.

In genuine relationships partners often care for each other’s needs more than their own. They go out of their way to cheer you up and do small acts of love to bring back the smile on your face.

But it isn’t the same in a superficial relationship.

11. There are no shared values

The only thing that keeps two people thriving in a superficial relationship is fun. Once you take the fun out, there’ll be absolutely nothing left.

In this kind of relationship, partners are so engrossed with physical intimacy and fun, that they never share values. And because there’s no intention to strengthen the emotional connection, these talks never happen.

So, observe and start talking with them. Do you have shared values? Do they accept you or simply brush off your thoughts? If yes, it’s time you must walk out of it, if no, maybe the relationship stands a chance.

12. Love is only limited to looks

You must’ve guessed it by now – superficial relationships are all about the surface – that is, the face. It is like a fling where one partner loves to flaunt the other on social media or in front of their friends.

When superficial features like beauty play the most important role, then it’s only a matter of time before you are replaceable.

Once they find someone “better” than you, everything you do would turn them off. Since the primary interest of your partner is lost, they would start blaming you for losing the ‘spark’ in your relationship.

13. Lies are never-ending

Answer me this? Do you think people who love each other speak constant lies? And I am not talking about “complimenting your food when you are a bad chef” lie. I am sure your answer is no, right?

We don’t lie to the people we love because we know it will hurt them. After all, honesty is the most valuable trait in all relationships alike.

However, if you are spiraling into a superficial relationship, lies become a common scene. The best way to notice this is by asking them to spend time with you without sex (of course). If they’re not interested, they will make up lame excuses to get out of it. That should be enough to understand if they are superficial or not.

14. You both argue a lot

Every relationship has its fair share of fights. And honestly, sometimes fights are important to resolve conflicts.

Fighting is a way to show care, that you are willing to fight the problems and stay with each other. You are seeking a long-term relationship with this partner and would do anything for it.

However, fights start showing signs of a superficial relationship when it’s triggered by trivial issues. With no emotional connection, conflicts become a regular scene.

Slowly, even the daily conversations would start scaring you because you never know which will turn into a fight.

15. Open relationships are OKAY!

Now, this is a point that speaks loud for itself. If two people are serious about each other, there’s no way they would agree to see other people.

But when the relationship is superficial, they don’t mind you seeing other people. This also gives them the freedom to see other people without starting an argument.

I mean, I am not saying people who are in open relationships can’t love wholeheartedly. I am just saying people who opt for open relationships in the lieu of freedom may just be living in a superficial relationship.

16. Do you really know each other?

Every relationship goes through an exploration stage. This is where you start knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses, with the intention of loving them harder.

But a superficial person focuses on your talents and good qualities. They might find out that you are a great painter and an excellent party girl. They might even appreciate you for those but that’s it.

But, they will fail to recognize your compassion, patience, and hardworking nature. So, ask yourself, do they really know you?

17. They forget important dates

If you have already gone through this, I am sorry. But it’s quite a direct sign that your partner isn’t serious about you.

People who love each other remember every small detail of their life. They not only remember your birthday or your anniversary but also try to make you feel special on the day.

But if your current partner isn’t doing any of these things and blaming their busy schedule, it’s evident that your relationship is only superficial.

Understand that in this fast-moving life, it’s always the little wishes, hugs, and efforts that matter. And if that’s too much for them, then you surely deserve someone better.

18. There are no shared interests

Usually, people involved in superficial relationships definitely spend quality time together but only inside the bedroom. They would know everything about each other’s fantasies but nothing beyond that.

Superficial partners never do anything like ideal couples like plan dates, spend a weekend together or explore each other’s hobbies.  

So, if you and your partner also never think about spending time outside the bedroom, it’s time you must do something about it. Either find someone with whom you can do things you always wanted to or talk to your partner about this.

19. Neither of your families knows your partner

Meeting each other’s families is an important milestone in a relationship as this is a clear indication of the fact that your partner is looking at a future with you.

But if the relationship is superficial, you will never visit your partner’s home and vice versa. This is a clear sign that they are not going to be with you for the long term and treat this relationship as a casual fling.

20. There are a lot of similarities with friends-with-benefits

Most superficial relationships come under friends with benefits also.

Like think about it – You meet just for sex. There is no obligation for dating or having deep conversations. You two are okay with seeing other people but not playing the “single and ready to mingle” card.

This is what the friends with benefits situation looks like. These types of relationships last while they can and end up pretty badly.

So, unless this is what you want, communicate it to them, if they don’t understand you or are reluctant to go beyond this, you know what to do.

21. You both are often tempted

Do both of you constantly find yourself thinking about other people a lot? Do you feel like seeing them? Maybe on a date or at a party? This is what happens if you are in a superficial relationship.

Listen, attraction is natural. Romantic partners get attracted to other people too, but that stops there.

But if your relationship is superficial, you wouldn’t mind dating other people while being in a relationship with one. Maybe even your partner is doing the same thing. If that’s the case, then it’s only time before you two go separate ways.

22. You’re not afraid of losing each other

Think about them for a while. Do you believe losing them would bother you much? Will they be hot and heavy on your thoughts? Will you find it difficult not to talk to them? Do they think the same way?  

If your answer is yes then maybe your relationship isn’t superficial. But if not talking to them doesn’t bother you much, then you have a lot to think about.

Romantic partners get emotional at the thought of losing each other. So, if that isn’t affecting you maybe you should reconsider this relationship.

23. Good or bad, no news gets to them first

Partners who are serious about each other share every news with them first, good or bad. It’s not a rule but an urge to tell them everything. This brings partners closer to achieving a special position in each other’s lives. But does this happen with you?

Wherever you receive good or bad news do you feel like sharing it with them? It’s also possible that you tried to do it but their reactions hurt you. This is a definite sign that your relationship is a no strings attached relationship and it’s not worth it, believe me.

24. Are you changing yourself?

When two people are in love, looks just act as a topping. Partners find each beautiful even with the wakeup-face, the ugly crying face, and even sitting on the toilet face. But this is completely different when you have met a superficial partner.

A superficial person loves you when you get dressed a certain way, talk or walk a certain way. When you don’t, they will cringe at you. Maybe it will be your weight, your hair, that lipstick shade, or your dull skin that day.

 Whenever you won’t fit in their eyes, they will start making you feel bad about it.

25. Both of you are very different people

Partners who are a bit different from one another make way for spicy and diverse conversations.

For example, if a partner is a dreamer who loves to see the world with rose-colored glasses, a realist can actually make them strong to face the real world. Your values and care bring you together. If both of your values are not empowering each other, then it’s not an ideal relationship.

You can change each other to some extent, but it should never be a change of values or morals. You should find someone who may not be exactly like you but their values should be.

26. The mood swings are on a high

When you’re in a superficial relationship, you don’t get the stability that you’re looking for which eventually makes you moody.

You tend to call your partner when you’re suffering from a low in life and rant about the issues. You don’t care to ask about their whereabouts and straight away jump into “Why is my life so messy!”.

It’s the same with your partner also… and that’s an absolute sign of a superficial relationship.

27. You don’t feel the urge to see them

Do you think people in romantic relationships go weeks without seeing each other? And if they do (like in long-distance relationships) Do you think they feel peace or anxiety? I know what you’ll choose. Because that is the beauty of romantic relationships. You feel anxious not seeing your love for a long time.

In superficial relationships, this is different. If the motive is sex, you won’t feel the need to see them frequently. Due to trivial flights and lies, you will actually feel at peace not meeting them for a long time.

Moreover, your mental health would be in a good place because now you aren’t dealing with unnecessary arguments anymore.

28. Appreciation is rare

I am sure you are a talented person. Whether it’s sports, painting, or singing, there must be something you are great at. But do you get that appreciation from your partner? Do they love what you draw or feel proud of the trophy when you bring that trophy?

If not, those unresponsive messages are signs of superficial relationships. No matter how good you are as a person, they won’t appreciate the good in you. Maybe sometimes, when you are making out, but nothing more than that.

This shows that the person loves you but only on the surface level. They don’t see your potential nor feel the need to appreciate it. So, it’s better to stop proving yourself to them and find the one who sees you for you.

29. No gifts whatsoever

No, gifts are not just about Chanel perfumes or Prada loafers, they are also about flowers, chocolates, handmade cards, mixtapes, and whatnot.

Romantic partners who love each other make sure to treat their partners right. They put immense thought and effort into finding something that gives meaning to the shared love. Gifts are the perfect way to do that.

But if your partner doesn’t show these gestures of love, they love you only on the surface and wouldn’t do anything to make you feel special.

30. There’s too much toxicity

If both of you are fighting on mall issues, blocking each other, cutting contact for days, and making it up with sex. Then, yes, your relationship is filled with superficial toxicity. Since your conflicts aren’t getting solved, you are mentally exhausted but that toxic bond is not letting you go away.

Things partners say when in Superficial Relationship

Till now, we’ve together learned how to spot signs of a superficial relationship. But you can also spot these by the things superficial partners say to each other. Words matter a lot and if not given much thought, they can shatter your heart in a million ways.

So, let’s look at a few things your superficial partner might have said to you:

1. “Let’s not make any big plans yet!”

People in superficial relationships never talk about their future plans with you. They hold off when it comes to talking about anything beyond sex, fun, and parties.

If you are talking about some vacation plans, holiday plans, or moving in together and your partner says “let’s not make any plans now” then they are not as serious about this relationship as you. So, it’s definitely a good idea to move on.

2. “I don’t want to talk about it”

Everyone’s entitled to keep certain thoughts to themselves. But when you guys are spending a lot of time together and your partner doesn’t want to share anything with you, then this is not a privacy issue. It’s a relationship issue.

Moreover, when you decide to confront it but your partner says “I am not interested to talk about it”, it’s a clear sign that your partner wants nothing but sex from you.

3. “You’re the only person I need right now”

Sex brings out all sorts of hormones. You might hear your partner saying “I love you” and “You are the only person I need in this whole wide world” while you are still lying in bed. But if they don’t say the same thing outside of the bed, then your relationship definitely lacks depth.

You have to understand that your partner is not close to you. They just enjoy sex with you and will eventually leave you at the crossroads.   

4. “You’re so much fun to talk to”

If the only time your partner says sweet things to you is via text, then your relationship is definitely surface-leveled. And if these sweet texts are often followed up by booty calls, it means your partner is in it only for the sex.

On the other days, when you call them to talk, they might say “I am busy and I am going somewhere”. This should be an absolute indication of the shallowness of your relationship. So, it’s better to keep a distance from this relationship.

5. “I am sorry to hear that”

You don’t connect emotionally with everyone and when you do, you want to bare your heart to them. But when you have a superficial partner, this depth is absent. And if you still keep talking, they will let you down with vague comments like “oh, I am sorry to hear that”.

Along with this, they might also add “I am not the best person to talk about this”. This is a sign that you should look for a mature person and move on from this superficial relationship.

6. “There’s nothing wrong if you’re seeing someone else”

While you’re thinking that you’re in an exclusive relationship with the love of your life, your partner comes out and says “we should see other people”. This shows that they are not serious about this relationship and want to keep their doors open at all times.

So, do not keep hopes for any long-term relationship from this. You deserve better.

7. “I want you right now”

Some relationships revolve around sex and nothing more. It is not wrong if you both want that. But if your partner takes things casually and you want to take things to the next level then it’s a sign of a superficial relationship.

Sex is a very healthy part of any relationship. But if your partner makes time only for sex or turns every chance you get to be together into an opportunity for sex, then it’s a problem.

8. “I don’t think, I will marry anytime soon”

When you ask your partner about marriage and your partner doesn’t give any response or says “I don’t believe in marriages “, believe them.

This actually means they don’t want to get married or stay committed to you. They want you only for sex. It is a sign that your relationship is superficial.

9. “Oh shit, I am sorry, I forgot”

Your partner remembers everything about his work but surprisingly forgets all your special dates – birthdays, anniversary, or even the day they proposed.

Further, if you’ve planned something special for them, they will make excuses like “I was stuck somewhere”, “I am very busy” and try to avoid it.

If this has been happening with you, trust me, buddy, you deserve better.

10. “….”

If your partner never tries to initiate conversations and never replies to your texts promptly, it is a sign that you will never be serious about this relationship.

Someone who truly loves you will do anything to spend some quality time with you.

If your partner says any or all of these things, then there are high chances you’re living in a superficial relationship. My advice to you is never get too attached because, in the end, it will hurt you. Be kind to yourself and your heart and move on.

Are most romantic relationships superficial by nature?

No, they aren’t. Healthy relationships are supposed to touch your soul and warm your heart like no other. 

It is natural to have this doubt, especially if you are someone who only wishes for a novel romance in real life. But before going ahead let’s first understand why people go into superficial relationships.

Mostly, people end up in these relationships when they are looking for a fling or a casual romance. They just want to have a good time, and have sex but without any emotional connection.

When this thought doesn’t match from both sides, then the relationship becomes a shallow, superficial one. This is a situation where one knowingly falls into the casual phase.

And the other times, it’s just a series of stupid decisions. As beauty and physical attraction are so intense in superficial relationships, that it is mistaken for love. Sex feels so good that neither of them tries to know each other outside the bed. And eventually, it turns into a superficial relationship.

But that doesn’t mean all romantic relations are superficial relationships. Romance goes beyond physical attraction. Romantic relationships that are true to their nature have shared values and respect for one another’s well-being. True love is not only limited to knowing what ice cream they would like but understanding why your sour-tooth partner likes eating ice creams with you.  

Romantic relationships that are superficial tend to break after some time because there was no strong foundation to build upon but true hearts would only grow fonder and that is what you should look for.

A word from ThePleasantRelationship

Superficial relations start as a passionate, enticing, and exciting journey but it hardly leads anywhere.

Expecting a superficial relationship to turn into something serious only leads to hurt, arguments and breakups. If you are looking for some casual flings then this is perfect for you but you need to make sure the other partner knows it too.

Communicating your expectations from this relationship waves off unnecessary heartbreaks from happening. Moreover, if the person is looking for something serious, they would know what they are getting into.

And if you’re looking for forever-kinda love and find all this relatable, step out of it right now… it may hurt for the moment, but I am sure, something even more beautiful awaits you.

Are you interested to know more about ‘Why Men Pull Away’ then click here?

Are you interested to know more about ‘7 Year Itch In A Relationship’ then click here?