Defining a Relationship
Relationship Coaching

Slow Moving or Surface-Level: Defining a Relationship

You may be wondering if your relationship is the real deal because of how slowly it has been moving or if it is something that is about to end because it was never really that deep. When this type of situation occurs, a couple may fight labelling things or talking about the future which can lend itself to worry. Do not jump to conclusions, there are notable differences that can help determine your relationship status.

Keep in mind that slow is not necessarily bad because it allows for time to get to know the other person deeply. This leads to feeling emotionally safe and builds a strong relationship foundation. There is really no right or wrong speed to a relationship or how it progresses. Trust your instincts. Still, it never hurts to know the difference in surface level and slow relationships, so a few are listed below to help you decide about your own relationship.


If the relationship is progressing slowly, yet there are tons of open communication, its unlikely to simply be surface level. As long as there is healthy communication, the relationship is likely healthy, just taking time. Surface level relationships tend to involve little communication about anything difficult, like the future. This is usually because one person is not interested in long term or fears their feelings. Ask each other what is wanted and go forward from there.

Forward Momentum

Surface level relationships tend to be fun and excitement filled, but once the honeymoon phase is over, it passes. This period could last a few months, but as the spark fades there is nothing sustaining. In relationships that are simply slow moving, the spark may fade slightly, but it will not go out. The couple will still be happy together and can get excited about building a future.


There is nothing wrong with relationships that are surface level because not every relationship will go deep or become official. Still, being able to recognize the difference can come in handy when you are starting to feel invested. When things get serious, the couple may start feeling selfless and start putting their partner ahead of themselves. This is a sign of a strong relationship that can last.

Feeling Official

Even when the relationship appears to be moving very slowly, a couple will be clear on the purpose and direction in which it is headed. This is enjoying the present while moving forward with growing momentum. This often includes at least one heart to heart talk about being exclusive and together. This may start slow to make sure both partners are happy, but knowing it is official, even if not announced.

Future Plans and Goals

Even when an official commitment has not been made, those who are committed to one another will naturally discuss a future together with goals and plans. It may start with plans for the summer and progress to a five-year goal. This is exciting and the couple continues to see themselves together. This is a major indicator of much more than a surface level relationship.

Friends and Family

There is research to show that friends affect how long a relationship lasts. If friends and family do not approve, a break-up is more likely. If friends and family are aware of and supportive of the relationship, then it has gone beyond surface level.

Happy with the Pace

Surface level relationships tend to have one partner that is all in and the other is way less serious. If one person is left guessing about the relationship, then it is likely only a fling. When the relationship is just moving slow, both partners will have discussed the future and committed themselves to a pace. You will both be serious about the other.

Reason for Moving Slow

There are some reasons a relationship needs to move slowly. Perhaps this is because other goals need to be met first, like school, other commitments, or jobs. However, when a relationship is not going anywhere, there will not be a real reason for taking it slow.

Comfort Levels

Though everyone is different about letting their guard down, the deeper level of comfort you feel with someone who is much more than a surface level partner is noticeable. When you are able to relax and be yourself, it is likely long term. If you have let your guard down and so has your partner, then it could be heading somewhere.

The best way to define your relationship is to simply ask your partner. Ask what they envision long term. While hints and clues are wonderful, a heart to heart makes answers clear.

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