How to Know if You’re in an “Entanglement”

Man sitting at the edge of partners bed wondering if he is in an entanglement

OK, so back in 2020 there was a whole situation happening in Hollywood where a woman described her affair with someone outside their marriage as an “entanglement,” and boy, did the memes fly.

This brings us to the question of what exactly is an entanglement because, last we heard, when you have an intimate emotional or sexual relationship outside your marriage, it’s considered an affair, but hey, maybe we’re wrong.

The Cambridge Dictionary describes it as “a situation or an emotional or sexual relationship you are involved in, which is difficult to escape.

Another definition describes it as the condition of being wrapped up and twisted together in a mass.

So, now that’s cleared up, let’s dive more deeply into the signs that point toward being in an entanglement.

On the surface, an entanglement appears like a relationship. For example, you spend most of your time together, and you’ve met each other’s family and friends. Other people even view you as a couple, but you do not have an actual relationship, at least not one that contains love and respect.

The signs of entanglements vary, so the characteristics shouldn’t be taken as complete. But if at least one of these aspects is present, you may need to reconsider your relationship.

Signs of an Entanglement

You may need clarification as to where you stand in your relationship. You feel committed to each other but are still missing a few pieces of the puzzle. So, if you are questioning whether you’re in a genuine relationship or just an entanglement, here are a few signs to watch for.

1). Your Romance Continues the Dysfunctional Pattern

The issue with entanglements is that the shady behavior continues repeatedly. You may have several discussions, but they never follow through with the solutions to repair the broken trust. Some of these behaviors include:

  • Over-emphasis on sex over time: The entanglement has dwindled your relationship to always having discussions or arguments about sex. If you’re not discussing it, you’re having it because it’s all you do now. There are no other aspects to being together.
  • Communication breakdown: Because your relationship is primarily about sex, you no longer talk to each other and don’t check in with one another. The only talks you have are heated arguments over the communication breakdown.
  • Emotionally shut down: After so many arguments, one or both people will choose to shut down. This may come in the form of silent treatments for days (or even weeks).
  • Angry outbursts and distancing yourself: After shutting down emotionally, they may do something to make you upset, resulting in an angry outburst. You’re frustrated, so you say what you need to and then distance yourself from them
  • Lies: It’s not good if they constantly lie or omit information because they know you’ll be upset.
  • One or both feel like the victim: As the entangler, you think you properly represented yourself, so you don’t know why there’s an issue. As the entangled, you feel like you were tricked into a relationship that you thought was genuine.
  • Obsessive need to be together due to fear of abandonment: One or both involved in an entanglement tend to want to hold on to the other person for fear of losing them for good.

2). At Least One of You Is Immature

It could even be both of you that are emotionally immature. However, signs of immaturity vary, but they mainly demonstrate having a lack of respect for your partner.

For example, do they go out all night without calling to let you know where they are? Do they constantly choose their friends over you? Being emotionally immature is typically accompanied by these destructive behaviors that place undue stress on the relationship.

If you recognize that your partner exhibits this sign, the first thing to do is to discuss it with them. Maybe they don’t realize how insensitive they’re being and need you to point it out. But, if the behavior continues, it may be time to consider the single life.

3). Lack of Safety

You don’t feel like they’re in your corner, so you don’t trust them with your heart. But unfortunately, this also results in abandonment issues because you may feel like they’re not there for you physically and emotionally.

Physically speaking, sometimes domestic abuse occurs in entanglements, so you don’t feel safe in the relationship.

Signs of a Happy, Healthy Relationship

Sometimes couples are in a bad relationship for a long time and don’t even know what it feels like to be involved in one that’s healthy. Suppose you have questions about the status of your relationship—check-in with how you feel right now.

Yes, right now, ask yourself how does my relationship make me feel? If you feel relatively good about it, then read on to see some signs indicating you have a healthy relationship.

1. You both are emotionally healthy and lead happy, stable lives: When you are in a positive relationship, you feel good about your partner and where you are in your lives right now. Yes, you argue, but you understand that disagreements are a part of every relationship, so you can easily overcome them and move on.

2. You feel safe and relaxed separately and together: You never have to worry about what your partner is doing because you love and trust them. When you are together, you feel comfortable being your authentic self.

3. The relationship contains:

  • mostly love and affection for each other
  • the ability to be yourself comfortably
  • an excellent ability to have a good time together
  • a mutual desire to want the relationship to last
  • a high level of respect
  • the ability to trust
  • great communication
  • an ability to be open and honest with each other
  • the ability to understand one another
  • a healthy sexual appetite

4. Both keep their individuality: Just because you’re one half of a couple doesn’t mean that’s your only identity. You both can maintain outside interests as well as do things together.

5. You can handle conflicts positively: All relationships will have disputes, but how you handle them determines the relationship’s longevity. Couples that address issues positively stand a better chance at a long-term union.

6. You can set boundaries: Most couples think setting boundaries means moving apart, but a healthy couple can set limitations that deepen a connection.

4). Plenty of Power Struggles and Conflict

It’s natural to want your partner to be the person you want in the relationship. However, when they don’t comply with what you think is right, it can cause conflict and power struggles.

As a result, one or both of you spend a lot of time trying to get the upper hand and control the other partner to fall in line with the dynamics of your situation.

5). Regularly Not Feeling Seen or Understood

This is a common symptom of entanglements because you don’t feel like you have a voice, so instead, you keep your emotions to yourself. When you do speak up, it causes disagreements, so you’d rather stay quiet about your feelings.

6). More Negatives than Positives in the Relationship

The relationship has run its course if you find it tougher and tougher to hold on to your relationship. In addition, you’re in a toxic relationship if you can rattle off ten negative things about your situation before you can name one positive aspect.

Affair vs. Entanglement: Know the Difference

Let’s be honest; if you look up the words affair and entanglement, there really isn’t much difference. Both situations involve sexual and emotional intimacy with someone other than your significant other or spouse.

Entanglement is a rather vague term and, until recently, wasn’t used to describe any type of relationship, unfaithful or not. In other words, it’s mostly left up to interpretation. However, we can all agree that the term is attached to negative connotations regardless of how you use it.

The major difference is that the relationship is more out in the open in an entanglement. Friends, family, and others like your coworkers and florist know this person.

An affair is more secretive and involves more deceit because you’re attempting to hide them from those you know. Regardless of which term you use, an affair and an entanglement emotionally take one partner away from the other.

In the case of married Hollywood couple Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, both acknowledged that they were separated at the time, so her ‘entanglement’ with an outside party was not, in fact, an illicit affair.

Furthermore, they were purportedly going through challenges in their relationship and had agreed to see other people. So in their eyes, it has never been a point of whether or not she was unfaithful.

An affair is one partner becoming emotionally (and sexually) involved with someone else. That said, relationships and monogamy are changing and will likely continue to evolve.

Many couples understand that finding one person to be with for a lifetime is difficult. Humans are complex, and a lifetime is long, so expecting one person to be there forever through the good and bad is asking a lot.

How to Fix Your Entanglement Situation

It’s important to recognize whether the situation is worth saving. Unfortunately, some couples cannot fix their broken relationships. It could be because one, or both, people involved are too untrustworthy or too toxic. There are endless reasons a person might need to break away from their significant other.

However, after reading this, you may feel your relationship isn’t entangled. Instead, it just has a few rough patches here and there. If this is the case, that’s an excellent indicator that your partnership may be worth saving and only needs a tweak.

You’ve heard it before, but we’ll repeat it; communication is the cornerstone of every healthy relationship. If you’re having issues, it’s the best place to start healing.

Try discussing your concerns with your partner. Remain calm and receptive to what they have to say. Speak your truth, but also allow them to speak theirs. You expect your partner to listen to your point of view, and you should do the same. That’s the only way you will effectively get your points across.

What if It Is an Entanglement?

If your relationship is far beyond tweaking, and you’re involved in a full-blown entanglement, you should consider involving a third party, like a professional therapist or counselor.

Unfortunately, not all relationships are going to be clear skies and sunshine. Sometimes, even with the best intentions, the partnership fails. If you need help to work out your issues, we suggest seeking professional help. However, you should get out immediately if the situation worsens or becomes abusive.

Signs You’re in a Bad Relationship

All relationships go through ups and downs, but lately, those downs have occurred way more often than the up times. So, should you leave the relationship or stick it out? You know and understand your relationship best, so the call is up to you.

However, here is a list to let you know you’re involved in a toxic relationship and should consider packing your bags.

1. Bad Communication

Instead of mutual respect, your conversations are filled with anger, sarcasm, and down-and-dirty name-calling. Do you constantly make snide remarks about your partner to others? Do you mock them behind their back? If lately, the only communication you have is toxic, it may be time to move on.

Another indicator is that after a while, you stop having poor communication because you’ve stopped talking. Instead, you dodge their calls to get peace from all the arguing.

2. No Support

If you have a healthy relationship, your partner shows you support and is your biggest cheerleader. However, you could be involved in a toxic partnership if you don’t feel supported or encouraged and no longer trust them to be there for you.

3. Controlling

Does your significant other constantly ask you where you’re going, who you’ll be with and when you’re returning? Do they become irate when you don’t answer their calls or texts immediately? Instead, they call you repeatedly until you answer the phone.

These behaviors typically stem from a lack of trust, but they can also mean that your partner needs to be in control. Sadly, this need for power can turn into abusive behavior.

4. Jealousy or Envy

Occasionally, a little jealousy is OK, but it becomes an issue if it keeps you from being happy with your partner’s successes.

While envy and jealousy are natural human emotions, it can quickly tear apart your partnership if it leads to constant mistrust and suspicion.

5. Resentful

Do they cling to grudges over the slightest issue? If so, they are exhibiting toxic behavior. Over time, resentment and frustration can build; if there is no outlet, you’ll hold on to it until you eventually boil over.

Some people don’t speak up because they’re in an abusive relationship and don’t feel safe doing so. In this case, please seek professional help immediately.

6. Disrespect

You may be late sometimes, but chronic lateness or “forgetting” occasions is a definite sign of disrespect. They’re demonstrating they don’t care about your feelings and that you’re not important enough to make a change.

However, keep in mind that some people have difficulties arriving on time or remembering certain dates. You can attempt to let them know how you feel, but if that fails and the toxic behavior continues, it may be time to get out of the relationship.

7. Lying

Do you regularly find yourself being dishonest with your partner about where you’ve been and who you’ve been with? Even if it’s innocent, you don’t feel like arguing, so you lie to keep the peace.

8. Regular stress

Life challenges always come up; an illness, job loss, or financial woes. Unfortunately, stress can strain your partnership., but that’s expected.

However, if you’re constantly anxious even when you aren’t facing stressful situations, your issues may stem from inside the home, specifically from your partner.

Studies show that people who are stressed for long periods may have physical and mental health issues. As a result, they frequently feel sick, and a mild sickness may turn into a full-blown disease if not rectified.

Signs of stress include:

  • Chest pains, belabored breathing, and heart palpitations
  • Aches and pains
  • High blood pressure
  • Low libido
  • Weak immune system
  • Digestive problems
  • Exhaustion or trouble sleeping
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Muscle tension

9. Bad Finances

Sharing finances in a partnership is common and involves a level of agreement about how much you’ll spend and on what. You’ll also discuss savings plans and, if you have any, how to get out of debt. These are good traits to have in your partner.

It’s OK if one person occasionally chooses to spend on things the other person disapproves of. It happens all the time.

However, it is toxic if you have an agreement regarding finances and one person regularly ignores the agreement by withdrawing large amounts of cash or buying big-ticket items without your knowledge.

10. Fewer Relationships

Lately, you’ve stopped spending time with family and friends. You do this because you want to avoid conflict with your significant other or you don’t want to have to tell your loved ones about your failing relationship.

On the other hand, you find that dealing with your significant other or being preoccupied with the relationship takes up most of your free time.

11. Looking for a Change

You remain in a bad relationship because you continuously recall all the good times you used to have at the beginning and hope to return to those times. But the more you hope, the further away those fun times seem.

You may believe that physically changing your appearance, who you are, and your actions will also help them change. Sadly, that rarely works.

12. Lacking Self-Care

You used to go to the gym four times a week but haven’t been there in months. Likewise, you no longer have spa time with your friends once a month. This typically happens in a toxic relationship because you can’t muster up the energy for these activities, or your partner disapproves.

At-Home Self-Care Ideas:

  • meditation
  • at-home spa
  • self mani/pedi combo
  • read a good book
  • take a bath
  • go for a walk
  • breathing exercises
  • sit quietly in a room for 10 minutes

13. Walking On Eggshells

It’s never a good sign when feeling like you’re tiptoeing in your own home. You don’t want to do anything to upset your partner because you know that will cause an argument, so you hold everything in. You also try to stay out of their way by hiding in a room until it’s safe to come out.

Unfortunately, it’s also a toxic relationship when you feel at ease when they aren’t there but feel the anxiety creep in when you hear their car in the driveway.

This happens in many troubled relationships, but the partnership inevitably ends because a person cannot live long in this environment.

If you don’t live together, you find yourself avoiding their calls and even not answering the door if they come over unexpectedly because you haven’t had the chance to mentally prepare for dealing with them.

14. Disregarding Your Needs

Do you go along with whatever your significant other wants because you want to avoid a confrontation? For example, you tell your partner you don’t want to go to Mexico for vacation, but they do, so they make reservations, and guess what? You go because you don’t want an argument.

You’re in a toxic relationship when you’ve constantly voiced your opinion, and they still override it.

Final Thoughts

Whether or not you feel like you’re involved in an entanglement, or an affair, or if you believe your relationship just has issues that need tweaking, the name you give it shouldn’t be the focus. Instead, your concern should be fixing the problem.

The best start is always communication. Let them know how you feel. If that doesn’t work, seek professional counseling. You both owe it to yourselves to do everything possible to create a healthy, loving relationship.

If those actions don’t work, unfortunately, it may be time to cut ties and move on, but do so knowing that you gave it your best shot.

Abigail Langton
Abigail Langton

Abigail Langton spends her time deep diving into the facts readers want to know about current dating apps online. You'll find her breaking down the latest price points and how to stay secure dating online.