'Mentionitis' is the annoying habit that can make or break couples—our dating experts weigh in

Does 'mentionitis' live up to its hype, or are we making more of the behavior than we need to?

couple hugging but looking somber
(Image credit: Delmaine Donson/Getty Images)

Admit it: we've all been guilty of "mentionitis" at one point or another—whether it's regularly name-dropping a work spouse or visiting a friend's Instagram page more often than necessary. 

This phenomenon can definitely feel aggravating for couples, considering an unexpected third party enters the mix, but at what point do those green flags turn red and indicate breakup warning signs? Dating experts have plenty of thoughts about the issue—and how to handle it. 

"Mentioning someone often might be completely harmless, but if you feel like this is starting to impact your relationship, speak to them about it," suggests Paired’s In-House Relationship Expert, Moraya Seeger DeGeare, MA, LMFT. "An open line of communication is crucial to any relationship and ultimately makes your relationship stronger, so if you’re having doubts speak up."

So what is mentionitis, exactly, and is it a reason to call it quits? Don't stress, the pros will help guide you through it.

Moraya Seeger DeGeare, MA, LMFT

Moraya Seeger DeGeare is a licensed marriage and family therapist and an in-house relationship expert for Paired, an intimacy-building app for couples that promotes meaningful conversations and deep connections.

What is 'mentionitis,' according to dating experts?

"Mentionitis" is repeatedly or habitually mentioning someone in a conversation, i.e. someone outside of your relationship. At times, it could be innocent. But it could potentially indicate that onetime friendly emotions have developed into a romantic connection. 

"Recognizing the severity of mentionitis and whether there are strong feelings of emotional and physical attraction behind it is important in determining whether it’s problematic to your relationship," says dating expert Maria Sullivan, the vice president of Dating.com

"You can stop any frustration around the issue by addressing your concerns early on, after you’ve noticed your significant other has mentioned the same person a few times. How they respond can be very telling."

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Maria Sullivan

Maria Sullivan is a dating expert and the vice president of Dating.com.

When does 'mentionitis' become problematic?

Let's give our significant other the benefit of the doubt: they might not necessarily even realize they're doing it, so there's no need to prep the breakup songs playlist right off the bat without a conversation first. There are different degrees of the behavior, some more dire than others.  

"Mentionitis is only a problem if your partner isn’t being responsive to your discomfort," Seeger DeGeare says. "Mentioning isn’t a red flag in itself, but I would be concerned if a partner is continuing to compare you to someone else, and if you raise it, it continues to happen."

It can also become an issue via newsfeeds and FYPs.

"Often, the more problematic cases of mentionitis can be identified through your partner’s social media habits; for example, if they are keeping up with certain people a little too closely," Sullivan says. 

But perhaps the biggest deal-breakers in determining the level of mentionitis, if you will, is when your relationship borders on negativity. 

"When your partner’s external relationships begin to negatively affect or take priority over yours, that is when they can be considered problematic," Sullivan notes. 

Seeger DeGeare thinks things can get dicey when comparison comes into play. 

"When that shift happens, it’s likely your partner will begin to wonder why you are with them if you like the other person so much," she says. "I have heard these exact words happen in my therapy office more often than I care to mention."

How to have a talk with your partner about 'mentionitis':

1. Don't ignore the issue

The longer you stall, the deeper your resentment will become for your partner and the one he or she is mentioning. Nip it in the bud early rather than let it fester and affect your connection. 

"If both couples want to work on the relationship, frequent mentioning of someone else is something that should be discussed together," Seeger DeGeare says. "We should endeavor to be curious and enquire in romantic relationships, and be mindful of mistrust - it can erode a once-healthy relationship."

2. Don't point the finger

It can be very easy to pick a fight and accuse your S.O. of developing feelings for someone else, but rather than point the finger, take a step back and approach the issue with a cool head.

"It’s important to navigate this with curiosity, rather than judgment, mistrust or accusation," Seeger DeGeare says. "Rather than jumping to conclusions, ask your partner why they're mentioning this person all the time, and be honest about how it's causing you discomfort."

3. Know your worth

Whether or not your partner draws comparisons between you and someone else, don't do the same—don't doubt your value and all that you add to your relationship.

"Be sure to practice open communication with your partner and ultimately follow your heart and instincts," Sullivan recommends. "It’s normal for partners to develop external, platonic relationships and friendships over time. Even so, your significant other should continue to make you feel like you are cherished, prioritized, and valued."

Danielle Valente
Digital News Writer

Need a TV show recommendation? Maybe a few decor tips? Danielle, a digital news writer at Future, has you covered. Her work appears throughout the company’s lifestyle brands, including My Imperfect Life, Real Homes, and woman&home. Mainly, her time is spent at My Imperfect Life, where she’s attuned to the latest entertainment trends and dating advice for Gen Z.

Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids, where she got to experience the best of the city from the point of view of its littlest residents. Before that, she was a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, and amNewYork, to name a few. 

When Danielle’s not writing, you can find her testing out a new recipe, reading a book (suggestions always welcome), or rearranging the furniture in her apartment…again.