3 Signs Your Partner Is Distracted When They're With You & What It Actually Means
Fact: 10 out of 10 times I say anything, my partner's response is: “What?” I glare. Then they say, "No, seriously, say it again please." So, fine, maybe 10 out of 10 is an exaggeration, but this scenario plays out a lot in our house. I've learned that if I don't reply, they're usually able to rewind their mental tape and remember what I said. That's because they weren't ignoring me, their mind was just somewhere else, and asking for an instant replay is one of the most common signs your partner is distracted when they're with you.
It used to really get on my nerves and even hurt my feelings, because it felt like they were just not present or that interested in what I had to say. But what I came to understand with time was that it really wasn't about me. They just had a lot on their mind — pressure from work and bills and all that grownup stuff that seems to fill up your mind more and more as you get older. But still, you can't blame me for being a bit worried, because sometimes, that distraction can mean something else — something more concerning. The key is to know the difference. I reached out to bestselling author and relationship expert Susan Winter to break down the signs your partner is distracted, and got some advice on what do about it. Here's what she says.
1. Your partner doesn’t really seem to be listening to you.
Do you often feel like when you're talking to your partner, they aren’t really engaged in the conversation? Like they're going through the motions of listening, but nothing is really sinking in? Well, if that sounds familiar, then Winter says your partner is likely distracted and not present. Signs of this include responding with nothing but non-specific answers; things like “hmm,” “yeah,” “right,” and “I know” in response to your conversation are a fairly sure sign their mind is somewhere else.
“It’s just an acknowledgment to appease you,” Winter tells Elite Daily, “but you know they haven’t really listened to what you’ve said.”
2. Your partner never remembers things you tell them.
We’re all guilty of only half-listening from time to time, but where it starts to get more serious, Winter explains, is when they straight-up forget things you tell them — sometimes important things.
“Conversations you’ve had with your partner don’t seem to stick,” Winter explains. “Whether it’s something simple such as, ‘We’ll meet at 4 o’clock on 19 Street,’ or as important as the instructions to picking you up from a medical procedure.” If your partner is repeatedly not remembering things you’re talking to them about, they obviously have something else on their mind.
3. They are constantly on their phone when you’re together.
Listen, I get it, we’re all addicted to our phones. But there comes a time when you need to put it down and just have some quality time with your boo. If this never seems to happen, or if they do put it away only to pull it back out again almost immediately, then they are either distracted by something (or someone, eek!) or trying to distract themselves from something on their mind that's making them anxious.
“It never feels good to be beaten out by a cell phone," Winter says. "Chronic devotion to one's cell phone makes you, the real partner, feel like a non-priority.” The real cause for concern in this situation is when the phone obsession is paired with them becoming secretive. Then it's a sign they aren't just preoccupied — there’s likely more going on to be concerned about.
Why they are behaving this way?
Picking up on the signs that your SO’s mind is elsewhere is a lot easier than knowing why they are behaving that way. Yes, it could be an issue of your partner keeping a secret, or even that they're losing interest in the relationship, but if they just seem like their mind is elsewhere and they aren't acting secretive or distancing themselves in other ways, Winter says it's likely just that they are “not able to accept any new input because they’re mentally preoccupied due to worry.”
In other words, something stressful is on their mind. Winter explains it could be work or school, it could be family or friend related, or it could just be what most of us worry about on the reg: money.
Here’s what to do about it.
Whatever the case may be, when your partner stops being present with you, it may be confusing, or even hurtful. In that case, it’s important to know how to deal with the situation, so that you can get the answers you need to know not only where you stand with your partner, but also to give you the opportunity to give them your help and support. Winter says it's time to put your communication skills to the test.
"Tell them you notice they’re distracted and ask them what you can do to be of assistance,” she says. It's possible they don’t even realize how their behavior is coming off, or they were looking for a way to bring up what's on their mind.
However, Winter says that “if they can’t provide a plausible reason as to why they’re distracted, let them know that this habit makes you feel like a non-priority. By telling your partner how their distraction affects you, you have a better chance of opening up a conversation that prompts them into being mindful of staying present in your company.”
When it comes to dealing with a distracted partner, the solution simply comes down to honest communication with a pinch of trusting your gut. If your partner's mind seems like it's elsewhere, speak up! Ask what's going on, find out if you can help, and let them know how it makes you feel when they are clearly not being present. And, of course, if you have a feeling that maybe there is something else going on, don’t just brush it aside — trust your intuition. Either way, you got this.
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