Sometimes, life presents you with glaring warning signs. I mean, I'm pretty sure I drove past at least one flashing neon sign that read "Get out!" when I felt overwhelmed by my last relationship. OK, maybe it was a road closure sign advising me of alternate routes to get to campus for the next few days but I still took it as a sign that I should have been on an entirely different life path. Some signs are less obvious but that doesn't mean you should ignore even the tiniest signs the relationship won't work out.
No one wants to believe their relationship is destined to fail. In fact, most people argue that if you assume your relationship is doomed, it will be, which is a fair assumption if you subscribe to the idea that you get out of life what you put into it. But sometimes, relationship flaws are out of your control. Sometimes, things deteriorate so quickly and so subtly that you don't even realize your relationship isn't what it used to be.
I spoke with relationship psychologist Dr. Kathryn Smerling about how to identify little red flags that your relationship might be short-lived. Most notably she explains that "if you feel like you're saying or thinking things like, 'I'm done,' 'I don't deserve this,' or 'I can't deal with this anymore,' you're literally confirming that you're past the point of mending your relationship." The problem is we're often quick to console ourselves by thinking things will get better. If you've noticed these subtle changes in your relationship, you're only hurting yourself by hoping for the best.
You Notice Your Partner Is Stonewalling You
No, that's not a masonry term. It's when your partner has stopped listening to you or has closed the doors for open and easy communication. If your partner frequently denies your calls, ignores your text messages, and doesn't show interest in you when you speak to them in person, they might be stonewalling you. It's a sign that they've built up an emotional wall against you without giving you an opportunity to talk things through. This will only lead to bigger problems in the future.
You're Not As Affectionate With Each Other As You Used To Be
I know this because I've done this. I can usually feel a breakup coming a few months before it hits and my emotional response is to shut down. Regrettably, I become cold and standoffish around my partner even if I don't mean to. Dr. Smerling says other signs include "if your partner starts pulling away and feels different when you embrace or if it becomes difficult to say 'I love you' as often as you used to over the phone."
Far less noticeable (but not any less urgent) might be a lack of empathy or compassion in your everyday conversations, which is when she recommends "considering the possibility that something might have changed in the way you feel about each other or how you feel about the foreseeable future." Every couple goes through rough patches but if you sense these changes have been prolonged, it probably signals the end of your relationship is drawing nearer.
You Notice Unusual Changes In Their Language
Like they're suddenly trilingual? Not exactly what I mean. If your partner begins speaking to you sarcastically or is passive-aggressive even in casual conversation, they are probably no longer invested in your emotional well-being. Dr. Smerling adds that this is also the case if they suddenly stop complimenting you or have nothing nice to say to you.
You Or Your Partner Disregard Personal Boundaries
Whoa! This is important. "If your partner is suddenly snooping in your phone or looking around your room and through your belongings for 'clues' that you're cheating, there's no trust there and it's unhealthy," Dr. Smerling says bluntly. Even if they don't violate physical boundaries by digging through your stuff, new fixations on asking where you are and what you're doing all the time suggest that there has been irreparable damage as far as trust goes in your relationship.
You Literally Never Touch Each Other
According to Dr. Smerling, "It starts with simple things, like not wanting to cuddle. Then it turns into not having sex as often, and then finally it gets to point where you're not even excited about sex or dread doing it." If you and your partner are no longer intimate with each other and worse, you have no desire to be, your relationship probably won't last much longer.
You Feel Like They're No Longer On Your Team
One of the most rewarding aspects of being in a relationship is having someone there to cheer you on and to comfort you when you're down. Dr. Smerling points out, "If your partner has stopped supporting you, doesn't show interest in your career or academics, or gets upset that you're spending too much time on work or school, it shows their lack of engagement" in the things that matter to you. Ultimately, it reveals their lack of engagement in your future and by extension, the future of your relationship.
Although it's not always easy to predict the future of a romantic relationship, your best defense in times of uncertainty is to watch out for the little things. Dr. Smerling advises, "It's important to notice subtle changes that have taken place... small but meaningful shifts that can undercut and erode a relationship. They can range anywhere from little things like the way you snuggle to larger, more critical issues like trust and infidelity, but either way, try to keep an eye out for things that just don't feel like right." If something feels off in your relationship, it's probably because it is. Ignoring it might only make things worse in the long run.
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