If only there was a relationship elf that could live on our shoulders and whisper into our ears, gently, kindly, "Sweet pea, you need to move the eff on." If the relationship elf could point out the signs your partner wants to break up with you, then we could really be sure! We wouldn't have to trust our guts while our guts were riding an emotional seesaw that sometimes has us loving the familiarity of our partners but also has us feeling a little like we don't want them to touch us, ever. (And if they could just stand on the other side of the room and not talk to us while we watch AHS, that would be good too. Wait, is that a bad sign? HELP US, ELF)
The elf could also give us some tough love when we're madly in love, and about to get dumped, and don't know it. Wouldn't it be awesome to know for sure that the relationship wasn't going to work out before we cried at Trader Joe's? Or got definitive proof that they were cheating, but hung around for another six months?
Actually, let's shoot higher: wouldn't it be great to dump them first? (Sorry, just being real here).
Alas, there is no elf. Breakups are hard. And in my experience, maddeningly, the signs that people are halfway out the door are all extremely obvious — just not until a few months after they've dumped you. When we love someone, we'll hear what we want to hear, and that can sometimes drown out some seriously strong hints.
But that doesn't change the fact that certain phrases are sending you clear-as-a-bell messages. If you or your partner is saying any of the following, pack an overnight bag and call your mom because it's about to go down. Consider me your elf. Let's do this.
1. "I Don't Know When Things Will Get Better, Sorry."
While this may be true (whether they're talking about long hours at work, stress from school, or a really high maintenance pet turtle), they would at least try to improve the situation if they cared about keeping you (or make an effort to sound like they were trying). In my non-expert but been dumped a lot opinion: this is exactly the type of thing a person says when they kinda want you to break up with them first.
2. "I've Been Reading Your Emails/Facebook Messages/Texts/Diary/Daily Horoscope."
OK maybe that last one is fine, but the rest of this type of snooping signals a major breakdown in trust. Especially if you have nothing to hide. (Though if you're cheating on them that's probably a sign things are pretty much done too, no?)
3. "You're Hurting Me."
If you're saying or feeling this, and whether you mean physically or emotionally, things are going in a toxic direction. And vice versa: even if your partner isn't vocalizing it, if you can sense that you're constantly causing them pain, I think you know in your heart that it's over.
4. "I'm Not Ready/I Need Time/You Don't Have To Wait For Me."
You don't have to wait for me ="don't wait for me, because I'm not going to be there." I found this out the hard way after months of hemming and hawing from a guy I was dating who was "not sure" he was ready to get exclusive. I finally asked, in a moment of frustration, "How long am I supposed to wait for you for?"
He barely hesitated. "Don't wait for me," he said, and walked away. Boy did I feel stupid.
5. "I Think I Should Move Out."
Even if it's intended as a "slow down" vs. a break up, make no mistake: backward movement is a clear sign of where things are headed in the long run. It seems obvious from the outside, but having witnessed several friends totally blindsided by the eventual full breakup after a move-out, so it seems worth mentioning.
6. "I Don't Feel The Way I Want To/Think I Should/The Way I Did With My Ex."
You can't really argue with this, and you shouldn't. You may be a perfect partner, but if from that person's perspective they're not feeling how they want to feel (or, as one of my friends told me her ex bluntly informed her, "I don't love you as much as I think I should"), take their word for it.
7. "You Should Do Whatever Makes You Happy."
Translation: start looking out for your own happiness because I'm not interested in contributing to it anymore. This flag is especially red if you're getting the line in response to a request: ("let's go to this party tonight!" "I'm going to stay home, but do whatever makes you happy."). See item one: they're quite possibly trying to get you to dump them.
8. "I Don't Want Kids But You Do" Or Vice Versa.
There's really only so far you can go in a relationship after this discussion.
9. "I Need Space."
Elf translation: "I don't want to be close to you." Doesn't matter why or in what sense--just read the writing on the wall here. The opposite of close is far. Boots, start walking.
10. "I'm Not Moving To Seattle/Texas/Guam With You."
Sure, long-distance relationships can work. But if your partner's gut response is "nope," they may be hoping your move will give them an easy out from your relationship.
11. "I Don't Know What I Want."
Could be true, but they sure know what they don't want: you. Otherwise they wouldn't risk your bond by waffling.
12. "You're Holding Me Back."
Again, doesn't matter if it's true or even fair: if that's how they've decided they feel, you can't win. Set them free.
13. "I'm Not Happy."
You can't make them happy. Stop trying or they'll blame you for failing (in addition to still being unhappy).
14. "Whatever, You're Right, Fine."
If you were expecting a fight, and you're suddenly getting immediate victories, get worried: your partner has emotionally pulled out of your relationship. While tons of fighting is bad, not even bothering to fight is a super bad sign.
If you're not talking at all (and when you do, it's watching-paint-dry-level boring), neither of you are trying anymore. Do with that what you will.
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