How can you tell your partner is not thrilled about being together? What are the clues that he or she is unhappy in your relationship? Though there are some outright hints, sometimes it can be tricky to tell. Secret unhappiness in a relationship is totally scarier than obvious grief, because it could be happening and you might not even know about it. Freaky! As they say, we are most scared of the things we cannot see. Or the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, whatever.
I spoke with 10 relationship experts about how exactly to tell whether your partner is not so into your partnership — what are the hints? How can you know? What are the definitive signs? Though they all had different takes on the situation, they all had a lot of things to say about it, confirming our worst fears: It is totally possible to be in a loving relationship, and all seems well, but under the surface — well, you saw Jaws. Sounds like many relationships can seem perfectly fine, or at least OK, but there are some subtle exhibitions of discord or at least unrest that are worth keeping an eye out for in your partnership. Here are 10 whispers of strife in a relationship.
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1. You're Spending Less Time Together
When your partner is unhappy, they might start to change their habits, and the amount of time they're spending with you, BetterHelp telehealth counselor and psychologist Nikki Martinez tells Bustle. If this has happened lately, don't panic, but maybe take caution, depending on your specific situation. "While this can change in any relationship," she says, if it's a sign of discord, you'll notice the decrease.
"If you used to watch TV together during certain times every night, and your partner is now opting for solo PlayStation time in the other room, this may be a hint they are unhappy, and not dying to spend quality time with you." If this is the case, nip it in the bud ASAP, before it becomes an even bigger problem.
2. Your Partner Has Become A Lone Wolf
If your partner is pulling away, they will tend to go out alone more than they used to, New York–based relationship expert and author April Masini tells Bustle. Keep your ear to the ground, she advises. "Whenever you see a change in behavior, something is up. And when that change excludes you, your partner is either planning you a surprise party, or, more likely, spending time away from you because he’s not happy when he’s with you in the way that he wants to be." Again, talk about it before it's too late.
3. Your Partner Has Become A Life Wire
If your partner has become a "short fuse," life coach Kali Rogers tells Bustle, this could be a prob. "If you notice a shift in patience that could be a sign your partner isn't happy with your compatibility," she says. "Short fuses are common when people are unhappy in relationships, and [are] a way for your partner to get pent-up anger out." Obviously this is not OK, so if it's happening to you, call your mate on it — stat.
4. You're Getting Radio Silence
"Don't think about the arguments, think about the silence," zen psychotherapist Michele Paiva tells Bustle. "Being unhappy and apathetic sets the ground for a break up or betrayal." Just because you're not shouting at each other does not mean that there's no trouble in paradise. "When your partner is distant, take notice," she says.
5. There Is A "Trending Inability To Communicate"
"A small indication that your partner is unhappy in your relationship is a trending inability to communicate," clinical hypnotherapist, author and educator Rachel Astarte, who offers transformational coaching for individuals and couples at Healing Arts New York, tells Bustle. Of course, everyone gets moody sometimes; this is something different. "We all have moments and moods," she says. "'Trending' means this has gone on for over a few days." This is one case of #trending being a bad thing.
"When we think of communication, we think of talking," Astarte says. "That's not necessarily the case here." Plus, "talking" isn't just done with the mouth. "Communicating is done with our bodies as well as the vibes we send out to our partner," she reminds. "If you once had an in-joke or a couple ritual (e.g., Sunday coffee in bed) that has fallen away, it maybe time to raise the topic (lovingly) with your partner." Always, always with love.
6. Your Partner Takes Forever To Respond
"Have you ever been in an amazing relationship where you just ached to be in some type of contact with your partner?" dating expert Noah Van Hochman asks Bustle. "Whether it by text, phone or email, you just couldn’t wait to contact them? Well, if one person is not happy in the relationship, they can wait (and usually do) to respond back to you." Uh-oh. This has definitely happened to the best of us, and it's a terrible (and oft-ignored) sign.
"Time delays between the time you send a message or leave a voicemail seem to get longer when one of you is not as thrilled with the relationship as they once were," he says. If you're just super busy, or jet-setting, don't fret so much, he adds. "This doesn’t apply to those with jobs or travel that make regular conversations difficult, but you can definitely tell when a pattern of detachment is beginning." Time for a chat.
7. Your Partner Is Super Nitpicky
"If your partner is nitpicky and cranky at the smallest thing, they are likely unhappy and often not saying anything directly," Carlyle Jansen, author of Sex Yourself: The Woman’s Guide to Mastering Masturbation and Achieving Powerful Orgasms , tells Bustle. "It could also be a more general unhappiness or work dissatisfaction, but I find that if someone is more cranky about the partner's behavior than other life circumstances, that is a good indication of them being unhappy in the relationship." Whether they're taking general life unpleasantness out on you or they're actually miserable in the relationship, this requires a check-in before things spiral out of control.
8. Your Partner Is Sparking Fights
Like starting fires, starting fights left and right is not OK. "When your partner starts answering the simplest question you ask with an edge or a nasty attitude, you can bet your bottom dollar that your partner is fed up with you and the relationship," relationship coach and psychic medium Cindi Sansone-Braff, author of Why Good People Can't Leave Bad Relationships , tells Bustle. "This person may be trying to start a fight with you in order to end things."
Well, if so, call them out on it. "Don't take the bait," she says. "Be honest with the person and ask what's really going on. If you're not getting an adequate answer, but the nitpicking and nastiness continues, inform this person … 'You don't have to hate a person to get out of a relationship, so let's cut to the chase: Do you want out of the relationship? Then just say so.'" Way to call a spade a spade.
9. Your Partner Is Suddenly Distant
Though distance can be gradual, as other experts have said, "a hint that your partner is unhappy is when they suddenly become distant," Cecil Carter, CEO of dating app Lov, tells Bustle. Then again, such a phenomenon might not be about you. "This isn’t a silver bullet; people become distant for other reasons, so it’s important to talk about the change in behavior before you assume they are unhappy," he adds. When in doubt, talk it out!
10. Your Partner Is Exhibiting Negative Behavior Of All Stripes
There are tons of hints that your partner is unhappy, Tina B. Tessina, aka Dr. Romance, psychotherapist and author of Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences , tells Bustle. If they're constantly checking their phone instead of giving you their undivided attention, that is no good. Not paying attention during the conversation is a definite sign, she says, along with disinterest in being together irritability. If you try to broach the subject and they don't want to discuss it, that can be another sign.
Also, pay attention in the bedroom: Less sex or less interest in sex is another way to tell that something is up. Indeed, agrees Rogers: "A drop in physical touch is also a sign that the relationship could be on the rocks." Whether it's in the bedroom or out, if things are not so hot between the two of you, your mate might be feeling dispirited about the whole thing.
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