If your partner starts acting differently, it can be difficult to figure out if they're pulling away, or if it's simply all in your head. This is especially true for those of us who have been down that road before. If you've been hurt in the past, or simply lean towards expecting the worst, it's pretty easy to see every little thing as a giant waving red flag.
This can, for obvious reasons, make for a stressful life — and an even more stressful relationship. Think about how your imagination runs wild when your partner works late, or when they start hanging out with a new group of friends. Knowing how to recognize when a problem exists, and when it doesn't, can make all the difference in the world.
It can even mean bringing your relationship back from the brink, if that's truly where things are heading. "Red flags aren't necessarily the end — if you catch them early enough, you may be able to clear up miscommunications, figure out what's going on, and set your relationship back on course," says dating and relationship expert April Davis, in an email to Bustle. Read on for some signs it may be time to have a chat with your SO, as well as some signs you've got nothing to worry about.
1. They Text Back Less And Less
Whereas before you couldn't get your partner to shut up, now texting feels like pulling teeth. "That's one of the first telltale signs," psychiatrist Dr. Dion Metzger tells Bustle. "They don't respond to your texts as fast, [and] may not check-in or tell you about their plans." When they can't be bothered to tell you about their life — or simply don't want to — it's often because they are pulling away.
2. They Are Being Way More Secretive
While everyone is allowed to have privacy, it may be worth noting if an otherwise open partner is suddenly all about that phone password. If things are going south, Davis tells me they may be more secretive with their texts, turn their phone away from you, or take calls in another room. "This is a clear sign that something relationship-threatening is happening," she says. Whatever the reason may be, it's also a clear sign you two need to have yourselves a heart-to-heart.
3. They Suddenly Seem Disconnected
If your SO is suddenly difficult to talk to, it can send up alarms in your head that something is wrong. But as far as quietness goes, that doesn't necessarily have to be the case. "Behavior such as being quiet more often, or seeming to disappear into their own thoughts, could be any number of things. It's not necessarily about you," Davis says. "Perhaps there is something going on at work or in their family that's causing stress, and they just aren't ready to discuss it with you yet." When that's the case, all you can do is give them space.
4. They Have A New Group Of Friends
If things are a feeling a bit rocky in your relationship, it can be pretty unnerving if your SO starts hanging with a new crowd. But trust me, it doesn't mean the end is nigh. "Just because they are more outgoing than they used to be does not mean they are not invested in you," Davis says. "Personal growth should be celebrated, and you should be happy that they've met people to meet some of their emotional needs." So usher your partner out the door, and rest assured it will not affect your relationship.
5. They No Longer Make Any Big Plans
Everyone gets busy, so don't jump to conclusions if your SO can't go on vacation this year. But if it's something you two always do, without fail, "that may be a small sign," says board certified sex therapist and licensed psychotherapist Gabriela Galvan de Antillon, in an email to Bustle. It may mean something is getting in the way of them wanting to make a future commitment, and it shouldn't be ignored.
6. They No Longer Ask About Your Day
An invested partner will want to know all about your day. So no, it's not "all in your head" if they're clearly disinterested in your life. “When someone checks out of a relationship, they stop caring about their partner as much,” marriage and family therapist Aaron Anderson told Brittany Wong on HuffingtonPost.com. “They don’t ask you how work is going, how your family is doing, or even if you got that promotion you wanted.” And that's not OK.
7. They're Neglecting You In Bed
Even if your partner is checking out emotionally, they may still be down to get it on. This can be, for obvious reasons, positively confusing. Yes, they still want to have sex, and that makes you feel connected. But are they meeting your needs at all? If not, Davis tells me their selfishness could be a sign they're just interested in a hookup, and not your future as a couple.
8. They're With You, But Not With You
Sure, you two spend a lot of time together. But how much of it is quality time? “If you and your [partner] spend a lot of time in the same room but they never do things with you, they’ve likely disengaged from the relationship,” Anderson said. This could come in the form of a partner who can't seem to put down their phone, or who constantly sleeps on the couch. Whatever the case may be, it's not healthy — or OK — for them to be this cold.
9. They Seem Annoyed All The Time
Take note if your partner is picking on you, or seems easily annoyed. "When a person is thinking of cutting things off they start to look for all the things that will validate their decision," says Galvan de Antillon. Are they suddenly super angry when you live dishes out, or extra furious when you leave toothpaste in the sink? While these things can get under some people's skin, neither are grounds for serious annoyance. That is, unless your SO wants to be annoyed.
10. They Accuse You Of Cheating
In terms of projection, it doesn't get much more textbook than a cheating partner accusing their SO of cheating. "This may be spurred by a guilty conscience," Davis says. Or a desire to even the playing field. But the truth is, they may not be cheating. Blaming and accusing is sometimes just a way of creating distance. And it should not be taken lightly.
11. You Feel It In Your Gut
Sometimes it's hard to shake the gut feeling that something is wrong. So if it's really nagging you, go ahead and listen. "It goes along with the old saying that when there's smoke, there's usually fire," Metzger says. "When you get that feeling, just start looking at the facts." Is your partner actually texting back less? Are they truly acting more annoyed? If so, you may have been right along.
Realizing that your partner is pulling away can be upsetting, to say the least. But never fear. Talking about it, and being honest about your worries, can definitely help.
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