Relationships have a natural ebb and flow, but if you feel like you're only growing further apart from your partner, never to become closer again, the relationship may need some work. Knowing the subtle signs you and your partner are becoming distant can help you take a step back and reevaluate your relationship. Not all signs of relationship turmoil are super obvious, so it can be useful to pay attention to the little indicators that could mean a lot.
"In most cases where relationships fall apart, the process is gradual, and the end is a culmination of ongoing struggles rather than a single incident," says says Carl J. Sheperis, Program Dean of College of Social Sciences at University of Phoenix, over email. "Knowing if your relationship is struggling and recognizing signs that you and your partner are growing apart can help you to either take action to fix the problems or to cut bait and run."
It's a bummer when the relationship stops being all rainbows and butterflies, but the honeymoon phase only lasts about a year, according to research from the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology. After that, the relationship can still be great, but it requires a little more work and effort on each end. If no one's putting in that work, you likely won't feel as close or fulfilled by your partner.
If you think this may be happening to you, it's time to consider these 11 subtle signs that you and your partner are growing apart.
1. You Stop Having Sex
It's not a good sign if you and your partner aren't spending time together in the bedroom. "Some couples find other forms of intimacy that can replace actual sex," says psychoanalyst Dr. Claudia Luiz over email. "But if there is no sex, no affection, no nurturing, and no intimacy, the relationship will not last."
2. You Spend More Time Apart Than Together
"If you notice you're spending more and more time in separate corners of the house rather than together, this can be a signal that you may be at an impasse with each other," says relationship psychotherapist Dr. Fran Walfish over email.
3. You Don't Do Anything New
If you come home, watch TV, go to sleep, and repeat, you're relationship might be stuck in a rut. No one's saying you have to go out and be daredevils, but research shows that couples who try new things together are happier together, according to a study from Stony Brook University.
4. You Don't Communicate
The honeymoon phase of a relationship generally goes smoothly, but couples who make it in the long run have healthy communication skills, and if those seem to have gone out the window, the relationship might be dwindling. "This does not involve only good talking," says Walfish. "Healthy communication means active listening to the other person without interrupting by trying to force your opinions down their throat."
5. You Fight Frequently
Fighting all the time is a sure sign that something in the relationship has changed. "This may be a sign of overall dissatisfaction in one partner with the other," says Walfish. "Or, it can be mutual discontentedness. You need to sit down with your partner and have that honest, painful, looking-within talk about your relationship, in general."
6. You Feel Indifferent
On the flip side, there may be a feeling of "I don't care" in the air. "You don't get a call about what's happening at six, you say something mean and your partner doesn't react, you try to talk about a problem and your partner won't engage… as soon as indifference comes into the relationship, it won't last long," says Luiz. "People think fighting is bad — well indifference is worse."
7. You Criticize Each Other A Lot
"One of the subtle signs of relationship distress is the presence of ongoing personal criticism," Sheperis. "When you communicate with your partner, does one of you tend to blame the other or tend to criticize the other? This pattern of communication leads to hurt feelings and emotional distress. While the criticism may be somewhat minor, an ongoing pattern will create defensiveness and lead to eventual major problems with respect and trust."
8. You Don't Feel Supported
Relationships are supposed to be feel like a partnership and add to our sense of fulfillment. "If your partner is decreasing or withdrawing support for you, that is a sign that there is something problematic in the relationship," says Sheperis. "In general, relationships should help to validate our sense of safety, security, and belonging. Any threats to those basic needs should be a warning of pending relationship problems."
9. You're Both Defensive
Feelings of defensiveness can indicate feeling attacked, or even an unwillingness to see each other's viewpoints. "If a relationship is going to be successful, then each person has to be able to take responsibility for individual actions and to be able to communicate openly about shortcomings," says Sheperis. "When defensiveness takes a stronghold in relationships, then communication is highly stunted."
10. You Feel Yourself Losing Trust
"What is the level of trust in your relationship? In many struggling relationships, there is a pattern of games, manipulation, and jealousy," says Sheperis. "If either of you is having difficulty with trusting the other person, the chances of a healthy relationship are lowered."
11. You Care More About Your Friends
Having friends is important, but if you care about spending time with them more than your partner, this could be a sign that you and your partner have drifted. It's important to strike a balance in spending time with your significant other and your friends, and it may be a red flag if you don't want to bring your partner around during any of that friend time.
Just because you and your partner are growing apart doesn't mean the relationship is necessarily over. Take the time to discuss what is happening, as effort is the first thing in bringing you back together.
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