11 Subtle Signs Your Long-Term Relationship Might Not Be Going As Well As You Think
If you've been with your partner for a while and feel like you haven't had any major issues, you might believe you are in a happy, healthy relationship and heading in the right direction. Maybe you pride yourselves on how infrequently you fight, but lately you've been feeling like you need more alone time than usual. If certain things are not sitting well, and you're not sure why, it may be time to reflect.
In some cases, a lack of arguing can actually be a bad sign. And other issues, like your sudden and intense need for alone time, could have a deeper meaning than you think. After some careful thought, you and your partner might realize you're not compatible, and it may be time to go your separate ways. And that's OK. But this realization can also be a the perfect moment to talk about how things went awry, so you can work on getting them back on track. Opening up to your partner may clue them in on how to fulfill your needs in a way they haven't before.
"It is important to have real conversations about our hopes, dreams, desires, and needs," Dr. Alicia Walker, a relationship expert and assistant professor of sociology at Missouri State University, tells Bustle. "If your partner doesn't know what you really want and need, the odds of them guessing it and giving it to you are low. Your partner is not a mind reader, and neither are you."
So speak up. It's OK to argue. It's OK to not get along. And it's OK to not be "perfect" if it means having a healthier relationship in the long run. Here are a few signs it may be time to talk, so you can have a perfectly imperfect relationship going forward.
1. You Haven't Argued In Months
If you think a drama-free relationship is the healthiest thing ever, you might be surprised to learn experts believe the opposite is often true. "No two people think alike all the time," life coach and licensed counselor Monte Drenner, tells Bustle. "If there is no conflict, then someone is ... avoiding it and not being honest, which are not signs of a healthy relationship."
You don't want to scream at each other all day long, but you do want to say what's on your mind — and possibly argue a little as a result — since doing so opens the door to healthy conversation and the chance to work out your problems.
2. Your Conversations Are Always Light And Casual
You guys might be great at talking about surface stuff: work, the weather, whatever new show is on TV. But you may want to take it as a sign if you can't go deeper than that without your partner getting uncomfortable. As life coach and relationship expert Alli Owen tells Bustle, "When you try to be vulnerable, open up, or talk about something really bothering you, your partner tries to change the subject or shut down the conversation." If you've fallen into this pattern, Owen says they might not be ready for a real relationship, and the challenges that come with it.
3. You Turn To Others When There's A Problem
To keep a relationship healthy, you need to turn towards each other when there's a problem between you; not away. If you turn away, it could be a sign of a problem, as well as a cause. "When you are in a long-term relationship, it's easy to get comfortable and not want to 'rock the boat' when things are going great," Owen says. "But when you ignore your own desires and instincts, you allow disconnect to enter into the relationship. When this happens, it becomes habit to turn away from your partner in times of struggle, when you should be turning towards each other."
4. You've Been Craving More Alone Time
Sometimes you need a little alone time, where you take yourself into a room, close the door, and regenerate in peace. That's healthy. But if you're suddenly requiring giant swaths of alone time, in a way that's out of character, take note.
"We all need time to ourselves on occasion but if you find that you need more and more it's probably a sign that your relationship is taking more from you then you are receiving," Drenner says. "This pattern can lead to bigger problems later if not addressed early on." So try to get to the bottom of your desire to be alone, and if it involves your relationship, talk with your partner ASAP.
5. Other People Have Become More Important
Friendships have an important place in our lives, but if you start to find refuge in those friendships away from your relationship, you may want to re-examine underlying issues. "You should be able to have fun with the one you love — and enjoy the company of others sometimes — not the reverse," Vikki Ziegler, renowned divorce attorney and author of The Pre-Marital Planner, tells Bustle. "Priorities need to be intact and if your partner cares more about [their] party schedule than your relationship, it's a sign that things may be heading in the wrong direction."
6. You No Longer Celebrate Each Other's Successes
Do you feel excited when your partner gets good news? And are they equally excited for you? If that's not really the case anymore, it may be time to reflect.
"Positive psychology research tells us that it is not how our partners respond to our bad news that makes the biggest difference in how connected we feel to our partners, but rather how they respond to our good news," Kendra Davies, a life coach and owner of Stellar Life Coaching, tells Bustle. "Your sign: You get a raise or promotion but when you tell your partner they have a 'so what attitude,' when in the past it would have been high fives, relentless bragging for the next month, and celebratory dinner."
7. You Don't Feel As Attracted To Them
Your sex life will wax and wane over the course of your relationship. It's normal to go through dry spells, for example, or to have a little less sex (or no sex at all) if one or both of you is going through a health problem. But that underlying attraction? It should always be there.
"If you find yourself less attracted to your partner than you were previously then something could be wrong in your relationship," certified life coach for women Mitzi Bockman, tells Bustle. She says it's common for partners to only feel attraction when they're emotionally connected. "When that emotional connection frays then the attraction wanes," she says. "So if you are finding yourself less attracted to your partner then that is a sign that things aren't going well."
8. You're Having The Same Fights Over And Over Again
It's a good sign if you're still having disagreements, followed by healthy conversations to resolve the conflict. Having the same fight over and over, though, can be a sign of trouble. "When you're fighting about the same thing over and over with no resolution, the relationship can really suffer," says Walker. "Both parties may feel like they are giving too much, or that they are 'losing' in the relationship." And that can wear on you both over time.
9. They're Still In Contact With An Ex
While it's completely possible to be friends with an ex, if it seems like one or both of you has a potential partner lined up in the wings, that's an obvious problem. Sure, you may "just be friends," but check in with your intentions here. "If one or both of you are keeping in touch with a previous romantic partner, or one of you is cultivating a potential new partner (e.g. keeping someone as a backup), that spells trouble," says Walker. "When you start noticing that you or your partner is spending more time texting, calling, or emailing a previous partner or a potential partner, your relationship isn't as secure as you think it is. Ditto if you or your partner are spending a lot of time talking to someone else and keeping it a secret." Not cool.
10. You Feel Like You're Walking On Eggshells
Are you secretly afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing, because your partner will shut down or get upset? "'Walking on eggshells' is the term often used for this feeling and it is a strong signal that the relationship isn’t healthy," says therapist Amy McManus, LMFT. "Partners drop into this dynamic slowly, without even recognizing it’s happening, and it destroys closeness."
11. You've Been Spending All Your Time Together
Believe it or not, if you can't peel yourselves away from each other, that can be a sign of an unhealthy relationship. "This may sound romantic, but it's unhealthy," relationship expert Scott Carroll, MD tells Bustle. "Every relationship needs to breathe as do the people in the relationship. An excessive need to be together may mean that you have an unhealthy attachment and are actually at increased risk of abruptly breaking up."
If you notice any of these signs in your relationship, it doesn't mean things are doomed. But it does mean you and your partner need to have a heart-to-heart. Why are you feeling less close? What things aren't you telling each other? If you want to stay together, having a tough convo — and airing all your grievances — can mean feeling closer going forward.