When you're really happy with someone, it can be tough not to worry about a problem cropping up in your relationship, or a scenario where something might drive you apart. This can be a sign you'd like things to work out, and that you simply have a healthy eye out for any potential problems. And yet, is it possible to go overboard to the point you worry about things that aren't even happening?
The answer is absolutely yes. This is especially true if you misinterpret normal changes in your relationship as a sign of something bad, or if you read way into everything your partner says and does, to the point it causes conflict. And that's why the key is knowing how to recognize a true problem, while letting everything else go.
Of course, it's important to trust your intuition. If your communication shuts down, that could be an issue. If you don't have any shared goals, it likely won't bode well. But if your partner suddenly needs a little space? Or if you no longer want to text as often? There's a pretty good chance everything's still a-OK.
It's all about "trying to understand how you may be misinterpreting your partner’s behavior, and whether the problem is real or based on distorted thinking," Rhonda Milrad, LCSW, relationship therapist and founder of the online relationship community Relationup, tells Bustle. With that in mind, read on for a few signs these changes are nothing to worry about, even if they feel a little bit different.
1. You Both Need Some Space
While giving each other more space can feel weird at first, doing so doesn't mean things are falling apart. In fact, it can indicate your relationship is healthy, solid, and made up of two people who know how to ask for what they want and need.
"This has nothing to do with your partner moving away from you," Milrad says. "They just want space to [...] cultivate their own sense of self." So go ahead and enjoy the extra spare time, without worrying or clinging on. "Give them some space to pursue their own thing," she says, "and they can stay close, connected to you, and even share this part of their life with you."
2. You Have Different Love Languages
If you can't seem to agree on a proper way to show love in your relationship, it can cause problems at first. That is, until you both recognize how the other wants to be treated. Do you want your S.O. to text back right away? Or do you prefer some space? How about intimacy? Do you need to be held and hugged, or do you prefer a more hands-off approach?
"Part of the solution is to continue to educate [yourselves] about what you need," Milrad says. "It may be a different language, but it still says love!"
3. You Realize You Like Different Things
If you and your partner like different things, or have separate hobbies, you might think your relationship is doomed. But that certainly doesn't have to be the case.
"The truth is that each of us grows and changes over time, and our joint 'personality' as a couple grows and changes, too," Jennifer Avila, LCSW, a Chicago-based psychotherapist, tells Bustle. So you'll both like different things over the years, and take up new interests.
It's always possible, however, to have more in common, if it's really bothering you. "For example, you might each agree to try out one another's interests in small ways and one or both of you may realize that you are actually very interested in the new activity," Avila says. "Or you might focus on the interests that you do share and really seize the opportunities that you have to do these together."
4. Work Has Been Getting In The Way
If your partner is suddenly logging a few extra hours at work, you might assume something's up — especially if you've been burned in the past. But, as spiritual counselor and relationship expert Davida Rappaport tells Bustle, it can help to slow down and take a moment to look at things for what they really are.
It's totally normal for couples to leave the honeymoon phase and get back into the swing of things, including working later hours or taking on projects. So if your partner is out more often, spare yourself the worry, and don't immediately assume the worst.
5. You've Been Arguing About The Same Thing Over And Over Again
It's perfectly normal to worry about the future of your relationship, especially if you two keep rehashing the same issue, over and over again. But guess what? This is also totally normal.
"John and Julie Gottman (foremost relationship researchers) call this 'perpetual conflict' and they say that 69% of conflict in relationships is actually of this type," Avila says. "So if you're fighting about the same things over and over again, you are in the majority of relationship conflicts."
It is something you can work on, though. By listening to each other, being honest about what's bothering you, and maybe even seeing a couples therapist, you can find new ways to interact.
6. You're Always Talking About Money
Money can create a lot of problems for couples, and is even a leading cause of divorce. But even if you're currently butting heads about things like bills or savings, it doesn't have to be a dealbreaker.
To sort it out, "see if your partner can hear your underlying values once you have identified what they are," Avila says. "Eventually you may come to the discovery that there is a solution that reflects each of your underlying values, such as prioritizing new experiences in a more frugal manner. Sometimes it takes doing some digging to get to the real values behind what seem like petty conflicts."
7. There Are Issues Outside Your Relationship
If outside issues are pulling you away from one another, it can definitely be stressful. But since relationships have ups and downs — as does life in general — it's important to keep a level head, no matter what's going on.
"Sometimes your partner’s family may need more attention or assistance from them," Rappaport says. "While you may feel neglected, they may have a strong obligation to help their family." That's perfectly OK.
Or maybe one of you is having a health issue, and requires extra attention, and you're both dealing with stress. By remembering that you're both on the same team, so to speak, you can get through it.
8. They've Been Keeping A Few Secrets
Nothing can shake you to the core quite like finding out your SO has a secret or two. But, assuming it's nothing detrimental to your relationship, it's smart to talk it out and get to the bottom of why they kept it from you — instead of arguing about it or becoming distrustful.
"Your partner may not wish to be an open book that has to share everything with you," Milrad says. "Understand that your partner wants to have a little independence and a life outside of you, and that this is perfectly normal. People become resentful and feel smothered if they are controlled or accused about innocent behavior."
9. You've Fallen Into A Rut
Once that initial, fun honeymoon phase fizzles out, you might find yourselves relaxing into a relationship that feels less than romantic. While it can come as quite the shock, it's another stage of any healthy relationship, and is nothing to worry about. That said, you should spice things up, whenever possible.
If you've both been feeling a bit "blah," that's a sign you need to make more of an effort. Now's the time to go on dates, try something new, take a class, plan a vacation, see your friends, and pay attention to each other.
10. You've Let Communication Fall By The Wayside
In the same vein, it's pretty normal for communication to become less intense as the months and years go by. As Rappaport says, you might realize that you aren't talking every waking moment of the day, or that you're saying "I love you" a little less often — and it's left you feeling disconnected.
"What may be happening is that you both may have fallen into a routine where you are so busy with work and other things that you need to make time to just talk to each other about your day, family matters, and other relationship concerns," she says. Once you do, things should quickly get back on track.
11. You're Taking Each Other For Granted
Again, once you've settled into a routine, you might find yourselves getting comfortable to the point where you take each other for granted. But instead of assuming your relationship is ending, Rappaport suggests letting your partner know that you're feeling a bit neglected. Do you need an afternoon text to help get you through the day? Or a few more dates? If so, they should be able to make that happen. And vice versa.
12. You Didn't Resolve That Last Argument
It'd be nice if all your problems in life could be tied up in a neat little bow. But that's rarely the case, especially in relationships. "Sometimes you may have an argument with your partner and there is no resolution," Rappaport says. "You may be left angry and frustrated."
When that's the case — and you fear your relationship is on the rocks — what you can do is to either agree to disagree, or try to reach a compromise. It is OK to say, 'let’s just drop it and move on,' Rappaport says, if it means putting a silly issue to rest.
13. They Don't Say "I Love You" As Often
In the early days of your relationship, you may have laid on the love, and really made it clear you were into each other. And yet, like other things, this level of affection can slow up a bit as things progress, and it might leave you wondering if they still care.
As long as your partner shows the love, though — even if they don't say it out loud as often — things are likely going to be OK. "In some cases, you may need to tell them you love them," Rappaport says. "If they smile or respond, there is no problem."
So even if all of these changes are occurring, there's still a good chance you can go ahead and enjoy your partnership, worry-free.
Jennifer Avila, LCSW, Chicago-based psychotherapist
Davida Rappaport, relationship expert and spiritual counselor
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