There's a difference between a partner who is acting distant because they need some space, and someone who's acting distant because they're
falling out of love. But it can be tough to tell the two apart. This is especially true if you're in a newer relationship and haven't yet formed a strong relationship bond. It's only natural, in that case, to worry that your partner might be losing interest or thinking about ghosting.
But it's important not to jump to conclusions, at any stage of a relationship. If your partner is acting odd or distant for days on end and you don't know why, it's much better to talk about it. "Let your partner know that you’re concerned,"
psychotherapist Tina B. Tessina, LMFT, PhD, tells Bustle. "Find out what your partner is thinking and feeling ... You need to know if your partner is unhappy in the relationship, so you can work together to fix it."
Also, keep in mind that spending time apart is a
good thing. "Taking space can be a very healthy behavior in a relationship," intimacy coach Xanet Pailet tells Bustle. It allows you both to have separate lives, which only helps improve the relationship.
There is such as thing as too much space, however, and if it's making you feel insecure or worried, have a conversation with your partner. Here are a few ways to tell if they just
need some space, or if they may be backing away, according to experts. 1 Needs Space: They Pick Little Fights
If you two are great communicators, your partner will likely be honest when they need some space. But if they feel nervous about it, they may resort to picking little fights in order to push you away.
"If you have a history of arguing and fighting instead of solving problems, then the fights will escalate, because they’re a way of getting space," Dr. Tessina says.
It may not be the
healthiest way of getting space, but it may be the only way they can think to get it in the moment. By making it clear that it's OK to spend time apart — even if it's just for a few hours — they won't have to go to such great lengths. 2 Needs Space: They Take Longer To Respond To Texts
"Signs that a person needs more space include ... not being quite as available, [and] taking a longer time than usual to respond to texts, [and] phone calls," Pailet says
If this happens every now and again, it's likely they're just taking a break from their phone, and need a little space. But if it's continues, feel free to talk about texting expectations, and ask them what's going on if they take days to respond. You two can work out a plan, so that no one feels overwhelmed — or ignored.
3 Needs Space: They Stay Later At Work
While it can be concerning that your partner suddenly wants to stay late at work, don't jump to conclusions here either. "Your partner may stay away longer, stay late at work, or run unnecessary errands to get away," Dr. Tessina says. If they do this every now and again, that's OK. But if it becomes a pattern, take time to talk about it and set up a healthier plan to ensure both your needs are being met going forward.
4 Needs Space: They Seem More Reserved
There are a million and one reasons why your partner might be more withdrawn emotionally, with one of them being they simply need some space.
"When someone needs space they usually draw back physically and become less emotionally invested,"
Renee Slansky, a dating and relationship coach, tells Bustle. "Their need to address what they are internally processing isn’t always an indication of lack of love."
If you notice that they're quieter than usual, it's fine to just let them be, and not talk about it. But if you notice your partner turning inward on the regular, you may want to create a plan so they can get the downtime they need.
5 Needs Space: They Ask To Be Alone
If all your partner needs is a little space, they'll likely go ahead and say so. This is something people do when they're comfortable with their partners, and feel secure enough to ask for what they need.
"The blessing here is you’ll know where your partner stands and, even more than that, their [desire] to communicate their needs to you demonstrates the respect they have for you and your relationship,"
breakup coach Chelsea Leigh Trescotttells Bustle.
The fact they're being straight up about it is a good thing, and a healthy habit you can both continue going forward.
6 Falling Out Of Love: The Relationship Is No Longer A Priority
If your partner is backing away or
falling out of love, they'll probably stop making the relationship a priority. "Either they will completely pull back and spend less time with you, not be as physically intimate, and start to become so busy with their own personal life that they no longer make you a priority," Slansky says.
When it's just about needing space, a partner will assure you that all is well, and you'll both be on the same page about how much time you'd like to spend together.
When someone is backing away, however, they're more likely to pull back without a word, and start doing their own thing. "Their actions will be more self-centered as opposed to someone just needing some space," Slansky says.
7 Falling Out Of Love: They've Stopped Talking About Their Needs
In a similar vein, a partner who is thinking about leaving may start by avoiding you, as well as any subject that touches on your needs, or theirs. Instead of saying "I need some space" or "I'm stressed out," they may just disappear for a few days, or seem cold and distant with zero explanation.
"If this has been going on for a while, they [may] have detached emotionally from you,"
Davida Rappaport, psychic and spiritual counselor, tells Bustle. If you have reason to believe this, it's best to talk with them. 8 Falling Out Of Love: Their Mood Has Drastically Changed
Someone may be a bit cranky if they're requiring alone time and not getting it. But a
partner who is falling out of love will likely have a much more drastic mood shift.
"You may ... notice a distinct difference in their emotional state when they are with you," Pailet says. "They may be more short-tempered, angry, or uncharacteristically quiet." If you notice this happening more than usual, address it ASAP.
9 Falling Out Of Love: They Lack Enthusiasm
While everyone's entitled to a bad day, a partner who is falling out of love may become consistently unenthusiastic regarding all things relationship.
"If there’s no enthusiasm at all to doing things together, no interest whatsoever, that may be a sign they’re not invested anymore,"
author and speaker Desh Dixon tells Bustle.
They may also lack enthusiasm if you try to broach the subject, and show few signs of wanting to resolve the situation. When that happens, it may be
healthiest to just move on. 10 Falling Out Of Love: They're Not Affectionate
It's OK for your
physical affection to wax and wane over time. And obviously, neither of you have to be in the mood for physical touch or intimacy 24/7 — especially if you're craving some alone time.
That said, if you notice a trend where your partner is withholding affection, definitely talk about it. "If there’s no affection given or any desire for any physical touch, that may be another sign that they’re falling out of love," Dixon says.
These may be clues to what your partner is thinking, but it's important to keep a healthy perspective. "If a partner is acting distant, first assess if you believe that perception is your insecurity, life circumstances that may be impacting the relationship, or if it really is distance,"
licensed psychotherapist Dr. Jill Murray says. If you've thought it over and still feel concerned, the only way to know for sure is to ask your partner — and see if you're both still on the same page.