How Can You Tell If You're On The Same Page In A Relationship? The Subtle Signs You And Your Partner Want Different Things

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When you're in a brand new relationship and (presumably) floating around on cloud nine, it's easy to overlook potential red flags and signs you're not on the same page as your partner about the relationship. The slightly harsh truth? Even if you and your partner get along well, have a great connection, and genuinely care about each other, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy long-term relationship if the two of you envision the relationship's future differently — and that's especially true if you stay in a relationship when you know you disagree about where it's headed.

"One of you isn’t being authentic if you stay in the relationship and you’re not in alignment with your partner and the direction the relationship is going," Anza Goodbar, Certified Coach, Speaker & Trainer, tells Bustle. "[For example], if you really want to be in a long-term relationship that ends in marriage, and your partner is not interested in the same outcome, you give up a part of your dream and settle for something less than your true desires, it can lead to resentment and regret. It can also cause you to try to convince your partner to change to meet your needs and that never ends favorably."

It's OK if you and your partner are slightly out of sync: two people don't have to share the exact same vision of their ideal romantic future in order to be compatible. However, it becomes problematic when your visions for the relationship's future are fundamentally incompatible (e.g. one of you wants kids and the other doesn't). If you're worried that's the case in your relationship, here are five subtle signs that you and your partner aren't on the same page about your relationship and where it's headed.

1Your Interests Seem To Take You In Different Directions

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To make a relationship work, it's way more important that you and your partner share core values than it is that you share interests — but that doesn't mean that it isn't challenging to have hobbies that take you in totally separate directions.

"Sharing common hobbies is a way to spend more time together and build the relationship," Goodbar says. "If your interests start to preclude you from sharing time together, it can be a sign that you want different things out of the relationship."

2You Disagree More Often Than You Used To

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It's inevitable that every couple will have disagreements from time to time, but if you notice that you're irritated more easily and argue with your partner more often than before, it could be a clue that you and your partner are out of sync about something — you just have to figure out what.

"During the 'honeymoon' phase of a relationship, couples tend to be on their best behavior and try to be agreeable," Goodbar says. "After the first six months, the real 'you' emerges and irritants start to show up if you’re not in alignment with your partner. Little things that were easy to overlook now cause disagreements and arguments. It’s helpful to determine if disagreements are day-to-day routine things or if they are seeded in your core values."

3Your Friends Start Questioning Your Relationship

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You don't need your friends' "approval" to date someone, but if they know you well and you know that they have your best interests at heart, it might be worthwhile to hear them out if they suddenly start questioning your relationship.

"Friends can be a good gauge for compatibility," Goodbar says. "If you’re whining to your friends about difficulties in the relationship, your friends may begin to connect the dots you haven’t connected for yourself. If your friends question why you’re with your partner, take time to reflect on the state of your relationship and if it is in alignment with the ideal you have for the perfect relationship. Then, ask yourself if it is possible to adjust get back on track."

4You're Not As Intimate Anymore

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It's normal for a long-term couple's sex life to change and evolve over time, and sometimes that includes going through periods with less intimacy than usual. But if your attraction to your partner suddenly drops off, it's worthwhile to examine what has changed in your relationship, and whether you and your partner are on the same page.  

"Long-term relationships go through and ebb and flow of physical attraction," Goodbar says. "It is not uncommon for one partner to be more attracted to [the] other at different times. If you are finding yourself struggling to find that attraction, consider the reason behind the change of heart. Lasting relationships are built on more than just physical attraction and intimacy. Take inventory of the things that attracted you in the first place and see if those things still hold true. Examine what has changed."

5You Feel Defensive Around Your Partner

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Figuring out how to communicate effectively should be a top priority for all couples — and defensiveness is a big no-no when it comes to healthy communication.

"Defensiveness is a communication killer," Goodbar says. "Relationships can’t survive with faulty communication. Resistance can be caused by unresolved conflict or fear of rejection. Check the health of your communication style and determine if talking to a mentor or counselor could help resolve the issue."

Is It Possible To Get Back On The Same Page?

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If you're concerned that you and your partner actually want different things for your relationship, it can be scary to imagine having a capital-T Talk about what you both want — because of the possibility that you might discover you're fundamentally incompatible. However, the only way to figure that out is to communicate openly and honestly to try to get back on the same page (yes, it is possible).

"Choose a good time to have a 'define the relationship' talk," Goodbar says. "Keep an open mind and use 'I' statements when discussing your wants, needs and desires. Allow your partner to speak and share their perspective on the future of the relationship. Think about how you can come up with a win/win scenario where you both can be true to yourself and your life goals. Above all else, be honest about what you really want and how that fits into [the] outcome you want to see from the conversation. Have an open mind and ask for specific solutions to bring you both back onto the same page. Don’t expect to find the solution in just one conversation."

As intimidating as it is to be so open and vulnerable, if you feel like you can't have that kind of difficult conversation with your partner, that in and of itself is a red flag that the relationship isn't right. On the other hand, if you're able to talk things out and come up with a mutual vision of what you want from your relationship, then that's a sign that you'll be able to manage conflict and compromise — probably for years to come.