Relationships

Is My Partner Losing Interest In Me?

Here’s what to look out for — and what to do about it.

If you feel like your boyfriend is losing interest, here's what to do.
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By Carolyn Steber and Bustle Editors
Updated: 
Originally Published: 

Relationships can be a lot like the ocean, with natural ebbs and flows that change over time. That’s why it’s not uncommon for couples to feel close in some phases before branching out on their own in others. But how can you tell the difference between a natural ebb, and a partner who is genuinely losing interest?

“The first step [...] is to talk about it,” says Neena Lall, LCSW, MPH, a licensed clinical social worker and Grouport therapist. “Through talking about it you may find that there are changes you can make together to improve relationship satisfaction.” If you feel emotionally distant, for example, purposefully spending more time together may help fix your relationship. “If there is distance or a rupture in your relationship, doing the work to repair it can increase a sense of safety and intimacy for both of you,” Lall explains.

That said, if your partner seems disinterested, you really may be picking up on a bigger problem. This is especially true if you attempt to talk about your concerns but your partner stonewalls you, gets defensive, or reacts with contempt, Lall explains. These are all signs your partner has checked out and no longer wants to invest time and energy into the relationship.

If any of the signs below sound familiar, you may be able to feel close again with your partner’s help. But if not, don’t be afraid to break up and move on to better things.

1. Your Partner Feels Like A Roommate

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A partner may be losing interest if they start to act more like a roommate, says therapist Dr. Lexx Brown-James, LMFT. If you live together, this might manifest in what could be called a “frosty” vibe. For example, they’ll no longer want to eat breakfast together or cuddle on the couch. If you don’t live together, you may pick up on a drop in intimacy, like fewer hugs or a lack of desire to plan ahead for date night. While most relationships get more comfortable — and sometimes less passionate — after the initial honeymoon phase is over, that doesn’t mean living platonically is a great sign.

What To Do

Brown-James suggests working to rebuild intimacy by asking and answering queries like, “What did we do in the beginning of our relationship that made each other feel loved and appreciated?” Prioritize those sweet, fun things and see if it helps bring you together again.

2. You Haven’t Had Sex In A While

In a similar vein, if you used to fall into bed practically every night, it might seem like a red flag if your partner is suddenly less interested in sex. It’s important to keep in mind that many couples have sex less often as their relationship goes on and, again, once that honeymoon phase comes to an end.

Health issues and work stress may play a role, too. But since it can point to a loss of interest in a relationship — and in some cases, can also be a sign of cheating — it’ll be important to talk about your concerns ASAP.

What To Do

While it’s often tough to talk about sex, try to find some time to chat with your partner about the changes you’ve noticed and the amount of sex you’d like to have, and then see if there’s a way to make you both happy. You may even want to agree to take a purposeful break for a couple of weeks. By removing sex, Brown-James says it may help reignite a spark, and it can also give you time to work on other problems in your relationship that may be damaging your connection.

3. They Don’t Include You In Their Plans

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Sure, they might be busy. And yes, you’re both totally allowed to do your own thing. But relationship consultant Chris Seiter says there may be a loss of interest if your partner no longer considers you when creating their schedule for the week.

What To Do

If you’re always the first one to reach out to make plans, it’s time to have a talk. Let your partner know that you’ve been feeling left out and see what they say. You can also suggest an extra-exciting date idea — one that might breathe new life into your relationship.

Seiter says having a fun, original experience together may help rebuild your connection. If you put in all that extra work, though, and they still don’t match your enthusiasm, it may be time to break up.

4. You Go To Special Events Separately

It isn’t always possible for couples to attend every event and holiday together. But if you used to go to their house for Christmas, and now they want to go alone, it’s definitely a red flag, Brown-James says. The same is true if they have a work event and don’t ask you to join. These things can point to a lack of interest or investment in your life as a couple.

What To Do

Instead of jumping to conclusions, ask if there’s a specific reason why your partner wants to go somewhere alone. There may be a good explanation. If it keeps happening, however, consider if this relationship dynamic is actually making you happy. If you want something more or if you have higher expectations, that’s OK! You shouldn’t have to change what’s important to you in order for a relationship to work.

5. Your Partner Is Always Moody

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It's normal for couples to feel annoyed with each other every now and again. But if their mood seems particularly agitated or avoidant, it could be a sign your partner is thinking about leaving. To double check if their mood has to do with your relationship, consider how they act in other areas of their life.

According to Brown-James, it’s a red flag if they only get moody around you, and not around their friends, family, or coworkers. While romantic relationships are often the most intense and complicated type of relationships — and thus the ones most likely to induce a “mood” — ongoing crankiness can point to an underlying desire to leave.

What To Do

The next time your partner picks a fight over nothing, ask them what the real issue is. It'll open the doors for a frank conversation that'll help get to the bottom of what's bugging them, so they can hopefully improve it — and your relationship overall.

Brown-James suggests starting the conversation with “I statements” like “I’m noticing this” or “I’m feeling that” followed by the emotion you’re experiencing. Unlike “you statements,” which can feel accusatory, this open and curious approach may lead to a more constructive conversation.

6. Your Convos Feel Forced

There are lots of reasons why a conversation might feel strained, says Heidi McBain, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, especially if you recently argued, expressed deep feelings, or went through a tough time together. "Your partner may be acting awkward because they have recently shared something they feel vulnerable about with you and they aren’t sure exactly how to act around you at the moment," McBain tells Bustle.

If that’s the case, it’s only natural for things to feel a bit stilted for a while. If your text exchanges always feel dry, however, Brown-James says that’s definitely “questionable.”

What To Do

If you just argued and they admitted something deep, McBain suggests taking the time to reassure your partner that their disclosure hasn’t changed how you feel about them.

Brown-James explains that sometimes people just aren’t in the mood to talk, either, especially after a long day. “There's some nuance in there that needs to be parsed out before you absolutely rule it as a rejection,” she says. If you give them time to relax and nothing changes, that’s when the relationship really may be on its way out.

7. They Don’t Call Or Text As Much

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While there are lots of reasons why a partner might drop their texting game for a short period of time — including a busy schedule, Brown-James says — it is often a sign that they’re losing interest and therefore aren’t willing to make messaging a priority.

What To Do

The best way to handle this is to be clear about your desire to have more communication."Let them know that you like to text and call throughout the day because it helps you to feel more connected to them, but that it feels a little one-sided at the moment," McBain says. "Let them know that it would mean a lot to you if they initiated the contact as well so you don’t have to take on all the responsibility and work of staying connected throughout the day."

A partner who is actually invested in the relationship will take this information to heart and make a change. If they’re gearing up to ghost you, however, this suggestion won’t make a difference, and you’ll have your answer right there.

8. They Don't Talk About The Future

While it's always OK to focus on the present, especially if your relationship is new, it may start to raise a few red flags if your partner refuses to talk about the future, even if it’s something simple like planning a weekend getaway. As McBain says, "This may be a sign of a bigger issues in your relationship.” A partner who is planning their exit won’t want to put anything on the calendar or make any promises.

What To Do

Brown-James points out that some people just live in the moment and don’t like to plan for the future, so think about whether or not this works for you. Are you OK with keeping convos in the here and now? Are you cool with taking it slow and seeing how your relationship pans out? If so, then this doesn’t have to be a big deal.

If you’re someone who hates uncertainty, though, it’s OK to get your needs met. “Express your boundaries,” Brown-James says. “If they're willing to meet those boundaries, then go with it. If they're not, then it might be time to dissolve and peacefully separate.”

9. You Don't Feel Supported

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Supporting a partner through life’s ups and downs can be difficult and time-consuming, which is why someone who is about to leave won’t want to make the effort. "A loving partner would usually offer support," McBain says, "so if nothing bigger is going on in their life, this might be a sign that they aren’t that interested in you.”

Whether it’s lending an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on, Brown-James points out that not every person is uniquely equipped to offer every type of support, but ideally they should be willing to learn. If your partner doesn’t want to hear about your work problem or cheer you on as you go after a goal, consider it a sign.

What To Do

Brown-James suggests bringing up some concrete examples of what you’re looking for. You could say something like, “Hey, I loved it when you used to bring me coffee when I was having a bad day” or “I feel really supported when we take a few minutes after work to chat about our days.”

A partner who has absent-mindedly dropped the ball will be like, “Omg, of course” and step up their game. If you have to keep asking or if it feels like none of your needs are ever met, Brown-James recommends looking out for yourself and moving on.

10. They Won’t Define The Relationship

While not everyone feels the need to label relationships, a lack of commitment or willingness to do so can certainly indicate that a person has lost interest, Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist, tells Bustle. So if you’re a few months into the relationship and don’t know who you “are” to each other, consider it a red flag.

What To Do

If you’re ready to commit but your partner isn’t, Manly suggests discussing all the reasons why. During this convo, be sure to express what you’re looking for in a relationship. If your partner hasn’t lost interest, they’ll be willing to step up and compromise. If they have lost interest, you’ll pick up on that vibe right away.

11. They’re Less Affectionate With Your Pet

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This one might sound strange, but a partner who’s mentally checked out may seem less excited to pet your dog or pick up your cat. The reason? When someone is considering leaving a relationship, they tend to distance themselves from “collateral losses,” Lall says. They know your pet won’t be in their life forever, so they’ll go out of their way to feel less attached.

What To Do

“Tell them you've noticed this and ask about it,” Lall says. “You can use it as a starting point to discuss the distance you've been feeling and check in about how they are feeling about the relationship, too.”

12. They No Longer Try To Fix Problems

Did you have a big argument, or is there an ongoing problem in your relationship? Take note if your partner doesn’t go out of their way to apologize or find ways to prevent it from happening again. As Lall says, “When someone is feeling safe and invested in a relationship, they will put in the time and vulnerability to try to understand and be understood.” If they’re planning on leaving, they simply won’t bother.

What To Do

“Ask your partner if they have noticed that things have changed,” Lall says. “You can ask them what has made talking through disagreements difficult for them recently.” If they have something on their mind, or if they don’t feel fully invested anymore, this type of conversation will help bring that issue to light.

13. You Don't Feel Like A Priority

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One of the biggest takeaways here is that you should feel like a priority in your partner's life. According to Brown-James, that doesn’t mean either of you has to sacrifice, as that can lead to resentment, bitterness, and an eventual breakup. You need to have your own, individual lives outside the relationship in order to feel whole as a couple.

That said, prioritizing a partner does mean taking a vested interest in each other’s happiness. You should both be willing to listen, learn, fix problems, compromise, spend time together, talk about the future, and offer love and support.

What To Do

If you don't feel important, "have an open and honest discussion about your needs and then stand up for yourself in having those needs met in a reasonable, genuine way," Manly says. "If your partner refuses to acknowledge your needs once you clearly express them, then it’s time to reassess the relationship and — perhaps — move forward."

A partner who is actually invested will want to work together to repair your relationship and get back on track. If not, don’t be afraid to walk away from a person who’s no longer willing to put in the time and effort necessary to maintain a supportive, loving connection.

Sources:

Neena Lall, LCSW, MPH, licensed clinical social worker

Dr. Lexx Brown-James, LMFT

Heidi McBai, LMFT

Chris Seiter, relationship consultant

Dr. Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist

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