Relationships can be a lot like the ocean, with natural ebbs and flows that change over time. According to the CDC, adults have an average between 4-6 sexual partners in their lives, which means a lot of us will lose interest and eventually end a handful of relationships along the way.Sometimes, if you think your partner is losing interest in the relationship, you’re able to address it together and move forward. Other times, it’s the beginning of the natural conclusion of your partnership. But when you begin to notice some key signs your partner may have lost interest, open communication is the first step to take, especially if you’re hoping to work through any issues.
"If you're wanting a committed relationship then you have to advocate for that," Eliza Boquin, MA, LMFT, owner of The Relationship & Sexual Wellness Center, previously told Bustle. "You can't assume that the other person is on the same page."
Below, a few key signs someone may be beginning to lose interest in maintaining your relationship.
1. Your Partner Feels Distant
Dr. Lexx Brown-James, LMFT, says that one common sign that your partner is losing interest is that you feel more like roommates than partners, even if you don’t live together. A tendency to do your own separate things more often than not could spell trouble. This can include physical intimacy, but may also manifest as a general sense of distance and separation, like choosing not to spend holidays and special events together, she explains.
What To Do
While most relationships get more comfortable after the initial honeymoon phase is over, it doesn't mean you have to live platonically forever. Brown-James suggests working to re-build that intimacy by asking and answering queries like, “What are the things that your lover has done in the past that you've appreciated and felt prioritize with, and what can they resume to do?”
When a couple is working through an issue like this together, Brown-James will often ask her clients to take sex off the table altogether so it doesn’t feel like an obligation or added pressure during a vulnerable time. She explains that removing sex from the equation often makes them want it more. “People really like to rebel,” she adds.
2. Your Partner’s Moody When It Comes To Spending Time With You
It's normal for couples to feel annoyed with each other every now and again. But when their moods seem particularly agitated or avoidant, it could be a sign your partner is thinking about leaving.
Brown-James agrees that agitated moods are something to look out for, especially when they don’t extend to other areas besides your requests. “You're not seeing [those moods] translate to other factors of life. It's not towards work, it's not towards their own interests, it's not towards their own family or friends, then typically that’s a sign that somebody might be checking out a bit more.” She adds that these mood shifts don’t always look like crabby retorts. If you’ve asked them to spend time with your family or engage in some equal workload sharing around the house and they react with heavy sighs or procrastination, that could also be indicative of loss of interest.
What To Do
The next time your partner picks a fight over the dishes or the laundry, 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 this conversation with a phrase like “I’m noticing” or “I’m feeling” followed by the emotion you’re experiencing. Launching into what you think they’re doing wrong is likely to backfire. “Those things tend to lead to conflict and fights because people feel attacked. If we lead with curiosity and openness, it actually is more helpful,” she explains.
3. They’ve Stopped Calling or Texting
"It may be a sign that your partner is losing interest, or it may just mean that they are busy or would rather connect with you in person versus over electronics," Heidi McBain, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle.
Brown-James agrees that a slow down in phone communication could have a few potential causes, explaining, “People are busier than ever. So if they stop calling and texting, it might be some of that newness has worn off and maybe there's some security and they think, ‘I don't always have to check in on them.’” It could also be that they’re working a job where it’s hard to sneak away to look at your phone, she adds.
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 to staying connected throughout the day."
And even though it feels awful, it may not be personal. “People do ghost people, and it absolutely feels horrible. You also have to realize that that person may be doing what's best for them. So rejection isn't necessarily saying that you're not good enough; rejection is usually a person trying to take care of themselves, in whatever way, shape and form.” Conversation is key, she adds, because when someone starts to drift away we may demonize them without knowing everything that’s going on.
4. Conversations With Your Partner Feel Forced
If your partner used to chat happily for hours and now things feel a bit forced, it might be a sign they're checking out of the relationship. But it could also mean a lot of other things, McBain says, especially if you've recently argued, or gone through tough times together.
If you’ve told them how you feel and conversations still feel stilted, that’s worth taking note of, according to Brown-James. “If you can't find common interest or joy in just conversing, then that's questionable,” she says.
What To Do
"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 says. "In this case, you may just need to have a conversation to reassure them that their self-disclosure hasn’t changed the way you feel about them, or possibly that it makes you feel even more connected to them now."
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 we absolutely rule it as a rejection of us,” she says. But if you’re trying to work on this issue with your partner, try asking them about things they’re interested in to get the conversation moving. “Give them some space to have that conversation solely focused on them while you're actually listening and either helping to problem solve, or just to validate,” she says.
5. They Don't Talk About The Future
While it's always fine to focus on the present, especially if your relationship is newer, it may start to raise a few red flags if your partner never wants to talk about the future, like planning vacations or discussing whether or not they’re interested in having children.
As McBain says, "This may be a sign of a bigger issues in your relationship," or that you wanti more from the relationship than they do.
Brown-James points out that some people just live in the moment and don’t like to plan for the future, and it’s good to know that about a partner. “That can be a sign that they might not be the person for you if they're not able to think about their future with you,” she says.
What To Do
Brown-James explains that you need to figure out just how much uncertainty you can live with. She suggests telling them you need to be able to plan a certain amount into the future, and then finding out how long your partner needs to parse out what they know and want about their future. Maybe it’s a week, a month, a few months — it’s up to you if you can wait that long to find out. “Learn your boundaries and express your boundaries. And 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,” she adds.
6. You Don't Feel Supported By Your Partner
Supporting a partner can be difficult and time consuming, which is perhaps why someone who is ready to check out may not put in the effort to do so.
"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 and your life."
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.
What To Do
First, according to Brown-James, you may determine that you can get the type of support you need from another source, like a friend or family. Maybe your partner is great at just being there for you, but unable to offer practical advice. If your best friend is awesome at the latter, go to them for problem-solving instead. But if you used to feel more supported in the past, Brown-James suggests bringing up some of those examples, and telling them something like, “Hey, I love it when you used to bring me a coffee when I was having a bad day, it made me feel so supported,” to help build back some of that lost trust and intimacy.
But, she explains, “If it becomes such a deficit, and you're like, ‘I get none of my needs met,’ that's definitely a red flag, because that means they're not willing to try to prioritize what you might need.”
7. They Reject All Relationship Labels
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.
Brown-James agrees it could be a sign of trouble, adding that it can be especially awkward when those terms of endearment slip away.
What To Do
"If one partner is ready to commit and the other is not, it’s important to discuss this openly and explore the reasons why," Manly says. "And, if the partner interested in having a commitment believes — after the discussion — that the partner will likely not be able to meet this need, then a decision has to be made."
If your partner used to use terms of endearment you loved and has since stopped, you can address it by focusing on the positives, Brown-James says. Try saying, “‘I feel so taken care of when you call me sweetie,’ or ‘it makes me really hot when you call me wife.’” This way, she says, “We’re reinforcing that positive acknowledgement and the positive feeling that goes with it.”
8. You Don't Feel Like A Priority To Your Partner
The big takeaway is that you should feel like a priority in your partner's life, as that’s a sign that you're both on the same page.
But what does it mean to prioritize someone in a relationship? “I don't think people should sacrifice themselves in order to be good partners. I think that leads to resentment, bitterness, and breaking up. But somebody who's showing you you're a priority [will be] interested in your happiness, and they’ll feel happiness with your happiness,” Brown-James explains. So even if they could care less about a new book or movie that just came out, they’ll talk to you about it, and feel good about making you happy in the process, for example. And overall, Brown-James adds, there should be a willingness to try and meet your needs.
What To Do
If you don't feel like important, "have a very open and honest discussion about your needs and then stand up for yourself in having your needs met in a reasonable, genuine way," Manly says. "And, 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."
To help make things a little clearer, Brown-James suggests asking yourself, “It this a relationship that I’m proud of? Am I treated and valued at my worth?”
If a partner is losing interest in a relationship, perhaps the best thing you can do is giving yourself the tools to spot it so that you can decide for yourself if your needs are truly being met.
Eliza Boquin, MA, LMFT
Dr. Lexx Brown-James, LMFT
Heidi McBain, LMFT
Dr. Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist
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