It's completely normal to wonder whether your relationship will last. And there are a lot of different indicators about what makes a strong relationship or a weak one, but we often overlook one of the most basic and obvious tells: how do you spend your time together?
If you feel present and comfortable around each other, if you have fun, and if you communicate well, consider yourselves on the right track. If things feel awkward, your partner doesn’t value your opinion, or if you’re in a constant state of disagreement, that’s when the signs start pointing towards a breakup. According to certified matchmaker and relationship coach Daphney Poyser, “It's a good practice to routinely check in with your partner on a regular basis to ensure that you are both on the same page. It’s easy to let the day-to-day distractions make you lose sight of the time and energy that you are putting into your relationship to keep it healthy.”
Of course, there’s also the issue of not spending enough time together, which is a red flag on its own. If you’re pushing to hang out but your partner is often busy (or vice versa) you’re already off to a rocky start. "It suggests that there’s a disparity in what you both want this relationship to be,” Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker, tells Bustle.
It sounds so obvious on paper, but it’s easy to look past even the most obvious bad signs in the early stages of a relationship. “[That’s when] dopamine is higher, which produces a sense of pleasure that may be greater than the reality,” Kelly Morrow Baez, Ph.D., LPC, NCC, a licensed professional counselor, tells Bustle. “It takes about four months for the ‘glow’ to wear off and for people to begin to be themselves — for better or worse.”
So if you really like this person, you can hold off on judging how compatible you really are ‘til then. But, if you're spending time together on a regular basis, there are a lot of different signs as to whether or not your relationship will last in the long run — here’s what to look for.
Loving Text Messages Begin To Fade
As time progresses, most couples tend to fall into a routine together and become really comfortable; while that can be a great sign that you’re both building a solid life together, it’s also a good idea to be cautious about just how comfortable you’re becoming.
“We all get busy, but at the end of the day our partners want to hear that we care about them, and if you haven't heard that lately it may be time to speak up.” says Poyser. Specifically with communication, it’s important to remember that expressing your love and care for your partner should be a regular behavior. Sending a simple text saying “I love you” or complimenting the cute outfit they wore to work may only take 2 seconds, but it can make all the difference.
If you come to notice that your partner doesn’t text throughout the day or the week, or that they don’t return your loving energy in their texts, that can be a red flag.
You Can’t Be Quiet Together
Consider how it feels whenever the conversation dips. Are you able to cruise through these moments of silence? Or do they make you want to crawl out of your skin?
According to relationship coach Melinda Carver, compatible couples will be able to sit quietly with each other from time to time — like when you’re driving or drinking coffee — without assuming something’s wrong or feeling awkward. If you and your partner are constantly needing to fill that silence, you may not be comfortable enough with each other to make it in the long haul.
You Have Different Definitions Of “Fun”
Another telltale sign is if you and your partner have different ideas of what makes a good time. “If one of you is a homebody and the other one always wants to be out socializing, it will likely be an issue,” Harstein says. The same goes for being outdoorsy versus indoorsy, laidback versus adventure-seeking — the list of incompatibilities goes on and on.
You and your partner don’t have to share every single interest in order to work as a couple. You can both do things on your own and have separate hobbies. (In fact, that’s a good thing.) It is a problem, however, if you’re so different that you literally can’t make plans.
Your Partner’s Interests Are The Main Priority
Let’s say you are able to make plans, but the things you do revolve solely around your partner’s interests. If that’s the case, “there is a chance that you won't feel like a priority later on in the relationship,” Ashley Gray, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker, tells Bustle. And that’s because it’s a red flag that they only care about themselves.
To test if it’s a big deal, invite your partner to do something with you that represents your interests. Or invite them to hang out with your friend group. If they’re down to try new things — even if it’s just because they know it’ll make you happy — your relationship may stand a chance. If they refuse or act miserable the entire time? Run.
They Blame You When Things Go Wrong
Were you late for the movie? Did you miss the subway? Note how your partner acts in these less-than-ideal moments. If they shut down, angrily blame you, or get defensive, Gray says it doesn’t bode well for the future. Behaviors like these, coined the “four horsemen” by relationship expert Dr. John Gottman, tend to predict the end of a relationship with eerie accuracy.
“The four horsemen are defensiveness, criticism, stonewalling, and contempt,” Gray says. “While all couples engage in these behaviors at times, if they dominate the majority of your time together, they create a disconnect in your relationship. The greater the duration of the disconnect, the greater the chances are that you will grow apart and eventually split up.”
You Show Love Differently
If you meet up for a date and your partner brings flowers, but you’ve said 100 times that you don’t like flowers, consider it a minor but totally valid red flag. “This doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker, but it can cause major issues without the willingness to put in the work,” Erica Cramer, LCSW, MBA, a dating and relationship expert with Cobb Psychotherapy, tells Bustle.
It all comes back to how you like to give and receive affection. “Our ‘love languages’ are almost innate and are crucially important to the way we process our relationships and what fulfills us,” Cramer says. “If your partner’s love language is based in acts of service, you need to understand that and be prepared to put that out there for life. If your love language is touch and your partner does not like PDA, cuddling, or contact and isn’t willing to work on it, it can become a void within you throughout the relationship.”
You Hold Back Hurt Feelings
You’re not wrong to get upset when your partner is late for a date, when they cut you off mid-sentence, or do something else that leaves you feeling undervalued. “Do not make excuses early in a relationship for not feeling fulfilled,” says Cramer. “This can impact your happiness, cause resentment, and does not make for a relationship that will be healthy or happy over time.”
So take note if it constantly feels like you’re biting your tongue or compromising in order for things to work. “To some extent, making personal concessions in the honeymoon stage of a relationship is normal,” Cramer says. You just don’t want to make it a habit — overly compromising can lead to hiding who you really are, and vice versa with your partner.
You See Changes In Behavior
The beginning of a new relationship is often dubbed the “honeymoon phase,” and that honeymoons cannot last forever. “It's no secret that at the beginning of a relationship things are typically exciting and you make time for each other no matter what,” Poyser says. “However, as the relationship builds you may start to see subtle or sudden changes in your partner's behavior that could possibly indicate trouble in paradise.”
Even though those initial feelings of constant excitement and infatuation may calm down over time, there is a major difference between those feelings losing intensity and those feelings disappearing altogether. If you or your partner notice a shift in displays of affection, wanting to spend quality time together, it may be time to evaluate whether or not you both are still happy in the relationship.
Time Is Lost To Sitting On The Couch
Poyser advises to “Notice how long it's been since you went out on a real date and assess if it is because of outside interference, or just your partner losing interest in spending time with you.” It may be difficult to consider because you might not like the answer, but it’s important to fully understand where your partner is at.
When you find that you and your partner spend most of your time together sitting on the couch watching TV or scrolling on your phone, a conversation most likely needs to happen. Date nights and actual quality time are necessary to help a relationship thrive.
You’re Always Distracted When You’re With Them
Instead of talking with your new partner, do you find yourself staring off into space, wondering what your friends are up to, or — worst of all — checking your phone? If so, it’s OK to admit that you may not be a good match, certified counselor and dating coach Jonathan Bennett tells Bustle.
It could be a sign that you aren’t connecting, that you don’t feel comfortable, or that you aren’t ready to invest in the relationship. If the other person is also on their phone, well, you might as well call things off right now.
(Note: This one doesn’t count if you’ve been together forever. While it may not be ideal to check your phones while out on a date, doing so doesn’t necessarily mean you’re incompatible.)
You Get On Each Other’s Nerves
Having the occasional argument is fine. But if it seems like you’re constantly getting on each other’s nerves, it might mean you have different attachment styles. “A person's attachment style is their specific way of relating to others in relationships,” Cramer says. The four main styles? Secure, anxious, avoidant, and fearful-avoidant, she explains.
Just like love languages, some of these don’t match up very well — and that can be a bad thing in the long run. If you are avoidant while your partner is anxious, for example, it might start to feel like they’re asking too much of you. On the flip side, they’ll likely feel as if you don’t care or are bad at communicating.
“People ignoring these signs early on can invest a lot of time and energy into partnerships that will drain them,” Cramer says.
You Never Talk About The “Big” Stuff
While you might not talk about five-year plans on a first date, it shouldn’t be too long before you get to the point where you chat about the big stuff — like how you feel about marriage, goals for your career, and whether or not you want kids.
The same goes for sharing heavy stories from your past, or whatever else you’d like a partner to know. Being able to talk about these things is a clear sign that you feel comfortable around each other, Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, a licensed clinical professional counselor, tells Bustle, which often points to a strong future.
If you feel like there a certain things you can't voice to your partner, that may be a sign that they're just not the right fit for you.
You Never Do Anything Romantic
While your lives can’t be all romance, all the time, it isn’t a great sign if you and your partner have completely given up on making an effort, Ravid Yosef, a dating and relationship coach, tells Bustle, especially if you haven’t known each other very long.
It’s one thing to fall into a cozy pattern where you let your hair down and simply exist with each other. But if you want your relationship to last, you’ll both have to commit to making an effort in order to keep your connection strong, exciting, and worthwhile. If you don’t, one or both of you will feel less invested — and chances are you’ll go your separate ways.
Daphney Poyser, certified matchmaker & relationship coach
Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, therapist
Kelly Morrow Baez, Ph.D., LPC, NCC, licensed professional counselor
Jonathan Bennett, certified counselor and dating coach
Melinda Carver, relationship coach
Erica Cramer, LCSW, MBA, dating and relationship expert
Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, licensed clinical professional counselor
Ravid Yosef, dating and relationship coach
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