Some relationships fly apart in a flurry of anger, arguments, and emotion. In other cases, the changes are more subtle, with a gradual distance forming between partners until all of a sudden, it’s become too vast to cross. Sometimes one person will sense that rift forming. Other times, it appears out of the blue and all they can do is watch the relationship crumble around them and wonder what they could have done differently. What are some signs a partner is losing interest and what can be done to assess the situation? Here’s what to know.
They Don’t Have Time for You
If it feels like your partner is avoiding you, or if they’re always blowing off plans for one reason or another, there might be cause for concern. Couples should want to spend time together, and if they’re constantly backing out of quality time, that’s a definite red flag. Carrie Krawiec, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Birmingham Maple Clinic in Troy, Michigan, says that couples should work to define what constitutes quality time to each other and make it a priority. “There is a continuum of side-by-side to face-to-face and different people are satisfied with varying degrees,” she says. “People should gain awareness of their preference as well as their partner’s and recognize ‘quality time’ should encompass a little of what is satisfying to each of you.”
Romance Is Out the Window
Even if you are spending time with your partner, that doesn’t mean that the spark hasn’t gone out. Your partner could stop holding hands or being affectionate, not care about appealing to you, preferring to let their appearance go, and sex may be a distant and hazy memory. These can all be a sign that your relationship may be losing steam. Krawiec says to focus less on the big gestures and zero in on little things that will reignite sputtering passions. “The gestures that keep sparks alive aren’t big vacations or lacy lingerie,” she says. “Often it’s a million tiny moments. Little texts, gentle touches, or revealing small likes and dislikes or fears hopes and dreams can keep us feeling electrified toward one another.”
They Don’t Make You a Priority
You need to come first in the relationship. Of course, there are always going to be times where the kids take priority, but the number one in any relationship should be one another. If your partner is more interested in being with friends and indulging in other hobbies, then they’re not taking the relationship seriously. To get to the root of this, Krawiec says that it’s important to understand what is driving the spouse to take on other activities (are they working too much because they hate being home or because they’re trying to provide for their family?), and what shaped your own attitudes about how your parents related to one another? “For example,” she says, “a person who saw one parent forced into the activities of others may value letting each person choose and may see this as a sign of ‘health.’ What works in any given relationship is what works for those two people not based on some universal agreement about ‘All couples should want to spend time together.’ ”
They Don’t Want to Argue
You would think that the opposite would be true, that arguing would be a sign that the marriage is in trouble. But the fact is, disagreements happen all the time in a relationship, and if your partner would rather keep quiet instead of talking through an issue, it’s a sign of trouble. It could mean that they’re no longer interested in fixing problems in the relationship. “Stonewalling, or shutting down, is another of John Gottman’s four horsemen of the apocalypse,” says Krawiec. “Storming off, silent treatment, or disinterest are all examples. Although conversations can be conflictual, turning toward your partner instead of pushing away during times of stress is actually healthy. When couples can reveal, share, comfort one another they release stress hormones that are good for both the giver and receiver.”
They’re Easily Annoyed
If your partner is beginning to lose interest, every little thing from the way you chew your food to the sound of your breathing could set them off, sparking fights and disagreements over the most trivial matters. This can be a sign of resentment and unrest beneath the surface of the relationship. “The next time you fight over some silly chore or whatnot, ask them what really pisses them off,” says Celia Schweyer, a relationship expert at Datingscout.com. “It is better to have a frank conversation instead of letting underlying resentment and annoyance to boil up and bubble over.”
They Try to Annoy You
When one person as lost interest in the relationship, they may do things like pick fights to bother you and drive you away. “When you finally give up,” Schweyer says, “they will put the blame on you and tell you that you were not patient enough or you don’t love them enough to keep the relationship.” If this happens, confront it head on, Schweyer recommends. Ask what the source of their behavior is and what is actually bothering them. If they really want the relationship to work, they’ll find a way to work it out and not fall back on irritating behavior.
They Show You Contempt
This is probably the most blatant sign, and one you won’t have much trouble identifying. But, if it crops up in your relationship, it needs to be addressed immediately Contempt is the ultimate relationship killer, making a person feel worthless and as though their opinions don’t matter. “Contempt is a general dislike for your partner,” Krawiec says. “It’s characterized by name calling, eye rolling, swearing, sarcasm, mean teasing. If there is contempt in your relationship it’s a sign that there are hurt feelings, unheard needs, and a depletion of resources.”