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Relationships are never drama-free. You are going to fight and argue and not see eye to eye sometimes. When these times happen, it could just be you’re going through a rough patch with some external stressors that will soon resolve themselves. But sometimes, enough is enough.
How can you tell if it’s really the end of the relationship and not just something to work through? Only you will know for sure. But here is a list of signs that you may be falling out of love with your partner. If multiple tips seem to resonate with you, perhaps reading this article is the final sign that it’s time to move on.
When something funny or interesting or sad happens, who do you immediately want to share it with? Usually it’s your partner. In the “Early Years of Marriage” study, scientists followed 373 couples for 20+ years. One of the concepts they observed was called “bids.”
When you say something to bid for your partner’s attention. “A funny thing happened to me at work today!” They can respond negatively (“I’m busy.”), neutrally (“That’s nice.”) or positively (“Really?! What happened?”).
If your partner isn’t responding positively, you may start looking to other people to actively listen and celebrate your news. When you hear a funny story and immediately think of who else to share it with — other than your partner, you’ve lost a bit of that emotional connection you had with your partner. If this happens enough times, you learn to look elsewhere for that emotion and the love valve slowly closes.
In the flush of love, you are over the moon about your partner and want to introduce them to everyone. “Hey guys, check out my girlfriend! She rocks!” You bring out the best in each other, and she has something that shines. Maybe it’s her wit or beauty or fashion or career. In the onslaught of dopamine and all the other love hormones, you’re looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. When you do that, all red flags look like flags.
Maybe they were putting up a false front or maybe you’re starting to see things more clearly than you did at the beginning. Slowly, you realize that you’re not talking about your partner to others. You’re not excitedly trying to insert her into every conversation.
You hear other people speak about their girlfriends, recounting how she made dinner, or they went ax throwing or something. All you can think about is, “My GF wouldn’t do that. Why won’t she do something fun like that with me? All my other friends’ girlfriends do cool stuff with them. I wonder what it would be like to date someone like them?”
Instead of thinking of future events with your current girlfriend, you’re thinking about experiencing those fun things with a nebulous other woman.
A lot of people have started relationships under less-than-ideal circumstances. In many cases, only one person in a relationship works. Most of us suffer from some mental challenges or environmental challenges that can add to normal relationship problems. The Florence Nightingale effect, where a partner wants to take care of someone and equates that with love, is a common relationship trope. You can overcome these obstacles, especially when you work together. I was basically unemployed when I met my now wife, but (luckily) she saw something in me beyond my circumstances.
Many times it doesn’t work out that way. You feel that if you break up with them, they will have nowhere to go. They haven’t had a job in years and if you stop supporting them, they’ll be broke and destitute. Or the absolute worst is when a partner tries to control you with threats like “If you leave me, I’ll hurt myself.”
It can feel like there’s no way out in any of these situations because you’ll be the bad guy for any choice you make. But there’s no love there anymore. You’re only together to prolong the inevitable, and it’s NOT your responsibility to make sure someone else has their life together. It’s on each of us. Live your own life.
We all go through different phases in our lives. Hopefully, we learn and grow from them. It’s totally natural to figure out who you are and what you want as time passes. It can be a long and arduous journey. And your goals definitely shift. I remember my version of a good night at age 25. It was going out in NYC and staying up till the morning doing all sorts of things with all sorts of people. When I did that, I met other like-minded people.
These days, a good night is a new video game and a bottle of wine after the kids go down. The point is that priorities change.
As you guys are together longer, you want to spend more one-on-one time with each other. But she still wants to do the same things that you guys did two, five, or 10 years ago. Perhaps you are looking for an equal partner who is excited to look to the future with you and build a life together. Her priorities, while once aligned with yours, aren’t pointed in the same direction. What was once a reason to be together now may be a reason to be apart.
When you used to have to stay late to work, you’d text them, “Gotta stay late, be home later, love u!” Because you cared about them and wanted to give them a heads up and that you were safe. Driving home, you’d normally grab some food for them as well.
But now they don’t really enter your mind when making decisions. You find yourself saying “I” and “me” again, as opposed to “we.” “What do I want to eat tonight?” You’re not thinking ill of them, you’re just…..not thinking of them. They aren’t forefront in your mind anymore.
This is when you might just start avoiding them because there’s no more joy in it. You work later, you go back to the gym, you find yourself taking the long way home. It used to be that you’d want to spend time with them and you were excited to get back. Now, you look for any excuse to put off going home or answering texts or seeing them again. When things become stagnant and there’s no more input of positive emotions, the love light can really wane.
I remember watching a clip of a couple married 60-odd years or something and they were being asked their “secret to a long marriage.” Their answer? “We never fell out of love with each other at the same time.”
I love this because it shows that love can wane in a relationship, but it can also grow and come back if one of the partners really wants to work on it. The desire to be close is enough to build on. It just takes some time and knowledge!