There’s a natural ebb and flow to relationships, and the healthiest couples understand that just because a partner gets busy or asks for space doesn’t mean the end is near. There are, however, signs that may portend the beginning of the end. What are they… and what can you do about them? Consider:
Seeking or creating distance. If your partner is spending less time with you, is less available by phone or text, or seems distracted when you are together, it might simply signal a busy season at work or a temporary preoccupation with other matters. However, when the need for space feels extreme or seems ongoing, it may be a sign that your partner is looking for a more lasting change.
If he or she is also finding ways to create distance by picking fights over things that never mattered before, your partner may be looking for a way out. Is your relationship still salvageable? It’s possible, but you won’t save it by becoming clingy and demanding. Chasing a retreating partner never helps. Instead, pull back yourself and give your partner the space he or she seems to need. While some folks say “out of sight, out of mind,” others believe that “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” See which one holds true for you.
Keeping secrets, telling lies. Discovering that your partner is acting stealthy and sneaky doesn’t just mean he or she is headed for the exit — it’s a sign of an unhealthy relationship. If your partner isn’t passionate about regaining your trust and committing to total honesty, the person who should be looking for the exit is probably you. Don’t kid yourself: some “harmless” fibbing often evolves into outright dishonesty, and small secrets evolve into big deception.
Cranking up the criticism. Traits your partner used to think were charming quirks have suddenly turned into annoying flaws. If your partner has developed a “glass is half empty” attitude toward you or your relationship, it may mean he or she is trying to justify a waning interest. If you see this sign, a heart-to-heart conversation may be in order. And if your partner admits to wanting out of the relationship, say goodbye. Agreeing to part ways now will be less painful than enduring passive-aggressive treatment by someone who wants out but lacks the courage to break it off.
Absence of couple identity. The two of you used to talk for hours about the future, but lately your partner has stopped making references to you as a couple or to your future together. If you’re getting the uneasy feeling that your partner doesn’t view you as a couple—or if your partner’s vision of the future no longer seems to include you in it—your relationship is likely to be short-lived.
Can a relationship recover from this kind of disconnect? It’s possible, but not without some honest conversation about where you’re headed. Perhaps your partner wants to feel like a couple—and may even hope to share your vision for a future together—but needs more time to wrestle with doubts or issues. If, however, your partner believes your relationship has no real future, it’s time to free yourself to meet someone who shares your vision of a healthy, committed relationship.
Letting go of dead-end relationships is never easy. Yet sometimes it’s the only way to embrace something better down the road. Watch for the signposts that your partner is looking for the nearest off-ramp.