If there’s one thing worse than falling out of love, it’s sensing that your partner is falling out of love with you. It starts with a feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach, and suddenly you start to notice something is off — something in the relationship has changed. These may be signs your partner’s heart isn’t in your relationship anymore and it’s time to do something about it. But what? And how can you be sure?
Chances are, if your partner is pulling away, there are subtle and not-so-subtle signs that you can pay attention to. In fact, you’ve probably already noticed them, whether you were ready to admit it or not. But the best offense is a good defense, so it’s time to get real about what you’re feeling and figure out how you want to proceed. The first step, though, is to be sure of what’s happening in the relationship, so to get some help spotting trouble, I reached out to the experts. Here’s what they say to watch out for if you think your SO’s heart may no longer be in the relationship, and what you can do about it.
1Your partner has stopped listening to you.
When you were first together, you would hang on each other’s every word. You spent hours in deep conversation, getting to know one another. Over time, it’s normal for that to slow down a bit. There will be an ease and a natural flow of communication. Where that becomes a sign of trouble, says online dating coach and relationship expert Damona Hoffman, is when all of your conversations have become “surface and mundane.”
NYC relationship expert Susan Winter agrees, saying there might be trouble if “you’re increasingly aware that your partner is dismissive of all your conversations. Worse yet, it seems like they’re bored with everything you have to say.”
2It feels like your partner is bored with everything you do.
The ultimate relationship killer is disdain and disinterest, so Winter warns that if “you’re made to feel predictable and boring because you have a routine,” the two of you are on a bad path. This is particularly true if “your partner flowed beautifully with your lifestyle when you met. Now, you feel out of sync,” Winter says.
3You’ve stopped doing things together.
One of the best things about being in a relationship is having a partner to go on life’s exciting (and mundane) adventures with. But if you suddenly find yourself flying solo, Winter says that’s a sign that your partner is pulling away. So if “going out together was the norm of your former life, [but] now, it’s hard to get your partner interested in doing anything. [Or if] The things you did together as a couple are now off the menu (for reasons you don’t understand and for which no explanation is given),” then it’s time to get real about the state of your relationship.
Hoffman points out this change in behavior comes down to their priorities shifting away from you. “You are essentially living independent lives and don’t make carving out time together a priority before scheduling anything else,” she explains.
4They have lost that sparkle when they look at you.
More subtle, but perhaps even more painful, is when they stop looking at you the way they used to. You can see a shift in their eyes but you can’t quite tell what has changed. Winter says to watch out for when “your lover used to look at you with interest and desire. Now, they barely make eye contact. You no longer feel special, and can’t hide the pain of knowing their passion is waning.”
Hoffman adds that you should pay attention when, “Your partner has stopped complimenting you and making you feel the sparkle and chemistry from when the relationship was new,” because if they have stopped putting in that kind of formerly easy effort, they are likely pulling away.
5The passion is gone.
How is your sex life? Has it gone from hot and heavy to quick and emotionally distant? Winter says that’s a big red flag that your SO’s heart is elsewhere.
“The wild passion that swept over you both now feels like a robotic routine,”she says. “You know your lover’s heart isn’t into it. Your partner no longer makes any attempt to please you, but will obligatorily provide sex to avoid confrontation or an unwanted fight.”
So, what should you do if they are exhibiting these signs?
OK, so now that you’re in a full blown panic over the state of your relationship, what are you supposed to do? Well, you do actually have some options. “Think long and hard if this is the relationship you want,” Winter says. If the answer is yes, Hoffman suggests trying the “Brené Brown technique of voicing the feeling you’re having.”
She explains how this works. Start by saying, “I’m very much in love with you, but the story I’m telling myself is that you are no longer interested because you no longer do [INSERT that thing that always made you feel desired and connected.]” This will spur the conversation that the two of you need to have, to see how to get the relationship back on track if both partners are willing. However, Hoffman warns, “You have to do this only once you are prepared that the answer might be the one you fear most, but it’s better to have clarity than to stay in a loveless relationship.”
If you think long and hard about if this relationship is still making you happy, and you decide you want out, Winter suggests making the first move to end it.
“If it’s come to an end and all the good stuff is gone – why wait around till the bitter end? If your partner shows no desire to improve the relationship, then be the first to walk away,” she says.
While that may not be the happy ending you were hoping for, there is real empowerment in being honest about what you want and what you need, and taking the initiative in making that happen — even if it means ending the relationship.