Great relationships understand those natural ups and downs and have a clear idea of when or whether they the partners in them should be concerned. They can separate out whether one or both are drifting apart from what is stressing their closeness independent of their commitment to each other. Their communication is solid, their understanding of what is really important in a relationship, and their absolute unwillingness to let each go, drives their goal to reconnect when they sense their relationship may be faltering.
Unfortunately, many new relationship partners are wary of expressing anything to each other that might suggest a diminishing interest, even if it is temporary. New lovers are often insecure; concerned that their partners might prematurely disconnect it they think they are falling short. As a result, they hold back on talking about disappointments or dissatisfactions that might be resolvable were they to be caringly aired.
Whether it is the normal lapse of sexual passion that accompanies all new relationships as the partners spend more time together, or the familiarity that exists in all long term relationships, some diminishment of attachment and intrigue is normal for all relationships. In the early stages of new relationships, there are often astonishing experiences of romantic magic that can drum out all red flags that could be omens of trouble later on. New couples are remarkably capable of pushing away any awareness of potential diminishing interest and focusing on the genuine joy they are experiencing. Those who have been together for a while often don’t pay attention to whether or not they are drifting beyond what they should be concerned about because of so many other dimensions the relationship has accrued.
In both cases, though, there are similarities. Because of distractions, fears of loss, or a lack of focus on the long-term consequences, many couples either do not see, or do not understand, the warning signs of one partner or the other losing interest in the relationship. And, sadly, when they do, it may be too late.
There is one caveat. If intimate partners have had many failed relationship in the past, feels as if they are less marketable than a current partner, or are basically insecure about deserving love, they may experience any behaviors that look as if they are omens of a waning interest as threatening even when they may not be. Their exaggerated response can make the failure of a relationship a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Are there any dependable signs that a new, or ongoing, partner is actually pulling away? Is there any way to see those omens early enough to turn a relationship around before it’s too late?
The answer to both is yes.
These are some of the signs that you can watch for to see if your current partner is losing interest or still in the game.
1) Ongoing and significant research in the field of intimate relationships tells us that caring partners most always respond to a bid for connection. Whether a question, an observation, a plea for help, a need to be heard, a desire to share, feelings of insecurity, or just a desire for attention, a partner who reaches out has to feel that he or she matters. If it is true that the opposite of love is apathy, it is often most obvious in watching one partner evidently put out by the need to respond to another.
2) Lack of energy. When people are interested, intrigued, or excited by another, the pupils of their eyes expand, their focus is more intense, and they seem as if they are leaning into the emotional and physical field of the other. The opposite is very clear. One person attempts to arouse the interest, excitement, or attention of the other and his or her efforts are met with short, lifeless responses intended to get the connection over as soon as possible.
3) Lowered priority. When people are interested in their partners, they put them on the top of their lists. That doesn’t mean that every moment is reserved for that partner, but prime-time energy is. A partner who still cares and is invested in the relationship misses his or her other half when too much time has elapsed between encounters. If too many other people, other situations, or other desires begin to come before a partner more and more over time, the chances are that there is danger ahead.
4) Affection. Whether physical desire, emotional closeness, mental stimulation, voice intonation, body language, facial expressions, or just touch are positive, consistent, and often, you can be pretty sure that the relationship is still vital.
5) Future talk. People who are still in love automatically dream together about the individual and mutual futures they have together. They invest in each other’s dreams and support each other’s goals. The sharing of current and future resources are assumed as if one would not want to go ahead without the other at his or her side.
6) Investment. Human beings are natural deal makers in every area of life. Even if people want desperately to continue loving and caring for another, they cannot continue forever if the deal goes sour more often than it pays off. Whatever is important or sacred to either partner must be honored and supported. If a partner is on his or her way out of a relationship, you can be sure that the original deal isn’t paying off anymore and the goal is to cut the losses and move on.
7) Shared vulnerabilities. When people are still invested in a relationship, they begin to take chances, open up deeper needs and desires, communicate more authentically, and share what is sacred. At the beginning of relationships or in those that are waning, those deeper, more vulnerable experiences become harder to share. It is as if one doesn’t want the other to have those internal pieces anymore. The withholding of love is often correlated with the withholding of anything that could be used for negotiation were the relationship to end.
8) Ho-hum. When relationships are alive and vital, each partner’s presentations are usually met with a matching level of enthusiasm. Boredom comes from a relationship that has lost its potential for discovery. The partners with it know each other too well and can predict virtually every word and action in advance. They may have attained a level of comfort and safety by never rocking the boat, but they now can run the relationship without much thought. Because human beings need challenge and novelty, they are likely to drift away from something that provides neither.
9) Empathy and compassion. Close lovers are in each other’s hearts. If one is hurting, the other is, too. If one is facing a painful challenge, the other is right beside him or her. Even if there is disagreement in how or why the other is experiencing what is happening, the automatic reaction is concern and support. And, if there is a true crisis, all other priorities are immediately put aside.
These are not the only signals, but they are the most common. You can turn each of these nine examples into a question and rate it from 1-5. One is “rarely,” two is “sometimes,” three is “often,” four is “most of the time,” and five is “always.” For instance, example one would be “Does your partner respond when you make a bid for connection?” The answers will help you determine whether or not your partner is just temporarily preoccupied but still in the game, or starting to drift in a potentially negative direction.
Of course, honest and authentic communication at the beginning of any drift is crucial to save a relationship. If either partner does not feel comfortable to inquire when these drifts begin, that, alone, can be the deeper problem.
Here are some related articles I’ve written for Psychology Today Internet Blogs that may help:
Why Relationships Go Stale
Should You Rush Into a Relationship?
Are you Withholding Love?
Touch and Go Relationships – Do They Have to be Superficial?
Couple’s Alert – Is Your Love Dying?
Why Can’t I Let Love in?
How Can Romantic Love Transform Into Long-Term Intimacy?
What Causes Boredom in Intimate Relationships?