By now, you’re probably familiar with the idea that it takes effort to keep the spark alive in a long-term relationship.
However, this is easier said than done. We’re not always going to be completely happy with our relationship 100% of the time. Sometimes, we find ourselves at an emotional crossroads with our relationship’s future. At times, this has nothing to do with your partner and their behavior. Maybe they didn’t betray your trust or fail at good communication. The romantic uncertainty might just be coming completely from you, which can make you feel even worse.
To an extent, uncertainty is normal. Every relationship has periods of ambivalence, according to Jane Greer, Ph.D., a family and marriage therapist based in New York City. Questioning the nature of your romantic feelings for your partner can be caused by a flurry of things, like a big change in your own personal life (such as a tragic loss or major career move), a difficult fight, or maybe developing a small crush on someone else. In this moment, the circumstantial confusion can sometimes cloud our understanding of how we feel about our partner. “Being able to sort out the ambivalence is at the heart of every relationship,” Greer tells us. “What is the degree of ambivalence, and can you get back to loving feelings?”
Here are some signs that come about when you are falling out of love with your partner, according to therapists:
1. You’re less interested in spending time with them.
First of all, let’s get it straight: Falling out of love is not the same thing as being unhappy in a relationship. According to Greer, unhappiness comes from your partner not meeting your needs, whether that’s from something unresolved or disappointing. Hopefully, this can be fixed with some time, effort, and communication. A lack of interest, on the other hand, involves feelings duller than that. “You have no interest in spending time with [the person] or resolving conflicts, and being with [them] is lackluster,” she explains. “Simply put, the thrill is gone.”
2. You’re thinking about them less and less.
“When you’re falling out of love, you think about your partner less and less,” she says. “Your partner is no longer in your thoughts.” This isn’t to say you need to remain in the heady infatuation of romantic love that’s common at the start of relationships, when your partner consumes just about all your thoughts—it’s totally normal for those obsessive, crush-like thoughts about your partner to fade as the months and years go by. But something important might be fading if you find yourself constantly forgetting to check in with your partner, acting like you’re single when your partner isn’t around, or unable to remember or cherish important relationship milestones and rituals.
3. They start to feel like a burden.
Your person is now less appealing, and the thought of spending time with them now feels like a burden. Love often involves wanting to share big life moments with the person, Greer says, so a clear sign that you’re falling out of love is having less of an inclination to share these meaningful experiences in your life with them. In other words, you’re turned off by them. Feeling this way probably has you also feeling guilty, as you may find yourself faking your way through your interactions to some extent. “It feels burdensome to have to pretend to be enjoying yourself or to go along with spending time together when you don’t really want to,” Greer explains. “You can’t be your real, authentic self, and so it’s more difficult to be around [them].”
4. Their behavior is increasingly annoying to you.
When your feelings about your partner shift, you may also notice yourself being bothered by the little things that used to have no effect on you. Maybe it’s the way they eat, the sounds they make while they’re sleeping or thinking, or other mannerisms that have recently become glaringly obvious and irritating. This is part of finding your partner undesirable now.
5. You feel like you’re just going through the motions.
There doesn’t always have to be some blowout fight or dramatic ending to a relationship. You may find yourself still going through the motions of your everyday life—maintaining the house, planning meals, taking care of the kids, complaining about work, and so on, just like normal—and simply find yourself falling out of love as the routine repeats day in and day out. Even though you continue to wake up together and go through your daily rituals, you don’t find yourself excited by your partner anymore. As Tina Tessina, a California-based psychotherapist, puts it, “Think back to the early days of the relationship and how interested you were to hear what your partner had to say.”
If it’s all habitual patterns and no real emotional investment or substance behind your interactions, it may be a sign that the love has faded, and you’re just living in the shell of where it once was. “There’s no juice left in the relationship,” Tessina tells us. “You may be fond of each other still, but you don’t really feel connected.”
6. You’re no longer having meaningful conversations.
Effective communication is a big cog of the mechanics of a successful relationship. If you’re no longer inclined to engage in meaningful conversations with your partner, it might mean your feelings for them are changing. A few ways this might be appearing in your relationship: You aren’t trying to get on the same page with your partner anymore. You don’t want to convey your thoughts, and you also don’t really have an interest in knowing their perspective. You’ve kind of given up.
This is especially true for couples who have been fighting frequently, Tessina says. Moving into a phase of not really talking about anything serious can feel like a relief, but it can also be a sign that you’ve both put up white flags on the idea of being understood by each other. “When this happens, breaking up is often the next step if you don’t get counseling and figure out how to talk to each other without fighting,” she says.
Wanting to dialogue with your partner—share ideas, feel heard, and hear them—is a signal that you really care about them and that you’re invested in the relationship. If that drive isn’t there, you might be falling out of love.
As Greer points out, a little uncertainty is normal in most relationships. But she adds that when you truly love someone, the uncertainty eventually passes, and the loving feeling returns. “When you fall out of love, you’re anchored in the negative feelings,” she says.
If you’re trying to understand whether you’re falling out of love with your partner, the above items can be helpful clues. But even if all six of them ring true to you, Greer’s advice suggests it might be wise to give it time. See how your feelings change. If you’re still caught in confusion and uncertainty, then consider facing the reality that your love might really be fading. What comes next is up to you.
- Kathleen Wong
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