When you sense that your significant other is pulling away from you in a relationship, that distance can be painful and can ignite some deep-seated fears and insecurities.
Maybe you just have a feeling that something is “off” with your partner. Maybe you’ve noticed that the energy between you two has shifted ― and not for the better.
“If your partner is physically with you, but you have the feeling that he or she is mentally or emotionally 100 miles away or feels walled off and you can’t quite make contact, they may be energetically closed off to you,” marriage and family therapist Lynsie Seely told HuffPost. “We tend to close off as a defense mechanism when we don’t know how to communicate what we’re feeling but need to stay engaged in the situation.”
If you observe this happening in your relationship, try not to jump to conclusions about what’s causing the distance. Instead, it’s best to broach the subject with your partner and ask what’s been on their mind, Seely said.
“It could be that your partner is losing interest and doesn’t know how to communicate that with you,” she said. “There are other reasons your S.O. may feel the need to close up, so it’s best not to assume anything here. A compassionate conversation to explore how your partner is feeling is a good first step.”
Besides that unsettling gut feeling, what are some of the other indications your partner might be losing interest? We asked therapists to share some of the signs so you know what to look out for.
1. They’ve stopped asking questions about the little things.
Couples in healthy relationships take a genuine interest in each other’s lives ― not just when it comes to the major things, but also the smaller, everyday things. For example, a partner who is engaged in the relationship knows you have a nerve-racking work meeting on Wednesday morning and will text you at lunchtime to ask how it went. A partner who has checked out might not remember or even care enough to ask.
“As couples ‘tune out’ of their partner or the relationship, they stop being interested in the small things that are happening as part of each other’s day and life,” couples therapist Isiah McKimmie told HuffPost.
2. They’re unusually slow to respond to texts, emails and phone calls.
We all get busy and may be less responsive to texts depending on where we are, what we’re doing and how much we have on our plate on any given day. But if your once-responsive partner suddenly becomes difficult to reach, it could be a sign they’re distancing themselves.
“People can begin to pull away in subtle ways, so how responsive someone is to you may be an indicator that they are losing interest,” psychologist Gina Delucca said. “Common behavioral signs might be taking a long time to respond to text messages or phone calls. They might make excuses that they are ‘busy at work’ or ‘forgot’ to respond.”
Occasionally, these excuses may be valid ― and, hey, a good partner deserves the benefit of the doubt. But if very delayed response times have become the new normal, it could be a red flag.
“Let’s be honest: Most of us carry our phones with us everywhere we go, and it only takes seconds to respond to someone, no matter how busy we are,” Delucca added.
3. When you try to connect, they ignore your attempts or pull away.
There’s nothing wrong with asking for what you want in a relationship. After all, you can’t expect your partner to be a mind-reader. That said, if you feel like you’re constantly asking your S.O. for basic things like their attention and affection, and those requests are ignored, it might mean they’ve checked out of the relationship.
“If you feel like you’re having to ask (or nag) your partner for more attention, it’s likely they’re losing interest,” McKimmie said. “In healthy relationships, attempts to gain our partner’s attention, affection or support are met in positive or affirming ways. When relationships become strained, these attempts are ignored or met with negative responses.”
Another sign? Your partner doesn’t seem particularly torn up or regretful about this lack of connection.
“When a person has lost interest in the relationship, he or she does not feel sadness or grief around ‘losing’ the relationship because he or she has already processed it and let it go,” psychologist Anne Crowley said.
4. You’ve stopped arguing — and not in a good way.
If every disagreement between you and your partner seems to end in a screaming match, there may be some toxic relationship dynamics at play. But when couples fight fair (e.g. no name-calling, yelling or stonewalling), it can actually be a sign that the relationship is healthy. So when your partner doesn’t even have the will to argue anymore, it may be because they’re no longer invested in the relationship.
“While fighting may not be the most productive part of a relationship, it is energy being put into the relationship,” Crowley said. “We fight when we care, when we don’t feel heard and want to be seen. When one stops fighting, this can be a sign of lost interest in the relationship.”
Perhaps you two used to have frequent arguments about keeping the apartment tidy. Now your partner doesn’t even seem to notice, let alone mention, when your laundry basket is overflowing.
“In other words, they’re not putting in the effort to re-stabilize the relationship,” Crowley explained. “They’re OK walking away from it, even when you are wanting to keep the fight going.”
5. You rarely, if ever, touch each other anymore.
In the early stages of dating, it’s quite normal for couples to be extra affectionate with one another because of what psychologist Jamie Goldstein calls “new relationship energy” (aka NRE). Those butterflies and starry eyes might make you more inclined to hold hands in public, snuggle up on the couch or have more frequent sex.
Over time, levels of NRE are bound to dissipate some — that’s normal. But if the hugs, kisses, back rubs and sex have all but disappeared, it could be an indication that your partner is pulling away.
“As interest begins to wane, so do displays of physical affection,” Goldstein said. “If after the sparks of a shiny new partnership settle, you notice a major shift in your partner’s level of physical affection towards you, this might be an indicator of disinterest.”
6. They stop making an effort with your friends and family.
If your bonds with your friends and family are important to you, so should they be to your partner. Your partner may not be over the moon about spending yet another long weekend visiting your parents, but they’re usually happy to oblige, knowing it means a lot to you. If your partner once made an effort to connect with your loved ones but now withdraws from conversation or avoids spending time with them altogether, it could point to their apathy toward the relationship.
“Although we might not always want to spend time with them, we do because it supports our partner and the relationship,” McKimmie said. “If your partner is no longer making an effort with your friends or family, they’re not making an effort for the relationship.”
7. You no longer feel like a priority in their life.
Certain situations may demand the bulk of our attention at times ― young kids, a big work deadline, a sick family member, etc. But for the most part, you and your partner should be prioritizing each other’s needs and supporting one another above all else. If your S.O. is spending much of their time and energy on work, a new hobby or their group of friends, with no end in sight, it could be a sign they’ve checked out.
“You deserve to feel important and special in your in partner’s life,” Seely said. “If that isn’t happening, it may be time to step back to assess the relationship.”
And if you feel like you’re always the one to initiate communication and make plans to spend time together, consider that a sign, too.
“Another sign within this realm might be repeated cancellation of plans,” Delucca said. ”Relationships are more likely to be successful when there is mutual interest and equal effort put into it.”