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For the better of three decades, the media has tackled the problem of failing relationships and how they can be saved. The great self-help giants—John Gottman, Harville Hendricks, David Scharch, and M. Scott Peck—opened the doors and many other wonderful writers have followed. Separately and together, they have offered profound advice on how to choose the right partner, build a great relationship, and fix it when it’s faltering. Their message is heartfelt and well-intended: every relationship, given the right direction and hard enough work, should somehow succeed.
But sometimes, no matter how hard partners try, their relationships just don’t work. Quality partners who have lost each other usually feel terrible about hurting the other and saddened at their own feelings of failure. Because there is so little support out there to comfort them, they are often reluctant to talk about what happened. It’s just not fashionable anymore to give up.
The fact is, that many relationships should end. That is especially true when both partners have done all they can, aren't even sure why things went wrong, and are weary of trying. Sure, there may be a contingent of difficult people who just can’t get along with others for any length of time, run when intimacy deepens, or just prefer sequential relationships for their own reasons.
But, for the most part, new lovers want to please each other, to deepen their connection, and to overcome their barriers. When they've tried everything they can, and the relationship still doesn't work, it should not be about fault, shame, blame, or fear of trying again.
There are some real and justifiable reasons why good people cannot seem to get past their relationship difficulties, no matter how much energy and time they have devoted to each other. If they've done their best and end in appreciation of the other’s efforts, they need not to linger in the grief of failure, but to use what they've given each other to form a better foundation for the next time around.
If well-intentioned and caring people can, without guilt or blame, recognize the symptoms that tell them that they need to let go, they can end their relationship without resentment or feelings of wasted time. If couples stay too long in a relationship that can’t get better, they risk losing the opportunity to cherish the lessons they have learned together.
Here are the eleven most common symptoms that herald a relationship that is likely to end:
1. Small Irritations That Grate Over Time
Every new relationship has both good interactions and not-so-good ones. New lovers do their best to appreciate the naturally satisfying connections and ignore those that are irritating. Unfortunately, over time, some of the distressful behaviors begin to fester and are harder for the other partner to ignore. They can be little things like leaving clothes on the floor, being chronically late, or forgetting a promise.
There are also more serious ones like still staying close to an old boy or girl friend, getting a little too drunk, or not paying bills on time. When these upsetting behaviors hit a critical mass, the other partner may be unable to tolerate them anymore.
When the good connections are eroded by accumulated resentments, the relationship’s balance shifts in the wrong direction, and the good that once kept the partnership intact becomes buried under layers of disappointment and disillusionment.
2. Unacceptable Behaviors That Were Not Revealed at the Beginning of the Relationship
Most new lovers purposefully hide past behaviors that have negatively affected their other relationships. They hope that, once the new relationship is established, their partner will be more likely to forgive those old transgressions.
No matter how tolerant a new partner may be, there are also certain late confessions that can destroy even the most desirable of relationships. The partner who has bought into believing that the other is trustworthy in those crucial areas, may be unable to accept past behaviors that challenge both that they happened at all and that they were concealed in the first place.
Here are some common examples:
These common examples can be hard to endure, and it is up to each person when to share them. There are also very serious issues that must be shared up front, even though the risk is high. For instance, if a potential partner has an STD that could threaten health, a vindictive ex-wife or husband, or a prior felony conviction that might affect the future.
3. Mutually Exclusive Important Needs
When caring partners are first together, they accent the ways they can love each other, make allowances for differences, and try to push away as-yet-unrevealed needs in hopes that the deepening love between them will ultimately resolve the situation.
Sadly, some partners find over time that they cannot live with certain crucially important different needs or desires. Some of the most common are different sexual appetites, disparate dreams, or how to deal with prior partners, but there are many others. How should our money be allocated? What is our ideal place to live? How many children, if any, should we have? Do we take care of our parents? What are our criteria for friendships? How much time away from each other can we tolerate? How do we communicate and can we resolve important conflicts?
These potential differences rarely come to light early in a relationship. It is only when resources are pooled that partners begin to reveal what they can live without, compromise on, or are unwilling to change. Those differences need to be sorted out with mutual respect and support, but often bring out behaviors that neither partner could have anticipated, nor can live with.
4. Diminishing Illusions
Oh, the blindness of new love. The partners who relish those early moments will hold on dearly to the joy of their bliss. They strive to overlook flaws, and embellish those qualities that make their new partner bigger than life.
It is totally normal for those exaggerated illusions to diminish over time and the partners grow to know each other more deeply. What is considered highly desirable at the beginning may have a negative downside that isn't revealed until the relationship matures. For instance, a partner dedicated to his or her mission in life may seem marvelously impressive, but then disappoints that partner by too often prioritizing that commitment over the relationship. A very attractive partner who dedicates a great deal of time maintaining that result might seem too self-interested. A person wonderfully careful about not over spending can, over time, appear stingy and cheap. A passionate partner who is initially highly sexual may be much less so as other priorities emerge.
A person who promises less and delivers more can be a joy, but it’s a rare quality. New lovers don’t usually focus on potential disappointments. When things quiet down, the partners are in line to make new appraisals of what is good, what needs improvement, and what may be unacceptable.
5. External Stressors
The synergistic energy of a new relationship appears boundless. The couple’s connection makes more than the sum of the parts. Abundant in the energy to face challenge, they feel they can face any crisis, unexpected or anticipated.
Unfortunately, resources are not endless and too many stressors can erode the deepest of commitments. Major illnesses, accidents, work demands, loss of financial stability, family needs, grief over loss, or a series of uncontrollable disappointments can wear away at a couple’s ability to cope. If those stressors continue, they may lose faith in the relationship’s capacity to survive them.
Stressors stretch a couple’s capacity to learn and grow. If they cannot triumph over them, they run the risk of finding each other inadequate. Finding fault with each other’s reactions and responses, they will begin to lose trust and separate to solve their problems alone. Sometimes there is just too much heartache, and any relationship can go down when too much is too much.
6. Power Struggles
When love is new, both partners are willing to compromise. They make decisions together, securing each other’s opinions and striving for agreement. Sharing the power to make decisions, they become an integrated team creating mutually-agreed-upon solutions.
As the relationship matures, one or the other partner may express his or her desires, biases, and prejudices with more intensity. Too often, this process results in reciprocal defensiveness with both partners may resort to defending their positions and trying to pressure the other into complying.
What might have been a mutual decision to spend all of their time together may become a problem if one partner wants more time alone and the other wants to share that time with others. For example, the more social partner may now want to bring other friends into the relationship, or spend time away without the other partner. Perhaps one partner needs quiet, separate time, leaving the other feeling lonely and abandoned. Either may have used sweet seduction, gentle coercion, or invitation in the past, but now has lost patience and uses more intense persuasions. Perhaps either may threaten consequences that are, in reality, hidden power plays for control. Hurtful struggles replace past compromises as each vies to win the game.
Power struggles can result in partners just walking away, ranting in anger, creating desperate pleas, or using guilt as a bludgeoning stick. They may not even realize they are behaving that way, but it is clear that what seems like an innocent invitation has now become a demand with a clear “or else” behind it.
If power struggles persist, couples go from being a team to adversaries on opposite sides of the playing field. Too soon, they begin to save themselves at the expense of the other’s needs.
7. Becoming superficial
It is hard for anyone to be totally authentic and open in a new relationship. Keeping things light, surface, and non-threatening is more common behavior. But, as love grows, successful couples begin to deepen their communication and take more risks in sharing their vulnerabilities and flaws. They are willing to be known in more vulnerable ways and to listen more deeply to each other. That richness of depth in communication and sharing becomes the couple’s signature of love.
It is all too common and terribly sad when partners cannot go beyond superficial interactions. Without the courage or capability to allow their core selves to connect, the relationship will fall prey to shallow connections over time.
There are many reasons why lovers are afraid to connect at a deeper level. Insecurity can make them afraid that their partners will love them less if they know too much. Perhaps, when they've tried in the past, they have had bad experiences and felt rejection, abandonment, or invalidation.
If they've tried in their current relationship and not been well received, they may have recoiled and returned to acting in ways that seem less threatening. As intimate conversations become more difficult, a couple’s chance of sharing hearts and souls in a deepening way begins to expire. Soon, they are more likely to share who they really are with others, rather than with each other. Fearful of scarring the relationship further, they stay with comfortable and non-threatening words and behaviors.
Over time, their interactions become predictable rituals, requiring less and less effort. To others, they may appear to be totally compatible, but they are really just repeating known and secure habitual behaviors. In time they will become susceptible to new and more intriguing experiences.
Constant discovery of the other partner’s internal and external transformations is the foundation of long-lasting, deepening relationships. Because partners in new relationships are usually “more than enough” to satisfy each other, they often don’t realize that their own independent growth is a necessary requirement for staying in love.
If a couple has made every effort to know one another deeply and comes to the end of that discovery, they will begin to take each other for granted and put less energy into a dull and habitual relationship. Taking the position of “aren't I good enough as I am,” or “You knew who I was when we met and it was okay then, wasn't it?” are rationales that cover the lack of interest in continuous growth.
Very often one partner moves ahead in his or her evolution and the other steadfastly stays the same. If no amount of requests, pleading, or threatening changes that pattern, the person who was once enthralled will feel entrapped in same-old-same-old, and needs to move on.
Relationships have two major dimensions, growing and scarring. If a relationship constantly scars and doesn’t grow, the emotional scarring will eventually pervade the relationship and destroy it. If the relationship both scars often but continues to grow, it will be constantly in flux, with partners who alternate between hurting and healing. These relationships often continue for long periods of time but usually eventually exhaust the partners who are in them. When a relationship seldom scars and is in constant transformation, the partners within it are lucky people who will probably never lose interest in each other.
The last possible combination is a relationship that neither scars nor grows. On the surface, it may seem a magically compatible, quietly successful union, but the lack of excitement and energy observed can be a powerful warning sign that there is trouble brewing. The partners within it may have become robotic and predictable creatures who soon learn each other’s every phrase, action, and thought. They no longer need to pay much attention to know what is going on. There are no surprises, no challenges, and no growth.
These people seem to go through life as if in a house of mirrors. As long as there is no conflict, they do not color outside the lines nor feel their energy diminishing. If their passive behavior is confined to the relationship, they will eventually have little to say to each other, and even lessened passion. If they are getting their needs for transformation elsewhere, the contradiction between their behavior within and outside of the relationship will eventually erase one or the other.
10. Self-Serving Escapes That Become More Important Than the Primary Relationship
Addictions are the most notable examples. Addictive behaviors are simply compulsive, urgent indulgences that take one partner away from the other and cause long-term damage to an intimate relationship. Whether drugs and alcohol, social engagements, involvement in sports or body fitness, or excessive work commitments, they are competing relationships that take precedent over the primary one, and drain its energy. A partner on the other end of an addictive mate is not given a vote to keep the primary relationship intact. Only the partner who engages in the addictive behavior can make the decision to re-prioritize the energy that he or she is spending elsewhere.
The triangles between two committed people when one is addicted to something, or someone, else will always diminish the unique bond between them. Whenever something or someone becomes more important to one partner than to the other, the relationship will be threatened. If the addictive partner is not willing to look at the cost of his or her decision, the partner deprived of a vote will eventually become distressed enough to disconnect.
Any escape that competes, diminishes, or threatens a relationship should be fair play for exploration and repair. Remember, the common resources of a relationship can only be distributed by mutual agreement if the partnership is important to both. One person cannot unilaterally decide to use those resources without the permission of the other without destroying the sanctity of that agreement.
11. Escalating Misunderstandings and Misassumptions
Many people in maturing relationships forget how to listen carefully without jumping to conclusions, especially with regard to what their partners are actually feeling or thinking. They believe that familiarity has entitled them to thinking they know everything they need to about the other, even if one or the other has changed.
Life’s challenges can steal people’s energy away from their relationship and put its exploration on a back burner. Very often over time, the partners believe they no longer have to make an effort to renew their interest in new priorities. They continue making assumptions based on old or incorrect data, and miss crucial changes and meanings that could alter their responses.
Soon, the couple’s communication consists of laconic phrases and inaccurate assumptions. They lose interest in each other and fail to resolve misunderstandings. As these destructive interactions multiply, the partners may no longer try to untangle the mess and let the layers of ignored emotional debris accumulate.
Perhaps these warning signs could have been addressed earlier and the relationship would still have had the vitality needed to reconfigure it. But many couples, with the best of effort and intentions, have been unable to stop themselves from destroying the love that was once there. If they have tried their best for as long as they were able, and still found themselves unable to triumph over their relationship heartbreaks, they must leave one another with respect and gratitude, and take the lessons learned as sacred bounty to use them in their next relationship.
“Many mistakes but no regrets,” would be a wonderful way to end every relationship that has outlived its lessons. To have traveled a journey that began with hope and ended with sadness is not a failure in life unless the partners use blame or guilt to erase what they needed to learn. When the parting occurs, and both genuinely respect what they have shared, a failed relationship need not imply a failed life. Very often, when successful in the next relationship, many people realize that their current positive outcome was a direct result of what they learned from the relationship they lost.
It doesn't mean you stop caring about your partner or your relationship. To the contrary, Creative Indifference is a way to become less reactive.
Making the decision to leave a marriage is scary: There's often a deep fear of being alone, not to mention the possibility of an unknown future. So many stick with mediocrity, settling for low-level pain and dissatisfaction instead.
But that's not your best bet: "Staying in a seriously unhappy marriage can have long-term effects on our mental and emotional health," says Carrie Cole, a couples therapist and Master Certified Gottman Therapist by the Gottman Institute. Research shows that people in bad marriages usually have low self-esteem, struggle with anxiety and depression, and have a higher rate of illness than those who don't. People feel sad and grieve when they decide to let go — but people who divorce do recover emotionally, and Cole says most find new relationships. In fact, "one statistic reported that 85 percent of those who divorce remarry within five years," she says.
If any these signs hit home for you, it's time to take a hard look at whether this is a marriage you want to stay in.
One warning sign would be that your relationship is totally sexless, says sex and relationship therapist Megan Fleming, Ph.D. — or if you're having sex less than 10 times a year. After all, she says, it's intimacy that separates a romantic relationship from all other sorts of relationships you might have. "When that's going out the window, it's a really big red flag." Jane Greer, relationship therapist and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship, says that a lack of visible physical affection — like kissing or hugging — is also indicative of a real problem.
When something comes up in life, whether that's a work event or any accomplishment and your partner isn't the first person you're sharing it with — or one of the firsts, Fleming says that it may be that "you prefer to get your needs mets outside the relationship." To that end, Greer points out that not having any meaningful conversations aside from "rudimentary conversations about chores and things that need to get done" is a warning sign that your relationship is not in a good place.
"You can be in the same room, one of you on the computer, one of you [watching TV]," Fleming says, but "if you find that you're never actively engaging together — you're together, alone, doing your own thing — that's an indication there's disconnection, or a lack of connection."
Our instincts can often tell us first when a relationship just isn't working — but we don't always trust that voice, says couples therapist Susan Pease Gadoua, co-author of The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels. "We often ignore our gut instincts because that voice is very quiet and calm, unlike the internal voice in our heads that thrives on high drama." We're trained to trust logic in many areas of life, so when a niggling feeling ("Am I really still in love with this person?") presents itself, it's hard to pay attention to it because there aren't any hard facts or rational reasoning. Drill down on that initial instinct and ask yourself more specific questions. If you find your responses are things like, "I don't feel safe to express myself, I don't feel respected and haven't felt happy in a long time," that's a sign that things have gone awry — and you shouldn't ignore it. "The truth doesn't go away simply because we don't want it to be there; that voice stays in the background and weighs on you," says Gadoua. "Getting quiet within is key to being able to hear instincts. And like a muscle, the more you trust your gut, the easier it becomes to decipher that voice — which comes from your heart — from the voice in your head."
Many women stay in relationships longer than they should because they tend to put the needs of others before their own. And since women often naturally take on the role of caretakers, they can lose parts of their own identity — and a sense of their own needs — in the process. "In order to face her relationship unhappiness, a woman needs to stop distracting herself by putting other people's needs ahead of her own," says Gadoua. "Doing this can be a way of avoiding her own painful truth." So if you find yourself getting unnecessarily involved in a fight between your mother and sister, or you're always rushing around trying to make other people's lives easier, it might be time to take a hard look at your own relationship.
One way to distinguish between a run-of-the-mill marital rut (where you've, say, fallen into boring routines and don't have much sex anymore) and a loveless marriage is to ask yourself how long the situation has been this way, and whether it's been steadily worsening. "Most couples go through rough times, but if the difficulties last more than two years, with no sign of relief, I'd recommend seeking professional help," says Gadoua. And sooner is always better to avoid passing the point of no return. "It would be ideal if we could tune into our longings and needs well before we get to the point that the love we once had is dead," says Cole, who notes that the average couple waits six years from the time they recognize relationship problems until the time they try therapy. By then, it's often too late — the problems in the marriage can corrode it to the point where it may be unsalvageable. So play it safe and consider scheduling a therapy session if you're struggling.
If you often imagine a happy (happy is the key word here) future without your partner, that's a major sign that things aren't right. This is a part of the emotional detachment process, during which you may try to convince yourself that you don't care anymore so that the eventual separation feels less painful, says relationship therapist Jamie Turndorf, Ph.D., author of Kiss Your Fights Goodbye. "Detaching psychologically by fantasizing about having an affair or making plans for the future that don't include your partner can all be signs that you've fallen out of love," says Turndorf. "It's as if the mind has pulled its own plug so our hearts won't suffer as much when the relationship ends." If you notice this mental pattern, take it a step further to see if the fantasy holds weight. Gadoua suggests checking out real apartment listings online, and paying attention to how you feel. "It'll give you another layer of reality, which can then help you know what the right next step is," she says. As you click through, check in with your emotions. If excitement or relief is your prominent emotion (rather than fear or apprehension), it may be a sign to acknowledge that there are serious problems in your marriage. "But before actually taking steps to leave, see if there are things you can — or want — to do to work on the relationship," says Gadoua. That way, if you ultimately decide to leave, "you can do so with some peace of mind," she says. "It's never easy to end a relationship, but having lingering regret that you could have done more can make the decision harder."
If you've given up fighting, but feel further away than ever, it's a sign that you've reached a crossroads. "If there's a fight and the couple doesn't talk about what happened, or becomes gridlocked in their position and refuses to listen to their partner's perspective, that's not good," says Cole. However, you might still be able to turn it around. "Unresolved conflict can fool us into thinking that our love is lost, when it's actually only buried beneath the ashes of smoldering resentment and anger," says Turndorf. In other words, the love could still be there, but you just can't access it. To get back in touch with those feelings, turn toward your partner emotionally —which creates closeness and connection—rather than ignoring them or responding negatively, which creates distance and disengagement. "Fights can lead to greater intimacy if the couple processes the fight and repairs the relationship," says Cole. It's up to you to decide whether you've got it in you to turn toward your husband and give it one last go, or whether you've maxed out your ability to keep fighting for your relationship.
According to Cole, there are four behaviors that are super-destructive to relationships. If one or more is present in your relationship, you could be on the fast track to loveless-ness (if you're not there already). Every time you criticize your partner — by attacking, blaming, and putting the fault on them by flinging negative statements like "You're always running late," or "You never do anything right" — you corrode your connection. By being defensive and refusing to accept responsibility, or attacking in response to feedback from your partner, you chip away at the trust and goodwill in your marriage. If you have an attitude of contempt, and call your partner names or make stinging, sarcastic remarks, you imply that you're superior and your partner is defective. And every time you stonewall one another, or emotionally shut down instead of openly addressing the issues, you create more distance and dishonesty, rather than openness, communication, and love. If any (or all) of these sounds familiar, schedule couples' therapy to discuss why you do these things — and how you can fix them.
When you sit down to talk with your spouse about what's working and what isn't, do you hear crickets? Or feel like nothing changes, no matter how vocal you are about your feelings? That's a problem, says Turndorf. "The most powerful tool we have for resolving our conflicts is listening and understanding one another," she says. "When we invite our partners to share what we've done to let them down, and when we truly listen and understand their feelings, decades of hurt and anger can easily fade away." So make a point of listening for the underlying emotions and messages in your partner's words — everyday issues, like yelling about whose turn it is to take out the trash, could be stemming from something deeper. "In most situations where couples go from being best friends to loveless opponents, I uncover a pattern of poor communication, dashed expectations and unhealed resentments," says Gadoua. "They think the fight really is about taking the garbage out, when in fact it's more likely about one or both feeling unappreciated, overwhelmed or unacknowledged." And once you finally hear what they're trying to tell you (or vice versa) you can get to the bottom of the real issue.
If you're not happy with your husband, you might be falling into an emotional affair, making another male the priority in your life. And thanks to today's technology, it's easier than ever to get caught up. "Technology has allowed people who might never risk having any kind of affair to flirt online," says Dr. Wendy M. O'Connor, a licensed marriage, family therapist, relationship coach, and author of Love Addiction: How to Overcome Toxic Relationships & Find Love. "This creates a situation of 'temptation,' and not everything that takes place online stays online. People are bolder when hiding behind a screen, and often click on send without thinking first." If your relationship is already on the rocks, giving yourself to someone else — even if that's only virtually — will only make things worse.
When people have exciting news to share or even just need someone to talk to, they typically speed dial the person closest to them. If that used to be your spouse but is now someone else — whether that's a girlfriend or another man — it's a clear sign you're not in the happy marriage you used to be. "Research shows that in healthy marriages, couples celebrate each other's successes. If you're turning to [someone else] first in good times and bad, then you're replacing your husband emotionally and avoiding addressing what isn't working with him," says Dr. Paulette Sherman, psychologist, director of My Dating and Relationship School and author of Dating from the Inside Out. Try putting your husband into your #1 spot again. If you're not getting the support you need — or you don't even want it in the first place — it might be time to sit down and have a serious discussion about your relationship.
After getting home from a long day of work, do you and your spouse immediately go your separate ways? And when you're at parties, do you tend to drift apart and do your own thing? If you'd rather be alone than with your husband, it probably doesn't seem like there's much of a point in being in a relationship in the first place. Getting a little time apart is one thing, but the trouble really starts when you'd rather be apart.
Can't remember your last date night? If you're not planning any important or special events together on top of not spending time together in general, that's not good news for your relationship, says Greer. Make an effort to get a couple outings on the schedule — maybe a movie night or a dinner at your favorite spot — and see if you can rekindle the flame. Marriages take work, and putting in the effort on things that bond you as a couple is part of that.
When you say your "I dos," you're making each other your top priority above anything and anyone else. When you lose that essential part of your marriage, you can lose the person that once meant the world to you. If you're not making your husband a priority in your life anymore — or if he's not making you his — it's going to be really hard to stay a solid unit. Try going back to prioritizing your time together, each other's feelings, and each other's goals to get back into a healthy place before it's too late.
Dr. Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills-based family and relationship psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent, describes a potentially troubling scenario in which one partner exercises control over the other. This is especially problematic if "one partner feels over-controlled by the other spouse, and has made great attempts to verbalize his or her feelings and feels defeated because his or her expressions and words are not validated," says Walfish. One way this issue might present itself? If a spouse controls the finances of the family, and prohibits the other partner from having their own credit card or checking account.
"I think it's very important for people to recognize that there are very few things that cannot be worked on in a relationship, and even repaired and resolved," Walfish says. (Think about how many couples can even work past cheating). But if a partner isn’t willing to work on improving your relationship, that’s a clear sign of trouble. After all, she says, "working on a relationship requires two willing participants. That means both partners have to be open to looking at their own stuff."
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He doesn’t answer your calls. He seems distant, difficult and strange—especially lately. There’s definitely a noticeable change in his personality and the way he acts towards you. What’s happening here?
You might be completely confused right now and on the fence about what to do. Do you keep pursuing this situation or do you cut your losses?
MORE: 10 Guaranteed Signs He Doesn’t Like You
Do you long for the days when he used to treat you with nothing but love? If you are in a long term relationship, it’s possible the “magic” of the honeymoon has faded but he does still love you. Or it’s possible he is pulling away, and might even be looking for a “better” option in the near future.
Well, before getting lost in a mental monologue of self-hatred and confusion… step back and think for a moment.
He might just be going through a rough time in his own life and seem distant or closed off. There are a million things that could be going on inside his head.
Has something tragic happened in his life? Has he lost a job? If he’s acting different and something major happened, you need to consider this before jumping to the conclusion that he doesn’t care.
In other words, you must never judge before really getting to the core of the issue. I have been a notoriously quiet guy in the past and have had women who quite frankly I was fine having sex with but had zero interest in a relationship with accuse me of being “rude” or “quiet” and a “tough nut to crack.”
But truthfully, in this situations, whenever a woman has questioned or wondered whether I cared or not, the truth is I probably didn’t care.
Not saying that to be rude. The point I am trying to make is that it’s normally obvious if a man cares.
With that said… I am going to give you a list of 15 signs that he doesn’t care about you so that you can assess the situation and know for sure once and for all. Don’t worry; you will have clarity at the end of this, which is all you really need to make a clear decision and either move forward or make things work.
This means step back, breathe and try to see things for how they are. Forget how you want them to be. See how they actually are.
Take this quiz to diagnose whether he is losing interest or whether he still cares (if he even cares a little bit still, this quiz will diagnose and reveal exactly what you are dealing with right now, so take this before it’s too late and his care level goes to zero.
Does he not make it a point to prioritize you? When he plans his day, does it never seem to even take you into consideration?
It’s never a good sign for any relationship or friendship when you can clearly see that you’re the last name in the rolodex. You’re a convenience not a priority, or at least it feels that way.
A good example, which I have personally witnessed, is about a guy I know. He was wavering on whether he should end a long-term relationship. He would leave for work, and would always have plans after with me, or someone, or would even just do things on his own. We all knew what was going on. All he could do was say how much he needed to “get away;” it was obvious things were sour. His actions spoke much louder than his words in this occasion, but when you’re living together it isn’t as simple as just breaking up, so it lasted a while like this.
The most they interacted for almost two months was him coming home and literally saying goodnight, then passing out. He was avoiding her at all costs, clearly, but her love for him completely put blinders on her.
To everyone it was clear as day, even to the point of her friends telling her to smarten up, and unfortunately, this woman had her heart broken. She never took the time to even confront him seriously on his absence, and thought it was just a rough patch.
Him not being remotely available and you being the last option is more than a rough patch, it’s a sign he truly is losing interest.
How can you tell the difference between a booty call and a serious intimate connection? It’s actually really simple.
Sex is different when a man cares about a woman in contrast to having sex with a random hot woman he just met at a bar; both are completely different. This illustrates that sex is not the be all end all of a relationship.
If he wants to have sex, it doesn’t mean he cares about you or that he loves you. Men view sex and love as two separate things; men can have sex without having feelings for you.
What’s important to look for is quality time, quality connection. Hanging out is enough to make him happy. Simply just being with you is more than enough, and he can’t wait to hang out. When I truly care about a woman (and this is true for most men) sex is always secondary to me. What matters is having a best friend and confidant. Someone “on my team,” in my corner.
Sex just makes that connection all the deeper. If there is no personal feelings for another person, sex is just sex. About as special as friday night alone watching porn.
If your guy only wants to have sex, and has no inclination of listening to you, or learning about you on a deeper level, and that’s clear; he doesn’t care about you as a person… If you don’t feel anything other than a man on top of you, your feelings are probably correct.
In other words, don’t trick yourself into thinking things are “more” than what they are; you will know if he cares about you.
There’s a marked difference between a relationship based off of sex, rather than a love for that individual. If you’ve had both, you’ll always know, just like you’d recognize the smell of coffee after a decade of not drinking it.
If there’s a deep personal relationship and attraction to an individual’s personality, sex is kind of like an intoxicating drug. It’s like hugging the girl you love to the enth degree. On the other hand, emotionless sex can seem like some chore, an itch you just need to scratch, nothing more (to put it crudely).
MORE: 11 Enormous Signs He’s Not Serious About You
Has he introduced you to his family? His friends? A definite sign that he doesn’t care is if he’s keeping you closeted away. I’ve found the way a guy talks about a girl to his family or friends is always a great representation of how much he cares.
If you’re totally nonexistent to his family, or rarely talked about to anyone in his inner circle, this is a major sign that he doesn’t care (and is maybe even using you) unless you have some hideous history everyone knows about and he has to love you in secret (but trust me that is rarely the case).
Just as it would be for a girl. Someone avoiding introducing you, or leaving you as a side-note to those important in their lives is most likely planning on never having to introduce you anywhere again, if you catch my drift.
This is another sign he doesn’t care. The action truly speaks for itself. Who doesn’t do something for someone they supposedly love? I would do anything for those I love, and on the contrary I can turn into a shrewd shark with those I have no interest in.
I’ll give a quick personal example to illustrate the point.
Everyone loves their mother, I think that’s just about universal. If my mom asked me to drive six hours up to San Francisco to help her get something vital, or prevent something bad from happening to her, I would do it in the blink of an eye.
If someone I didn’t like, or didn’t really care for asked me, it would be a direct and simple “no”. If the most basic of tasks are impossible for him to complete he absolutely has a waning lack of interest in you and most likely doesn’t care. Especially if he’s profiting somehow from the relationship while giving nothing in return.
If you’re always the one exerting effort to either hang out with or talk to him this is a clear and simple way to see he really isn’t feeling you.
Unless the guy is shy on the level of not being able to talk, there should definitely be some reciprocal affirmation of interest. Wait a few days, and see if he initiates anything, after a few days, make a plan and see his excitement or interest level. If he really doesn’t seem to care, or doesn’t even want to hang out. He is most likely losing interest.
This goes back to sign 4. The less a person does for you and the level of inconvenience they are willing to endure for you is a clear sign of how much anyone cares. Making your girlfriend happy is huge priority if you love them.
You not only want them to be happy. You need them to be! Making anyone happy feels good. Making the one you love happy should feel amazing. If he doesn’t care enough to make you happy he probably doesn’t care much at all.
MORE: The 9 Biggest Signs He Doesn’t Want To Be With You Anymore
Showing genuine interest in another person is an obvious sign you care about them, or want to know more. If I like someone, the first thing I want to do is get to know them, as well, and as quickly as possible.
If I truly don’t care, What’s my point in investing time and emotions to get to know somebody? You simply won’t. If he has no interest in who you are, your past etc. he most likely cares little about you.
This one is a mixed signal to me. Personally, I like my significant other to know that they are free to do whatever they want with whoever. My girlfriends have been social so why not let that flourish? There have been times in the past where my girlfriend has gone out with another guy for business etc.
My aim is to inform her to watch out for him, not the other way around. It builds a level of trust. But saying that, I still definitely cared that she was going out alone, and I would always say to be safe, or please call, and of course I’d be texting throughout.
If a guy lets you go out with whoever you want and literally has no issue, nor inclination, I’d definitely take this as a red flag.
If he does not treat you differently in the slightest, there is most likely something going on. Your significant other should and does play a special role in life, and how you treat each other should definitely reflect your connection.
For instance, at Christmas, I’ll buy my parents and sisters candies and cards, things more sentimental in value rather than monetary. For my girlfriend, on the other hand, it’s always something very special as well as expensive. Something she can really cherish. If you don’t feel important by the way he treats you, you just might not be that important to him.
This could relate to sign 8, But in a different instance. If anyone said something bad to my girlfriend, mother or sisters- man or woman, I’m coming to their defense in any way possible. The last thing I want my significant other to feel is unprotected.
It’s basically written in our male dna to want to protect our loved ones, especially our “one and only.” If your boyfriend sits idly while you get ragged on, he’s either completely not interested and totally apathetic to your feelings, or has zero testosterone. Either or, a horrible trait for a boyfriend.
Talking about each other’s future together is a major signal that someone cares. They care enough to literally bring you into their life, and must find a way to figure out things in a way that absolutely includes you.
It’s literally no different than saying, “Hey, I plan on being with you for a long time.” If you bring up future endeavors together it’s a great sign you’re in a concrete relationship. If a guy is planning on taking another path in life that doesn’t include you, you’re clearly not important.
I know of many men and women that will literally change their entire lifestyle in order to stay with someone they love. If my dad’s moving to London, you can sure as hell bet my mom’s got a ticket in the seat next to him. If his future plans don’t include you, or even worse he doesn’t even talk about your future, this is a big indication he doesn’t care, and is using you either as a stepping stone, or flotation device.
I believe everyone in a relationship should absolutely have a level of autonomy, you never want to be completely reliant on another for you needs, especially in a relationship. That is a guaranteed deal breaker. With that said, there should also be some sort of reciprocation with each other.
Being generous is a great way to show you care, especially when you have the means.
If a guy has the means and still doesn’t cough up a dime that’s probably one of the highest levels of indicating he doesn’t care. He could pay for dinner, but he’ll let you do that, because being with him is just “so special.”
If this is your case, you’re most likely dating someone who is using you, who’s also masquerading as some Gigglo or arm to hang on to. If your guy doesn’t help with a single thing (whether it is being there for you emotionally if he doesn’t have the means to contribute financially he most likely doesn’t care).
If he has the means and he’s still not paying. You are being used and abused. Dump him with a passion.
When you’re in an in depth personal relationship, serious topics will inevitably come up, and in order to move forward you must talk about them. This is a fact. You can’t let sleeping dogs lie in a relationship.
You have to crush out the problems and move forward. A good sign that someone doesn’t care is that they have no interest at all in serious topics or conversations dealing with the relationship. If he has no interest in moving the relationship forward and avoids all serious topics, the truth is he has no interest period.
Losing interest in sex is obviously a substantial issue. Everybody has their highs and lows of libido, but if sexual contact is nonexistent, feelings are probably nonexistent as well. It’s not necessarily about the sex it’s more of how the sex feels. You can have sex rarely as long as it’s great, and intimate.
If it’s rare, and when everything’s all said and done in a jiffy, while you’re sitting there wanting more, unsatisfied, there’s an obvious issue. I’m always all about the girl and making her feel happy and comfortable.
If I care about a woman, I care about her pleasure. This is true for most men.
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For me, when I know I’ve got a special connection with a woman, I don’t take the extra time to go out of my way to dress well. I’ll go to the market in PJ’s looking like a slob, in about the most unimpressive outfit ever, for example. When I’m single, I almost always dress to 9’s anywhere I go.
You never know who you’re going meet, and what your first impression will be. Not only do I not care about my appearance when I otherwise would, I literally pay zero attention to other girls. Sure, I’ll see a girl and go “she’s attractive” but that’s as far as my mind goes. It’s a chemical response to an image that can’t be controlled for either sex.
There’s no filter I’m putting up, I’m not telling myself to stop dreaming, it must be some subconscious logic. When I’m single and I see a girl I find very attractive, my mind goes “she’s attractive, how would I take her out, I wonder who she is, what she does, what would I say to her to get her attention?”
When I’m in a relationship, my mind subconsciously knows that, “hey, you know a girl really well already who’s just as attractive who you know is amazing, we’re going out tonight, and I love her to death. Wasting my effort on someone else would be a ludicrous idea.
If your guy is talking about other girls like they are somehow better, or fantasizes beyond the initial just “oh they’re attractive,” it’s a bad sign and he probably does not care about you.
If you catch your guy cheating, this is obviously an indication he’s lost interest. You pretty much only cheat when you either don’t care about that person, and or have zero respect for them. Cheating for me is a one stop shop. It happens once, I’m done.
This mentality has kept me from getting hurt many times in the past. Cheaters will cheat again, they think they’ll be able to get away with it, that’s why they did it in the first place. Also from experience, when someone you love cheats on you, or shows interest in someone else, it is honestly one of the most disheartening feelings on the planet.
So why subject yourself to that? He doesn’t care, neither should you. Find someone else, there are truly plenty of fish in the sea. Find someone who cares about you the same way you care about them.
There you go. These are the major signs and I hope you don’t take this to mean you are somehow a “bad” person. Him not caring means nothing about you as a person.
I know you might have invested a lot of time and emotional energy in this person; don’t let that fool you and trick you into thinking he is the one and only person you love. We can trick ourselves into believing we need someone in our lives because the time we invest makes it seem like we are “throwing it away” when it does not work out.
Don’t invest energy in someone who is not reciprocating. Keep your life open for someone who does care.
I look at relationships as a triple beam scale. I put things in perspective of who does what, and how taxing that action is. If someone is out of work, or in a bad spot there are still many ways to show your appreciation while trying to get back on track. It’s always important to know the truth of the matter and to be absolutely candid about your feelings and why you’re having them.
Most importantly, don’t take things personally—focus on what you can control and improving your own life.
The only person we can change is ourselves. That is a fact of life. Don’t waste time on emotions, or getting hurt for someone who doesn’t care for you.
When a guy cares for you it should be pretty obvious. Your gut feeling is almost always the best gauge for an issue going on.
If a guy seems like he cares for you he probably does, and it should show. He’ll always want to hang out, he’ll always be willing to help, he’s happy to take you out and wants to pay the bills, sex is always a happy yes and special, and when your down or being attacked, he’s there to save you like a knight in shining armor.
I know there is a huge upheaval in societal norms and what defines a man or a woman, in my mind the traditional man willing to pay and do everything for his wife remains the true sign of male affection.
Obviously a job isn’t a bad thing, I have a preference in only dating women who are professionals, I like some reciprocation too, but I feel the need to always be there. I’m happy for my girlfriend to pay for dinner, I’d just rather it be me. I’m happy to be sitting there. It’s worth the meal just getting to hang out and enjoy the time together.
If he is on the fence and trying to decide what to do about your situation, you have one thing that can make or break whether he stays or goes. If he doesn’t care right now, things will only get worse… unless you know the 1 thing that reverses all damage, implants an overwhelming obsessive desire in his mind and makes him see you as his other half. The #1 Thing Men Desire In A Woman…
If you’re looking for more warning signs:
10 Giveaway Signs He Doesn’t Want to Be With You Anymore And Doesn’t Love You
15 Guaranteed Signs He’s Never Going to Marry You
5 Signs He Doesn’t Care Enough
Top 10 Signs He Doesn’t Love You Deeply Anymore
Want to find out if he’s really losing interest?Click here to take our quick (and shockingly accurate) “Is He Losing Interest” Quiz right now and find out if he’s really losing interest in you…
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The problem with conditional relationships is that they inherently prioritize something else above the relationship. So it's not you I really care.
Regardless of how long you’ve been together, there might come a time when the mere sight of your partner will make you want to lock yourself in the bathroom indefinitely. But if you think that feeling can disappear with a simple text from the other room (sometimes all it takes is a wine glass emoji), then the odds are your tiff isn’t a symptom of an unraveling relationship and you can have a happy union. But determining the difference between a standard “rough patch” and a persisting problem that has you wondering if it's normal to "hate" your husband (or wife) isn’t always so simple. These are the signs that you might be in a loveless marriage. Plus, tips on what to do if you're interested in trying to restore it.
“An unhappy marriage chronically feels bad. It’s like a cold that lingers, leaving you drained and vulnerable,” explains Paul Hokemeyer, J.D., Ph.D. "Symptoms can include severe headaches, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, neck, and back pain. Many of my patients who suffer from depression claim they're constantly fatigued, while those who have anxiety report insomnia. I even treated one middle aged woman who carried such anger towards her husband that she often felt her skin was crawling with ants."
In his over 40 years of research, Dr. John Gottman—psychological researcher and author The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work—found that couples in lasting relationships have five positive interactions for every negative one. He calls this the “magic ratio.” And Robin Milhausen, PhD, Associate Chair, Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition at the University of Guelph, suggests asking yourself how many of your conversations are ripe with barbs and snark. "If you’re snapping at each other more often than not," she says, "it's likely time to do some reflecting."
We all get cranky. (Hello, would it kill you to choose the restaurant for once?) But you need to determine if your frustration is stemming from an actual lack of respect for your plus one, or if you’re just having a bad day. “If you find yourself using terms like ‘never’ and ‘always,’ as in ‘you never help me clean,’ or ‘you always forget to help,’ you’re not just criticizing your partner—you’re assassinating their character,” explains Milhausen.
“The way you criticize is the first thing to look out for. Of course we’re all going to complain, but there are ways to complain that aren’t personal attacks.” Instead, she suggests making an effort to use “I” messages, like, “I feel neglected when you care more about reddit than what I have to say,” instead of “you’re a terrible listener.”
Couples who have unresolved, persistent conflict, and a pattern of low-grade hostility even when they're not fighting, quickly stop viewing the other person as a source of comfort, support, or partnership. They stop treating each other like friends: Planning fun things, confiding in each other, sharing their feelings, or even talking about their day. They pull back—often due to a (realistic) fear of being rejected or attacked if they're too vulnerable, says Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, PhD, licensed psychologist and marriage and family therapist and author of Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to an Ex Love.
When you roll your eyes more than a tween does at a bad dad joke and you respond to each other with sarcasm (no, not the funny John Oliver kind), your marriage might be in trouble, says Milhausen. Sheadds that contempt usually stems from a relationship rupture—infidelity, secrecy, or another transgression. “Contempt is hard to come back from,” she explains. “It’s not ethical to behave in hurtful, cruel ways with your partner, and you shouldn't be treated that way either.” If you’re willing to work through the issue that’s at the root of this disgust, there’s hope, Milhausen says. But remember: You can’t cure contempt without discovering what started it.
Whenever you raise a concern, does your significant other immediately throw back an excuse without taking responsibility for anything? “That's another indication that your marriage might not last," says Milhausen. "You need everyone at the table acknowledging their own your part in the problems. When you’re defensive, there’s nowhere to build."
If your partner isn’t willing to talk about your difficulties then you won’t be able to fix them. Solving problems takes work, which means both team members need to contribute, even if you perceive one person to be at fault for your issues. You need to decide together if you’re invested enough to resolve what’s broken, says Milhausen.
Do you find yourself lingering longer at the office than you have to, or spending extra time aimlessly roaming the aisles of Target just so you don't have to go home? When you're supposed to be enjoying a Netflix binge, are you both zoning out on your phones, or going to bed at different times? These could be subconscious signals that you're unsatisfied, says relationship therapist and sex researcher Sarah Hunter Murray, PhD.
“While most satisfied couples do have sex somewhat regularly—whether that means once a week or every few weeks—the key component is not how often couples have sex, but whether both partners are in agreement about the frequency," Murray says. "If you're each comfortable having sex once every few months, that doesn't necessarily mean there's anything wrong with the relationship, as long as you're connecting in other ways." Read: don’t underestimate the power of a good cuddle.
When relationship conflict isn't resolved and becomes increasingly toxic, people start to feel helpless. You don't know how it will change, and can't see a path forward. "So instead of communicating, you begin thinking about how else you can resolve the problem. Often, the easiest answer seems to be to disengage. (It is not actually that easy to divorce, as many couples come to find later)."
You may start to fantasize about what life would be like if you lived apart. The vacations you'd take, the way you would spend your time, how you would parent...alone. "These daydreams often make people feel a little excited and hopeful, in contrast to the anger and hopelessness they feel about their marriage," Bobby explains.
If the relationship is truly in a bad way, "Often, couples will look to milestones like the kids being out of the house as the point where they can finally be released. Other people wait for financial circumstances like a new job, a certain amount in savings or other material securities to come to fruition. However, they are counting down the days before the key unlocks the door that swings open towards freedom," Bobby says.
"Couples who care, still fight. Counterintuitive, but true," says Bobby. "Interestingly, when relationships are at death's door, fighting often stops. There is no longer active conflict because people have given up believing that change is possible. They have been hurt, frustrated, and disappointed so often that they have gotten the message: It doesn't matter what they do or say. So, they stop."
Do you essentially feel numb? "In a loveless marriage, conflict and active hostility are replaced by a frosty calm. People say please and thank you, they work as functional teams to parent and maintain a home, but they themselves are no longer part of the equation in an emotional sense," explains Bobby. "They no longer put in effort to be friends, show vulnerability, or give or receive compassion. Their partner has, on an emotional level, become the equivalent of a potentially unstable roommate that is best avoided."
"Once a couple is passed a certain point of damage, they develop different (and permanent) stories about each other, and about the relationship itself," says Bobby. For example, they start attributing their relationship problems to an enduring character trait of their partner, like "they're a narcissist" or "emotionally unstable because of their family."
In their mind, their partner becomes an intrinsically flawed person who isn't able to love, or ever have a healthy relationship. Furthermore, the way they think about the entirety of their relationship changes. If asked to tell the 'story of us' they will often begin by focusing on negative aspects of their early partnership: the red flags they see, in retrospect, instead of the sweet anecdote about when they initially locked eyes on each other, Bobby explains.
As you grow more distant and change your fundamental perspective of each other, there might be a sense of repulsion, or at the very least, discomfort, when you're together. You may feel like "yourself" when you're away, be it at work, with friends, or even alone. "When your partner comes back into the picture, it's like putting on an itchy sweater... you're inhibited, careful, wary, and uncomfortable," says Bobby.
"In earlier states of relationship distress, couples may have fought for change, implored each other to see their point of view, and at least attempted a compromise. When a relationship is in the final stages of coming apart, people simply do their own thing without regard for what their partner might want or prefer. They make plans without checking in, they make large purchases without consent, they parent unilaterally. If they believe their partner will be unhappy with their decisions, they conceal them," explains Bobby.
But, take your circumstances into account.
Ask yourself if your behavior (or your spouse’s) is stemming from a particular stressor in your lives, like having to care for a sick parent. “If that's the case, go a little easy on yourself and your mate. You might just be using your relationship as an outlet," says Murray. "On the other hand, if everything else in your life seems fine, but you're still not at ease with your partner, it could be a signal that something in your relationship needs addressing."
"You may see new sides of your partner in times of extreme stress,” Milhausen adds. "If you can give your partner the benefit of the doubt while you’re navigating this tough time, then there’s hope. But if you don’t consider the contextual factors which might be triggering their behavior, and you believe their actions are the result of a flawed personality trait, that’s problematic."
Yes, but first you have to fix yourself. “Work on your own mental health,” advises Murray. “Our relationships can be an outlet where we unleash our frustrations and anger on our most important, safest person. Make sure that you're doing your own work to keep your anxiety, stress, and anger in check." Find what helps you, whether that's exercise, meditation (that is, if you have the patience) or a poignant self-help book. “If you're functioning at your best, you'll have a clearer mind to decide if this relationship has a future or not,” she says.
You can try communicating, with or without a therapist, but if your heart’s not in it anymore, there’s no quick-and-easy fix. “If your partner's touch makes you recoil, a date night won’t make that better,” says Milhausen.
“Not all relationships are meant to be forever. In fact, most are not," Milhausen says. "We grow and change based on the challenges that are thrown at us. It’s unrealistic that the person we meet when we’re 20 is going to be the person we need at 50."
Though this initially might sound pretty bleak, Milhausen adds: "Relationships can bring something great to our lives, even if it’s only for a certain period of time. You get to make memories, experience deep love, and when that ends, you can move on to feel that way with another partner who'll meet your new needs." And don't forget: You can also do just fine all by yourself.
Once respect is gone, you lose the foundation to rebuild your relationship.
Not all marriages are meant to be forever—and that's okay.
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