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Every relationship goes through its fair share of ups and downs. No matter how connected you are, or how well things have gone in the past, you’re never going to have smooth sailing together 100% of the time. Usually, rough patches are nothing to worry about, but occasionally, they may signal a deeper disconnect between you and your partner. If your relationship is in crisis mode, you probably need to do some soul-searching about whether it’s meant to be.
First of all, it’s important to realize there’s a difference between a bad day or week and a long-term change in behavior. “All couples go through peaks and valleys and bumps on the road,” online dating expert Julie Spira told Elite Daily. “It’s not unusual for someone to have a bad day at work and feel grumpy, but if you feel over days or weeks that you’re not in sync and that your regular flow has been interrupted or diluted, it’s a sign your relationship is off track.” At that point, you’ll need to think about whether you want to fix things and stay together, or whether it’s best to end the relationship and move on. There’s no set formula for making this decision, so don’t feel like you have to make a choice right away — but you should take note of these signs that your relationship is in major SOS territory.
1. YOU’VE LOST TOUCH WITH EACH OTHER PHYSICALLY
It’s one thing to have a brief period where you’re not having sex as often as you normally do (maybe one or both partners are busy or stressed), but if this has become a regular pattern over the course of weeks or months, it’s a problem. “When your romantic time or sex starts to wane, it’s a sign that your partner isn’t feeling connected with you,” Spira said. One way to fix this? Schedule sexy time into the calendar! Even if you’re not in the mood, it’s important to stay physically connected to your partner. This doesn’t mean you should have sex when you don’t want to — enthusiastic consent is always key — but it does mean you should talk about why things have changed. Making intimacy a priority can help keep the spark alive in your relationship.
2. YOU DON’T WANT TO SPEND TIME TOGETHER
In a stable relationship, both partners care deeply about spending time together as a couple. This doesn’t mean you have to spend every waking moment hanging out with bae, but you should be excited about the time you do get to spend with him or her. “When your regular date nights are canceled and not being rescheduled, it’s a sign that your relationship isn’t a priority,” Spira explained. If you find yourself constantly trying to do anything else other than hang out with your SO, it probably means you’re super disconnected.
3. YOUR CONVERSATIONS ARE SURFACE LEVEL
If you find yourself unable to talk about vulnerabilities and insecurities the way you used to, it means one of both of you are pulling away emotionally. Perhaps you’ve noticed yourself or your partner shutting down whenever serious subjects are brought up (about the future, about relationship conflicts, or about your bond as a couple). “When conversations that used to flow end up with abrupt ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers,” Spira explains, it’s a sign that things aren’t going well. You’ve stopped being each other’s confidante — a crucial indicator that your bond might be fading.
4. YOU FIGHT… A LOT
Fights are to be expected in any relationship that’s past the honeymoon phase, but there’s a difference between healthy and unhealthy conflict. “When a couple fights, the more they display contempt, stonewalling, criticism, and defensiveness, the less likely they are to sustain a close and loving relationship,” explained sex and intimacy coach Irene Fehr. If you want to stay together, you might need to address the root causes of these fights in order to move past them.
5. YOU DON’T TRUST EACH OTHER LIKE YOU USED TO
Maybe something specific happened to ruin the trust in your relationship, or maybe it started to fade away when you stopped communicating. Either way, if you find yourself stressed out when your partner is spending time away from you, or if you get jealous when they’re out with their friends, it could signal a lack of trust. “Consult with a therapist or relationship coach who can help you facilitate these conversations and explore places of alignment and misalignment, as well as learn to repair and heal hurt feelings to be able to sustain the relationship,” Fehr suggested. With expert help, you can work to repair the wounds and start to heal.
6. YOU BOTH MAKE BIG DECISIONS WITHOUT DISCUSSING THEM FIRST
Do you feel like you’re not really a factor in the decisions your partner is making, or are you making major life choices without even telling them first? It’s never fun for either partner to feel like they’re not a priority. “If they’re not consulting you with decisions, [or] they go and take a weekend away, and they don’t even tell you, you’re an afterthought,” explained dating expert and matchmaker Stefanie Safran. Even when you have your own lives and agendas (as you should!), it’s important to clue each other in when you’re making a big change.
7. YOU’RE CONSTANTLY VENTING TO YOUR FRIENDS ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIP
If you’re so fed up with bae that you count down the days until you can vent to your besties, that’s not good. Obviously, your friends are there for you when you want to talk things out, but if you’re always complaining to them about how you’re unhappy, it means you’re not in a healthy place. “If you’re constantly venting to your friends about your [boyfriend/girlfriend], chances are you know something isn’t right and you’re seeking validation,” explained behavioral scientist Clarissa Silva. Deep down, you probably know there’s a problem, but you might not be ready to admit it to yourself yet.
If more than one of these signs applies to you, take a step back and think about what you want out of this relationship. Are you in it for the long haul, and committed to making things work? If so, individual or couples’ therapy can help you sort through your relationship struggles in a useful and productive way. And if you decide you need to break things off, that’s OK, too — sometimes ending a relationship is the best thing you can do for your happiness. Whatever you decide, know that you deserve to have a love that makes you feel encouraged and strong.
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