27 Subtle Signs That Will Predict the End of Your Relationship
Blink and you'll miss them.
When it comes to relationships, some signs spell certain doom. Every conversation is a barrage of insults and cursing. Someone sleeps on the couch more often than in the bed. There’s cheating.
But not every relationship nosedive is so clearly written out. Some tells, in fact, are more subtle than a mouse—and that doesn’t mean they’re any less significant. Here, straight from psychologists and other relationship experts, are the surefire warning signs to watch out for.
1. Physical Contact Has Become a Rarity
Cuddling, snuggling, spooning, and the like are a mainstay of healthy relationships—in part because there’s some serious chemistry at work. This sort of physical contact releases oxytocin, a hormone that is excellent for the heart and makes you feel connected to your partner. It drops levels of cortisol, the so-called “stress hormone,” and triggers dopamine, the pleasure hormone. If you start to notice that you and your partner are clocking up less time in a clinch, it could be an unconscious body language cue that your time together is up.
2. Cher Was Right: It’s In the Kiss
“Kissing is an emotional, biological, and physiological boost,” body language expert Tonya Reiman explained to INSIDER, “[and so] if your partner kisses you with less enthusiasm, it’s a red flag.”
3. Monosyllabic Grunts Are the New Normal
Sure, brevity is the soul of wit, but when your partner talks to you like he or she is being charged by the syllable, it can be a strong sign that all is not well. While it’s possible that your significant other could be stressed or busy, an often agitated and aggressive tone could mean that you are the source of their anger—even if you did nothing to deserve it.
4. You No Longer Share Yuks
Everyone knows that laughter is the best medicine. If there’s very little of it in your relationship, your partnership could be ailing. “If you’ve come to notice that you no longer laugh as you used to and there seems to be very little joy in the relationship, it’s not a good sign. As a couple, your emotional life has flatlined,” best-selling author and relationships expert Susan Winter told INSIDER.
5. You’re Seeing What’s out There
It’s good to know that you’ve still got it and have options, but if you’re spending too much time thinking about what it would be like to be with someone—or anyone—else, it’s cause for concern. “The thought of being with someone new is an exciting concept,” says Winter. “Though there’s a tinge of guilt, your interest in others has become a regular occurrence. That’s not a good thing for the relationship.”
6. You Feel Lonely—Even When You’re Together
If you’re not feeling supported or loved, it can profoundly impact how you’re feeling in your relationship. “If you feel alone even when you are together and you feel like your partner doesn’t have your back, it’s incredibly lonely,” says Sonya Kreizman, the co-founder and CEO of JCrush, a dating app for Jewish singles.
7. The Fighting Has Completely Stopped
While constant arguing is no bueno in a relationship, you should be able to muster up the energy to engage in healthy debate with your partner over a hot-button issue. Small disagreements help you grow as a couple, making you both happier in the relationship in the long run.
“Co-existing is a silent killer,” says Kreizman. “When both of you become indifferent and agreeable instead of fighting with passion for what you believe should change in the relationship, it’s a sign the relationship might be heading towards its end.” Some small disagreements help you grow as a couple, making you both happier in the relationship in the long run.
8. You See Your Relationship As An Obligation
According to a 2016 study published in Current Psychology, people are more likely to stay in relationships that they’ve already invested time and effort in. It’s the relationship version of the investment phenomenon referred to as “sunk cost effect.” A prior investment leads to a continuous investment, even when the decision doesn’t make you happy. If your relationship feels like a bad bet that you’re doubling down on, it’s time to fold ‘em—not hold ‘em.
9. You Keep Your Distance
People who like each other don’t have problems being in close physical proximity to each other. If you and your partner are drifting apart, you’re much less likely to position yourself close to them.
10. You’re Literally out of Sync
Often, happy couples in great relationships talk about being “in sync” with one another. Well, it turns out that being figuratively in lock-step with your partner can manifest itself literally. As Patti Wood, a body language expert and author of SNAP: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language, and Charisma, told Good Housekeeping, “The goal is for couples to walk with their feet side by side on an invisible line. When this walking pattern is disrupted, it indicates that there is a disconnect between the couple.”
11. You Pat Each Other’s Backs
There’s a time and a place for a pat on the back (for example, after you hit a home run in an interoffice softball game). The back pat is a perennial gesture of encouragement. Here’s what a back pat is not: Sexy.
When a romantic partner is always giving you pats on the back as opposed to intimate embraces, it could spell doom for your relationship. “If your partner begins to pat you on the back during a hug, it immediately desexualizes it,” says Wood. “Let’s face it, you and your partner aren’t just teammates.”
12. You’re Throwing up Hand Signs
Did you know that if your partner favors their left hand over their right when making gestures, it could mean that things aren’t in the best place? “Too many left-handed gestures are associated with someone being uncomfortable with what they’re saying to you,” body language expert Jan Hargrave explained to ABC 13. If you notice your partner is using their left hand more, things certainly aren’t going right. Take heed!
13. Your Pupils Don’t Dilate for Each Other
Enduring sexual attraction is important for most healthy, long-term relationships to stand the test of time. When it comes to figuring it out if you still have the hots for each other, look to the eyes. “When you’re sexually attracted to someone, your pupils will dilate in a moment of intimacy,” says Wood. “It happens subconsciously, so it’s a good indicator of your significant other’s interest in you.”
14. You Treat Each Other With a Light Touch
“When a relationship is troubled, or there is not that much emotional commitment, we tend to touch only with our fingertips or touch ever so briefly,” writes Joe Navarro, a body language expert and author of Dating: Body Language Basics. “This is called ‘distal touching’ and is our subconscious way of touching those we dislike or can barely tolerate. When you or your partner begins to touch less—or merely with the fingertips—loving sentiments have probably been withdrawn.”
15. You’re Constantly Distracted
It’s hard to hang on your partner’s every word years into a relationship. But if your thing is going to last, you should be able to get through a conversation without looking at your watch or scrolling through your Instagram feed. Once spending time with a partner feels like an imposition, rather than something to enjoy, there are more significant issues at play.
16. You Want “Me Time” Most of the Time
Having some space and snagging some alone time is healthy. But when you’re actively avoiding spending time or sharing space with your partner, the jig’s up, friend. “If it feels like your mate values everyone and everything over you and they don’t make the time for the things that are important to you, despite your efforts in effective communication, that’s a huge issue,” says Winter.
17. You Furrow Your Brows
Research from The Gottman Institute suggests that contempt is one of the leading causes of divorce. “Contempt is the most destructive negative behavior within relationships, whether overt or covert. Essentially, contempt behaviors communicate to your partner, ‘I’m better than you, and I don’t care about your perspective,’” says sex therapist Erika Miley, M.Ed., LMHC. “Contempt is often the result of negative thoughts about your partner over time.”
One of the clearest indicators of such criticism? Furrowed brows.
18. You Roll Your Eyes
Another display of contempt? Eye-rolling. According to Janice Kiecolt-Glaser from Ohio State University, regularly rolling your eyes is a powerful indication that the relationship may need outside help. Stopping the eye-rolling is the first step, but getting at the reasons behind it is an essential move for solidifying your bond.
19. You Imagine Divorce—a Lot
If a fight with your partner is all it takes to start thinking about pushing the eject button, things may be unsalvageable.
20. You’d Rather Be Doing Anything Else
Do you and your partner relish your respective reviews of the day’s events? If they tend to fidget, play with their phone, or worse, completely ignore you, the signs that you’ll be attending your Silver Wedding Party may be slim.
21. You’re Actively Looking to Sweat the Small Stuff
“When couples seem to be arguing over the most insignificant things, they are probably looking for that proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back,” says Lawrence Siegel, a clinical sexologist and founder of the Sage Institute for Family Development. “At this point, there’s often a lot of passive-aggressive behavior creeping in like subtle little jabs to push him or her away. There’s so much resentment built up that it’s tough to come back.”
22. You Purse Your Lips When You Talk
Next time you’re having a robust discussion with your partner, don’t just focus on what’s coming out of your mouth but what you’re doing with it. “[Pursed lips] can indicate extreme anxiety, withholding information, and withholding aggression,” writes Patti Wood on her blog. “When you are nervous, your mouth becomes dry, and you lick your lips and swallow as you struggle to find the right words to say.”
23. You Resist The idea Of Going To Therapy
If your relationship is crumbling before your very eyes, and one or both of you shows little interest in trying to save it, it’s a surefire sign your time together is up. Refusing to get therapy all but says: “I’m not willing to fix this.” Stick a fork in your relationship. It’s done.
24. Your Politics Don’t Align
There have been plenty of eras in which holding opposing political views to your partner was totally fine. In 2019, however, it’s hard to see how two people on the extremes of the political spectrum could see eye-to-eye.
25. Your Libidos Aren’t Matching Up
When it comes to predicting relationship failure, mismatched libidos can often be a canary in the coal mine. “I would say, as a licensed marriage therapist and sex therapist, that couples are severely challenged when there’s a libido gap that cannot be bridged,” says Ian Kerner, Ph.D., licensed marriage and family therapist and, author of She Comes First. “When one partner feels persistently rejected, and the other partner feels persistently pressured, it’s a recipe for failure. I’ve seen many relationships fail due to desire discrepancy.”
26. All of Your Leisure Activities Happen Separately
Couples in healthy relationships watch TV together, go out together, and play video games together. In short, they love each other’s company. If all leisure activities happen separately or require the use of earphones, it’s bad news.
27. You Already Know the Truth
Denial. As they say, it’s not just a river in Egypt. And if part of you knows that things are in a tailspin, it’s time to cut ties. Says Kreizman: “If your instinct or gut keeps you feeling worried, it’s a huge sign that something is up and needs to be dealt with by getting out of this negative mental space.”