If Your Partner Is Talking About This, They May Want to Break Up, Therapists Say
They could be sending you a clear signal that they're unhappy in the relationship.
One of the biggest joys of a marriage is the memories that you make together. These can include romantic vacations, your wedding day, or the birth of your children. There's nothing quite like scrolling through old photographs and videos and remembering the good times that you've shared. But if you've been reminiscing lately and your partner is acting differently, it could be a sign that something is amiss. In fact, partner may be telling you—however subtly—that they're unhappy, therapists say. Read on to find out about the sign your loved one might be ready to break up.
Your partner could be sending you a range of signs.
It's important to pay attention to subtle changes in your relationship, as they can often indicate that something isn't right.
Your partner might be expressing a desire to break up through their body language, or they may start asking you certain questions that suggest they're looking for a way out. They might even start using the word "I" more, a Feb. 2021 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found.
But therapists suggest that there's yet another thing your partner might be saying that signals trouble in paradise, and it has to do with your shared experiences.
You'll notice your partner doing this in conversation.
Happy memories should be just that: happy. But if your partner is looking for a way out of the relationship, they may offer a different opinion on them.
"Your partner might start speaking about a previously happy memory differently for a variety of reasons," Beth Ribarsky, PhD, professor of interpersonal communication at the University of Illinois Springfield, tells Best Life. "The first reason that may jump in your brain is that they're unhappy with you or the relationship … and unfortunately, this might be true. When we are unhappy with an individual, we are more likely to perceive anything they do in a more negative manner."
Nancy Landrum, MA, author and relationship coach, agrees. She notes that some partners will look for ways to explain and provide a reason for their discontent. "When someone is unhappy, one of the things they sometimes do is rewrite history to justify their unhappiness," Landrum says. "So an event that at one time brought happiness, is reinterpreted in a negative way to support their current feelings of discontent."
This desire to break up could be conscious or unconscious, according to David Helfand, PsyD, a licensed psychologist specializing in couples therapy, neurofeedback, and brain mapping. However, he warns against drawing conclusions about your partner without fully assessing the relationship.
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There are other reasons your partner may be speaking negatively.
While it's a possibility that your partner could be manipulating these memories because they no longer want to be together, that's not the only reason.
Your partner may have had mixed feelings at the time. They might not have been as happy as you thought, and those feelings can fester. "Over time, the negative feelings may be magnified, causing the happy feelings of that memory to be dismissed or diminished," Landrum says.
Ribarsky also cites this as a possibility, explaining that your partner might not have had the same experience as you and just "never voiced their different experience before."
Your partner could also be feeling external pressures, Ribarsky explains, which can impact how they speak and interact with you. "Perhaps they're under a lot of stress at work or they're going through a bout of depression. When our brains are already filled with negativity or stress, it is easy to drop a cloud of negativity over anything and everything—even the most happy of experiences," she says.
Communication is key.
It can be surprising and unsettling to hear your partner talk negatively, but as difficult as it may be, talking it out is probably your best bet. "If you're sensing this negativity, this is a key opportunity to open up the lines of communication," Ribarsky says. "Failing to talk about what you're perceiving/feeling can send you down a path of overthinking and even resentment."
Getting defensive won't be productive either, and Landrum recommends helping your partner address their needs rather than trying to convince them that they're remembering things incorrectly.
"Ask your partner if anything is wrong. Or, say, 'I thought you really enjoyed X. Is there something bothering you?'" Ribarsky recommends. "Only through open communication can we begin to address the underlying issues."
If you truly find yourself at a stalemate or unable to work through your individual experiences, Landrum advises seeking out "a neutral third party, a therapist or coach, who can listen and piece together the whole picture."