Many of us can relate to this story:
They seemed like the perfect couple who had it all. All of their friends marveled how much in common they had and how in love they were with each other. Therefore, it was a shock when they suddenly announced they had split. The man/woman said they were completely blindsided by the news. However, the woman/man said there had been problems for awhile, and the other party just didn’t want to see them.
Maybe the above sounds like someone you know—perhaps you were once in that very situation yourself.
As I mentioned in a previous post, it seems that summer is the time more than other time of the year that new relationships begin and others end. For those that fall into the latter, there is no right way or guide to follow on how to heal and move on from a broken relationship.
However, there are some signs that may send the warning to you that things may be about to end or that the relationship is in serious trouble. While nothing can ever fully prepare you, I believe it is far better to have some warning and some idea of how you’re going to cope than to just get the announcement out of the blue.
Therefore, be aware if one or more of the following is happening in your current relationship:
1. Your partner has taken up a new activity or interest that involves spending a lot of time away from you.
I think it’s not just great but essential to any relationship for each person to have their own hobbies and interests. If your partner was into yoga, golfing, photography, etc. before you hooked up, then you’re probably already use to them taking some time alone to devote to their interests.
However, if all the sudden they take up a new activity and start spending a lot of time away, it may be warning sign. It could be that rather than really being into their new hobby, they are using it as an excuse to be away from you. Another telling sign could be if you genuinely express interest in your partner’s new interest and suggest taking a class or doing an activity together, and they make it very clear that they don’t want you involved.
2. Your partner is making biting comments about you in front of other people.
Recently, a close friend shared that he was at a get together, and his sister-in-law made a “joke” about how his brother no longer sexually satisfied her. The brother appeared somewhat embarrassed but nonetheless laughed awkwardly at the joke.
While situations like the above can make for hilarious sitcom fodder, in real life they tend to be a thousand shades of awkward. Granted, for some couples, “insults” are a way to convey genuine affection but for many, this can be a sign that things are not going well.
If you should ever find yourself in a situation like that, ask yourself what the circumstances were: did your partner say this in front of close friends, or were these people you both barely knew? Is this one of your triggers that your partner knows upsets you? (For example, some people may not mind taunts about their cooking but if mention, say, their weight then this will cause them to get upset.)
When in doubt, ask your partner why s/he said that. Try to be calm. It may be helpful to wait until some time has passed. You may say something like, “Last night when we were at the Smiths, you made a joke about me being boring in bed. What prompted that?”
It’s more likely you’ll get a honest answer than if you are shaking with rage and start by saying, “Last night, you hurt my feelings with that comment! What the hell were you thinking?”
3. Your partner suggests “opening” up your relationship despite the fact that neither of you has suggested it before.
Full disclosure: I have no problem with whatever sort of relationships consenting adults agree to get into. If you want to be polyamorous, then best of luck with that.
However, based on what I have read as a research assistant to a retired biology professor who studied human sexuality for years, it is far more challenging for couples to go from being in a monogamous relationship to a polyamorous one. In my own experience with people where this happened, one partner wanted it while the other was ambivalent or only agreed to it so as not to lose the other. In the three cases I have known, all of the relationships ended and the partner who suggested opening up the relationship went on to someone else.
While it isn’t always the case, asking to open up the relationship could be a sign that the other person has met someone else and is either already having sex with them or is wanting your permission to do so. (I know a woman whose now-ex-husband suggested they open their marriage shortly after he suggested they pack up and leave Virginia to live in a town in the Pacific Northwest neither of them had ever visited. As it turns out, he met someone else at a conference who lived there.)
Ask your partner what brought this up and don’t let them wiggle off the hook by saying they read an article or book claiming that monogamy was unnatural and jealousy is a learned emotion. That may be true or not, but that isn’t saying anything about your current relationship or why your partner wants the option to be with other people.
If you decide to go for this, then be aware of the very real possibility that you or your partner may end up with other people even if the two of you vow to stay together no matter what. Make sure you are making this choice because you want to and not because you are being made to feel guilty or close-minded for not going along. There are probably many of people who are or would be very happy polygamists, but you may not ever one of them for any number of reasons.
4. Your partner undergoes a radical makeover.
I’m not talking about a new haircut or switching from bootcut jeans to skinnies although often times people who are getting ready to leave a relationship do change their appearance.
I am talking about a change in overall attitude and lifestyle. Say for example your spouse was always a shy guy prepster and all the sudden he becomes an “alpha male type” who starts asserting him more at home and work and swaps the khakis for a biker look.
Or say your wife was never the type to care about designer labels or brands and all the sudden is buying a lot of expensive things for the home and lamenting that compared to others, your lifestyle is subpar. Or maybe the opposite happens: your once style-conscious spouse starts to give away large amounts of stuff and says numerous times that money cannot buy happiness.
If any of this is occurring, it may very well mean that they are planning a new life without you.
5. Your gut tells you something is off.
Never underestimate that gut feeling. Nothing on this list may be applicable to your situation, friends and relatives may tell you everything is fine, but if something seems wrong, then it may be the case.
If that’s the case, it’s better to speak up even if it is only for your own peace of mind. Pushing it away and pretending all is well will often just keep these fears growing and festering.
In closing, relationships are difficult to maintain-period. Even good, healthy ones have rough patches. There may be one or more things on this list that pertains to yours, but that doesn’t mean it is doomed to fail.
However, if it does seem like it’s only a matter of time that your partner is going to quit your relationship, it is better to talk about and discuss your options. Professional help may be an option and while breaking up is always hard to do, I believe that whenever possible, one should try to leave with some integrity and not leave the other shell-shocked. This is especially true if there are children involved, and the two of you are going to be part of each others’ lives in some way forever.
If you are the one being left, then remember to take whatever care you need to in order to comfort yourself. You may be sick of cliches, but it is true that time has a tendency to heal most wounds. In the long run, perhaps that other person did you a favor even though neither of you were aware of it at the time.
Do this if things are tough in your relationship:
Author: Kimberly Lo
Ed: Bryonie Wise