You and your partner were all smiles and passion at the beginning of your relationship. After some time, though, those euphoric feelings faded, and you've now found yourself reminiscing on the good times instead of looking forward to the future. If this sounds like you, you may be wondering: Am I falling out of love?
"When we leave the honeymoon phase, the rose-colored glasses we’ve worn up until that point begin to fade away, and for the first time, we see our areas of difference. This is natural," says relationship expert Chanel Dokun, cofounder of Healthy Minds NYC. "But when we’re truly falling out of love, the negative begins to outweigh the positive."
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Unlike leaving the honeymoon phase of a relationship, which is an important step in taking your partnership to the next level, falling out of love means seeing the negative aspects of the person and not being able to move past them. When falling out of love, "We often become fixated on our differences, unable to find any common ground, and the flaws our partner has are no longer viewed as opportunities for growth but major character flaws," says Dokun.
Keep in mind that if you feel like you're falling out of love, it doesn't mean you don't care about your partner; it just means those intense feelings you used to experience aren't quite there anymore. You may feel pangs of guilt about your faded feelings, but that doesn't mean you should stay in a relationship that doesn't bring you joy. Even if you don't want to hurt the person, it's imperative that you listen to your heart and do what's best for you and your partner.
If you're wondering whether or not you're falling out of love with your partner, be on the lookout for these eight signs.
You’re Not Excited to Spend Time Together
If you were inseparable at the beginning of your relationship but no longer look forward to spending quality time with your partner, it may be a sign that you're falling out of love. On one hand, giving each other more space can be healthy. But if you find yourself eagerly making plans with anyone and everyone yet dreading an upcoming dinner date with your partner, it's time to reconsider your feelings.
It's nothing to feel guilty about, but it is an opportunity to reflect on your relationship—and yourself—to determine whether you're truly falling out of love. Evaluate what could be the driving force behind this change of heart, says Dokun. For example, "Lack of desire to see a partner could be indicative of a personal insecurity or fear of becoming too attached," she says.
You’re Not Open With Your Partner
When you feel comfortable sharing your innermost thoughts with another person, it's exciting. Opening up is an excellent way to connect with someone, so if you were once completely forthright and honest with your partner but are suddenly not interested in discussing what's on your mind, that's a red flag.
Worse, if you find your desire to share growing smaller and smaller to the point where you stop communicating with them altogether—also known as "stonewalling"—it's a sign that your relationship is becoming irreparable, says Dokun. Connecting with someone you're dating is a huge part of any successful relationship, so if you're walking away from conversations, not making eye contact, or refusing to discuss your feelings, it might be time to sever ties.
You Seek Out Opportunities to Avoid Your Partner
Besides no longer getting excited to spend time together, you may find yourself flat-out avoiding your partner. You may stay late at work, see movies or eat dinner by yourself, or even take the long way home to avoid being with your partner for a moment longer than you have to. When you’re actively finding ways to be without your significant other, it’s clear that either your feelings for that person have changed, or you aren't getting what you need out of the relationship.
If you find yourself avoiding your partner, take a step back and think about why. Once you've come to terms with your perspective, initiate an honest conversation. Ask your partner for what you need in order to strengthen your emotional experience together, if you feel your relationship still has potential,
You Choose Silent Contempt Over Disagreements
No one likes to argue, but sometimes you have to in order to strengthen your bond. Expressing and working through anger and hurt is crucial to maintaining a healthy partnership. Otherwise, your negative emotions will build into contempt—another major relationship killer, says Dokun—and it will sour every interaction you have with your partner. If you constantly keep quiet about the things they do that annoy or upset you instead of having discussions about them, your contempt may take over and slowly eat away at your relationship until its breaking point. This is a telltale sign you're falling out of love.
You Feel Uncertain About Your Future With Them
If you're unsure if you're falling out of love, ask yourself how you feel about your future as a couple. If you feel unhappy, trapped, or scared at the idea of being with your partner for the long haul, it's time to have a conversation with them. First, "Process your feelings through journaling, meditation, or even speaking with a neutral party, like a therapist," says Dokun. When you sit down to talk to your partner, "Simply state what you feel, and the concerns you’re having about what this could mean for your future together."
Not looking forward to a future with your partner could be a clear indication of your faded feelings, but it could also be more complicated than that. "Feeling hopeless about the future could be that you’ve missed out on having meaningful conversations to this point and you’re unaware of your partner’s desires," says Dokun. It doesn't always mean you are no longer in love, but it's definitely a sign you should open a line of communication.
You’re Longing for Someone (or Something) Else
If you've been in a monogamous relationship with your partner for a long time, it's totally normal for you to develop a crush on someone else—as long as you don't act on it. After all, you're only human, and you can't help but find other people attractive. Your innocent crush can become a problem, though, if it minimizes your desire for your partner. If you find yourself thinking about all the things you could do and people you could meet if only you weren't in a relationship, it might be a sign you've fallen out of love.
When someone falls out of love, "They begin to shift their perspective from 'we' back to 'me,' primarily concerned with protecting their own needs, pursuing their own interests (at the expense of their partner), and building up distance or possibly resentment within the relationship," says Dokun. Constantly fantasizing about being with other people or intensely craving new experiences is a sign that you're no longer fully invested in your partner.
You're Overly Defensive
Dokun references Drs. John and Julie Gottman's theory of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse," or four dynamics that will bring a relationship to its demise: criticism, stonewalling, defensiveness, and contempt. We've already touched on stonewalling and contempt; defensiveness is another harmful communication tactic that shows you no longer see your partner in a positive light. Being defensive means shifting blame onto your partner in every situation as a response to feeling criticized or accused.
When you're defensive, it's impossible for your partner to air their grievances and communicate with you effectively. If you find you're being defensive in most conversations you have with your partner, you may be lacking the love it takes to keep the relationship going.
You Constantly Criticize Your Partner
Nobody likes being criticized, especially not a romantic partner. Another of the "Four Horseman." Criticism that becomes pervasive in your relationship is another sign you're falling out of love with your partner. Instead of being considerate of their feelings and expressing your disappointment in a respectful way, you assault their character every time they make a mistake or let you down in some way. According to the Gottmans, criticism is often the precursor to the other three horsemen.
It all comes down to whether you feel your criticism stems from not loving your partner or from some other internal psychological battle. This applies to all the signs above, too. Says Dokun, "Always ask yourself, 'What fear might be influencing my reaction to my partner, and is this something I am able to address or overcome without missing out on a great love of my life?'"
The Gottman Institute. "The Four Horsemen: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling." Apr. 23, 2013.
The Gottman Institute. "The Four Horsemen: Criticism." Apr. 29, 2013.