As bleak as the question is, weighing whether or not our relationship is nearing its finish line is a great way to stop taking it all for granted. Whether you are here because of a specific reason, or are just doing a little introspective maintenance, I feel that periodically asking ourselves this question is a good way to train ourselves to keep the relationship within the confines of objectivity.
Outbursts Of Resentment
Unlike outbursts of anger or concern (which — despite the vitriol — are signs of genuinely caring), manifestations of resentment such as passive-aggressiveness or sarcasm are a sign that respect, one of the pillars of a strong relationship, has begun to weaken significantly.
It is imperative not to confuse bouts of anger with resentment (although admittedly they can intertwine). At its core, an outburst of anger is usually an attempt to communicate a problem with the intent to arrive at a personal solution, no matter how ill-advised or divisive it may seem to be in the moment. Anger has a point, resentment has no such constructive intent.
As always, it isn’t worth taking any single instance of resentment as a sign it’s all going down the tubes. No matter how functional a relationship, we’ve all been at the receiving end of a spiteful comment I’ll grant you. Instead, look for trends. If there seems to be a downward spiral of passivity and condescension is may be a sign the thrill has gone.
From “We” To “I” (and back again?)
The shift from a collective and co-conspiratorial world view rooted in “togetherness” to one of individualism can be subtle at times, so subtle and common in fact that the eventual breakup can feel like it came out of the blue. Added to which, the transition from “we” to “I” is often mostly internal, and thus we are left with few clues that the fate of our relationship is hanging in the balance.
Right, now before I get roasted over a fire for insinuating that individualism is a bad gear to be in, allow me to clarify that I don’t think it is a bad idea at all. In fact, a shift from we to I can be a fantastic way to re-energize a relationship. Ideally, we should never lose sight of the things that make us, as individuals, tick. So what am I getting at here exactly?
Simply that this shift is a catalyst for change. That this transition usually leads to a liberating, and often much needed revolution, but a revolution that can ultimately exclude us. This can mean bad things for a relationship if it isn’t rooted in something that genuinely empowers one or both parties involved. If you notice a subtle uptick in me time, personal hobbies, career and other plausible examples of individualism, something has cracked internally. The key to figuring out whether this is a good or a bad thing with the relationship in mind is how openly and enthusiastically this existential revolution is being communicated with you. Does it involve you in some way, or are you excluded from the negotiation table entirely?
Busy, busy, busy
Not to be confused with the rediscovery of individualism in point number two, in this case being increasingly busy means being increasingly and purposefully distant. Often our gut instinct will tell us that this new-found distance is a result of a dampening of romantic intent, and that constantly being on the run is merely an excuse to get away from a stressful situation (the relationship). But how can we know for sure? What indicators are there that this is a real problem rather than an insecurity hiccup?
As always with regards to matters of the heart, there are no hard and fast rules. At best we can indulge in an educated guess.
- Your partner seems abnormally vague about their comings and goings and will often spitefully brandish their “right” to pursue their own goals in their own time (which is a right, however the keyword we’re looking for here is “spitefully”).
- Despite the decisive uptick in time spend on their own, communication takes a nose-drive rather than logically strengthening to compensate for the increased distance.
- Ironically, if they have stopped placing much importance in the relationship or have given up attempting to shape it into something more endearing they may seem to become less critical and more accepting of any perceived imperfection. This is another scenario which often leaves dumpees exclaiming “but it was all going so well“, right after being dumped, because there was palpably less friction in the relationship. When the truth is that the dumper had simply given up.
The danger here is over-analyzing situations that may provoke these responses that may have little to do with us as partners, such as generalized or specific stress. However, if there is no discernible reason why this shift in attitude has occurred, it might be time to dig a little deeper before the sand in the hourglass runs out.
Showing signs of stress
Leading on from an increase in physical and communicative distance is a more generalized materialization of stress-related symptoms. And as before, the warning with regards to redundant over-analysis still applies, so don’t jump the gun (or you risk conjuring the same ghosts you want to exorcise).
Stress that is primarily attributed to a dip in romantic interest usually means that our partner is still able to find, or is trying to find, solace elsewhere. If the stress is more generalized and is not triggered primarily by the relationship itself, this same escape mechanism would be less called on, because the relationship would be a source of comfort, not something to run from.
Yes, everyone is different, and some people are more prone to feeling swamped and drained (and thus needing more alone time) than others, so instead of analyzing one-off occurrences, look for trends and patterns of behavior. Is it becoming increasingly common? Are the episodes becoming increasingly intense?
If the answer to both of these questions is a resounding affirmative, then it is clear that something in their lives has become unsustainable, and objectively speaking, the first place I would look (in terms of how influential it is with regards to our everyday lives) is in relationship itself.
On a personal note, I would like to add that a mistake, should we feel responsible for the situation, is that of attempting to confront it head-on. The reason I say this is because by doing so, you are making this stress the center of both of your lives. Thus breathing more life into the problem and further inflating it’s impact on day-to-day life. Because now, every time you see each other, by association, this “problem” looms large between you. You each become mirrors reflecting the problem between you. While I don’t advocate ignoring it, I would hedge that taking action without defining the relationship around the problem is probably a better idea. Which is why, say, traveling and generally keeping busy after a rough breakup (rather than exclusively processing it) tends to yield better results with regards to short-term healing.
Image courtesy of David Castillo at FreeDigitalPhotos.net