Sometimes, it’s silly paranoia. Other times, that nagging feeling that all isn’t as it should be turns out to be true.
There is nothing more devastating than being told ‘I don’t love you anymore’ by someone you’re still very much in love with.
But, like everything, the sooner you realise your relationship is flagging, the more chance you have of fixing your problems.
These are the 14 signs that may mean your partner is losing interest in you, to help you spot it early on.
But I want to be very clear on something before I start. We’re all individuals and what’s a glaring warning sign for one couple might just be normal behaviour for another.
The fact that you’re reading this, suggests you are questioning your partner’s commitment and love. But always, always, trust your gut above anything else.
Expert Tracey Cox reveals the 14 signs your partner has fallen out of love with you – and the two ‘obvious’ signs that aren’t necessarily red flags, including the fact they’re not saying ‘I love you’ any more (stock picture)
One other thing that’s important for long-term couples to recognise: there’s a difference between loving and being ‘in love’.
It’s normal for our emotions to calm and become less intense as the relationship progresses. But while infatuation and lust might fade, a different kind of love replaces it.
‘Real’ love is quieter, based more on friendship and contentment; it happens when you see and accept each other ‘warts and all’. If the grand gestures have disappeared but your partner is still bringing you cups of tea and calling to check on you when you’re down, the love has simply morphed into a different type.
Nothing to see here.
Affection has disappeared
Tracey, pictured, says that if your partner is keeping conversation short and avoids talking about the future, they might not be in love anymore
It’s a rare couple who maintain the level of affection they had at the very start of the relationship.
Some people aren’t particularly affectionate or demonstrative at any stage of a relationship.
So if your partner’s never been affectionate, there’s nothing to worry about.
But if they were liberal with hugs, kisses and compliments, then stop, there is cause for alarm.
This is often the first sign something’s up.
The ‘little things’ stop
‘When I look back, the first sign things weren’t great was when my husband stopped bringing in cups of tea on the weekends,’ one woman confided in me. ‘We’d drink it in bed and read the papers on our phones.
‘Then he took up running and the run was more important than the “we” time. Such a small thing but it really threw our relationship. It was his first step away from me.’
Most couples have their rituals: they’re important. They remind you if the two of you against the world.
They recoil if you try to be affectionate
Bad enough a partner who stays perfectly still when you hug or kiss them: like they’re tolerating rather than enjoying the physical contact.
Two things that DON’T necessarily mean they’ve lost interest
Some of you will notice that I haven’t touched on two rather obvious clues that surely must mean your partner is no longer in love with you – a lack of sex and not saying the words ‘I love you’.
This is because they aren’t necessarily the red flags people think they are.
They no longer want sex and pretend to not notice your attempts to initiate it
You’d think not wanting sex would be a classic sign your partner no longer wants to be with you. But not always.
People go off sex for many reasons and falling out of love is just one of them.
Plenty of men start avoiding sex when they start having erection difficulties and are too embarrassed to admit it. Lots of women who find sex painful or uninteresting will do the same.
Love often has nothing to do with your partner not wanting to have sex with you. A naturally low libido, body image issues, feeling ‘unsexy’, feeling exhausted, stressed or depressed – all of these things influence desire.
Not wanting sex can be a sign your partner isn’t sexually attracted to you anymore (or getting it elsewhere), but it’s not a given.
They don’t say ‘I love you’ anymore
If they’re not saying the words, they can’t still mean it, right? Not necessarily.
I vividly remember a response I got from a man I interviewed very early in my career, when I asked him how often he said ‘I love you’ to his wife.
He looked at me like it was a trick question.
‘She knows I love her – I married her. And I’m still here,’ he said, baffled as to why he would need to repeat the declaration.
His wife confirmed that he hadn’t said ‘I love you’ since the day they got married 30 years before. Yet their marriage was extremely happy and she said she never doubted his love for her.
Some people – men in particular – vote with their feet. If he’s still around, you’re meant to assume he still loves you!
But if your partner pulls away or jumps back when you attempt to touch them, a conversation about why becomes unavoidable.
Ignore this at your peril.
It’s either a cry for help or a forewarning the divorce papers are drafted and ready to be served.
They’re avoiding spending time with you
We’re still in lockdown! Of course you’re spending time with each other!
But there’s a difference between someone physically being with you and actively intimate and connected.
Does your partner jump at any excuse to leave the house or do things without you? Do Zoom calls with their friends seem to be increasing and lasting even longer? Do they close the door when they have conversations with friends and make plans without consulting you? Have they found a way to stop doing the things you used to do together?
It could be they’re simply craving new stimulation after months of being stuck at home with only one person to talk to. Or it could mean they’ve decided you aren’t that interesting, period.
They start seeing their family without you
The family are often the first to know when someone’s considering leaving their partner. If you’re not being including in family get-togethers, it could be they’re distancing themselves already (or your partner’s worried someone will let on).
Equally as telling: when they stopping wanting to hang out with your family or friends. They don’t want to be questioned by an astute observer or are trying to make the pain of future separation less.
There’s a change in their routine or behaviour
It’s the first warning sign of an affair: the partner who never used to care about their appearance, suddenly watches what they eat and buys new clothes.
Any sudden change in your partner’s usual habits – that aren’t talked about with you – are generally a sign that something is up.
It’s one thing your partner working weekends when they’ve told you they need more money or are after a promotion. Quite another, working until 10pm for no apparent reason.
They keep conversation light
How your partner communicates with you is key to the state of your relationship.
If your partner loves you, they’re interested in what’s happening in your life. They’ll ask how you’re feeling about things, remember to follow up on anything that’s important to you.
If, instead, you feel like your partner only talks about the basics – who’s going to pick up the kids/put the bins out – and actively avoids ‘deep’ conversations, it could be a sign they’re withdrawing.
When you’re talking about something important, do they give you full attention? Do you feel listened to? A general lack of interest in your life means a lack of interest in the relationship.
They don’t like talking about the future
‘We’d talked for ages about buying a holiday home in Spain,’ one man told me. ‘Our savings have never been higher yet she was curiously uninterested in even looking at properties. That was the first clue. The second was me looking through her phone and seeing messages between her and another man.’
If you’ve fallen out of love with your partner and are not sure what you’re going to do about it, it stands to reason that you’ll avoid making any commitment to future plans.
WHAT TO DO NOW
Decide what you want to say
Obviously, you have to talk about it, that’s a given. But rather than blurt out accusations, make a list of reasons why you believe they’ve fallen out of love with you. The more specific examples you give, the better. If you think you know the reason why the relationship is struggling, think through how you want to address that as well.
Have the conversation
Keep it calm and talk about how you feel, rather than play the blame game. (‘I felt hurt when you forgot my birthday’ – not ‘How could you possibly love me? You forgot my birthday!’)
Also remember, you’ve rehearsed and prepared for the conversation. Your partner might need time to think through everything you’ve said before giving you answers. When they do come back with their side of the story, try to listen without judgement. If you aren’t crystal clear about any points, ask questions until you are.
Try to establish the cause
Was there a particular event that’s caused your partner to become disillusioned? An affair, unemployment, loss of parent that’s caused long-term grief? If you can put a finger on something, you have a starting point to working things out.
A long overdue honest, no-holds-barred conversation might be all you need. If not, a few sessions with a good therapist may be all it takes to put you back on track.
Do you both want to work it out?
The one crucial factor which influences whether you can repair a relationship is this: both of you must want to fix it.
If your partner has already made up their mind to leave and doesn’t want to try, you have little choice but to try to accept it.
Get professional help
I’d strongly recommend getting some couples therapy even if here is no hope of reconciliation. It will stop either of you looking back and thinking, ‘If only we’d tried this or that’. Plus, a good therapist will see what may be the real issue buried underneath superficial stuff. They’ll also help you talk through your problems without it always ending in a huge row.
They’re confiding in people other than you
Asking people as well as you for their opinion isn’t anything to worry about. But if you’re hearing second hand about things your partner is doing or feeling, they’ve closed themselves off.
‘My brother-in-law mentioned how much my boyfriend hated his new job. Yet when I’d asked him how he liked it the week before, his answer was, “It’s fine”,’ one woman, now separated from her partner, confided. ‘My stomach flipped. I knew that wasn’t good – and I was right.’
They’ve stopped ‘checking in’
Most couples check in on each other when they’re apart. How frequently depends on the individual couple (and obviously some jobs allow for this more than others). But close couples invariably call or text at least once, when apart, to check in to see how the other is faring.
Again, if you’ve never been this couple, it means nothing if they’re not checking in now. But if your partner used to send regular texts asking how you’re getting on with your day and now doesn’t, pay attention.
They avoid answering when you ask if something’s wrong
If you care about someone and they tell you they think there’s a problem, you stop whatever you’re doing and sort it out.
If your partner instead brushes it off with ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m fine’ and makes some excuse to be elsewhere, it’s the emotional equivalent of a physical slap in the face.
They should rush to reassure you.
If, instead, their eyes slide away from yours and their protestations feel forced, their love for you may be dwindling.
They make no effort
‘She used to love planning our weekends together – we’d choose new restaurants to try, organise get-togethers with our friends – but I could tell her heart wasn’t in it anymore,’ one 40-year-old man told me about a past relationship. ‘She didn’t need to tell me she’d fallen out of love with me and met someone else.’
It’s not just planning nice things to do together that keeps love alive and thriving. Both of you need to feel like you’re equally invested in making an effort to keep the relationship happy.
If it feels like the effort is all one-sided and you’ve complained about this before, it’s not a good sign.
When we fall out of love, what we once found endearing, can become annoying.
Constant nit-picking, finding fault where they didn’t before, pointing out your failings when they used to applaud your successes… it might be they no longer like you, let alone love you.
If you need help with your relationship, you’ll find a therapist at cosrt.org.uk, bacp.co.uk and relate.org.uk.
You’ll also find relationship advice at traceycox.com and in Tracey’s books.