I’ve trained many people who don’t notice the signs until it’s too late. Until they’ve moved in or invested in someone for a year or more. Until they signed up, went all in, exchanged vows, and decided to build something.
The signs they notice they are choosing to swallow as the norm. They feel that the cement is dry. So they minimize, ignore, or just accept the relationship as it is, and with that decision comes drifting, entrapment, and internalization – believing it’s their fault or that they are faulty and somehow missing.
Now the signs have become flags.
And we all know how this story ends.
You don’t have to glare at your relationship every day, but it’s important to be aware of the subtle signs. Once you are aware, you have a choice. You can do something about them before they create cracks in your relationship.
Flags can create panic and a call to action. Subtle signs can be a doorway to exploration, growth, self-awareness, and cementing relationships.
Recall. I’m talking about subtle signs, not obvious things that spell get out of this! They are more like flags. This article is about subtle things that we tend to ignore and sweep under the rug. Things we don’t review or maybe don’t want to review until there’s been too much damage or drift to fix.
And these subtle signs don’t necessarily mean that something is wrong with your partner. These subtle signs can compel you to look at yourself and take ownership. It’s not about blaming. It’s about inventory, review and repositioning. It’s about swerving before hitting a tree.
It’s about realignment and getting the job done. Don’t press the panic buttons and pack your bags. Signs can indicate what to work on. For each. For both. They can give a restart to the relationship.
Here are six subtle signs that your relationship is about to implode:
1. Little communication about feelings
When you’re in a relationship, it’s easy for communication to slowly shift to logistics. The schedule for the day. The events that happened.
Conversations about friends, family, co-workers, and everyone in your life except each other. How was your day. How frustrated you are with your boss. Future plans and todos. Especially if you have children. But if you don’t express feelings for each other, good or bad, that’s a subtle sign.
He shouldn’t have to take a deal-breaker to talk to your partner about your feelings. How he makes you feel. What he did or didn’t do that made you feel a certain way. Or how safe and amazing he makes you feel. General checks on how people feel about the relationship builds glue and connection.
And if you’re not used to it, expressing your feelings is a great stretching exercise. It’s not just a good tool for this relationship. It is a must for all your relationships, including the one you have with yourself. It is a tool of life. You tell yourself in action that you matter. that you exist.
2. Lack of deep conversations
It’s not just about feelings. What are you talking about other than where to eat and what to watch? Not every conversation has to be about the universe and how we got here, but there should be deeper dialogue about meaningful shit. Things that are important to you.
What are your life revelations? What are you struggling with? What makes you anxious? Your visions of the world? Learnings? Revelations? What interests you these days? Remember that you live your life with your partner, not next to or around. If you want to go with it, go further.
We are always changing, evolving, growing, losing and becoming. Yes, what we like on our pizza may not change, but we are different than we were yesterday. Even if it’s light. Without the deeper conversations, we only know who someone was. Not who they are today. And this subtle difference can create hairline cracks in our relationship. Talk about something real again. It’s the only way to really get to know someone.
3. Lack of touch
I’m not just talking about sexual contact. I’m talking about showing affection and love through touch. A hug, a hand on a leg at dinner or while driving, or holding her face while you kiss her. There is energy and connection behind every touch. If the touch goes away, you’ve lost a string of your relational guitar. The instrument will not play the same way. The music won’t be as good.
I understood that at first you couldn’t let go. The feeling of new hands on you. A solid grip. A soft touch. New bodies. Makeover. A new connection. Then, over time, it begins to diminish, change and fade. It’s usual. I understand. Life happens. Routines begin. We feel comfortable in our own spaces.
But if the touch is radically different, from I can’t keep my hands off him at we only touch when we have sex, it’s a sign. It may not mean that your relationship is in trouble per se. But this means that there has been a drift at some level and that a meeting is essential.
Or maybe there was never any contact in your relationship. Maybe you are not delicate people. Alright, that’s right. But it’s still a sign in my opinion. A sign to explore, expand and grow together.
We are tactile creatures. Like milk, touch is necessary for nurturing. It nurtures, connects and nurtures, makes us feel safe and loved. It doesn’t stop when we become adults. We need it. It produces oxytocin – our bonding chemical.
I am learning the power of touch in my own personal life. I have always been very tactile with the women with whom I have rubbed shoulders. But many weren’t touch back. I mean, in the bedroom of course. But the subtle touch, with intention and eye contact.
The slow strokes make you feel like you’re slipping into hot bath water. The love stuff that makes your friends say “get a room.” I haven’t experienced much of that. And since I didn’t, I didn’t realize how important it is.
I’m dating someone who touches me that way. Slow. Fast. Soft. Solidify. Rub. Grooves. Blows. But it’s not just the physical touch, but rather the intention and energy behind it. That’s what I’m learning. The power of touch.
The connection and love felt through her. There are messages in contact. I worry about you. I choose to love you. To be with you. You excite me. This creates trust and intimacy. I learn that it is a language of love more powerful than words.
4. Absent or engaged
Not being present and engaged is a sign. If he hasn’t engaged with you since the beginning, you need some new non-negotiables. But assuming he did, the unengaged spells drift.
It doesn’t necessarily mean he wants to be with someone else. Maybe the work was completely crazy and absorbed every thought. Or he is going through a big life transition or a quarter-life crisis. But this is where communication about feelings should come in. If you don’t, then there are two signs here. It means it’s time for a conversation. A conversation. Not a confrontation.
Ask what is going on. What is eating him. Why does he seem distant and disengaged? Many will jump to conclusions and think he is cheating or something. Do not do that. Come from a curious and caring place. Start the conversation. Find out what’s going on. He may not know and once he knows he can apologize and change. And if he doesn’t want to or doesn’t want to look at it, that’s another sign. Another conversation.
5. Eye contact
If people stop looking each other in the eye, something is wrong. There is avoidance. He might not be hiding someone in the closet, but he’s probably hiding something. Maybe it’s just his feelings. There may be frustration. Anger. Resentment. But either way, it will build up if left untreated. Until the day when you will no longer see each other.
Ask yourself if you look at each other. Not just to. There is a huge difference. Eye contact isn’t just an extremely powerful way to connect. It is a doorway to empathy and understanding. The two are super glue when it comes to establishing trust. Also on a spiritual level, it allows people to see into each other’s souls. Remember. To forget. To forgive. Accept. To like.
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6. Everything feels like an effort/heavy
As you know, relationships require tons of work, so not everything is going to flow like a beautiful stream every day. Some days your relationship will feel effortless and other days like a riptide. It means heavy is normal. There are going to be heavy days. But not if every day and everything feels like you’re pulling a train down the hill with your teeth. It’s a sign.
The heavy comes from within. Yes, there are external factors that can weigh on a relationship. Turbulences of life. Transitions. Fights. Events. Invoices. Situations. But in the end, the heavy comes from the feelings. Anger. Resentment. Cut. Ambivalence. Uncertainty. Anxiety. These feelings need to be addressed or the heavy won’t go away. Instead, it will grow. Like a virus.
If there’s a constant weight in your relationship, lingering like a gray cloud, you have to ask yourself where it’s coming from. It’s a sign.
Again, signs are not flags. If you see signs, that doesn’t mean jump ship. It means starting to ask questions. First, ask yourself how much you contribute to these signs. It’s easy to blame. Look inside first. Still.
Then, take possession of your piece. That alone can change the dynamic of the relationship, giving it a reboot. If you know it’s not you but your partner, it’s time to talk.
Approach it with care and love.
If you can’t, then that’s a sign.
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This article was originally published on Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.