After three decades of dating, I sometimes get ahead of myself and start to think I know a thing or two. Not in an expert kind of way but in a very experienced kind of way. See the difference? Actually, it’s more in my understanding of what causes relationships NOT to work versus being so certain of what will make them last forever. After you’ve had your share of ups, downs, and side-to-sides, you start to think you know a little sum’thin. However, one thing still leaves me flummoxed after all these years–how do people not see a breakup coming?
To be clear, I get the emotions. I understand the feelings. I’m not indifferent to the connections built between two people over time. But most breakups don’t simply happen without a warning, lead up, and a few breadcrumbs. There are signs that things are taking a turn for the worst, right? Maybe it’s because I’ve typically been the one to do the severing so I knew what was happening. In relationships where it was a mutual decision, we both saw the writing on the wall, or remembered the late night arguments that crept into the next morning and then the next day, so we were able to respectfully and peacefully go our separate ways. But what about the woman that says she was caught off guard. Was she really? Or the guy that seems shocked that a girl stopped answering his calls. Did she give no clue whatsoever?
Again, I’m not an expert. More of an experienced non-expert. I definitely don’t pretend to have any certifications in matchmaking, relationships, marriage counseling or anything else we could add. However, is a degree in Breakups 101 needed to know when the ish is about to hit the proverbial fan? We’ve all been in a room when a friend sobbed while replaying their latest relationship and breakup drama. You know what you and every other friend in that room was doing? Looking around with clear expressions of, We all saw this coming or Welp! It finally happened. Because there were signs of the derailment present long before tears ever fell. Also, some breakups NEED to happen. They are a welcomed ending to a very tumultuous and painful dynamic that’s played out in restaurants, on trips, and around your mutual friends for far too long. Even if you don’t want to let it go, ask yourself these questions and maybe you should rethink your position.
Here are 10 areas to review in your relationship for warning signs that a breakup is imminent (or should be):
Communication – Has it changed drastically in recent months/weeks? Are you arguing all the time or barely speaking to one another? Have things gone from talking multiple times a day to only texting? Are there longer breaks between messages and less responsiveness from the other person? Do you find yourself sharing less about the highs and lows of your day? Is your mate taking less time to ask questions, get to know you, or understand you? Are they saying they don’t want to be in the relationship or openly questioning being with you? Is s/he being demeaning, discouraging, or unsupportive? Do you no longer feel heard by your partner?
Intimacy – Have there been changes in the frequency of intimacy? Do you still feel connected? Has he gone from kissing your lips to now giving you a peck on the cheek or forehead? Is s/he making excuses not to touch you or be near you? Has s/he become more reserved and less physically available? Beyond the physical, is your partner being emotionally intimate with you or is s/he choosing not to open up?
Trust – Do you trust your guy/girl? Has your partner expressed concerns about trusting you? Are you hiding information about other women/men or having inappropriate interactions with others? Has there been infidelity in the past? Are you doing things to cause insecurity in your partner and vice versa?
Diminished Value – Does your significant other still add value to your life? Do you understand the value you add to his/hers? If the relationship ended tomorrow, would one of you feel the loss more than the other? Do you feel wanted and desired? Does it seem that other men/women “get you” more than your guy/girl? Does your partner build you up or tear you down?
Attraction – Do you look at him/her differently? Have they lost some of their appeal? Are you finding other women/men more enticing? Is s/he having increased thoughts of being unfaithful? Is he complaining or ridiculing you about your appearance? Do you compliment your partner and get the same in return? Are you imagining someone else in your partner’s place?
Quality Time – Are you spending more or less time together? Is he choosing not to make plans with you that are more than a week into the distance? When you spend time together, is it peaceful and fulfilling or strained and frustrating? Are you going out and enjoying shared interests or defaulting to whatever’s convenient and cheap?
Compromise – Have you gone from being partners to being enemies? Do you always feel like a failure? Are neither of you willing to compromise anymore? Does every disagreement feel like a losing battle? Are you willing to give in to your partner’s needs at times for the sake of your relationship or do you always want your partner to give in to what you want/need? Is every situation, good or bad, always about how it impacts you? Do you know your mate’s triggers and try to avoid them or do you no longer care?
Counseling isn’t helping – Is counseling causing more arguments and providing no tools to work through them? Are you both being open and transparent or simply looking for someone to be a referee? Are you growing closer together or farther apart?
Emotions – Are you happy? Is your relationship having a positive or negative impact on other parts of your life–career, health, friendships, etc.? Does spending time together invigorate or drain you? Does he find himself frustrated and upset when around you? Does the relationship seem to be taking from you instead of giving to you? Do you feel trapped? Has s/he stopped being as thoughtful to your feelings?
Shared Vision – Are you both imagining a future with the other? Can you see yourself with this person in ten or twenty years? Do you both want the same things and share a plan for the future? Is this a permanent or temporary relationship?
What would you add to the list or how would you revise it? Do you think these 10 aspects of a relationship offer telltale signs that an ending is nigh?