There are the everyday annoyances you've come to live with: the bad puns, the mismatched socks, the chronic lateness. Then there are the bigger problems, the deal-breakers. So how do you tell the difference?
Sometimes, a growing annoyance at the quirks you used to find charming can be a red flag. Maybe those mismatched socks once seemed delightfully eccentric to you, and now you wonder why you're mate can't get it together.
"Ask yourself why this is getting on your nerves now," relationship expert Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., author of Snap Strategies for Couples: 40 Fast Fixes for Everyday Relationship Pitfalls, told BuzzFeed Life. "It's hard to leave something you've put a lot of time and emotion into, so you might be fixating on smaller things instead of the bigger problem."
Lift your eyes to the horizon and pay attention to the bigger sins of what's going on. It's not easy, but you owe it to your partnership and the future of your happiness. Done smartly, a juncture like this can be an opportunity to evaluate and renegotiate the relationship.
"The decision to end the relationship or not depends on what we are expecting," Lawrence Siegel, clinical psychologist and AASECT-certified sex educator told Men's Health. "What have we been getting from this relationship in terms of what we want, what we can tolerate, and what is a deal breaker? The simplest level is, are we getting what we want?"
You're beset by nagging doubts
If there's a consistent voice in your head that wonders about life outside this relationship, or what love would be like with someone else, that voice might be trying to tell you something.
"As a general rule, voices inside you are there for a purpose—and they might be encouraging you of the good reasons to break up," advises the love experts at eHarmony. "Sometimes, something within us is whispering (or even screaming) that we're dating the wrong person, presenting the signs of a breaking relationship. If this is the case for you, then one of the worst things you can do is to ignore that voice. Give it free reign and let it direct you to the conclusion you may have already come to."
Your arguments are consistent and left unresolved
Disagreements are an important form of communication, and all couples argue. "If you stay mad after every argument, then that is when you need to seriously take a look at why you are together," says Irene LaCota, a cofounder of the dating service It's Just Lunch.
Pay attention to how you feel during and after your arguments. "If you feel isolated and alone after an argument, or if you criticize each other harshly, show contempt for one another, become defensive, or shut down, I would reassess whether this relationship is right for you," Dr. Mariana Bockarova, Ph.D., who teaches "The Psychology of Relationships" at the University of Toronto, told Cosmo.
"When we feel our basic sense of respect as a human being is being eroded, fully recovering and restoring a healthy loving relationship can be nearly impossible to do."
You avoid communicating
Remember, even arguments — done right — are an important form of communication. But if you're walking on eggshells in order to avoid conflict, or you're avoiding your partner by staying late at work and spending more time with friends instead of them, that can be a sign too.
"One of the most important components of a healthy relationship is good communication skills," Davida Rappaport, speaker, spiritual counselor & dating expert, told Bustle. "If one partner in a relationship stops communicating... then this relationship is going to fail very quickly and the couple will be heading toward a breakup much quicker than if there were other problems in the relationship."
You don't want to have sex
It's Tuesday, you just finished folding the laundry, and you have a 7a.m. conference call with a team across the country. The last thing you want to do is have sex.
"Pressure, stress, fatigue, external demands – these all take a lot of the emotional and physical energy that you would need for intimacy with your partner," Dr. Suzanne Degges-White, Ph.D., chair and professor of counseling and counselor education at Northern Illinois University, told Cosmo. That's something everyone can relate to.
But if the idea of physical intimacy no longer holds any appeal, that's a red flag.
"If you can no longer take any pleasure in even a memory of sexual satisfaction with your partner, something is definitely amiss," she said.
Your goals and beliefs no longer align
Opposites attract, but shared visions for the future, similar life goals, and common core values are what keep a couple together. You may have started out wanting to save for a farmhouse and a herd of goats, only now one of you wants to rise the corporate ranks and drive a Tesla.
"If your or your partner's goals and beliefs have changed this can signal some problems in your relationship that may lead to a breakup," Rappaport said. "Both you and your partner need to be comfortable with each other's choices. If one of you are unable to accept the fact that one or both of you are changing, this can be a sign that a breakup may be in your near future."
You stop caring
Feeling comfortable in sweats on Saturday morning reading the paper is different from no longer making an effort. At their best, relationships can inspire us to be our best selves. The desire to flirt, plan special dates, send sexy texts, express our appreciation, and make our partner proud can come naturally. If you stop making an effort all together, where is your energy going?
"Putting energy into yourself and wanting to be your best are signs that you're into the relationship," dating and empowerment coach, Laurel House, told Bustle. "When someone puts effort into something, it makes them more emotionally invested in it and they want to stay closer to their investment. But it might not be the person who stops putting in the effort who loses interest, it might instead be their partner. Seeing that your partner is no longer putting effort into being their best self might make you lose respect [and] admiration."
You don't work as a team anymore
Healthy couples are comprised of individuals working together. They consider how their actions affect their mate, whether that means applying for a job cross-country or not texting when they're going to be late.
"We all need to be our own people, and you should stay an individual no matter what," Caleb Backe, health and wellness expert at Maple Holistics, told Bustle. "Nevertheless, if your partner stops taking you into account, and if you find their commitment somewhat wavering, it could indicate dissatisfaction on their part."
Consciously considering the happiness and satisfaction within your relationship is not a bad thing. Depending on your situation, you might have read this post hoping for a sign to either stay or go. Use the moment of crisis to its advantage.
"Is this an endpoint or a crossroad?" Siegel asked. "At that point, somebody has to be the adult. Someone has to call a timeout, and both agree that there is something going on."
"The crisis of 'do we move forward or do we end it' can be the best opportunity to really talk about all of the issues we haven't talked about before," Siegel said.