Relationships sometimes end in a single, combustible moment. Whether it’s through infidelity, a huge fight, or some significant irreconcilable difference emerging, the split is clearcut, and the reason for it is undeniable.
Sometimes it’s not nearly as clear. Sometimes relationships just fizzle out. There’s no one single moment where things broke down. The relationship just ran its course and came to an end. When reflecting on it, you have no idea when things went wrong.
Worse than either of these, though, is when one partner decides the relationship is over, but for whatever reason, allows it to go on. Taking that last step to end a relationship, particularly a meaningful long-term relationship, can be incredibly difficult. But if that doesn’t make it fair to allow it to continue after you’ve decided it’s over. The relationship—and the other partner—are sure to suffer because of it.
Are you worried that this is happening in your relationship? Here’s what you should look for—and how to respond if so.
What to Look For
One of the only things worse than a bad breakup is a bad breakup that catches you completely off guard. Ultimately, it’s up to the two of you to communicate about what you want and where you stand. But until then, there are certain things you can look out for that might tip you off to his intentions.
His Body Language Changes
Body language is an incredibly powerful communicative tool. It can communicate some things that people can’t or won’t say with words. Further, it’s often not even a conscious decision—so it can express someone’s true feelings even if they’re trying to project something else.
That means if you’re worried your partner wants to break up with you, one of the first things you should check is his body language. Here are a few specific keys to look for:
He Stops Making Eye Contact With You
Eye contact is possibly the most evident indicator of romantic interest. It’s not only common sense; it’s also been backed up by science. Studies have shown that men who are romantically interested in women make far more eye contact than those who aren’t.
The reverse can also be true. If your boyfriend suddenly stops making eye contact with you, that can be a very bad sign. It can mean that he’s lost interest and can’t be bothered to look at you. Or it can mean that he’s hiding something, and can’t bring himself to meet your gaze (or both). Either way, it’s not good news.
He Won’t Turn to Face You
This is conceptually similar to the above. If you try interacting with him, and he stays glued to his phone or the TV, that’s a clear sign that he’s losing interest.
When people are romantically interested in someone, they naturally turn their entire body to face that person. If you try to talk to him and he regularly does nothing more than tilt his head in your direction (or won’t even look at you at all), that could be an indication that your relationship is in trouble.
He Closes Himself Off to You
When he does face you, pay attention to whether his body language is open or closed off (hunched over, arms crossed, chin down, and so on).
A person’s body language on the outside can be a mirror of how they’re feeling on the inside. If he is consistently displaying closed-off body language, that’s an indication that he’s closed himself off to you mentally and emotionally as well.
He Starts Avoiding You
An essential part of any healthy, successful relationship is for each partner to have their own fulfilling, independent life. So it’s okay if you don’t spend all your time together; in fact, it can be a good thing. But there’s a difference between being independent and avoidant.
All the more critical is spending consistent quality time together. A relationship cannot succeed without this. And if your boyfriend is suddenly avoiding you, this could be a sign that he wants to break up with you. Here are some things to look out for:
He Ignores Your Calls and Texts
When your relationship was first beginning to blossom, the two of you were always in touch, texting, and calling throughout the day. While it’s natural for this to start to fade as you settle into more of a routine, it’s not okay for him to start ignoring your calls and texts altogether.
It’s unreasonable to expect someone to be available all the time. But in 2019, getting in touch with someone shouldn’t be like pulling teeth.
Similarly, if he does respond, but only ever with terse, one-word answers, this is also a red flag. Either way, he is showing you that he is no longer valuing or prioritizing you.
He Won’t Engage in Conversation With You
Stop me if this sounds familiar: you get home from work and exchange greetings. You start talking about your day as you take off your coat, pour yourself a glass of water, and start getting settled in for the evening. You wait for him to respond, and nothing comes; you look up, and he’s scrolling through his phone. You realize that he was never listening in the first place.
It’s okay to be tired at the end of the day; he doesn’t have to be bubbly and friendly all the time. But it’s not okay for him to treat you like background noise. If this starts happening more and more often, your relationship is likely in trouble.
He Always Has an Excuse When You Want to Spend Time Together
It’s okay if, every once in a while, he cancels plans because he’s “not feeling well” or “needs to catch up on some work.” But if this becomes a pattern, or it reaches a point where it seems like he has one excuse or another every single time, that’s a big red flag.
You’re Fighting More and More
Conflict is a natural part of any relationship. Every now and then, that conflict will escalate into a fight. It happens.
But it’s not healthy to be fighting all the time. And it could be a sign that your relationship is in trouble—for more than one reason. Here are some things to look out for.
You Feel Like You Need to Walk on Eggshells Around Him
It’s one thing to do what you can to avoid conflict. It’s another thing entirely to feel like you have to filter yourself at all times or risk a fight.
You deserve someone with whom you can be yourself, flaws and all, and feel safe and accepted. If this isn’t the case, odds are he’s dissatisfied and taking it out on you. That is a significant red flag.
He Nitpicks the Smallest Things
Maybe he’s always had a temper, and the two of you have made it work anyway. But have you noticed that he’s started fighting you over smaller and smaller things lately? Conflict can be healthy, but this is true only when it has a meaningful cause, and when it leads somewhere productive. It’s not healthy when it’s yet another spat whose turn it is to do the dishes.
In general, if a guy is fighting it means one of several things: he’s lost respect for you, he’s trying to provoke you into breaking up with him, so he doesn’t have to do it himself, or he’s just flat out a jerk (or a combination of the three). None of those are good. Conflict is natural. Constant fighting and the need to walk on eggshells isn’t.
He’s Getting Distant
Another thing to look out for here are signs of him pulling back or shutting himself off emotionally. Emotional connection is a vital part of any healthy relationship. It might have taken a long time and a lot of hard work to reach a point where the two of you can be open and vulnerable with one another.
But all that hard work can be undone in an instant. If your boyfriend starts getting distant, that’s a sign that he’s already decided your relationship doesn’t have a future. Here are some signs that he’s pulling away:
He Stops Sharing
It was probably a big moment the first time he opened up and talked about his emotions with you. It requires a lot of trust to reach that point, but that is the kind of genuine communication on which healthy relationships are built.
If this became a regular occurrence, and then suddenly stops, something is amiss. I wouldn’t immediately assume the worst with this one. Honestly, sharing emotions can be a challenging thing for some people, and there are reasons he might stop other than that he wants to break up. I would broach the topic with him gently, and see if there’s another explanation. But if he still shuts you out, odds are he’s beginning to withdraw from the relationship.
He Stops Being Affectionate
Physical affection can often be a way to express emotional attachment. Even something as simple as cuddling on the couch when you watch TV or resting his hand on top of yours can be an expression of emotional warmth. These are small gestures, but they’re meaningful.
Meanwhile, if he stops displaying affection in public, this could be a sign that he doesn’t want other women to know that you’re together. That is a big red flag and a clear indication that your relationship is on the rocks.
He Stops Saying I Love You
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Saying I love you is a massive step in a relationship. If he’s been saying those three words without issue, and suddenly he stops (or he keeps saying it, but it feels forced) he’s pulling back. There’s no ifs ands or buts about it.
He Starts Acting Differently Around Other People
The way he acts towards you or talks about you around others can be a very telling dynamic. In a flourishing relationship, he should want to show you off and fully integrate you into his life. And it goes without saying that he should be upfront about the nature of your relationship. Here are some things to watch out for:
He Stops Inviting You to Spend Time with His Friends of Family
In a thriving relationship, he’ll want to bring you into every part of his life. That includes going out with his friend group and meeting his family.
It’s okay if you’re not involved in every outing with his friends; as I’ve said, it’s essential for you to each to have your own lives. But if you notice he stops inviting you altogether, that’s a cause for concern.
An even more significant red flag is if he stops asking you to spend time with his family. These are the people he’s closest to in the world, and if you have a future together, they’ll be your family one day as well. If he stops bringing you around to see them, that means he’s slowly removing you from the most critical parts of his life.
He Stops Introducing You as his Girlfriend
Pay attention to the way he talks about you to new people. If your relationship is healthy, there is no reason for him to evade mentioning that the two of you are an item. It doesn’t have to be something as blatant as him referring to you as his “friend.”
If he simply introduces you by your name and doesn’t call you his girlfriend, that’s a sign that he doesn’t want other people—perhaps specifically other women—to know you’re together, and that he is off the market.
He Slowly Phases You Out of His Social Media
Let me get this out of the way first—I’m not saying you should stalk every little thing he does online. But a change in his social media behavior could be a signal that he’s getting ready to break up with you.
One thing to watch out for is if he changes his profile picture from one with the two of you together to one with just him. If he does that, and also stops posting about you or interacting with you on his profile, that’s a big sign of trouble.
You’re the Only One Working on Your Relationship
Last but not least. This is a big sign and one that can be easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. Relationships can be effortless at first. Everything is new and exciting, and you’re still in that honeymoon phase where you can do no wrong.
But that doesn’t last forever. Long-term relationships require hard work to maintain. Not only that, but they require both partners to do that work. A one-sided relationship might stay afloat for a while, but it isn’t sustainable.
Take note of all the things you do to make the relationship work. Is your partner putting in any effort to match them? If not, he could be getting ready to bail. But either way, he doesn’t value you or your relationship enough to break a sweat. Is that the kind of guy you want to spend the rest of your life with?
How to Respond
If you are reading this article, you likely already had some concerns about your partner’s intentions. If you’ve noticed that many of the above signs describe your relationship, you’re probably feeling even worse. There’s little more unpleasant than the stage after one partner has decided they’re ready to move on from a relationship, but before they’ve actually stepped up and ended it.
You probably feel hopeless, and worse, powerless. If he’s already made up his mind, what can you do? Well, you might not be able to change his mind (and maybe you shouldn’t want to), but the way to get your power back is to be proactive. Don’t just coast along until he finally gets the nerve to break up with you. Take action of your own.
If You Still Want to be Together
If you believe your partner wants to break up with you, but you’re not ready to give up on the relationship just yet, there’s only one thing you can do: talk to him openly and honestly. If you come in aggressively trying to change his mind, that will likely cause him to get defensive, and solidify his decision.
Instead of trying to argue with him, just be honest. Tell him you feel like things have changed, and explain the things you’ve noticed. Tell him why that concerns you. And explain how you feel. Talk about your relationship, both the good parts and the flaws. And explain why you think those flaws are worth working through.
Hopefully, this dialogue will cause him to own up to the changes in his behavior, and more importantly, explain the reasons behind them. If your relationship is going to move past this, you can’t just address the surface level symptoms. You have to understand and address the root cause. And the only way to do this is by sparking an open dialogue.
Maybe you’ll be able to change his mind. But there’s a good chance you won’t. Even if your relationship ends, though, you will have a deeper understanding of why things happened the way they did. And you can move forward without any regrets, knowing you did what you could to salvage it. That’s better than just sitting around waiting for him to break up with you.
If You’re Not So Sure
Time for some real talk. If a lot of the above signs felt familiar, it doesn’t necessarily mean he wants to break up with you. But it definitely means it’s not a healthy relationship. You deserve someone who treats you with respect, someone who communicates with you, someone who doesn’t pick fights with you over tiny things.
Instead of being a passenger in your own life, it’s time to take hold of the wheel. If you’ve started to have doubts about this relationship yourself, there’s no need to sit back and wait for him to break up with you. You can step up and do it yourself! It’s clear he isn’t willing to make an effort, so rip off the Band-Aid, and start moving forward before you waste any more time on this dead end.
I’m not saying you should be looking for any old excuse to end your relationship. You can certainly try talking about the problems you have first. Open communication can never hurt. But if that doesn’t go anywhere, you don’t need to keep drifting forward, and you don’t need to wait for him to make the decision to end things. Take control of your life, starting here.
The Final Word
The end of any meaningful relationship is a painful experience. But the worst is when that ending is long and drawn out—the relationship has run its course, and one of the partners has given up on your future, but they aren’t willing to take that final step and end it.
This is unpleasant for everyone, and it’s particularly unfair to the other partner who is being strung along. If you’re worried this is your situation, the small silver lining is that there are things you can look for to figure out where your partner stands.
If his body language becomes more closed off, and he stops making eye contact, that’s a red flag. Likewise, if he starts avoiding you, or stops opening up. If he stops being affectionate or starts keeping you at arm’s length in public, those are signs as well. And most importantly, if you’re the only one putting in work towards keeping the relationship afloat, he’s probably decided to end it.
This can feel like an incredibly helpless situation. But there’s one way to get your power back—you need to address the situation head-on. You don’t need to be confrontational but talk to him about what you’ve observed and how you feel about it. If you’re going to salvage your relationship, an honest conversation is the only way to do it. And keep in mind, you don’t have to wait for him to break up with you. If things aren’t working out, you can be the one to end it!