How Do I Stop Being Jealous for No Reason?

I’ve been dating my boyfriend for seven months and we’re about to head off to college. He’s going two hours away from home and I’m going out of state. This relationship has been so incredible and I’m so excited to see where we go in the future. However, I have a really bad habit of getting jealous, even though he has given me no reason to be and has been nothing but reassuring, kind, and loyal to me. How do I allow him to make friends and stop being so clingy and smothering?

I feel for you: Dating someone who’s headed off to college sucks. You aren’t wrong to feel jealous. It’s normal to freak out and imagine he’s kissing some co-ed while you’re studying. It’s scary to send a boyfriend or girlfriend off to start a new phase of life. But extreme jealousy has a funny way of blowing up in your face, if not making all your worst fears come true. You’re smart to try and get ahead of this problem.

To help you deal with these inevitable feelings, first I think you have to accept a few lousy things about distance because they’re unavoidable. Here’s a random assortment of a few: 1. He’s not always going to text or call when you want. 2. He’s going to be busy when you’re not. 3. He’s going to make lots of new friends. 4. Some of them will be cute girls. 5. You’re going to see something on someone’s social media that bothers you. 6. Clueless friends are going to say insensitive things about how he’s definitely fooling around. 7. He’s going to want some space. 8. No matter what, you’re not going to be able to see or talk to him as much as you’d like. 9. Sometimes, his phone really is going to die. And all of the same things will be true for you as well when you’re settling into your new college routine.

I’m not trying to scare you. It’s just that there are dozens of ways in which this long-distance relationship is going to be hard—and if you start off hoping that it’s going to be smooth sailing, you’re bound to be disappointed and jealous when you discover it’s not so easy.

Then next year, be realistic and pick your moments. Think: quality phone calls and visits, not constant contact. Make a few reasonable plans in advance: In addition to regular check-ins, consider scheduling a standing phone call every Sunday night or a visit every other weekend. Sometimes, when things go wrong, you can help control your jealousy if you’ve got a plan on the books to look forward to. Remember that it’s healthy to talk about how much you miss him, but there are degrees: Be honest about your feelings, but don’t lay a guilt trip on him every time you say goodnight.

My big-picture advice: Take care of yourself first. The more you think about him than yourself, the more jealous you’ll be. Practice being alone a little bit before he goes. Don’t just think about missing him—think about all the new things you’ll do at your new school. Keep yourself busy with clubs, classes, meeting new people. If you’re happy and busy with your own life, you’ll be less likely to obsess over his and smother. Remember that obsessive jealousy is just never a good look, and there’s nothing more attractive than a woman who’s got her shit together.

My boyfriend and I have been dating for close to three years. He comes from a relatively strict Catholic family, and they are conservative pro-lifers. I, on the other hand, am very liberal and I do not hold back from making my feminist viewpoints known. My boyfriend however does not see the importance of feminism, and doesn’t find it necessary. He believes men and women already have completely equal rights. Every now and then I try to educate him a little, but he’s pretty firm in his beliefs and has “evidence” of his own to back up his viewpoints, so I usually let it go. Ultimately, his behavior never broaches sexist, and that’s the most important thing for me. I’ve been hearing about a 2018 Women’s March and I was unable to attend the first one, so attending the next one is incredibly important to me. I asked my boyfriend if he’d go with me, and he said he would, but then asked if I’d join him for the March for Life in January. As you can guess, this is not something I want to do at all. The two events stand for completely different things and even though I want to support him, I want to show no support for the pro-life movement. What do you think I should do?

This is a fascinating problem. If I’ve got this right, your boyfriend is a nice guy who treats you well. But he’s also willfully, extremely clueless: Every time anyone tells him about gender-based discrimination (the wage gap, sexual assault rates, domestic abuse stats, sexual harassment headlines, campus rape stories, etc.) he sticks his fingers in his ears and la-la-la’s or tosses out anecdotal counter-evidence because he is certain that everything is absolutely equal and fine and good. But it’s not.

My first thought is: As a woman, it’s going to be really hard to have a long relationship with a guy who denies the fundamental realities of your life. He doesn’t have to call himself a “feminist” and be woke on social media. But he does have to grapple with facts if he’s going to honestly engage with your life. I worry about what happens when he tells you that, no, you’re wrong about how you feel about your life, your experiences, and the forces that shape them.

But my answer to your question is actually quite simple:

Go to the Women’s March or any upcoming event you’d like, whether that’s with your boyfriend, your girl friends, or yourself. Do not cut a deal and agree to go to the March for Life, because you should not be strong-armed into supporting a cause you disagree with as part of some kind of 50/50 deal, regardless of the cause. Sure, if you’re interested in the March for Life, check it out. But if you fundamentally disagree with something, stand by your principles, and explain that you’d rather not lend your support to a movement you oppose.

All I’ll add to that is that I hope you spend some time thinking about what it means to be with a man with such strict conservative beliefs who refuses to see the discrimination all around him. I’ve known couples who got along fine before the big issues came up—but fought like hell when life got more serious and those fundamental disagreements started to have a bigger impact on everyday life. This is just one March, but if this relationship lasts, you’ll want a traveling partner you can trust on the long road ahead.

This weekend I got very drunk with a friend of mine. We ended up making out. I’m not sure what happened because I had blacked out. I feel bad since it was my friend’s first kiss. We’re both gay, I’m a lesbian and she’s bi. I tried telling her that I’m not interested in anything serious, especially with a friend. I just went through a rough breakup with someone I had lots of friends in common with. Ever since that weekend, I’ve noticed her looking at me a lot more and differently, like she’s in love with me. She talks to me that way too. How do I explain that I don’t have feelings for her and I’m not going to kiss her again, without hurting our friendship? 

Look, you can’t help it if you’re an amazing catch (and, sounds like, an amazing kisser). Sometimes, people are just going to fall for you. Since this was your friend’s first kiss, it’s no wonder she’s crushing especially hard on you.

You’re on the right track and this is going to be fine: You’ve just got to figure out how to let this woman down easy. That begins with watching your behavior. It’s all fine and good to say, “I just want to be friends,” but if you start making out with her the next time you get drunk, she’s not going to believe you. And there’s a whole world of grey area in between. The best way to send a clear message is to stop sending mixed messages. Create some distance. Play it cool.

Most of all, if you don’t want to hook up with her, be clear about that. It sounds like you’ve almost said the right thing. You told her you’re not interested in “anything serious” with a friend. But that’s not the truth, is it? You don’t want to casually hook up again, do you? If you don’t want anything romantic or sexual with her—serious, casual, otherwise—tell her that. “I like you as a friend—but just as a friend. It was a mistake to hook up with you and I can’t do that again.” Don’t leave any wiggle room. Don’t make excuses or over-explain it. (If you blame it on your break-up, she might just think you need some more time before you make out again.) It might sound ten-percent more harsh to be clear, but it’s necessary. In love, as in home security, you’ve got to shut that door tight or someone will keep trying to pry it open.

*****

By: Logan Hill for Cosmpolitan

WHO PAYS ON DATES?

I understand why money is such a huge deal in relationships. It doesn’t have to be but it is. Society normally dictates that the man should pay for everything. But this isn’t always feasible because well…. life happens. There’s the mortgage, the groceries, the pet food for your chihuahua, and the cost of getting your roof repaired, among so many other things!

Sometime into the dating relationship when the rose tinted glasses start to clear up, both parties are stuck with the reality that the guy’s salary is pretty much average, and using this salary to also maintain dating expenses is unrealistic. Women who have grown accustomed to the man always paying for everything should give themselves a slap on the face! Because that financial fairytale isn’t the real world. Unless your guy is Donald Trump or is Mark Zuckerberg, there shouldn’t be reason for you to always expect him to cough up cash on every date. Can you imagine just how much he’ll be able to save for the future if he keeps spending for every dinner/ movie/ holiday that you guys have? Nothing. The steak dinners, anniversary and monthsary gifts add up to so much in a year. How much more if you’ve been together for awhile?

So what do you do then?

You CONTRIBUTE. 

That’s right. A relationship is a partnership after all and not a dictatorship. But how do you get over the awkwardness of it all? You know that moment when the bill comes and you’re trying to decide whether to suggest going Dutch or just paying it yourself?

Here are a couple of my suggestions to make it less awkward for couples:

  1. PULL OUT YOUR WALLET WHEN THE BILL COMES. And lay down the value of your meal’s worth. This will prompt him to also pay for his share. It isn’t too complicated and it’s fair. Just don’t make a fuss about it.
  2. WHEN THE GUY PAYS FASTER THAN YOU CAN SAY “I’LL GET IT!.” Then offer to pay for the next activity. Like a movie. This eases up the guy’s wallet and saves him a trip to the nearest ATM. If he pays for the movie, get the popcorn and drinks.
  3. WHEN YOU’RE BOTH BROKE BUT WANT TO BUY PRESENTS FOR EACH OTHER. Do the $10 challenge! When at a mall, agree to buy each other a gift worth $10 and come back after an hour to exchange. This is a fun way to flex your creativity and think about what your significant other will appreciate.
  4. HAVE A COMMON DATE FUND. Some couples have a piggy bank or a bank account where they put their extra cash and this is what they spend for their dates. Raising money for this fund (which can also extend to a travel fund) may encourage the couple to work together to increase the amount in their joint wallet.
  5. GO ON INEXPENSIVE DATES. Netflix and chilling is so underrated. Order in or cook together and STAY AT HOME. Save the adventurous and expensive activities on days when you have a surplus of cash.

 

Hope this helps!

 

xoxo,

Cristine

When Your Spouse Doesn’t Like Your BFFs…

Remember those days when you first met your spouse and everything felt like springtime? Those initial months were full of all the best firsts—first dates, first smooches, first adventures, and of course, the first time you introduced him or her to the other “loves of your life”—your besties. In an ideal world, your pals like your partner just as much as you do, and vice versa. But when they don’t? It can wreak havoc not on the friendships, but rather, on your marriage, according to a new study.

For the study, researchers followed 355 heterosexual couples to determine the impact of friendships on marriage after 16 years. None of the couples was interracial, to rule out race as a potential source of tension). What the researchers found was fascinating: In white couples where the husbands liked their wife’s friends, 70 percent of couples were still together by the end of the study. However, in white couples where the husbands didn’t like their partner’s pals, only 50 percent remained together. For black couples, liking the friends didn’t seem to impact the relationship.

What do psychologists think of this theory? Sex and relationships therapist Courtney Geter, LMFT, CST says that connecting friend groups is an important aspect of a relationship, and not getting along with one another’s tribe can lead to arguments. “It is typical for spouses to bring up friends in conversations. If your husband makes a negative comment about your friends, you may feel unsupported or torn between two aspects of your life,” she explains. “If you don’t address your feelings and resolve the conflict, it could impact other areas of the relationship, such as enjoyment spent with your husband or even areas such as sex.”

The disapproval of your friend group is worse when it’s coming from your partner, whose opinion usually means more than anyone else’s. “This is the person that we love and trust the most, so their assessment of others around us matters to us,” says psychologist Nikki Martinez, PsyD, LCPC.” We want to know that they agree that someone is a good person, that they are likable, and that they enjoy being around them,” she says.

One possible reason we may be bumping into this problem more and more in recent years is that dating patterns have shifted from in-person to online. So whereas we used to meet people at parties or through friends, where there was already a built-in connection and like-mindedness, increasingly we’re meeting people on dating sites and apps, where there’s no such framework.

This Internet lens can be tricky to navigate, as your partner gets to know your friends not at a bar or a BBQ but via their profiles and posts, which can be heavily curated. “Social media does not provide a realistic view of another person’s life, as they are posting the best-looking or most exciting pictures and status updates about their lives,” Geter says. “Since there is a screen between you and the rest of the world, humans are more likely to make comments they typically wouldn’t make in person or they can avoid conflict resolution with one click of a button or closing a window.”

So is your marriage doomed if your husband isn’t a fan of your BFFs? Definitely not, according to Geter and Martinez, but you might have to manage expectations on both sides. One key way to approach it is to have couple friends and individual friends, neither of which have to mingle.

In fact, it’s a good idea to have your own set of pals for support. “I encourage women to have friends outside of the couple relationship as well as hobbies outside of her husband’s interest. Not only does this allow distance for you to miss your husband, but it also provides opportunities for sharing when you are together,” Geter says. “Since you have your own personal friend group outside of the couple friend group, this may limit how often your husband is around those friends.”

***

From: Reader’s Digest by Lindsay Tigar

When your partner is also your best friend

It goes without saying, you don’t have to be “best friends” to have a great relationship (some people even gag at that idea). But while others might think of you as insular or clingy, you know better.

1. You started out as friends. 

Great things take time. Baked potatoes, fully mature redwood trees, and friendships that turn into relationships. First dates feel different than first hangouts. You really get to know each other’s personality when you’re not as worried about trying to impress the other person.

2. He makes you laugh all the time and you make him crack up. 

It’s not just about how he makes you feel, or how great the sex is, or how well you work together. When you hang out, you wind up cracking each other up so much you can’t breathe. Some of your favorite memories are the two of you doing the dumbest stuff and laughing about it nonstop.

3. He always wants you around. 

It doesn’t matter if it’s a “guys’ night” or a five-hour road trip; he wants to hang out with you. And it feels natural too. When he’s out with friends, you never get the vibe of “oh, he brought his girlfriend along.” You’re his friend, so you’re everyone else’s friend. Basically, all his guys just sees you as “that one friend he also has sex with”… which is a compliment, really.

4. You always know what he’s thinking. 

It’s not quite like you can read each other’s minds, but you’re so comfortable with each other that it really feels like that sometimes.

5. He’s seen you through your worst moments. 

He’s gotten you through some of your darkest moments, however you define them. Even when other friends drop off or stop calling, he’s there for you, and you’re always there for him.

6. You can spend a day just hanging out. 

It’s not that you both love being couch sloths all day, but you could be and still have a good time. You don’t need to be making Instagrammable moments constantly to feel like you’re having a good time. All you really need is each other.

7. Other couples hate you just a little. 

They might not say it to your face, but you can tell they’re insanely jealous of the chemistry you share. You can tell. Basically, you make other couples look boring and they can’t stand it.

8 You don’t feel like you need time apart from each other. 

You know how to prioritize “you” time when there’s something you want to get done just for yourself, but everything you do just feels somehow better when you’re with them.

9. He trusts you deeply. 

Not just in the basic ways, like trusting you not to cheat on him when you go out. That barely even counts; that’s just assuming you’re not going to be a garbage person. He also trusts you with things he’s never told anyone, like his embarrassing secrets.

10. It still feels like you just started dating. 

You still have this energy that’s stuck around even though you’ve been dating for years. That “honeymoon phase” never really ended for you.

***

From: Cosmopolitan by Frank Kobola

14 Signs You’re Low-Key Winning this Break up

1. You unfollowed or unfriended them instead of stubbornly trying to seem chill.

You know that if you still have easy access to their page, you will be hurt when you see them have any semblance of fun without you. You’d rather them know you need your space instead of letting a grainy pic of them eating a burrito ruin your day.

2. You immediately got rid of (or at least hid) the little reminders. 

Honestly, if you can Marie Kondo the vast collection of t-shirts you accumulated from them, you can handle anything.

3. You cathartically rehashed your whole breakup with your BFF. 

It’s the nights where you split fries and cheap wine as a prelude to a five-hour in-depth talk about relationships that really make you fucking grateful for your best friend.

4. You refreshed your look in at least one tiny (or major) way. 

TBH, the highlight of a breakup is going for that one haircut that always got an “Eh, sure, I guess, you do you but I do love your hair now, just saying!” from your ex. Get. That. Pixie. Cut.

5. You went out to a thing you weren’t thaaaat excited about but had a surprisingly great time. 

The moment your friend invites you to a party full of 95 percent strangers over an hour away from you, you will immediately regret sending that “sure!” But when your one expectation is “I need something to keep me from scanning WikiHow articles about how he’s not really over me but doesn’t know it yet,” being pleasantly surprised by a decent night is just the boost you need.

6. You went out to a thing you weren’t thaaaat excited about, but this time you were sad and just let yourself feel it. 

So you decided to put your new singledom to good use and go out with the girls. You Insta’d a gallery of you together in competitively plunge-y tops with a Beyoncé song lyric, except the night took a sharp turn when your friends found guys immediately and left you to buy your fourth margarita alone. But you’d rather glumly stare at your ripply cocktail reflection than force yourself to hook up with someone when you’re not ready. There’s power in that.

7. You signed up for a totally random class that only severe heartache would make you consider. 

You never considered taking hot yoga classes…until now.

8. You’re not eating the soupy remains of your Ben and Jerry’s for dinner every night. 

The people who harness their newfound free time and cook a paella from scratch to go with that bottle of wine are the people who will survive the apocalypse.

9. You finally binged that show your ex showed no interest in. 

You judge them so much more for not giving The Handmaid’s Tale a chance now that you’ve actually seen it.

10. You’ve asked more people to hang out one-on-one than you have in a while. 

When you’re in a relationship, your Google calendar practically auto-fills with dates, double dates, and whatever party one of your now-merged-together collective of friends is hosting. Losing at least some of those thought-free plans means actually having to make the first move in asking people to chill and thus penciling in a night with friends you may have thrown to the wayside a little when you were dating (hey, happens to all of us).

11. You’ve joined a dating app and gone on a date. 

Even if it goes nowhere, it still feels validating to know that you can handle the thought of having to date (and subsequently, risk getting hurt) again.

12. You roll your eyes at people pitying your singledom a little too much. 

Yes, breakups are sad—devastatingly so at times—but you know you’ll be fine, even though other people weirdly don’t. You’re not here for the people nervously reassuring you that you’ll find someone better soon, as if you’re incapable of enjoying a solo lunch date.

13. You remembered, like, 75 things that annoyed you in that relationship. 

You’re at the point where you can truthfully say that your ex’s relentless habit of drenching french fries with serpentine squiggles of ketchup was always going to be a deal breaker.

14. A part of you kind of lives for being single again. 

Being able to freely starfish in your bed multiple nights in a row is a gift. Cherish it.

***

From Cosmopolitan by Julia Pugachevsky

10 Relationship Facts I Wish I Knew Sooner

Here are 10 important relationship facts which, if you understand and practice them, give you a much greater chance of securing a long term happy and fulfilling relationship instead of it become just another “experience”.

Contrary to what you’ll see at the movies, relationships take work. We’re not talking “hard work” due to incompatibility issues or fundamental differences in important values – but making your partner feel valued so that he or she wants to stay with you and deepens their commitment to you, does require effort.

Studies have shown that intimate relationships between best friends is one of the surest ways to ensure that it’s likely to last. The honeymoon phases with its “high levels of passionate love” and “intense feelings of attraction and ecstasy, as well as an idealization of one’s partner”, doesn’t last forever, according to Monmouth University psychologist Gary W. Lewandowski Jr. There must be something more going on – and at the end of the day, being “best friends” first, just might be the key.

Relationship Facts that Everyone Should Know

1.  If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not taking enough risks.

“Making mistakes” doesn’t mean cheating.  What it does mean is, doing things within the boundaries of the relationship with good intentions but if it turns out that they were not healthy, you take responsibility for them.  Without mistakes, there is no growth.  So this process simulates change and growth.  The bonding comes from taking risks and making mistakes as a couple, then learning from them and becoming stronger as a team.

2.  Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.

Many believe relationships should just come naturally, like the rush of dopamine that shot into your brain when you both first met.  Actually, to be in a monogamous relationship where you are constantly challenged to look at yourself and compromise your wants / needs is unnatural.  It goes against our natural human instincts.  In order for us to adapt and embrace this, it takes time – a long time.  If you’re patient, then with the passing of time you will both adapt to each other so that ultimately, by sheer force of habit, it will feel more “natural”.

3.  Work very, very hard.

Nothing of value comes easy! There are some people who understand this principle when it comes to achieving financial security and success but for some reason, somehow imagine that all the happiness and fulfillment of a great relationship will just “come to them” like winning the lottery. There are those who are very proactive at investing time and energy into the relationship while “the chase” is on, or even into the early stages, but once they feel  secure with their partner, imagine that they can take them for granted – and yet – still hold him or her accountable to them for exclusivity and faithfulness. Nobody wants to be someone’s prisoner.

I think many underestimate how much work it takes to make a relationship successful. Referring to the heading again, most tune out after the first “very”.  So what does “very very” hard work look like?  It’s different for everyone.  But you will know because of that giant mountain you see in front of you, the one you’ve always avoided climbing.  The second “very” means self examination.

4.  Ask for opportunities.

Since we think we know our partner so well, we stop asking.  Instead, we assume.  The thing is people change.   If you want something, ask for it.  Their answer may be different today than it would have been yesterday.  If you don’t ask, you’ll never get.  It’s a basic rule of life.  And it also applies in relationships.  I believe this process of asking / communicating creates opportunities to get to know each other better.

5.  Finish what you start.

I’m referring to arguments.  Many start an argument but don’t finish it because it gets too heated.  They walk away and never come back to it.  Issues don’t get resolved.  Instead, people are not heard and there’s anger and resentment.  If you walk away from a fight without consent or getting things resolved, you’re leaving the relationship for that period.  One day, there will be no one to come back to.

6.  Say yes to almost everything.

Assuming it’s healthy and the intent is good, what’s the worst that could happen?  You get out pushed out of your comfort zone?  That’s called an opportunity for growth.  I think we say no too much in relationships.  We don’t like feeling uncomfortable.  If you want more yeses in your life, this is where to start.

7.  Busy is a decision.

Just because you’re in love doesn’t mean it’s time to stop life.  Each should have their own life.  This means making a choice to be busy and working on your own container.  I think many get into a relationship and stop or slow down their own personal busyness.

8.  Don’t censor your dreams before you actually dream.

What ever dreams you had when you were single shouldn’t change because you are now in a relationship, unless it happens organically and honestly.  Many give up their dreams because the relationship doesn’t allow them.  Your dreams can change but don’t censor your dreams for anyone.

9.  In order to strive for a remarkable life, you have to decide you want one.

I think the key word there is you not you guys.  I think many lose themselves in their relationship because they forget about their own wants, needs, and paths.  Remarkable can still happen when you’re in a committed relationship.  But you have to decide you want remarkable and you’re not willing to negotiate that.

10.  It is only a failure if you accept defeat.

We should fight for our relationship.  Always.  Not in our relationship, for our relationship.  There’s you.  There’s your partner.  Then there’s the relationship.  If you accept defeat, you are not fighting for the relationship.  Admitting that you are wrong is not accepting defeat.  Admitting that you are wrong is actually fighting for the relationship.

****

From: Happy Relationship Guide

15 Signs You’re In an Unhappy — or Loveless — Marriage

 

Making the decision to leave a marriage is scary: There’s often a deep fear of being alone, not to mention the possibility of an unknown future. So many stick with mediocrity, settling for low-level pain and dissatisfaction instead.

But that’s not your best bet: “Staying in a seriously unhappy marriage can have long-term effects on our mental and emotional health,” says Carrie Cole, a couples therapist and Master Certified Gottman Therapist by the Gottman Institute. Research shows that people in bad marriages usually have low self-esteem, struggle with anxiety and depression, and have a higher rate of illness than those who don’t. People feel sad and grieve when they decide to let go — but people who divorce do recover emotionally, and Cole says most find new relationships. In fact, “one statistic reported that 85 percent of those who divorce remarry within five years,” she says.

If any these signs hit home for you, it’s time to take a hard look at whether this is a marriage you want to stay in.

1. YOU AREN’T HAVING SEX ANYMORE

One warning sign would be that your relationship is totally sexless, says sex and relationship therapist Megan Fleming, Ph.D. — or if you’re having sex less than 10 times a year. After all, she says, it’s intimacy that separates a romantic relationship from all other sorts of relationships you might have. “When that’s going out the window, it’s a really big red flag.” Jane Greer, relationship therapist and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship, says that a lack of visible physical affection — like kissing or hugging — is also indicative of a real problem.

2. YOU HAVE NOTHING TO SAY TO EACH OTHER

When something comes up in life, whether that’s a work event or any accomplishment and your partner isn’t the first person you’re sharing it with — or one of the firsts, Fleming says that it may be that “you prefer to get your needs mets outside the relationship.” To that end, Greer points out that not having any meaningful conversations aside from “rudimentary conversations about chores and things that need to get done” is a warning sign that your relationship is not in a good place.

3. YOU’RE WITH EACH OTHER…BUT NOT REALLY WITH EACH OTHER

“You can be in the same room, one of you on the computer, one of you [watching TV],” Fleming says, but “if you find that you’re never actively engaging together — you’re together, alone, doing your own thing — that’s an indication there’s disconnection, or a lack of connection.”

4. YOU’RE ACTIVELY IGNORING YOUR GUT

Our instincts can often tell us first when a relationship just isn’t working — but we don’t always trust that voice, says couples therapist Susan Pease Gadoua, co-author of The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels“We often ignore our gut instincts because that voice is very quiet and calm, unlike the internal voice in our heads that thrives on high drama.” We’re trained to trust logic in many areas of life, so when a niggling feeling (“Am I really still in love with this person?”) presents itself, it’s hard to pay attention to it because there aren’t any hard facts or rational reasoning. Drill down on that initial instinct and ask yourself more specific questions. If you find your responses are things like, “I don’t feel safe to express myself, I don’t feel respected and haven’t felt happy in a long time,” that’s a sign that things have gone awry — and you shouldn’t ignore it. “The truth doesn’t go away simply because we don’t want it to be there; that voice stays in the background and weighs on you,” says Gadoua. “Getting quiet within is key to being able to hear instincts. And like a muscle, the more you trust your gut, the easier it becomes to decipher that voice — which comes from your heart — from the voice in your head.”

5. YOU’RE PREOCCUPIED WITH OTHER PEOPLE’S NEEDS AND PROBLEMS

Many women stay in relationships longer than they should because they tend to put the needs of others before their own. And since women often naturally take on the role of caretakers, they can lose parts of their own identity — and a sense of their own needs — in the process. “In order to face her relationship unhappiness, a woman needs to stop distracting herself by putting other people’s needs ahead of her own,” says Gadoua. “Doing this can be a way of avoiding her own painful truth.” So if you find yourself getting unnecessarily involved in a fight between your mother and sister, or you’re always rushing around trying to make other people’s lives easier, it might be time to take a hard look at your own relationship.

6. THE DISTANCE BETWEEN YOU KEEPS GROWING — AND YOU’RE WAITING TO GET HELP

One way to distinguish between a run-of-the-mill marital rut (where you’ve, say, fallen into boring routines and don’t have much sex anymore) and a loveless marriage is to ask yourself how long the situation has been this way, and whether it’s been steadily worsening. “Most couples go through rough times, but if the difficulties last more than two years, with no sign of relief, I’d recommend seeking professional help,” says Gadoua. And sooner is always better to avoid passing the point of no return. “It would be ideal if we could tune into our longings and needs well before we get to the point that the love we once had is dead,” says Cole, who notes that the average couple waits six years from the time they recognize relationship problems until the time they try therapy. By then, it’s often too late — the problems in the marriage can corrode it to the point where it may be unsalvageable. So play it safe and consider scheduling a therapy session if you’re struggling.

7. YOU FANTASIZE ABOUT A LIFE WITHOUT YOUR SPOUSE

If you often imagine a happy (happy is the key word here) future without your partner, that’s a major sign that things aren’t right. This is a part of the emotional detachment process, during which you may try to convince yourself that you don’t care anymore so that the eventual separation feels less painful, says relationship therapist Jamie Turndorf, Ph.D., author of Kiss Your Fights Goodbye“Detaching psychologically by fantasizing about having an affair or making plans for the future that don’t include your partner can all be signs that you’ve fallen out of love,” says Turndorf. “It’s as if the mind has pulled its own plug so our hearts won’t suffer as much when the relationship ends.” If you notice this mental pattern, take it a step further to see if the fantasy holds weight. Gadoua suggests checking out real apartment listings online, and paying attention to how you feel. “It’ll give you another layer of reality, which can then help you know what the right next step is,” she says. As you click through, check in with your emotions. If excitement or relief is your prominent emotion (rather than fear or apprehension), it may be a sign to acknowledge that there are serious problems in your marriage. “But before actually taking steps to leave, see if there are things you can — or want — to do to work on the relationship,” says Gadoua. That way, if you ultimately decide to leave, “you can do so with some peace of mind,” she says. “It’s never easy to end a relationship, but having lingering regret that you could have done more can make the decision harder.”

8. YOU’VE STOPPED FIGHTING

If you’ve given up fighting, but feel further away than ever, it’s a sign that you’ve reached a crossroads. “If there’s a fight and the couple doesn’t talk about what happened, or becomes gridlocked in their position and refuses to listen to their partner’s perspective, that’s not good,” says Cole. However, you might still be able to turn it around. “Unresolved conflict can fool us into thinking that our love is lost, when it’s actually only buried beneath the ashes of smoldering resentment and anger,” says Turndorf. In other words, the love could still be there, but you just can’t access it. To get back in touch with those feelings, turn toward your partner emotionally —which creates closeness and connection—rather than ignoring them or responding negatively, which creates distance and disengagement. “Fights can lead to greater intimacy if the couple processes the fight and repairs the relationship,” says Cole. It’s up to you to decide whether you’ve got it in you to turn toward your husband and give it one last go, or whether you’ve maxed out your ability to keep fighting for your relationship.

9. YOU HAVE ONE OR MORE OF THE BIG RELATIONSHIP DESTROYERS

According to Cole, there are four behaviors that are super-destructive to relationships. If one or more is present in your relationship, you could be on the fast track to loveless-ness (if you’re not there already). Every time you criticize your partner — by attacking, blaming, and putting the fault on them by flinging negative statements like “You’re always running late,” or “You never do anything right” — you corrode your connection. By being defensive and refusing to accept responsibility, or attacking in response to feedback from your partner, you chip away at the trust and goodwill in your marriage. If you have an attitude of contempt, and call your partner names or make stinging, sarcastic remarks, you imply that you’re superior and your partner is defective. And every time you stonewall one another, or emotionally shut down instead of openly addressing the issues, you create more distance and dishonesty, rather than openness, communication, and love. If any (or all) of these sounds familiar, schedule couples’ therapy to discuss why you do these things — and how you can fix them.

10. YOU DON’T FEEL HEARD (AND YOU MIGHT NOT BE LISTENING)

When you sit down to talk with your spouse about what’s working and what isn’t, do you hear crickets? Or feel like nothing changes, no matter how vocal you are about your feelings? That’s a problem, says Turndorf. “The most powerful tool we have for resolving our conflicts is listening and understanding one another,” she says. “When we invite our partners to share what we’ve done to let them down, and when we truly listen and understand their feelings, decades of hurt and anger can easily fade away.” So make a point of listening for the underlying emotions and messages in your partner’s words — everyday issues, like yelling about whose turn it is to take out the trash, could be stemming from something deeper. “In most situations where couples go from being best friends to loveless opponents, I uncover a pattern of poor communication, dashed expectations and unhealed resentments,” says Gadoua. “They think the fight really is about taking the garbage out, when in fact it’s more likely about one or both feeling unappreciated, overwhelmed or unacknowledged.” And once you finally hear what they’re trying to tell you (or vice versa) you can get to the bottom of the real issue.

11. YOU’RE ON THE VERGE OF HAVING AN EMOTIONAL AFFAIR

If you’re not happy with your husband, you might be falling into an emotional affair, making another male the priority in your life. And thanks to today’s technology, it’s easier than ever to get caught up. “Technology has allowed people who might never risk having any kind of affair to flirt online,” says Dr. Wendy M. O’Connor, a licensed marriage, family therapist, relationship coach, and author of Love Addiction: How to Overcome Toxic Relationships & Find Love. “This creates a situation of ‘temptation,’ and not everything that takes place online stays online. People are bolder when hiding behind a screen, and often click on send without thinking first.” If your relationship is already on the rocks, giving yourself to someone else — even if that’s only virtually — will only make things worse.

12. YOU’RE GOING TO YOUR FRIENDS INSTEAD OF YOUR PARTNER

When people have exciting news to share or even just need someone to talk to, they typically speed dial the person closest to them. If that used to be your spouse but is now someone else — whether that’s a girlfriend or another man — it’s a clear sign you’re not in the happy marriage you used to be. “Research shows that in healthy marriages, couples celebrate each other’s successes. If you’re turning to [someone else] first in good times and bad, then you’re replacing your husband emotionally and avoiding addressing what isn’t working with him,” says Dr. Paulette Sherman, psychologist, director of My Dating and Relationship School and author of Dating from the Inside Out. Try putting your husband into your #1 spot again. If you’re not getting the support you need — or you don’t even want it in the first place — it might be time to sit down and have a serious discussion about your relationship.

13. YOU DON’T LIKE SPENDING QUALITY TIME TOGETHER

After getting home from a long day of work, do you and your spouse immediately go your separate ways? And when you’re at parties, do you tend to drift apart and do your own thing? If you’d rather be alone than with your husband, it probably doesn’t seem like there’s much of a point in being in a relationship in the first place. Getting a little time apart is one thing, but the trouble really starts when you’d rather be apart.

14. DATE NIGHTS ARE A THING OF THE PAST

Can’t remember your last date night? If you’re not planning any important or special events together on top of not spending time together in general, that’s not good news for your relationship, says Greer. Make an effort to get a couple outings on the schedule — maybe a movie night or a dinner at your favorite spot — and see if you can rekindle the flame. Marriages take work, and putting in the effort on things that bond you as a couple is part of that.

15. YOU’RE NOT EACH OTHER’S PRIORITY ANYMORE

When you say your “I dos,” you’re making each other your top priority above anything and anyone else. When you lose that essential part of your marriage, you can lose the person that once meant the world to you. If you’re not making your husband a priority in your life anymore — or if he’s not making you his — it’s going to be really hard to stay a solid unit. Try going back to prioritizing your time together, each other’s feelings, and each other’s goals to get back into a healthy place before it’s too late.

***

From RedBook Mag