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Sometimes, the writing's so obviously on the wall, it might as well be in neon. In other relationships, one person's planning the wedding menu while the other is planning to leave. According to couples' counselors, there are vulnerable points in any partnership - and classic, telltale signs you're about to split. How does your love affair measure up?
You Or Your Partner Experience A Major Life Change
A new job, move to a new country, the death of a parent or a best friend - any major life change pushes the strongest relationship into a vulnerable position. Change gives us a new perspective: we're forced to step outside of the same old routine - and even a short break from normality can make us question how happy we really are. Taking a new job or moving town exposes us to new people: it's easy to stay in a so-so relationship if the only males you mix with are the ancient accounts clerk in the family business where you work. Since more than 65 percent of people meet their future spouse at work, changing jobs can turn up more dates than a disco. Even if you are happy, you're battling the boring old partner syndrome when you meet new men. Someone new is always more interesting and if the two of you have chemistry and work closely together, watch out!
Your Relationship Is At A Turning Point
You've been going out for two years now and everyone's asking when you're getting engaged or married. Secretly, you're both wondering the same thing: is it time to move on or move out? If you're comfortable with commitment and each other, this can open the lines to some much-needed discussion. But if one partner needs more time and feels pressure to make a decision immediately, leaving may seem the best solution.
You Don't Make Love As Often As Before
That touch-me-and-I-melt feeling wanes with time in the healthiest relationship - but there's a huge difference between a natural cooling-off period, and the signals that you're about to split. The telltale sign is "the cringe factor": when you do make love, do you enjoy it - or shrink away? If you're simply caught up with the pressures of life, when both of you finally do make love, it's great and you wonder why you don't make the effort more often. But if either of you go into cringe factor, you're in trouble! Your skin crawls, you close your eyes, shut down your senses - it's a horrible feeling, you can't wait for sex to be over! Partners who are in cringe mode will do just about anything to avoid the bedroom. They'll get drunk, pick a fight, invent exotic illnesses, often be the life of the party simply to avoid going home. Usually, affectionate gestures will also vanish.
One Of You Has Sex With Someone Else
Whether it's a night with an ex-boyfriend or a one-night stand on a business trip, having sexual contact with someone other than your partner means major trouble. For a start, you've broken the pact the two of you had to stay faithful to each other; the relationship loses its "special-ness" and you feel less committed. You could also find yourself getting addicted to the risk-taking. If you don't get caught, it's a way of satisfying that 'naughty' side of us. Other people start playing around because they're not sure how they feel, so they start "testing" their feelings. Some people just don't have the guts to say 'I don't love you anymore' so they start cheating. They find it a lot easier to break up by confessing they've been unfaithful. Once a partner strays, the relationship is in dire straits. The theory is that there are three things that hold relationships together; play, passion and company. When we meet someone, we react like children and think 'Wow! Someone I can play with'. When you start seeing other people it means the play has ceased - you're looking around the recapture that feeling with someone else.
The Blinkers Come Off
The blinkers eventually come off in any relationship and flirting with a guy whose pecs rival Arnie's need not mean you're not happily attached. Flirting makes us feel refreshed and desired, and boosts our ego - it's only when you want to take things further that problems start. Occasionally testing your sexual attractiveness for a bit of a laugh is normal; finding yourself constantly fantasizing about different men isn't.
You Send Out Signals That Others Act On
If you're happily involved, people ask you out even if you do flirt with them. Subliminally, you're sending out an "I'm attached" signal even if you are flicking your hair and sliding your fingers along the stem of your wine glass. Start thinking about splitting, however, and it's a different story. I'm not sure if it's a chemical thing or not, though it's certainly said that people give off pheromones. Either way, I do think we advertise your availability. You may have a ring on your finger and appear to be settled in a relationship but from the moment you decide you want an affair, you give off an unconscious 'I'm available' message that people respond to. Sometimes, our signals are quite deliberate. If you're thinking of leaving, you become more aware of your attractiveness and may start flaunting your sex appeal to see how you'd fare if you were single. Same goes for him. If he's skipping bonding with the boys for a lengthy discussion about fashion with a blushing brunette, consider the danger light on and blinking.
You Stop Talking
Once, you called him five times in as many hours, eager to fill him in on everything that happened in your day. Now, you've won that longed-for promotion and find yourself picking up the phone to call someone else first. The nurturing element, the ability to care for each other, is part of the glue that holds us together. If you're not getting the nurturing from him - or feel you're giving too much - you'll turn to others who do it better. Couples who are disenchanted with each other often stop communicating effectively. Conversations fade to a bored "How was work?" thrown over your shoulder as you're chopping up the vegetables. Not talking about the little things stops you feeling in tune with each other. It's a fact of life; the person who knows most about us is often the person we feel closest to. We naturally move closer to the person we share our secrets with.
You Stop Arguing
In a university study, researchers asked a group of single men and woman to name the opposite to love. Their answer, predictably was hate. When the same question was posed to married couples, they answered "indifference" - a far more realistic and accurate response, at least according to psychologists. While you're arguing, the chances are there's still a relationship there that's functioning. It's when you give up on arguing that spells the end. You've got to the stage where you're indifferent: you despair that you'll ever get your needs met and stop trying.
You Start Seeing Faults
That cute little habit she has of distractedly smoothing hair now seems neurotic; his gregarious personality starts to grate. Your rose-colored glasses have been replaced by magnifying glasses and faults you never noticed before now seem glaringly magnified. Sometimes, our partners do change physically or emotionally into someone who doesn't attract us anymore. But more often than not, it's our perceptions that have altered. When you fall out of love, your tolerance level isn't the same. What was endearing becomes annoying. Finding fault also helps us justify wanting to leave. We gather as many faults as possible as a reason for leaving someone. We try to justify why we're about to be mean and nasty.
You Avoid Spending Time Together
Couples who can't even go to the dentist alone are nauseating, but pay attention if you find yourself preferring to do just about everything solo. You're leaving him out because you feel less restricted and more comfortable on your own. Another clincher: when people stop asking you out as a couple. If the tension between you is so obvious that others notice it, your future together is definitely growing less and less certain. It's one of the tail-end signs that you've drifted apart. If you're no longer spending time together, you're no longer communicating or sharing. And of course, it also means you're free to spend time with someone else.