Thursday, May 8, 2008

Is my partner going off me?

I get asked this question so often. A reader spots that something is different at home - perhaps their partner is quieter, more withdrawn, or less sexual. And though these signs are often more indicative of an external problem - worries about work, lack of selfconfidence, depression - it could well be that something's wrong.

Here are five key checks if you suspect failing love:

1: Does your partner still remember your first days and weeks together with joy?
A partner who's falling out of love will 're-remember' the early days as being sad or spoiled. If when you talk about when you met there's regret or disillusionment in his (or her) reaction, then there's a problem. If his face still lights up, it's unlikely that there's real difficulty.

2: Does your partner still welcome affectionate physical contact?
Lacking desire or sexual feeling can be down to stress, tiredness or depression - but even when a partner feels like that, a nonsexual hug can still be welcomed. A partner who can't welcome it is usually feeling bad about the relationship.

3: Does your partner talk positively about you to others?
A disillusioned partner often can't express negative feelings directly - it'd be too threatening. Instead, she ( or he) often complains to friends and family - and if he does it in a joking way, there's often an edge behind the joke. If you spot this happening, then it's time to talk.

4: Does your partner still speak enthusiastically about a future together?
If the two of you can look ahead and make plans together - and genuinely welcome those plans - then however stressed you are right now, there's nothing seriously wrong. If when you try to talk about the future, he slides off the point, start worrying.

5: Does your partner still want to please you and make you happy?
If so, there's unlikely to be real problems. But if she blocks your wishes, fights you at every turn, simply doesn't want to give you what you want, then the goodwill has gone from your relationship and something's wrong.

What to do?
First and foremost, think carefully whether any of these bad signs could be otherwise explained. A partner who's lost his job, is recently bereaved or is worried about the children - could well be withdrawn. But when the problem's resolved itself, they'll come back into balance.

Second, talk about it. Simply asking what's wrong - and listening to the answer - can often sort the problem out.

Third, consider counselling. Even if your partner is unwilling to go, you can get support and guidance by seeing a counsellor. If you are in Britain, log on to If elsewhere in the world, ask your physician for a list of recommended counsellors.

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