Moving in with your partner isn’t just something to check off a list of relationship milestones. It’s a move that can completely change the dynamic between you. Intimacy goes into overdrive as they see you in your most natural state — bedhead and all.
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They get a front-row seat to your organizational idiosyncrasies and your farts. Plus, you’re tasked with navigating and negotiating everything, from how you’ll make your bed to paying rent. The last thing you probably expect is for your relationship to end, but if you’re getting the sense that your partner wants to break up after moving in, you’re going to want to address it ASAP.
Coming to terms with the fact that your relationship is going downhill never feels good, especially if you live together and have to deal with your partner’s negativity and your own doubts every single day. This situation can also be extremely saddening, because chances are, you moved in together because you saw a future together. (About 55% of adults see cohabitation as a step toward marriage, according to a 2019 study from the Pew Research Center.) Whichever way you slice it, breaking up with someone you live with can not only be emotionally devastating, but also, super complicated. Who moves out? What happens to your lease? How do you split your furniture? Who gets to keep the dog?
I spoke to Damona Hoffman, certified dating coach and host of the Dates & Mates podcast, about the signs you’ll notice if your live-in partner wants to break up and what you can do about it. Here’s what she says to be on the lookout for.
1. You Notice A Change In Their Communication Style
If your partner has stopped letting you know when they’re coming home late, or if they’re taking longer than ever to reply to your texts, Hoffman says to keep an eye out. These might be signs of relationship instability.
Of course, your partner could genuinely be busy at work or going through something you don’t know about. But if they’re always MIA and seem relatively blasé when you express concern over their lack of communication, take note.
2. Your Sexual Intimacy Declines
Another sign your live-in partner isn’t feeling your relationship anymore is a substantial decrease in intimacy between you, Hoffman says. “The average co-habitating couple has sex about once a week,” she adds. (According to a 2017 study published by Archives of Sexual Behavior, the average American adult has sex about 53 times a year.)
If you’re having sex less often than that, or less than what’s “regular” for you and your partner, that may be cause for concern. But keep in mind, your partner may be avoiding sex for completely different reasons, like stress at work or general tiredness. So before you freak out and jump to conclusions, have a chat with them.
3. They’re Constantly Annoyed With You
You and your partner aggravating each other from time to time while sharing what is probably (while in college or freshly post-grad) a small space is understandable. But if your partner seems grumpy with you all the time, and they never used to before, consider their attitude a red flag.
Breakup coach Trina Leckie previously told Elite Daily that your partner may want to separate if you notice they “become very short with you, seem irritated, or snap at you” on a regular basis. Ditto to your partner generally “acting out” and “not treating you with kindness or respect,” Leckie added.
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If everything from how you meal-prep in the kitchen to how you put the laundry away seems to annoy your partner lately, heed the warning signs.
4. They Ask You For More Space
Before you get nervous about this sign, it’s important to remember that your partner asking for some alone time can actually be a good thing. Everyone needs space to do the things they love, hang out with friends, or relax. But if your partner is frequently asking for more space on top of other avoidant behaviors, that might be a sign they’ve got more on their mind than some rest and relaxation.
“They either want to be alone more, are spending time with other friends, or they flat out asked you to give them space,” Hoffman says. If your partner is constantly making an effort to be literally anywhere you aren’t, take note.
So, What Should You Do About It?
There’s a chance that your partner displaying the above behaviors has nothing to do with your relationship, and everything to do with your partner. Again, they could be tired because of work, upset because of family drama, or any number of things. You won’t know for sure until you talk to them about it, so approach them delicately when you feel the time is right.
“Remember to come from a place of listening and trying to understand,” says Hoffman. “Rather than trying to get your partner to do something you want, like be more intimate [or] reinvest in the relationship.”
A solid approach to this conversation is to point out what you’re seeing and ask your partner how they feel. “Acknowledge something that is a fact and then ask them how it feels for them,” says Hoffman. She suggests wording it along the lines of, “We seem to be spending less time together than usual. Is everything OK for you?”
If you and your partner decide you still want to make your relationship work, Hoffman suggests you seek out therapy or talk to someone who has your best interests at heart, “so you can better understand [your partner’s] feelings and make sure you’re both getting your needs met in a relationship.”
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But if, after reflecting on and talking about the distance between you, your partner does want to break up, it’s important to prioritize your healing. Because you and your partner live together, that includes, first and foremost, physically going your separate ways — whether it’s you moving out, or your partner. That has to come first because you’ll need the space to heal and move on, says Hoffman.
Whether this hard conversation with your partner leads to a breakup, or brings about the realization that you and your partner love each other, but have things to work on, rest assured it will put facts to your feelings and help you figure out the next best steps. That peace of mind can be worth any initial tension.