The end of a relationship doesn’t always happen suddenly, such as with your partner calling you to say, “We need to talk.” Often, relationships gently fade out slowly. In fact, according to websites such as Mind Body Green, “the slow fade” is a term for a current dating trend in which your partner carefully starts moving himself out of the relationship, such as by not being able to see you or call you as much as he used to, because he might not have the courage to tell you upfront that he wants to end it.
Instead, he might be giving you subtle signs that he’s not interested in dating you anymore without you even noticing them. Sometimes strategy is behind this – he might be hoping that you’ll be the one to break up with him. Even though you could miss some of his signs, someday you’ll look back on them and realize they were actually red flags that something wasn’t quite right, like when he stopped having lots of things to say to you. Here are 15 subtle signs to catch ASAP that tell you your boyfriend’s heading for the exit – really, really slowly, but with intention.
15His Texting Habits Have Changed
How you and your partner communicate via text can tell you a lot about your relationship. If you notice that his texting habits have changed, this could be a sign that something’s not quite right. For example, if your boyfriend used to contact you every day but now he’s slacking off a bit, or he used to reply to your texts quickly but now can leave them unanswered for hours.
If this seems to become the new norm of how he communicates with you via text, it’s clear that he isn’t making you as much of a priority as he used to.
When you ask him about the change in his texting habits, he might claim that he’s been really busy at work or didn’t have his phone with him. Ask yourself: do these reasons make sense or does it seem like they’re lies to get him out of a sticky corner? If it happens regularly that he isn’t available via text and his work schedule or life hasn’t changed much, his excuses might seem unreasonable. Maybe, then, the only thing that’s changing is how he feels about your relationship.
When analyzing his texting behavior, bear in mind that every couple will have their own texting style. Maybe you and your boyfriend aren’t the type to text each other daily, and it’s been that way from the start. That’s fine and normal for you. The key is to check for any texting behavior that’s different from what you’re both used to.
14He Suddenly Doesn’t Like Your Hairstyle
You get home from the hairdresser who touched up your stunning ombre hair and your boyfriend mentions that it doesn’t really suit you. Um, hello? You’ve had this hair for months and he always used to say it was awesome. What’s up? Don’t think there’s something wrong with you – he’s the problem. This example highlights what a guy does when he secretly wants out of the relationship – he starts criticizing you. He might do so in a joking way that doesn’t really feel funny, or in a serious way. But the point is that he’s started noticing what he considers to be negative things about you whereas he used to be totally cool with your hair, friends, music preferences, and more. The reason? His feelings are changing.
Don’t underestimate just how destructive criticism can be for your relationship. According to Psychology Today, leading professor John Gottman said criticism is one of the leading causes of couples separating. If your partner’s suddenly becoming more critical of things you do, it could be that he’s becoming more negative because he doesn’t see the relationship as something positive. He might also be unhappy in the relationship but not have the courage to end things, hoping that you’ll be the one to break up with him once you’re sick and tired of being picked on.
13He Seems Down All The Time
It’s normal for people to go through periods of feeling down every now and then, so when your partner’s under the weather, it’s normal to assume he’s just stressed out because of something else, like work. But when his feeling seems to intensify and stick around, it could have more to do with your relationship than you’d like to think. Notice when he seems down. Is it all the time or just when he’s with you?
If his mood improves when he speaks to his friend on the phone or hangs out with his family, then this makes his bad mood feel more personal.
Why is he always “down” around you? It could be that he’s not really “down” or “under the weather” but actually slowly checking out of the relationship.
It’s worth remembering that even if he’s depressed, it’s not your fault. As pointed out on Health Central, when your loved one is depressed it’s easy for them to lash out at you, or blame you for how they’re feeling. But remember that this isn’t true or fair. Unhappiness in your relationship can trigger feelings of depression, but it’s not causing it. If your partner’s being more irritable and moody around you, this is not a nice attitude to be on the receiving end on, and it’s important to confront him about it. If you talk about it and he says that it’s not you but then the behavior persists, it’s worth considering walking away. Clearly, he’s not making an effort anymore.
12He’s Got A New Friend Who Takes Up His Time
You thought things were great in your relationship and then your partner started chatting with someone at work or he made a new friend. Now that friend’s always in the picture!The question is: is your partner interested in this friend or is the relationship purely platonic? Well, sorry to say, but both situations could be a problem.
Obviously, in the case of your partner having a possible interest in someone else, this could be a sign that they’re moving away from you and towards them instead. You might notice that they’re always talking about a woman they’ve met, which is known as “mentionitis.” It’s like her name comes up in conversation every 10 minutes, like she’s always on your boyfriend’s mind. On the other hand, if he’s hanging out with a new friend and it’s purely platonic, it might not make you worry but there could be a reason why you should. For example, if he’s always choosing to hang out with said friend instead of you. This could point to your boyfriend wanting to break up with you. The classic example of this is when a guy starts hanging out with his male friends a lot more, acting like a single guy instead of someone in a committed relationship. He’s moving further and further into single life.
If your partner’s new friend is getting in the way of your relationship, such as by preventing you and your boyfriend from spending time together, then it’s a problem and points to your boyfriend’s priorities. You’re not his Number One anymore.
11He Seems Quieter Than Usual
You might think he’s being a bit quiet for his own reasons, but there could be a more sinister reason for those long, awkward silences in your relationship. If he’s never interested in chatting much, whether in person or via text, it could be that he’s stopped making an effort to keep the relationship going. Communication is the most important element of your relationship. Without it, you’ve got nothing. If you stop talking, it means you’re no longer sharing about your lives or expressing things that have upset you, which zaps the chance of having good times as well as working through difficult times so you come out stronger.
It’s a horrible feeling when you try to engage with your partner but he doesn’t seem interested in talking, or he’s so distant he might as well be on another planet. You might think you’ve done something wrong to upset them, and if you have, then now’s the time to apologize.
But if, despite your efforts, your partner keeps freezing you out, then maybe they’re actually looking for a way out.
The minute your partner stops making an effort in the relationship, he’s emotionally checked out of it.
As explained on the Elephant Journal, sometimes guys shut down because their feelings have changed and they’re no longer feeling the attraction or chemistry they used to. However, this doesn’t excuse the fact that the guy’s avoiding the issue. He’s not being respectful to you!
10He Doesn’t Ask You Questions
Earlier in your relationship, your partner was always interested in finding out things about you, from your goals and dreams, to your likes and dislikes, and even how your day was. He’d make you feel special by giving you his undivided attention during these conversations. But now, it feels like you’re always the one asking him questions and he just doesn’t seem to care about your life. What gives?
Sometimes in relationships, people start off by being super-interested in each other. They ask a lot of questions and want to know all the thoughts circling through their partner’s mind. But then, once they become comfortable with each other, this intense need dissipates. It’s normal because you get to know each other, but that doesn’t mean you should take each other for granted. If your partner never takes an interest in you or your life, it’s clear that he’s doing that. He’s also not making an effort to learn more about you because he’s shutting down his interest in the relationship bit by bit.
If you find yourself in this situation, it could be a good idea to back off a bit. Stop showing such an interest in him and what he’s doing. You’ll see how he reacts. He might escalate his interest out of fear of losing you or he might pull further away, which shows you that he’s hoping for a proper relationship break.
9He Doesn’t Return Your Compliments
You tell him that he’s gorgeous or such an amazing person, and he just smiles. It seems that lately he never gives you any compliments. What’s up with that? Giving compliments isn’t just cheap talk – it’s an important show of love that keeps a relationship going strong. Compliments have different functions. They can make you feel valued, such as if your partner tells you they love how you always support them. Compliments can also make you feel noticed, such as when your partner tells you that your new dress looks pretty.
When you feel seen and loved in a relationship, it strengthens your bond, which is why it’s a troubling sign if your partner stops giving you compliments.
According to an article in Prevention, relationship therapist Jean Fitzpatrick says that compliments are like a deposit in your relationship’s emotional savings account so that you can draw on them when conflict or difficult times come up. “They also have a profound effect on the complimenter,” she says. “As you get into the habit of complimenting your partner, you grow increasingly aware of what makes them special. You avoid taking them for granted.”
See, compliments are about much more than just nice words. If your partner doesn’t give you any compliments, it can make you feel undervalued and ignored, which is a bad sign your partner’s not interested in you anymore.
8He’s Less Available When You Call
Being able to reach your partner is important, but if you find yourself calling them and they’re less available than they used to be, it’s a worry. Much like when it comes to ignoring your texts, when your partner avoids your calls, your relationship’s obviously not in a good place. It’s a clear sign that your partner is distancing himself from you. As mentioned on Glamour, it takes less than 30 seconds to send a text and a minute to call to say hi. So if your partner can’t seem to do those things, or he’s never available when you pick up the phone to say hello, it’s clear that he’s not interested in making things work.
Sometimes it’s easier for people to distance themselves via the phone than in person because they don’t have to deal with an awkward breakup conversation in real life. It makes them feel less guilty and more courageous to let your missed calls go unanswered than if they had to reject you to your face. After a while of doing this, the person feels comfortable to make even less contact, until eventually, they’re completely unreachable – and out of your life. It’s a classic case of “the slow fade”, which an Elle survey found 17 percent (or 11) out of 65 men had admitted to doing to their partners.
7He’s Saying Sorry More Often
When your partner apologizes to you, it’s a healthy thing. But if it seems like lately he’s apologizing all the time, there’s a reason why – he’s always finding ways to upset you! One of these could be how he breaks his word to you. For example, if he says he’ll chat with you later but then he doesn’t get in touch for days. Another reason for all his apologies could be because you confronted him about his negative behavior, such as if he’s always bringing you down, and he was quick to apologize – before resorting to the same hurtful actions.
Clearly, if he’s always saying sorry, chances are his bad behavior keeps happening.
Perhaps he’s just saying sorry to appease you but it doesn’t last long. Ask yourself why you accept his apology and forgive him, and if he even deserves it anymore. The truth is, saying sorry might seem like a good thing, but if it’s not backed up with a positive change in his behavior, then talk is cheap.
A guy who wants to be with you will make it his mission to keep you happy and try to avoid upsetting you. He’ll want to be a better person and boyfriend. If that’s not happening, clearly your relationship isn’t happening either.
6His Favorite Word Is “Maybe”
When you ask him out to dinner on Saturday night, he says “maybe” he’ll be able to make it. Same goes for when you invite him to your sister’s birthday party. He never seems to commit to plans anymore. This is a clear sign that he’s moving out of the relationship, but it can be subtle at first because he might not be making plans to see you but still firing up your phone with texts on a daily basis. Talk about giving you mixed messages! And that’s just it: the guy’s confused. He might still love talking to you so he’s not ready to break up completely, but he’s slowly trying to give you the hint that he’s no longer envisioning a future for your relationship by not seeing you in real life. He’s testing the waters before disappearing on you completely.
Although you might tell yourself that things are still okay with your S.O. because he’s still texting you, if he’s not actually making plans to see you, things are not okay. You deserve a fully committed relationship with someone that’s filled with real-life dates, otherwise you really just have a pen pal instead of a boyfriend.
5You Have To Remind Him Of Things
You have a stressful day at work that you’ve mentioned hundreds of times and your boyfriend completely forgets to wish you good luck with it. You booked reservations for dinner or bought tickets to a concert, but you have to chase him to remind him that you had plans together. It’s bad enough if your boyfriend never seems to have much time for you lately, but it’s even worse if he’s becoming forgetful of plans made in advance, especially if those plans used to excite him. His mind is clearly elsewhere, not on your relationship anymore.
He might even become “forgetful” about things other than plans you’ve made, such as your anniversary date or birthday.
He might brush these off as not having greater significance, but they matter because his “forgetfulness” is actually pretty disrespectful.
It’s like he doesn’t care about your feelings as much as he used to, and that’s what makes you feel like a breakup is just around the corner. And you might just be right about that. As explained by Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, a marriage and family therapist, on Bustle, “When [people] forget your important dates, it’s a sign they want to forget you.” Sad, but true.
4He Doesn’t Seem To Have As Much Fun With You Alone As When You’re Out With Friends
You can tell a lot about your boyfriend by how he behaves around his friends. Check to see what he’s like with them compared to how he behaves around you when you’re alone with him. If it seems like he has much more fun around his friends than he does with you, that’s a bad omen for your relationship. He might even start suggesting more group dates with his friends present instead of one-on-one time, which you might not think is a bad thing, but it can be. Although you might have more time with friends when your relationship is solid and comfortable, this should never replace your quality time alone with your partner. If it does, then your boyfriend is basically saying he doesn’t want to invest his time into spending quality time with you. Without good quality time, couples can end up being very distanced from each other – and maybe that’s what your boyfriend actually wants.
If your boyfriend doesn’t enjoy time with you alone or always has excuses for why other people should be present on your dates, then maybe he’s trying to give you the hint that he’s hoping to move further away from you and be around other people instead.
3He Can’t Make Visits To Your Folks
Your partner should be interested in spending time with your loved ones every now and then. This shows you that he cares about people who are important to you and also that he wants to make an effort to be a part of your life. If he sees a real future with you, he’s going to be sure that your families are included in this future. So, if you invite him to hang with your family and he never seems to have time for them anymore, it’s a really bad sign.
During this time, check what his behavior is like concerning his loved ones. Are you still being invited out with him and his friends and/or family, or does it seem like he never lets you around them much? If he’s not making an effort to see your loved ones and he’s closing the door between you and his loved ones, that’s a sure sign he’s trying to weasel his way out of the relationship.
People in healthy relationships open their whole lives to each other, and interactions with loved ones is an important part of that “open book” policy.
So, if it feels like he’s slowly shutting you out by keeping his loved ones away from you, things are probably just going to get worse as time goes on. Soon, he’s going to be distancing himself from you too.
2He Contradicts Nice Things You Say About Him
You tell him that he’s got an amazing personality and he tells you that actually, he’s selfish or a bad guy. He’s not just fishing for compliments! It’s important to watch what a person says about themselves. If a guy calls himself something negative, then that’s a sign he could be trying to put you off him, especially if he always contradicts nice things you say about him. He’s basically saying, “Don’t think so highly of me.” Although you might ignore this, it’s important to pay attention. A person who wants to date you values your love and compliments. He’s not going to turn these down or tell you that he doesn’t deserve them.
There’s another reason why he might contradict you when you say he’s a good person: guilt. He’s probably feeling guilty for wanting to end the relationship. He might feel like he’s not a good person for wanting to break up with you, which is why he doesn’t feel comfortable when you tell him that he’s so wonderful. So, how he negatively reacts to your words can really give you a hint that he’s keen on ending things in the near future and they’re worth paying attention to!
1He Doesn’t Argue With You
You might think that not having any fights with your partner is a healthy thing, but the opposite often holds true. As outlined in the Good Men Project, there are many benefits to arguing with your partner, such as that it makes you stronger and allows you both to express your opinions and feelings. Fighting also helps you to achieve greater trust because you and your partner go through the difficult situation of an argument and come out the other side feeling more secure in your bond. If your partner never wants to argue with you, it’s, therefore, a bad sign that they’re not really invested in the relationship.
Basically, they don’t see the relationship is worth fighting for.
Couples who argue tend to be happier than those who never enter into the verbal boxing ring. According to a study of almost 1,000 adults that was mentioned on The Guardian, couples who argue effectively, such as by being open to their partner’s views, are 10 times more likely to have a happy relationship than those who ignore their issues. It makes sense: keeping your feelings bottled up and avoiding conflict can lead to stress in the long run. If your partner just doesn’t want to argue or resolve conflict, then they’re giving you a clear message that they don’t want to put hard work and love into the relationship. If that’s true, then why should you?