Emotions fluctuate in every relationship. We’re emotional creatures and navigating those fluctuations skillfully is a part of being human.

But how do you know when you’re just going through a phase or when it’s something much more than that? How do you know when you’re growing apart?

A tough work week, family squabbles, and health issues are all common events in a person’s life and can throw us off our groove. But if it’s been some time now that you just haven’t felt as close to your partner as you once were, that might be the sign of trouble in your relationship.

If that’s the case, you’ll need to tackle it now and give all your energy to the problem if you hope to mend the relationship. The good news is, provided both people want it, there’s always a way to make it happen and get back to those blissful days you remember.

But first, it’s important to know if you’re just going through a phase or if you’re truly growing apart for good.

Here are five key differences between growing apart and going through a phase:

1. Has communication between you severed?

Communication is arguably the most important element of any good relationship. Like everything else in life, communication may fluctuate, but you should always end up coming back to one another.

But if regular talks, texts, updates, and deep conversations have lately become nothing but the occasional surface-level conversation or update from one another, that’s a sign you’re growing apart and it’s not just a phase.

The important thing here is whether you know why they’re acting differently or not. Tragedy, mental health, a recent failure, or other issues can cause a person to become distant for a period of time. If you know why they’re acting distant and what’s bothering them, it’s something you can repair with time.

Often, these things will heal themselves, however, you should never assume they will. Always look to support your partner in any way you can while they’re going through that rough period. You’ll help quell their suffering and the two of you will be stronger for it.

2. Does your partner blame you for the issues in your relationship?

When one or both people stop working together towards the good of the relationship, it’s a sign that the person no longer cares like they used to.

One of the ways this is expressed is through through blame. If the other person has resorted to blaming you for all of the issues that exist in your relationship, they’re showing that they just don’t care like they used to.

3. Are you no longer interested in what your partner is doing?

Do you just not care what your partner is up to anymore? Do they never ask you what you’re doing on your offtime? Do you spend your time at home in separate rooms and rarely go out or do things together any longer? Those are all signs you’re growing apart.

Some distance from time to time might happen, but when you or the other person just don’t care what the other person is up to there’s definitely some real space developing that has to be worked through before things get worse.

4. Do you need to compare responsibilities?

One of the more concrete ways you can tell if you’re going through more than just a phase is by looking at how you work with one another.

When you’re close, each person seeks to help the other in any way that they can. There aren’t typically conversations about “I handle these duties” or “You need to get off your ass.”

Sure, it might happen from time to time if someone gets overwhelmed with work or distracted with something, but when each person is concerned for the other it’s not a regular thing. And when one or both people start keeping score? That’s a really bad sign.

5. Can you no longer see having a future with the other person?

This is the big one. To have a future with someone means they’re in your life, but space suggests the desire to go another direction.

First you need to ask yourself how you feel. Do you see yourself having a future with your partner still? Can you imagine yourself being apart from them– moving out, hanging out with friends, following your dream, living life in general– all without them in sight? This is the greatest sign that you’ve grown apart.

And if you still see yourself having a future with them, what about them? Are they acting in a way that would suggest they’re still in it for the long haul or do they no longer seem to want to talk about anything to do with the future of your relationship?

Do they change the subject at the talk of marriage or get tense at any mention of children, even if it had nothing to do with you potentially having children together? Or, arguably worse, have they hinted at the thought of moving somewhere for work or business or changing careers, or pursuing some new interest which you haven’t discussed together?

More often than not, when two people grow distant it’s just a phase. There was love there at one point, and provided both people remain willing to work for it, you can find the spark again. But sometimes people do grow apart.

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