Sometimes when you’re in a relationship, you may be preventing the person you’re dating from getting too close to you, emotionally speaking. You may not even realize you’re doing it — it may be your subconscious talking. But whatever the case may be, it’s good to know the signs that you’re preventing your partner from getting closer to you, and then you can figure out to do about it and the relationship. Are you self-sabotaging due to past heartbreaks, or are you doing so because you know, deep down, that the person you’re with is not the one for you?
“It’s often surprising to realize that the intimacy that comes with a relationship can be a problem,” Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. (aka “Dr. Romance”), psychotherapist, and author of How to Be Happy Partners: Working it out Together, tells Bustle. “You or your partner can easily feel stress or pressure about too much closeness and not enough separateness. If you feel you have to cater or be nice to your partner all the time, and put aside what you really want to do (your significant other insists on talking about the relationship when you’d rather just zone out in front of the TV, for example), you’ll feel resentful and want to get away from your partner and the related stress. This problem arises because most people have hidden ‘rules’ or beliefs about intimacy. Once they get close, most people feel that they shouldn’t ever want to pull away. So, to protect personal space, they put up unconscious barriers, behaviors, and responses that communicate to others ‘go away’ or ‘don’t get too close.’”
That said, there are many ways you may be sabotaging your partner from getting closer to you, and, below, several relationship experts weigh in on how you may be doing so.
1You Get Quiet Or Shut Down
Everyone needs space and time apart from their romantic relationship sometimes, but are you communicating that need effectively, or just going MIA? “Keeping your distance can hurt your partner’s feelings and create big problems in the relationship,” Dr. Tessina says. “For example, if you feel the need for space and pull away, get quiet, or shut down without communicating your feelings to your partner, [they] may not understand it and feel pushed away. As a result, [they] may insist on being reassured by demanding more closeness. This will make your need for space more acute, and you’ll pull away further, and your partner will become more demanding. This whole process can lead to struggling, hurt feelings, and anger — and you may not even understand what you’re fighting about.”
2You Put Other People Or Distractions Before Your Relationship
If you consistently put others before your partner, you may not be as into them as you may think. Especially with technology these days, you need to make sure to pay attention to the person physically in front of you, not just the one(s) in your social media feeds. “A relationship — any relationship — will suffer when we fail to nurture it,” Dr. Suzana E. Flores, clinical psychologist and author of Facehooked: How Facebook Affects Our Emotions, Relationships, and Our Lives, tells Bustle. “Ongoing attention and care are needed if we want our relationship to flourish. Unfortunately, in today’s world, we are distracted by so many obligations and other connections, such as those found on our social media platforms. Too often, we become reinforced to pay more attention to our social media interactions over the relationships in our offline realities. A couple can be lying in bed while one partner is on their tablet and the other is on their smartphone. We can be physically next to each other, but mentally far apart, and the more time we spend neglecting our real-life interactions, the more likely they will deteriorate.”
Dr. Tessina agrees about the impact technology may have on your relationship. “You may be shutting your partner out without realizing it,” she says. “Try turning the technology off when your partner is around, and see if you can talk. Or, at least ask your partner to share in what you’re doing online, such as, ‘Look what Julie posted on Facebook.’ Also, try finding out what your partner is thinking about or doing. You might be interested. You were once.”
3You Don’t Include Your Partner In Other Close-Knit Things You Do
Meeting your partner’s family and friends is a key step toward intimacy in your relationship. But, if you spend more and more time with them ~without~ including your partner, it’s a way to sabotage you two becoming closer. “When you’re too involved with your family or friends, and don’t include your partner, this is another sign,” Dr. Tessina says. “If you put other people first too often, you may find your partner drifts away. No one likes to be in second place, especially all the time.”
4You Don’t *Really* Listen
The next time your partner is talking, see if you’re listening… or actively listening. Are you asking them specifics about what they’re saying, or just smiling and nodding and looking at your phone or the TV? “One of the biggest mistakes we can make that prevents us from getting closer to our partners is just flat-out not listening, and I mean really listening (some call it active listening,” Tyler Turk, Founder, Crated With Love, a monthly date night subscription box, tells Bustle. “There is a big difference between hearing what your partner is saying and understanding what your partner is saying. Most of us don’t necessarily tell our partners straight up that we want to get closer to them emotionally. Instead, we use clues to help our partners get the hint — they may be different inflections in our voices, facial expressions, or even physical gestures. If you aren’t actively listening to your partner, chances are that you will miss these cues and miss out on an opportunity to get closer.”
5You Don’t *Really* Talk
Similar to not actively listening to your partner is not actively talking to them, especially when they’re dropping hints that they want or need to talk. “If you’re grunting or giving one-word responses when your partner talks to you, that’s not a good thing and not a way to become closer,” Dr. Tessina says. “Try not only really listening, but also answering with a full sentence. If you can manage a return question, you get a gold star (and maybe a working relationship).”
6You Play Little Games To “Test” Them
Playing games in a relationship to test your partner is never a good sign, and some are more subtle than others. “In everyone’s heart, they are looking for a partner who can ‘receive’ that which they have to offer and ‘give,’” Shlomo Zalman Bregman, Rabbi, matchmaker, and relationship expert, tells Bustle. “Regrettably, sometimes a man or woman will play little games to test their partner and explore how willing they will be to persist in their interest, even after it’s been clearly demonstrated. This is a fool’s errand, and a hallmark of someone who sabotages their partner’s efforts to draw closer. Nobody likes to be toyed with, and if your partner is showing you love, and you play games with them and make it hard for them to reach you, then, oftentimes, they will find someone else who is interested in receiving what they have to give.”
7You Focus On Negatives About The Relationship More Than Positives
A clear indicator that you’re sabotaging your relationship is if you focus on the negative aspects more so than the positive ones. Believe it or not, no relationship is perfect, but that doesn’t mean the negative thinking has to overpower the positive thinking. “You may be sabotaging your partner from getting closer to you if you focus on the problems of the relationship more than the positive things,” Dr. Flores says. “We humans create our realities based on what we focus upon. For example, some people optimistically look forward to new adventures in life, feeling assured that most things will work out for the best. On the other hand, some others solely focus on the worst-case scenario and, therefore, they will tend to suffer from anxiety. Whichever mindset we choose will inevitably affect our relationship. You can focus on your partner’s many positive attributes, or [their] traits which you find annoying. The Buddha said, ‘We are what we think,’ and so it is with our relationships, too.”
8You Do Not Accept Your Partner’s Apology
It can be difficult to say, “I’m sorry,” but it can also be difficult to accept your partner’s apology, especially if you think what they did is not forgivable. “It can be hard to admit you’re wrong,” Rabbi Bregman says. “As such, when someone freely does so, and apologizes to you, it’s a sure sign that they’re trying to get closer to you and mend any breaches in your relationship. If you are not willing to accept your partner’s sincere apology, then you will be shoving them away during a moment they are trying to get closer to you.”
9You Assume Your Partner Should Think Or Behave Like You Do
Assuming anything never gets us anywhere, and that’s true in a relationship, too. “You may be sabotaging closeness with your partner if you assume your partner should think or behave as you do,” Dr. Flores says. “We all function out of individual beliefs, values, customs, or habits. It is a natural habit, then, for us to assume that our partner should ‘just know’ what we want from them. However, a relationship is made of two unique individuals with different ways of thinking and behaving. Every relationship requires time and patience for the couple to be on the same page when it comes to deciding on major life themes. Additionally, it is important to encourage your partner to voice [their] opinions — even when they differ from your own. A sign of a healthy, seasoned relationship is the ability of the partners to allow independent thinking. After all, our partners are to help challenge us in order for us to grow as individuals.”
If you feel you are doing too many of the above indicators that you’re sabotaging your partner from getting closer to you, it may be time to examine your behavior, the relationship, and if what you two have if it’s worth keeping.