11 early signs a relationship isn’t meant to be, according to psychology

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Many relationships go through what’s known as a “honeymoon phase,” where everything is in a golden light. 

But after a few months, and sometimes even only a few weeks, this honeymoon phase sometimes starts to crack up. In other cases it lasts longer and the relationship seems charmed with almost no real problems. 

But if you know where to look, early warning signs that a relationship isn’t going to work out can start showing up quite quickly. 

Psychology provides valuable insights into some of these warning signs that can start appearing quite early in a romantic connection.

1) You’re somewhat bored of talking to them

The relationship already low-key bores you. 

You feel attraction, you have enjoyable moments and intimate connection, but at the most foundational level, you just don’t find conversing with this person all that interesting. 

You also don’t feel understood or heard when you do speak, and you find what they say pretty boring most of the time.

This is an early red flag that the intellectual component of your relationship is missing and that as much as there may be some attraction there isn’t a real meeting of the minds. 

The bottom line: Early signs that a relationship may not be meant to be include difficulty communicating openly and honestly, frequent misunderstandings, or feeling unheard or invalidated by your partner.

2) Only one of you is putting in most of the effort

All relationships start differently and there is no “formula.”

That said, the psychological consensus is that a relationship takes two parties to work. 

If only one of you is putting in most of the effort, then the relationship is starting off on the wrong foot. It is likely to fail and drag you down unless something changes and there is conscious communication about changing it. 

“People with hopes that rise and then are dashed frequently will persist a bit longer when they have a commitment and significant investment,” notes clinical psychologist Dr. Scott Bea, Psy.D.

The bottom line: A balanced give-and-take is essential in relationships. 

3) There is minimal trust between the two of you

As much as you’d like it to be the case, you don’t feel a great deal of trust towards your partner. 

There are things about what they say and do that raise question flags for you. 

Beyond small matters, you feel unsure if they might cheat on you and you wouldn’t share a joint bank account with them.

Trust can grow over time, true, but if there are already shifty warning signs around your partner early on it can be a big red flag.

The bottom line: Early signs of trust issues, such as jealousy, insecurity, or dishonesty, may signal underlying compatibility issues. 

4) Your values are on very different pages

There is no rule book saying relationships have to be built around shared beliefs and values: but it certainly helps. 

Even if you disagree about most things, a relationship should include at least one point of commonality and one shared passion, interest, value or belief. 

When that isn’t the case and your goals and values are wildly different, it’s an early sign that the connection won’t last the test of time. 

Even if the attraction is there, a lack of shared values is something that needs to be faced early on in order to avoid future heartbreak.

The bottom line: Shared values and goals are crucial for long-term compatibility. If you and your partner have significantly different values, beliefs, or life aspirations, it may indicate that the relationship isn’t meant to be. 

5) You frequently bicker and fight about small things

Every couple has occasional disagreements even if it’s just minor scheduling conflicts or different energy levels. 

But if you find that your honeymoon phase never really happened, it should definitely raise some red flags. 

When you’re frequently fighting right from the get go, it raises questions about future compatibility, particularly if your partner isn’t willing to talk things through or address the frustrations that are coming up. 

As Bea points out

“If you make reasonable requests, and your partner is stonewalling or rigid or can’t negotiate that path with you, it’s going to bring about resentment.” 

The bottom line:  While conflict is normal in any relationship, constant or unresolved conflict early on may indicate deeper compatibility issues. 

6) Time around each other makes you feel drained

Every relationship can be tiring and feel like a drag at times. 

But if that’s the “default setting” on your relationship, it’s unlikely to last the test of time. In fact, if it does last it’s likely to do some real psychological damage to you. 

As much as every relationship has downsides and is a lot of work, time around your partner should ultimately be a fairly refreshing experience. 

If you find yourself avoiding them and not wanting to see them, it’s a sign that they aren’t the one for you. 

The bottom line: If you consistently feel drained, stressed, or emotionally exhausted in the relationship, it may be a sign that it’s not meant to be. 

7) There isn’t much emotional intimacy between the two of you

Another warning sign that the relationship won’t last is when there isn’t much emotional intimacy between the two of you. 

You may want to tear each others clothes off all the time and have fascinating discussions, but on the emotional side you feel quite indifferent. 

You don’t find yourself feeling that real heart connection with them, even if they’re interesting and sexy to you. 

As Amaha Mental Health Clinic notes:

“If there is lack of emotional connection in a relationship, sometimes due to the fear of intimacy, you may at times feel disconnected or distant from your partner. You may feel like your partner is keeping secrets from you and there is an invisible barrier or wall between you and your partner.”

The bottom line: If there’s a lack of emotional intimacy or emotional distance early in the relationship, it may be a red flag for compatibility issues. 

8) There’s a noticeable lack of respect between the two of you

The two of you already take each other for granted. 

You make jokes at each other’s expense and find yourself being criticized or criticizing almost as if by instinct. 

This can be worked on and improved, but is certainly not a good sign for the start of the relationship. 

Without respect there isn’t a firm foundation for the future of the relationship. 

The bottom line: Early signs of disrespectful behavior, such as belittling, criticism, or contempt, can indicate compatibility issues. 

9) One or both of you doesn’t really want to commit

It takes two to tango. 

If the desire for something serious is only coming from one side, it’s eventually going to become a problem. 

Granted, this commitment can grow over time. 

But if one of you is resolute about not wanting a commitment, the relationship is eventually going to fizzle out. 

“This typically refers to an inability to talk about the future or lack of desire to take the next steps when a relationship begins to progress throughout time,” notes mental health writer Crystal Raypole.

The bottom line: If one partner avoids discussions about commitment, future plans, or defining the relationship early on, it may indicate a lack of alignment in goals or intentions. 

10) You feel lonely even when you’re together with each other

Time with your partner should be time that you feel comforted and confident. 

As Tom Petty sings:

“When she puts her arms around me I can somehow rise above it

Yeah, man when I got that little girl

Standing right by my side You know, I can tell the whole wide world

To shove it, hey.”

If a relationship doesn’t give either of you some feeling of solidarity and togetherness, this inner loneliness can fester and grow. 

The bottom line: If one partner feels lonely in the relationship and unsupported, it doesn’t bode well for the future of the connection. 

11) You often feel uncomfortable with your partner at a gut level

It may be hard for you to put your finger on, but something about the relationship just doesn’t sit right with you. 

You have this feeling that’s hard to explain where you feel like you can’t really be yourself around your partner, or they may feel this way about you. 

It feels like playing a role. It doesn’t feel empowering. The relationship feels like it’s leading you further away from who you really want to be. 

It’s “that gut feeling that something isn’t right or that you persistently end up doing things you don’t want to. You may ignore this feeling and try to convince yourself that everything’s OK,” explains Sandra Silva Casabianca MSc, Social Psychology

The bottom line: Psychological studies suggest that gut instincts can provide valuable insights into relationship compatibility and well-being.

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