9 easy-to-miss signs your relationship isn’t moving forward, according to psychology

The fairytales lied. 

Unless you’ve won the relationship lottery, you’ve probably learned by now that there’s a long road between falling in love and “happily ever after.”

You and your partner will inevitably have some hurdles to cross, and a good partnership requires you to keep going, keep plowing through. 

But what if you and your partner get stuck somewhere? 

What if you got lost? 

How the heck do you even know if your relationship is moving in the right direction? 

I’m here to help.

Here are 9 easy-to-miss signs that your relationship isn’t moving forward, according to psychology. 

1) You’ve stopped making plans

You both used to love drawing plans for the future. 

But somehow, over time, you both just…stopped.

You’ve stopped planning what you can do together for weekends.

You no longer talk about where you’ll spend the holidays, or what gifts you’ll buy for each other’s families, or when you’ll make it official and get married. 

Neither of you seem to look forward to these things anymore, and no one wants to bring them up anymore either.

You live your life, and they live theirs…that it almost feels like you’re just roommates at this point.

In other words, your relationship has become stagnant

According to Dr. Barton Goldsmith, psychotherapist and author of Emotional Fitness for Couples, in order for a couple to be happy, it’s necessary for them to have goals that they’re moving towards.

Here’s what’s interesting. He said that they don’t necessarily have to achieve those goals, but it’s important to have a common goal that you’re TRYING to achieve together.

If you’ve both become passive, if you’re not making short and long-term goals, then it’s clear: your relationship isn’t moving forward.

Want to save your relationship? Do the necessary work! 

Have a sit down talk and start planning again.

2) You no longer try new things

Have you stopped going on adventures?

Have you stopped exploring things that excite you in the bedroom?

And in all honesty, has your relationship become so dull that you feel like you’ve aged decades?

If the answer is “yes” to all three, then your relationship isn’t moving forward.

Sure, routine is nice, but doing the same things over and over and over again for years may lead to the slow death of your relationship!

This could make your relationship feel unfulfilling—that even if your partner is loving and kind, you’d start to wonder, “What am I missing?” or “Why am I in this relationship, really? Am I just settling?”

Based on a study by Dr. Arthur Aron, a psychologist who studies the science of love and relationship, engaging in new, exciting, and challenging activities with your partner is one of the main ingredients to a happy and fulfilling long-term relationship.

Bring life and spice up your relationship by doing new things as a couple again!

3) No more talks on feelings, desires, and fears

Moving forward doesn’t just mean hitting major milestones.

In fact, in relationships, it’s crucial that you’re able to go inward and build intimacy.

Developing a deeper emotional connection with your partner is probably the most important thing because ultimately, that’s what love is all about, isn’t it?

According to licensed counselor Paige Rechtman, healthy emotional connections involve being your authentic self—of feeling safe and free to be vulnerable with another person.

She says that if both partners feel comfortable being transparent, they can process emotions with less shame and more understanding. And this strengthens emotional connection… that makes the couple feel even closer to each other. 

If you’ve stopped having intimate and emotional conversations with your partner—if they’re starting to feel like a stranger—then it’s probably the reason you feel your relationship isn’t moving forward.

4) You touch each other less and less

In a new study published in Scientific Reports, it states that affectionate touch is an essential component of loving relationships. It’s a way to make us feel more connected to others.

And the amount of physical touch between a couple can be a reflection of the general state of their relationship.

According to Licensed Couples Therapist Jacob Brown, sex becomes a form of communication for couples in long-term relationships. 

After the rush of hormones that couples experience in the initial stages of attraction, sex is one of the ways that they can express themselves and deepen their emotional connection

And inversely, when this emotional connection becomes shaky, it affects the couple’s sexual desire and physical intimacy.

While some people are generally not touchy, it’s not a good sign when drastic changes happen—if, for example, they used to express love through touch, but now have stopped doing that altogether!

This means your relationship might not be moving forward, and you have some issues to resolve as partners. 

5) You get on each other’s nerves

You don’t know why, but you just seem to annoy each other lately.

And this wasn’t the case before… So, you think it’s just because you’ve been together for a while now. Familiarity breeds contempt, after all.

While it’s normal to get under each other’s skin from time to time, a state of constant annoyance with your partner isn’t.

If this is the case, one or both of you must be experiencing resentment, frustration, anger or other emotions from issues left unresolved.

What’s challenging is that you (or them) might not even be aware you have these feelings towards each other.

Perhaps, one or both of you is an avoidant whose bottling up emotions, which according to psychology can have a CORROSIVE effect on relationships.

6) You keep fighting about the same things

So, maybe you don’t get annoyed at each other often… but you have explosive fights that revolve around the same things. 

Let’s say that in Year One, you got in a major fight because your partner loves to flirt. They assured you that they’ll do something about it.

But as years pass, they’re still the same flirtatious person—and you’ve tried to reason with yourself that it’s all harmless, but you still can’t accept this fact about them.

And now you’re at an impasse.

You’re stuck in an unhappy place because they haven’t changed much. And you haven’t changed much, either.

Your relationship will not move forward without sacrifice, compromise, and lots of understanding. 

You can’t just stay and wait for the other to budge. Trust me—this is bound to get toxic as years go by.

By now, you should know that people can’t change just to please you. And you shouldn’t do that for another person, either. 

It seems like you only have two options: take them for who they are, or hit brakes on the relationship once and for all.

7) You start to look for happiness outside your relationship

And no, it doesn’t necessarily involve sex!

Maybe you start spending more time with friends. Maybe you start hitting the bars to check out others—just to feel good knowing you have options.

The obvious tell? You deliberately exclude your partner when going out!

Sure, perhaps you just want independence, and that’s normal in a healthy and loving relationship.

But if you’re generally happier when you’re with other people than when you’re with your partner—and that’s been going on for a while now—then it’s clear: you’re not moving forward. 

It’s your duty to know why exactly so you can still make changes in your relationship so it becomes fulfilling again.

8) You get awkward seeing other couples achieve their milestones

Your best friend’s getting married. At the wedding, you and your partner start to get a little tense.

Your neighbors are having a baby. You and your partner get unusually quiet when you see them.

Or your sister and her husband are buying a house… and for some reason, this news makes you sweaty.

It’s probably because other people’s milestones are reminders that YOU have not achieved these in your relationship. And you fear that it’s not going anywhere because you and your partner aren’t even talking about these things anymore!

Maybe, you didn’t even know that you actually wanted these things.

According to psychologist and philosopher Neel Burton, envy serves as a guide to our desires. 

For us to envy someone, we must be personally pained by the fact that they possess something we desire, too.

So yes, this awkwardness can be a clue that there’s something lacking in your relationship, and it may be the fact that it’s not moving forward in the way that you want it to.

9) You start to hate yourself a little

This was my story. 

I was in a dead-end relationship for too long, that I started to resent myself. 

The longer I stayed, the more I hated myself—for not having the courage to leave, for being obviously unhappy and yet not doing anything about it!

It really drove me mad, and killed what little confidence I had in myself.

I thought “Am I not brave enough?” and “Is this all I deserve?”

When I ended my relationship, my self-confidence grew back and I became proud of myself again.

So, pause and think about your relationship. 

Does it make you feel good or bad about yourself?

If the answer is “bad,” then it’s probably because deep down, you know you’re in a relationship that has no future.

Final thoughts:

If you find that your relationship isn’t in the best place, it doesn’t have to mean that it’s the end of the road for you and your partner. 

Maybe you just hit a bump. 

There will always be bumps on the road—some big, some small. But it’s good to investigate what the root of this bump is, so you can address it. 

Tackle the issue together. 

Come up with solutions that work for both of you. 

Get guidance from a relationship coach or therapist.

Then maybe soon, you’ll find that you’re moving forward again—and moving towards “happily ever after.”

Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase, a New York City native, writes about the complexities of modern life and relationships. Her articles draw from her experiences navigating the vibrant and diverse social landscape of the city. Isabella’s insights are about finding harmony in the chaos and building strong, authentic connections in a fast-paced world.

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