If your partner is secretly unhappy with you, they’ll display these 6 subtle behaviors

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Being in a relationship isn’t always easy, is it? Things can be going great and then all of a sudden you hit a rough patch and everything feels off.  

During tough times like this, it’s normal to wonder if it’s just a phase or if your partner is really unhappy with you. But how can you tell for sure?

The tricky thing is: your other half might not feel comfortable being honest about their unhappiness so they probably won’t admit it to you. But don’t worry, they’ll show it through some very subtle behaviors, without even realizing it. 

Do you know what to look out for? 

It’s no fun to be kept in the dark so, today, we’re sharing 6 specific behaviors your partner will display if they’re secretly unhappy with you. Knowing what to look out for will help you to spot trouble early and work on things before it’s too late. 

Ready? Let’s get started.

1) They’ve pulled back from you emotionally

Ever get the feeling you and your partner, just aren’t as close as you used to be? They’re still physically there but it’s as if a wall has gone up between you and you can’t seem to get past it. 

It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what’s going on. It’s like all of your conversations are cold transactions. All the warmth, love, and laughter that you used to share have just vanished. 

If this sounds familiar your partner may be emotionally detaching from you.

The problem is, for a relationship to be healthy and survive the challenges that it’ll face, an emotional connection is vital as it builds trust and makes people feel safe. 

If your partner has pulled back emotionally, it’s a subtle behavior that tells you, they’re unhappy with you. And they might be getting ready to leave you. 

2) They’re more critical of you

Remember when things were great between you two, and your partner showed you so much patience and understanding? But that’s just not the case anymore. 

These days, they seem to criticize you over the smallest things. It’s like they find fault with almost everything you do, you can’t seem to get anything right.

Seemingly unfair criticism like this in a relationship, is usually a sign of deeper unhappiness that your partner is trying to hide from you. They use criticism as a way to vent their frustrations.    

“Criticism is prevalent in relationships because it is a way for us to express our concerns without being vulnerable,” as outlined by The Gottman Institute. Instead of being vulnerable and honest about how they feel, they’re lashing out at you through criticism. 

My cousin Kiara went through this with her husband John. After their son was born, John noticed Kiara was constantly criticizing him. He tried to be understanding but it all got too much after a while and he brought it up with her. 

As it turned out she wasn’t feeling happy in the relationship anymore because she was exhausted with the baby and she didn’t feel like John was doing his fair share. But instead of telling him she just started criticizing him. They talked, made a plan and things slowly got better. 

If your partner is more critical of you, something is driving it. It’s a sure sign they’re secretly unhappy. Talk to them to find out why.  

3) They’ve lost interest in intimacy and affection

Have you noticed that your partner has lost interest in affection and intimacy? 

Not so long ago, they’d hold your hand in public, snuggle up to you on the couch, and give you surprise hugs and kisses throughout the day. But those days are gone. You guys are living more like roommates than lovers now.  

Ring any bells? 

Here’s the thing: Intimacy is essential in a relationship because it ‘forms a basis for connection and communication’. It’s not just a nice thing to have, it’s a must-have. 

Various studies have even found that the amount of affection couples show each other directly relates to their level of commitment to the relationship and their overall happiness. 

If your partner has lost interest in affection and intimacy, it’s a big red flag. It suggests they might be secretly unhappy and may even be less committed to the relationship than before. 

4) They’re prioritizing their friends over the relationship 

Do you feel like your partner is choosing their friends over you a little too often these days? 

Don’t get me wrong: spending time with friends when you’re in a relationship isn’t a bad thing. Research even suggests that maintaining quality friendships outside of your romantic relationship improves overall life happiness. 

The thing is: if they’re always choosing their friends over you, it’s a subtle indicator that they’re not happy with you anymore. 

Quality time, where two people give each other their undivided attention is key in romantic relationships as it enhances emotional connection, builds trust, and improves communication.

Without quality time with your partner, it’s difficult for the relationship to go the distance. That’s why even busy couples like Michelle and Barack Obama credit carving out quality time together through date nights as a reason their marriage has remained strong throughout the years. 

This commitment to date nights shows they prioritize each other and value quality time together. 

If your partner prioritizes their friends over spending time with you, it shows they’re not interested in spending quality time with you and might be secretly unhappy with you

5) They’ve stopped making the effort to bond like they used to

Remember when you and your partner instinctively did little things for each other that helped you to feel bonded

Like how they’d always kiss you before leaving for work. Or ask your opinion on their outfit. Or even share little accomplishments they achieved at work.

But lately, you notice these small things don’t happen as much anymore? 

Drs. John and Julie Gottman of The Gottman Institute call these little things ‘bids for connection’. It’s where your partner is attempting to get your ‘attention, affection, and/or acceptance’. Other examples include: 

  • Sharing things about their day
  • Asking your opinions on things
  • Expressing concern
  • Talking about common interests 

These things may seem small but if your partner has stopped offering you bids for connection, it’s a subtle behavior change that suggests they’re unhappy with you, even if they’re not saying it directly.  

6) The way you guys communicate has changed

Every couple is different and although there’s no perfect way to communicate, one thing is for sure, communication is key in a relationship. 

According to a 2022 survey, the leading cause of divorce is poor communication. 

Maybe the communication in your relationship has been great up until recently but you’ve noticed that things have changed. It’s hard to pinpoint but things just feel off. 

It’s like you’re being more formal or less playful with each other. Or you just don’t communicate as much anymore. There’s less cute texts during the day or less funny memes being exchanged. 

Does this strike a chord with you? 

If your communication has changed, it could be a warning sign that there are some deeper issues between you two, and your partner might be unhappy with you. 

Maybe it’s time to talk to see if you can get things back on track. 

Final thoughts

Have you noticed any of these subtle behaviors in your partner recently? 

The truth is: all relationships are different and unique in their own way. Although the behaviors we’ve talked about today suggest your partner might be secretly unhappy, the only way to know for sure is to talk to them to understand what’s going on. 

If you guys can get on the same page, there’s every chance that you’ll be able to get through it and come back stronger than ever. It all starts with a conversation. 

Cat Harper

Cat is an experienced Sales and Enablement professional turned writer whose passions span from psychology and relationships to continuous self-improvement, lifelong learning and pushing back on societal expectations to forge a life she loves. An avid traveler and adventure sports enthusiast, in her downtime you'll find Cat snowboarding, motorcycling or working on her latest self-development project.

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