During the romantic stage we are often on our best behavior, so it can take time to start to see a fuller picture of the person you are dating. As time progresses and the initial rush of hormones and newness fade, we become more real to our partner, and they become more real to us. After the romantic phase comes the power struggle stage of a relationship. The power struggle stage is when you and your partner begin to notice negative cycles or repeating conflicts, and this stage of relating is when our attachment history, early developmental traumas, and unmet needs begin to appear. The centrality of this conflict, or disconnection that we begin to experience, is that we begin to notice our partner’s difference, and often we begin to object to that difference. People often find themselves thinking, “Who is this person? When did they change?” The reality is that they didn’t change. They were this person all along and it’s more about the passing of time, the diminishment of the initial love chemicals, and the fact that both of you are more comfortable with one another.
Slowing down and staying aware of your moment-to-moment experience of another person can help you avoid dashed expectations, surprises, relationship trauma, or finding yourself committed to a relationship you don’t want to be in. If you have trouble going slow and staying with your experience, working with a therapist can help to support you in finding new ways to show up in a relationship.
Here are a few signs that your partner is not emotionally invested in the relationship:
- You are on the receiving end of mixed signals. (i.e. overt gestures of affection and then not returning phone calls)
- You don’t feel like a priority. Your partner puts other people or themselves in front of you.
- Your partner isn’t receptive to your wants, needs, or frustrations.
- Your partner is distracted, preoccupied, or unavailable when you are with them.
- You feel you have to find excuses for their behavior.
- You find yourself confused by inconsistent or unpredictable behavior.
- A lack of mutuality. (i.e. you ask about their day, but they don’t ask about yours)
Emotional competence is required for intimacy, and intimacy is necessary for creating a strong bond of commitment. If the person you are dating isn’t emotionally available, you can let them know you want to work on it and see if they are capable of responding to your attachment needs and changing their behavior. However, if they are unwilling or unable to respond to your needs it’s best that you make an investment in yourself by knowing that if you move on that you can meet someone who is emotionally available.