Look, I get it. You do the whole courtship thing, you invest your time and energy in dates, and it pays off – whether she’s simply staying over regularly or you’ve earned the ‘boyfriend’ title, things go well. But soon, you start to notice subtle changes, little things that you can’t quite put your finger on. Is this the end? Here’s how you tell:
1. She takes longer to respond to your texts or calls
In my experience, this is the easiest tell. Once you’re in, she responds like clockwork and once you’re out, she’ll keep you waiting. Now, don’t panic if her timing is off over the course of a day because that’s stage 5 clinger behavior, to borrow the term from Wedding Crashers. But, if her increasing response time becomes consistent over the course of a few days, watch out.
This can go one of two ways. The first is that she stops responding in a timely manner but keeps feeding you excuses. If she provides excuses without being prompted or something feels hinky about them, take that under advisement. If she provides something that feels legitimate, then don’t worry yourself. If her response time drastically changes and she does not feel compelled to provide any explanation, then you can skip straight to the ‘What to do next’ section. You’re probably at risk of being ghosted.
2. She starts prioritizing other things
This can be harder to get a read on – especially if you’re in the early stages of a relationship. After all, she may have some commitments you’re not aware of, or it could just be a natural turning towards other areas of life after that early infatuation stage. That said, if something feels off, then maybe it is.
If she consistently reschedules or cancels at the last minute, or puts off confirming plans in the first place, that’s a red flag. If she’s simply spending more time with school, work, hobbies, friends or family, don’t stress out about it. There’s no need to worry unless this behaviour is coupled with one or more of the others listed here.
3. You don’t spend any time with her friends or family
Women are supreme social beings – they’re includers, for lack of a better word. If you’re in, she’ll want you to meet everyone. If you’re out, she’ll avoid being in social situations with you unless it’s necessary.
Classic example: I was dating a girl, let’s call her Kristen, and she had introduced me to all of her friends and had even brought up meeting her family. Fast forward a few weeks (as much as it hurts my pride to say it), and she went to all engagements with her friends solo. She would come to events with other couples with me, but all mention of meeting her parents disappeared.
Now, it is completely normal for her to want girl time with her friends – you should use that opportunity to catch up with the guys. What I’m talking about here is being completely shut out from her social life outside of situations it would be awkward for her to get out of.
The family scene is different for everyone, but for the most part, if she’s friendly with her family and you’ve never met them, and there is no talk of you doing so, the relationship is probably not heading towards a long-term engagement.
Again, use your judgment and take into account how many factors from this list you’re contending with.
4. Physical contact declines significantly
I’m not talking about sex yet – we’ll get there next. This is about all of those other little touches that she used to lavish on you whenever you were together. Everyone is different when it comes to physical displays of affection, but typically speaking she’ll have her intimate gestures. These are little ways that she maintains her connection to you and may include hand-holding, kisses on the cheek, touches on the arm, or whatever it is that she does. If you observe a decline in these gestures, it is worth noting.
Every woman is different, so you’ll have to ask yourself if her behavior change seems at odds with what you know of her personality. For instance, I’ve been with some women who overcompensate by being overly affectionate in public to keep up appearances, but then maintain physical distance in private. I’ve also experienced the opposite case, in which an ex-girlfriend avoided physical contact in public towards the end. If you’re not sure if there’s an issue in this area, think about how she behaved when things felt good and notice if there have been any departures.
5. The sex isn’t the same
Sex changes over the course of a relationship, and everyone is bound to have an off-encounter now and again. That said, if she stops initiating or signalling her desire for sex, and this change remains consistent, look for other signs of change. This may be a subtle shift, but you’ll feel it if she lets her interest drop.
Libido does shift after the honeymoon phase of most relationships. It is also natural for desire for sex to shift during times of stress or other changes, but if she makes consistent excuses and puts you off time after time, her lack of desire for this ultimate intimate act may mean she is no longer invested in the relationship.
You might also observe that she just doesn’t seem completely there during sex or that her heart isn’t in it. It may seem like she is less passionate, or that alternatively that she is trying too hard. It could be an off day, or unfortunately for you, it could mean that her heart isn’t in it.
6. The future literally disappears
When the future of your relationship is slipping away, sometimes it literally disappears. In the early stages of a relationship, your girl may actually start slipping in phrases that refer to the future and future plans as a way to gauge your level of commitment. In the normal progression of a serious relationship, these mentions of the future will eventually feel normal and you’ll both come to feel that discussing future plans is a natural occurrence.
If she’s starting to have second thoughts about your relationship, you may notice a sudden dropoff in references to future plans, or that it’s difficult to get her to commit to plans that you bring up. She may particularly balk at plans that require you to commit financial resources beforehand. This is a fairly sure sign that she is thinking of making her exit but isn’t sure how to tell you about it.
What to do next?
Remember, your lady may just be having an off day, or even an off week. You can’t know for sure if something is up, but if she is exhibiting more than one of the things I’ve mentioned above, there’s a good chance that something is going on, and it may be that she is looking for the door.
Relationships do go through rough patches, and if you’re invested in the relationship then the best way to decide if it has an expiration date is to engage in straightforward conversation. You don’t have to level any accusations – just ask her what’s going on.
Now, I realize this isn’t the go-to move for most men. You’re probably thinking, “Me? Bring up an issue – start the talk?” I’ve been there! But the truth is that it’s always better to man up than to be stuck wondering – and it doesn’t even need to be a big conversation.
I’ve found that the best tack is just to follow this formula:
Open by asking for her ability to engage in a real conversation. This is important because it lets her know that there is a problem, and will catch her attention. All this takes is something like, “Hey, do you have a second? I feel like something’s up.”
Introduce the issue without introducing blame or criticism. For example, “You just don’t seem as available [or insert appropriate adjective here] as before; is everything ok?”
This is important, gentlemen – wait. Don’t answer the question for her or backpedal. Let her speak next. Don’t prompt her, just let her be the first one to fill the silence. If she asks what you mean, then list a few of the things that you have noticed in a casual tone.
Observe her response. Now, don’t seem aloof – you can actively listen, but you do want to take note of how she responds to this.
If she is overly apologetic and tries to save face, but nothing changes within a week or two, she’s most likely phasing you out. Likewise, if she’s avoidant or defensive, and nothing changes in the week after your conversation, it may be time to call it quits.
You know her personality so you’ll be the best judge of her response. The key is to see if her response at the moment feels genuine. Don’t try too hard – just see how her response feels to you. Then, wait a little while to see if the situation improves. If it does, great, because your relationship will be the better for it. If not, it’s time to move on. Be congenial, but direct, and go your own way. They say there are other fish in the sea for a reason.
Read more about the reasons why women leave men.