Maryam (not real name) got the shock of her life in September 2016. Her husband of three years woke her up from sleep around 5 am one Saturday while she was still dreaming and snoring and coldly told her he was getting a divorce. The news almost caused her a heart attack.
Kola (not real name), an Information Technology specialist with a multinational company in Lekki, Lagos, accused Maryam of bewitching him to marry her, saying he was in love with another woman before the marriage.
“I couldn’t believe my ears and eyes. I thought he was joking, but after I was fully awake, I looked into his eyes and realised he meant what he was saying,” Maryam said during an interview with our correspondent.
She said, “He accused me of witchcraft, greed and other things. I couldn’t stop crying. This is a man who I devoted three years of my life to. He said he loved another lady who was abroad at the time. It was later I found out that the lady was back in Nigeria and they had been communicating many months prior to our breakup. I cried and cried and even asked family and friends to intervene, but his mind was made up.
“I had to let him go eventually. Thankfully, I had no child for him. Though, if I had, I would still have gone my way but it would have regrettably forced me to still have a little connection with him.”
After the breakup, Maryam said she decided to have a retreat in one of the “quietest” towns in the country where she thought of the next thing to do. It was then she realised she had been “careless” and not noticed the signs Kola had shown before the breakup.
In the first year of their marriage, she said they were like ‘twins.’ She was his ‘handbag,’ always hanging out and going to social events together, often wearing the same attire.
The third year of the marriage was when the enthusiasm Kola had always shown turned cold, but Maryam said: “I was too foolish I didn’t notice he didn’t love me anymore.”
According to psychologists, there are certain changes in behaviour that can indicate that the other partner wants a breakup. When this happens, it can be painful and ignite some deep-seated fears and insecurities.
Maybe you have a feeling that something is “off” with your partner or maybe you’ve noticed that the energy between you two has shifted, it’s always not a funny experience, especially when you love them so much.
According to marriage and family therapist based in San Francisco, United States, Dr Lynsie Seely, if your partner is physically with you, but you have the feeling that they are mentally or emotionally 100 miles away and you can’t quite make contact, they may be energetically closed off to you.
“We tend to close off as a defence mechanism when we don’t know how to communicate what we’re feeling but need to stay engaged in the situation,” Seely told the Huffington Post.
If you observe this happening in your relationship, try not to jump to conclusions about what’s causing the distance. Instead, it’s best to broach the subject with your partner and ask what’s been on their mind, Seely said.
“It could be that your partner is losing interest and doesn’t know how to communicate that with you,” she said. “There are other reasons your significant other may feel the need to close up, so it’s best not to assume anything.
“A compassionate conversation to explore how your partner is feeling is a good first step.”
However, besides the unsettling gut feeling, there are other indications your partner might be losing interest in you. Psychologists share some of the signs as follows:
They stop asking questions about little things
Couples in healthy relationships take a genuine interest in each other’s lives, not just when it comes to major things, but also the smaller, everyday things. For example, a partner who is engaged in the relationship knows you have a nerve-racking work meeting on Wednesday morning and will text you at lunchtime to ask how it went. A partner who has lost interest might not remember or even care enough to ask.
“As couples ‘tune out’ of their partner or the relationship, they stop being interested in the small things happening as part of each other’s day and life,” US-based therapist, Ms Isiah McKimmie, said.
Unusually slow in responding to texts, emails and phone calls
We all get busy and may be less responsive to texts depending on where we are, what we’re doing and how much we have on our plate on any given day. But if your once-responsive partner suddenly becomes difficult to reach, it could be a sign they’re distancing themselves.
“People can begin to pull away in subtle ways, so how responsive someone is to you may be an indicator that they are losing interest,” psychologist Gina Delucca said. “Common behavioural signs might be taking a long time to respond to text messages or phone calls. They might make excuses that they are ‘busy at work’ or ‘forgot’ to respond.”
Occasionally, these excuses may be valid and a good partner deserves the benefit of the doubt. But if delayed response times have become the new normal, it could be a red flag.
When trying to connect, they ignore your attempts or pull away
There’s nothing wrong with asking for what you want in a relationship. After all, you can’t expect your partner to be a mind-reader. That said, if you feel like you’re constantly asking your spouse for basic things like their attention and affection and those requests are ignored, it might mean they’ve checked out of the relationship.
A Lagos-based psychologist, Mrs Funmi Adebayo, said, “If you have to keep pestering your spouse for attention, they are likely losing interest.
Adebayo said, “In a healthy relationship, you don’t struggle to gain your partner’s attention, affection or support. They give it willingly and at every time.”
You’ve stopped arguing
If every disagreement between you and your partner seems to end in a screaming match, there may be some toxic relationship dynamics at play. But when couples fight fair, that is, without name-calling, yelling or stonewalling, the relationship might still be considered healthy. However, when your partner doesn’t even have the will to argue anymore, it may be because they’re no longer invested in the relationship.
“While fighting may not be the most productive part of a relationship, it is energy being put into the relationship,” US-based therapist Anne Crowley told the Huffington Post.
“We fight when we care, when we don’t feel heard and want to be seen. When one stops fighting, this can be a sign of lost interest in the relationship,” Crowley added.
Perhaps you two used to have frequent arguments about keeping the apartment tidy. Now your partner doesn’t even seem to notice, let alone mention when your laundry basket is overflowing, it may be a sign of loss of interest.
“In other words, they’re not putting in the effort to re-stabilise the relationship,” Crowley explained. “They’re okay walking away from it, even when you want to keep the fight going.”
You rarely touch each other anymore
In the early stages of dating, it’s quite normal for couples to be extra affectionate with one another because of what psychologists call “new relationship energy” (aka NRE). Those butterflies and starry eyes might make you more inclined to hold hands in public, snuggle up on the couch or have more frequent sex.
Over time, the levels of NRE are bound to dissipate and this is normal. But if the hugs, kisses, back rubs and sex have disappeared, it could be an indication that your partner is pulling away.
“As interest begins to wane, so do displays of physical affection,” psychologist Jamie Goldstein said. “If after the sparks of a shiny new partnership settle, you notice a major shift in your partner’s level of physical affection towards you, this might be an indicator of disinterest.”
They stop making an effort with your friends and family
If your bonds with your friends and family are important to you, so should they be to your partner. Your partner may not be over the moon about spending yet another long weekend visiting your parents, but they’re usually happy to oblige, knowing it means a lot to you.
If your partner once made an effort to connect with your loved ones but now withdraws from conversation or avoids spending time with them altogether, it could point to their apathy towards the relationship.
“Although we might not always want to spend time with them, we do because it supports our partner and the relationship,” McKimmie said. “If your partner is no longer making an effort with your friends or family, they’re not making an effort for the relationship.”
You no longer feel like a priority in their life
Certain situations may demand the bulk of our attention at times, for example, young kids, a big work deadline, a sick family member, etc. But for the most part, you and your partner should be prioritising each other’s needs and supporting each other above all else.
If your partner is spending much of their time and energy on work, a new hobby or their group of friends, with no end in sight, it could be a sign they’ve checked out.
Adebayo said, “You should be the most important person in your partner’s life. If they value anyone else above you and spend more time with that person, it is time to assess the relationship.”
Similarly, Seely said if you felt like you’re always the one to initiate communication and make plans to spend time together with your partner, it could be a sign they had lost interest.
Also, Delucca said, “Another sign within this realm might be repeated cancellation of plans. Relationships are more likely to be successful when there is mutual interest and equal effort put into it.”