Communication is one of the most important things you need to have in your relationship if you want it to succeed. But the reality is, not everyone is good at it, and sometimes miscommunications on the side of one partner can seem like disinterest to the other. So how can you tell if your partner isn’t really interested in your relationship or just bad at communication?
As Andrea Amour, Founder of UpDate Coaching, tells Bustle, “Good communication means something different to every couple.” One person may be perfectly content with a partner who responds to texts with one-worded answers because they’re quick to respond, they’re consistent, and it’s just how their partner has always been. Another may prefer more thoughtful answers that take time over short and quick ones. “It’s important to let your partner know what communication style you prefer so your needs are met in your relationship,” she says.
If your partner isn’t a great communicator, Amour says there’s definitely room to turn it around. If they’re slow to respond to texts, or they forget to respond when they’re overwhelmed with work, talk about it. “If your partner is committed to you, they’ll take ownership and make a plan to change,” she says. Just be sure to stay positive and patient as “progress is always slow when you’re asking someone to change.”
On the other hand, if your partner is no longer interested, they’re going to behave in ways that are a little bit different than someone who’s just bad at communicating. So here are some ways to tell the difference, according to experts.
If you’re in the early stages of your relationship and you notice that your partner is unapologetic, they may not be interested in pursuing something more long-term with you. “Everyone is different and some people are busy, spacey, or not super outgoing,” Amour says. Someone who’s bad at communication will usually acknowledge that fact and will apologize for it. “If someone doesn’t notice that it’s a problem for you (or doesn’t care), [it may indicate] they aren’t super interested in you,” she says.
People who are bad communicators but want to be in a relationship, will be willing to work on themselves so the relationship can get better with time. But according to Amour, if someone is resistant to changing their “bad communication behaviors,” it may be a sign that they’re not as devoted to the relationship as you want them to be.
Sometimes differentiating between poor communication skills and a lack of interest will require you to pay close to attention to subtle queues from your partner. As relationship coach Nicole Lynn, tells Bustle, “It’s important to notice if your partner is apathetic or accepting to your suggestions.” When you’re planning a fun date night or wanting to talk about your hard day at work, how does your partner react? Do they look like they’re tuning out or are they really trying to stay focused and present? “These two reactions may seem similar on the surface but if you pay close attention, they hold a deeper indicator of their true emotions,” Lynn says.
“If you can’t or aren’t willing to keep the communication going, the relationship is doomed,” Julia McCurley, Professional Matchmaker and founder of Something More, tells Bustle. To stay emotionally connected to each other, you need to be willing to talk about things that go beyond the surface-level. If your partner isn’t the best at communicating, this is something they can attempt to work on with time. But if they show no interest in going deeper, that can be a problem.
It’s also not a good thing if your partner doesn’t express “big” emotions to you like sadness or even anger. “It could mean that they have cut off all feelings towards you,” McCurley says. Even something like fighting can be a good indicator that your relationship is on the right track. A partner who is no longer interested may not care to fight because they’ve likely checked out of the relationship. A partner who is bad at communication may just shut down because they haven’t learned proper conflict resolution skills. With time and more open communication, a partner who is still interested will learn how to open up and express themselves.
If you feel like you’re planning everything because your partner has stopped initiating dates, they may be losing interest. Take note if they used to do this at the beginning and it’s suddenly stopped, that’s another important sign to pay attention to. As relationship expert, Sarah-Rose Marcus, tells Bustle, a bad communicator will still put in the effort. “Even if the person isn’t declaring their feelings to you, their actions will say otherwise,” she says.
Keep in mind that a partner who will tell you that they’re not ready for the next major step (i.e. moving in, getting engaged, etc.) is more interested in a relationship with you than someone who won’t talk about it at all. As Marcus says, when you’re way past the honeymoon period and your relationship is more comfortable, you both should feel like you can be open about anything. A bad communicator may say they’re not ready in a way that’s blunt and too direct. But someone no longer interested will try to avoid the subject altogether.
Being bad at communication is something that can definitely be worked through. When your partner is completely committed to the relationship, they will put in the work to meet your needs. Although you can try to turn things around with a partner who’s no longer interested, it will take a lot of effort on your part. If this is the case, you may need to consider whether or not the relationship is worth fighting for.