While you can't expect your partner to turn to you exclusively for each and every one of their emotional needs, if they seem to be shutting down — or are refusing to talk about certain things — it may be a sign they're relying on someone else in an unhealthy way. And that definitely has the potential to damage your relationship.
"The boundaries between friendship and emotional cheating aren’t always clearly defined," Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. "However, if your partner is deeply connecting with another person emotionally, even for friendship, while simultaneously disconnecting from you, it’s a sign of emotional cheating." And that's not OK.
Not only is it unfair to you and your relationship, but it may also be a symptom of a greater problem. So the sooner you can bring it out into the open, the better. "The best course of action is to have an honest conversation with your partner," Bennett says. "It also helps to look inside yourself to see if you have made yourself emotionally unavailable. If you both still love each other, efforts to be transparent and more emotionally available on both sides can help the relationship survive."
Once you know what's wrong, you may decide to establish healthier boundaries, learn better ways of communicating, or work on building more trust. With that in mind, here are a few things experts say your partner might not want to talk about, or topics they may try to avoid, if they're fulfilling their emotional needs elsewhere.
1They No Longer Talk About Their Day
"If you ask someone how their day was, and you get a single syllable answer — it's often a sign that something's wrong," Amica Graber, relationship expert for the background checking site TruthFinder, tells Bustle. And this is especially true if your partner used to be chatty, but now seems closed off.
"Good or bad, we usually want to tell our loved ones about our day," Graber says. "Granted, everyone has off days so don't take it personally unless you get the same answer every time. If your partner is never up for discussing what they've been doing or how their day/week has been, they may be sharing it with someone else."
2They Never Ask About Your Day
Similarly, it may be a red flag if your partner no longer asks about your day, or takes any interest in what you've got going on.
"If they no longer jump into the discussion, if they simply 'don’t care,' they may be looking elsewhere for emotional fulfillment," Joshua Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Bustle. "Disengagement is an emotional cheating red flag."
3They Avoid Relationship Issues
"If your partner is getting [their] emotional needs met elsewhere, that could even involve venting about the problems in your relationship," Bennett says. So if your partner used to be invested in fixing problems as they happen, but now seem a little too cool, this may explain why.
Unfortunately, it could also be a sign they're checking out of the relationship, possibly because they're becoming more invested in someone else, Bennett says. The only way to know for sure — and to work on fixing the situation — is to talk about it, whether they want to or not.
4They Refuse To Talk About Anything Deep
While not every conversation with your partner will be riveting and intellectually stimulating, it may be a red flag if they're suddenly all surface-level.
"If your partner is getting their emotional needs met somewhere else, they may not want to talk about their emotional world and stick to superficial topics," clinical psychologist Dr. Helen Odessky tells Bustle. "If you don't hear your partner talk about how things are affecting them, they may be getting their emotional needs met elsewhere."
5They Won't Talk About Work
"If your partner is secretive about a major area of their life — their family, work, or a hobby they are passionate about — they are probably getting their emotional needs met somewhere else," Dr. Odessky says.
If they aren't excited to tell you about these things, it may mean they've already discussed it with somebody else, and don't want to share it all over again. Or, it might mean they're hiding something. You know your partner best, so if something seems off, ask them about it.
6They Fail To Tell You About Major Life Changes
You should be one of the first people your partner turns to when they have big news, not only because it will affect you, but because they're excited to share.
That's why, as Dr. Klapow says, "if your partner is making personal changes and not sharing them with you, they may be thinking about sharing them with someone else."
At that point, it may be time to rethink the relationship. If you aren't a priority, and aren't feeling like a "partner" in this partnership, you may even decide to move on.
7They Stop Talking About The Future
One of the biggest red flags that a relationship is going of course, is if one or both partners stops talking about the future. If your partner used to talk about moving in together or getting married, and now can't even chat about it, take note.
As Graber says, "Someone who is investing their emotions elsewhere will be reluctant to discuss the future. If they're not 100 percent sure that they see you in their future, they'll want to avoid the topic at all costs."
8They Don't Want To Talk About Love
While everyone is unique, in terms of how they show their affection, it may be a red flag if your partner suddenly stops talking about intimate things around you, such as how they feel or what they want.
"Maybe your partner used to say 'I love you' but recently stopped saying it, or physical contact has stopped altogether," Graber says. "Intimacy can also be sharing your feelings. Either way, if this has stopped, it's a major sign that something's up."
9They Won't Tell You Where They Went
If you ask your partner how their night was and they're unable or unwilling to tell you, it might feel a bit upsetting. And rightfully so.
"If your partner seems reluctant to discuss last night's festivities with you, it's very suspicious," Graber says. "If they don't want to share any details as to who was there, where they went, or what they did, it's a red flag that something shady went on."
Of course, it's not necessary for them to provide a play-by-play of their social life. But in a trusting, loving relationship, couples usually want to share a few details with each other — especially when asked — which is why this may seem so strange.
10They Won't Say Who They're Texting
Being in a healthy relationship means trusting each other, while also giving each other plenty of privacy. So it's already a red flag if you're worried about who your partner is texting. But even more so if they aren't willing to talk about it, should you happen to ask.
"They might be evasive and avoid questions about where they are going or who they are texting," clinical psychologist Robyne Howard PsyD, tells Bustle. "They will minimize your concerns and possibly blame you for asking."
11They Won't Admit Why They're Angry
It's fine if your partner isn't a big talker, or if they struggle to open up about their emotions. But you should never get the feeling that they're talking to someone else, instead of you.
If something's going on behind your back, they may seem "more irritable and easy to anger," Dr. Howard says, especially if you ask what's wrong or try to get them to open up.
It's OK if you aren't fulfilling all of your partner's emotional needs, or if they're not fulfilling all of yours. That's what friends, family, and therapists are for. But if it seems like your partner is checking out of the relationship — or turning to someone else in an unhealthy, emotionally cheating kind of way — pointing it out and talking about it may be a healthy first step in getting things back on track.