What to do when your partner has changed for the worst

Category: Better Relationships | Author and Publisher: Elly Prior | Date modified: 23-06-2019

I want to be upfront with you...
I recommend only carefully chosen resources/products. If you buy something through one of the links, I may earn a commission at NO extra cost to you. Let me explain (opens in a new tab).

Print this article

How scary it is when you feel your relationship slipping away because your partner has changed how they behave towards you. I can so understand that you're beginning to feel insecure and wondering whether your relationship can be saved.

I suspect you wouldn't be here if you didn't still love him.

I'm writing "he" and "him" because - surprisingly - it's mainly women who tend to ask this question via this medium. If that's not the case for you, know that this article is just as relevant regardless of either of your genders.

Here we're going to look at:

  • Why he might be changing (and there are some surprising reasons!)
  • What questions you should ask yourself to get to the bottom of why his behaviour has changed
  • What to do about it

It may well be that you're feeling baffled about why he’s changed for the worst. Perhaps you can’t understand why he’s become nasty, never seems to be in the mood anymore, no longer has any time for you, or any combination of these.

14 potential reasons why your partner has changed for the worst

Take a deep breath and run your eyes over the following list of potential causes for the change in him:

  1. Infidelity
  2. (Emotional) abuse
  3. Narcissism
  4. Wanting to break up but not knowing how
  5. Trauma
  6. Mental health problem(s)
  7. Addiction
  8. Gender identity confusion
  9. Money problems
  10. The two of you have grown apart
  11. It's simply not the right relationship for him
  12. Brain injury
  13. He finds sex with you less than satisfying
  14. He has another sexual problem

What to do when your partner has changed towards you

First of all, take some time to think carefully about why he may have changed. Has there been a recent change in circumstances - his, yours or both of yours? Has something major happened recently at his work or with his family? Have you changed in some way - a new job, a payrise, a new hobby?

Here are some questions to help you figure out what might be going on.

The first really important questions you should ask yourself when your partner or spouse has changed for the worst

It’s important to make sure that you're not in an abusive relationship. So:

  • Have there been any signs of abuse - physical and/or emotional?
  • Are you too scared or nervous to ever say no to him?
  • Do you feel unsafe with him?

If you've answered any of these questions with a yes, I want you to read the following articles very carefully - straight away:

And in case he’s played contact sports, I want you to also read my article CTE and your relationship.

If you're sure you're not in an abusive relationship, read on and discover how you can get to the bottom of the downturn…

How to know why he has changed towards you

Ask yourself the following questions to help you figure out where you're at:

  • What precisely has been the main content of your arguments recently?
  • Might he feel unheard with regards to his needs and wants? If so, you may have to ask yourself whether the two of you are actually compatible.
  • Has there been a change in your own behaviour, wishes or demands recently?
  • Ask yourself if these have been reasonable, well-timed and considerate of his needs and wants.
  • When did you first noticed the decline?
  • What was happening at the time? If you can see a link in the timing it may be that his essential emotional needs weren’t being met, without either of you being aware.
  • Have you changed?
  • Could it be that he hasn't changed but you’re looking back at the past with rose-tinted glasses?
  • Is your sexual relationship still what you or he hopes it could be?
  • Has your sex drive changed?
  • Is he fully involved as a parent or does he perhaps feel like an outsider?
  • Are there periods when he acts like his old self again?
  • Do you want more from the relationship than he does? (See my article: How to 'make' him commit)

Your 3-step action plan

  1. Write down your thoughts and accompanying feelings.
    Based on what you've discovered from the above list, put it all on paper. Don't worry about capitals, full stops and grammar. Just getting it off your chest will help to stop those whirring thoughts so you'll become clearer about the whole situation in your own mind.
  2. Inform yourself the best that you can.
    Read the following articles:
    24 tips for a healthy relationship
    How to 'make' your partner love you again (all 4 parts!)
    Relationship communication
    Check for other articles that may also be relevant to your particular situation in my Category Sitemap: Better Relationships.
  3. Calmly tell your partner you want to talk to him.
    Follow the instructions in my article on how to stop arguing

Depending on the outcome of that conversation, you could take my relationship test - on your own or together - to figure out where the two of you stand.

Should he indeed tell you he wants to end the relationship, see: The complete guide to breaking up for all my articles on the subject.

Angela's story about how her partner has changed for the worst

"Roger absolutely swept me off my feet, he was amazing... not like anyone I had ever dated before. Caring, outgoing, FUN, compassionate, he really took the time to break through my security walls and learn the real me. He treated me like a princess, made me feel secure, special, truly loved. I GLOWED with passion and happiness. 

When I had met Roger I was single for almost a year a half because I finally took my mother's advice and took some ME TIME! 

Throughout this time I got to know a lot about him as well. Like The women of his past. Before me he had always dated women who literally needed him. They had no job, money, place to live, or a car. He decided he didn't want that anymore and found me, I am the exact opposite of that. I take care of my self. 

Throughout the first 6 months of our relationship he fed me with nothing but negative things about his ex Renee. He wanted nothing to do with her, he hated her, never wanted to talk to her. Then one day that all started changing, he wanted to spend time with her… just like "hang out" at the bar, get lunch. This made me extremely uncomfortable.

One night when I had to work early I stayed home while he went out... he neglected to tell me he was meeting up with renee. He spend the whole night at the bar with her. I also found pictures and texts of other women.

He has stopped being my prince charming, and was just Blah towards me. Now the majority of his attention now goes towards other girls… nothing every physical, but more emotional and verbal. It's like he doesn't understand that relationships have boundaries. 

Now we are going through the somewhat of same "boundaries" issues. We have been together 2 1/2 years, bought a house together 8 months ago and all of a sudden he's telling me that he has commitment issues and that he gets "bored" with relationships easy. Not that i'm a boring person but that he gets bored.

I love this man but I am at my witts end. We can't sell the house because we just bought it... and he refuses to move out even though everything in the house is mine. We have been broken up for a little less than 2 months now  and living together! 

He suggested that we remain "roommates" It's like wants to have his cake and eat it too."

Could his behaviour towards other people have changed too?

The problem may not be with you at all, so below is a list of other potential causes of the change in your dynamics. If any of the factors below are at play in your relationship, then your partner is in need of your support. 

  • Has he started drinking/taking drugs? (See symptoms of alcoholism)
  • Could he be ill, or in pain?
  • There's nothing quite as potentially demoralising as lack of energy and/or pain. He would simply have no energy to invest in the relationship.
  • Does he have sleep problems? People who suffer from insomnia are known to get really cranky.
  • Has he played contact sports? Contact sports leave players at risk of brain damage, which causes changes in behaviour. Has he been in a serious physical fight or had a bad accident?
  • Has his sex drive changed?
  • Could he have become addicted to sex or porn and found that his sexual needs are better met elsewhere? (Not that you should in any way feel responsible for that, of course!)
  • Have the demands on him at work changed - for better or worse? See my article on the symptoms of a nervous breakdown.
    Either way, he could be so preoccupied with work that it's all he can think about right now.
  • Depending on his age - midlife to older - could it be that he's beginning to show signs of dementia?
    I suspect you may never have considered this to be a potential issue, but if your partner or spouse falls into the right age group then dementia is worth a consideration.
  • In rare cases - could he have a brain tumor?

Of course, there could be many other possible reasons for your current relationship problems. Try not to jump to conclusions until you’ve spoken to your partner and tried hard to understand the situation from his point of view.

Your 3-step action plan

STEP 1
Ensure you get further evidence for whatever you think the problem might be. Make a list of the signs and symptoms you notice that support your suspicions. Depending on your situation, it may be best not to talk to your partner about your thoughts at this point.

STEP 2
Talk to other people who have known your partner for some time. You could ask them surreptitiously, or you could be direct and say you’d like an opportunity to discuss something sensitive with them in confidence.

STEP 3
Have a conversation with your partner, based on the advice in my article on how to stop arguing.

There are several possible outcomes:

Outcome #1
Your partner declares that you’re mad, denies everything and shuts you down.

Outcome #2
In this case you'll have to think about your own needs and wants. Is this relationship still really right for you?

Outcome #3
He is relieved to be able to talk about the problem(s) he’s having, and you can both start working out a practical solution.
He's not denying what you think you’ve discovered, but equally he’s clearly not ready to talk about it further.
Depending on your particular situation, you may want to give him a bit more time and approach the subject again within the next few days.

Finally

It can be really difficult to cope when your partner has changed and it feels like your relationship is slowly crumbling around you. But things won’t get any better unless you take some action. 

Now that you’ve read this article, I hope you feel better prepared to start tackling this problem head on. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it, from friends, family or a professional. I know you can do this - I’m rooting for you!

Please, rate this article ...

I really hope this article is of help to you. :-)

I frequently update my articles based on feedback, therefore I really value your vote.

Thank you so much in anticipation. :-)

How to get immediate help from a licensed counsellor

Your problem is never too small or too big, too silly, too embarrassing or too complicated to get personal advice (anonymous if you want) from a licensed therapist. They'll be happy to help.

  • Click the image below and answer a few questions about yourself and your situation (it takes just a few minutes).
  • Choose how you want to pay (it's safe and secure).
  • Write down what's troubling you to start (chat, text, email, video-chat)...