Is Your Relationship on Autopilot?

Relationships, especially ones that have been around for a while, have a tendency to seem permanent, something that will always be there no matter what. This encourages us to take them for granted, letting them slide in our priorities, receiving less and less of our attention, and eventually going on autopilot.

What does it mean when your relationship is on autopilot? It means that you no longer actively direct it. That is, you neglect to give it active attention and fail to shape the direction in which it grows.

When this happens, your relationship stagnates, meaning it no longer grows closer and deeper. In fact, as it stays on autopilot, it will grow weaker until it reaches a point where either you take it off autopilot or it crashes.

So, how do you know when your relationship is on autopilot? There are signs, when you look for them, and here are five of them:

1. You Can’t Remember The Last Time You Had Quality “Slow Time”

Slow time, or time when you slow down to enjoy what’s going on right now, not worry about all those things on your to do list, is extremely important to keeping your relationship strong and growing. If you can’t remember the last time you had quality slow time, or if it was a long time ago, that’s a very strong warning sign that your relationship is not headed in a good direction.

Solution: Start scheduling dates with each other, making sure that it’s somewhere that you can have the privacy you need to enjoy some slow time.

2. You Can’t Remember The Last Time You Talked About The Future

It’s a natural extension of thinking about your future is to talk about it. It’s also natural to share those visions of the future with your partner… and if you aren’t, that means there is fairly likely to be a problem. If you don’t know each other’s dreams, it makes it very difficult to share them or support them.

Solution: This one is fairly obvious. Start talking about what you want out of life with your partner. This will come easier if you use the solution from #1 first.

3. When You Think Of Your Partner, It’s The Bad Things That Come To Mind

When you first met your significant other, you probably were blind to anything bad about them. As you spend more time with them, it becomes harder to be blind to them, especially if your relationship goes on autopilot. At that point, you start taking the good parts of them for granted, and only really notice the things that irritate you. Essentially, you stop focusing on “us”, and shift that focus more to “me”, so that what you notice are the things that interfere with “me”.

Solution: Every time you think something bad about your partner, and especially if you say something bad, make sure you think of (and say, if you said it before) at least two good things. This works along two paths. First, it emphasizes the good and, second, it trains your mind not to think as much about the bad. This is a good habit to get into with all negatives. It will make your life happier all around

4. You’re Closer To Someone Else Than Your Significant Other

Any time you are closer to someone else than your significant other, there’s a definite problem. They should be without a doubt the person you are closest to. If that changes, you are very likely not giving the relationship (and them) the attention that is needed. It takes attention to be close, and if you’re closer to someone else, then you are likely giving them the attention that you used to give to your relationship.

Solution: Consciously make your significant other your first priority. Intentionally stop doing other things to give them attention. You may encounter some resistance at first, as they don’t expect it, but you should notice a strongly positive response soon. If you don’t, your relationship may be in more of a danger zone than you realize.

5. You Don’t Like To Think About The State Of Your Relationship

Generally we don’t like to think about things that are unpleasant or hurt us. So chances are pretty good that if you don’t want to think about the state of your relationship, if you keep finding distractions every time something brings it up, that there is something wrong. Maybe you just took a wrong turn somewhere, or something hurt you and you haven’t dealt with it. The number of possible causes is far too great to list in an article.

Solution: Take a hard look at your relationship and see what’s causing the problems, and then take concrete action to deal with it. You don’t have to “cure” the problem instantly, but you need to at least take a step in that direction.

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10 thoughts on “Is Your Relationship on Autopilot?”

  1. Ah, this is a big issue in LOTS of relationships.

    I always recommend that couples see a marriage therapist every so often, even if they are not having big conflicts.

    The reason for this because it will improve your relationships now matter how good or bad it is. It will also help to prevent issues like the ones described in this article from occurring.

    Great post.

  2. Heh, yeah – this only works if both parties are interested.

    In my case, I couldnt get through my exes thick head :\

    Tried for two years

  3. Thanks for the article Jason!

    I am in a very strong and loving relationship, but even so there is a sense of autopilot about it. This article has inspired me make a bigger and better effort.

  4. Or, as another guy put it:

    A relationship, I think, is like a shark, you know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark. (Woody Allen)

  5. I searched on “Stagnant Relationships” in the first place (finding this article in the process) because I am in a strange one indeed. I’ve been with the same man, off and on, for 12 years now. He avoids talking about the future at all costs – I’ve left a few times because of our lack of forward motion, and came back because of the love that we do have and my apparent inability to find something more real and with potential. I can try in my way to “revive” things, but the basic fact that we’re going nowhere is getting harder and harder to accept as our reality. We have all 5 of the “signs” here and the big unspoken “can’t talk future” thing, to battle. I’m not sure it’s even worth it anymore.

    1. Well Kate – your story sounds like mine wih the exception that we have never separated. We have been together for 12 years and he can’t – won’t consider marriage and gets frustrated with me when I bring it up. When we were first together I was totally convinced that he would change his mind with time becasue he loves me so much. He may even be more hard core against marriage now than he was in the beginning… still I know that he loves me. I have been married a couple of times so you would think i wouldn’t want marriage either still I care about marriage… it is still importatnt to me. I want to share his name – I want to be proud to say that I am his wife.. He was burned pretty bad and thinks that since we are in the stage of life that we are & won’t be having children that there is NO reason to be married. If you are like me I’ve dated some real jerks so I know how tough it is to be out there in the dating scene & I’ve never been treated as wonderful as he treats me with only this one issue that causes pain for me. I try to let it go but it comes back to haunt me. It’s tough! I hope things work our for the best for you … from one who toally understands!

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