"Mmhmm.... Yeah.... Well, that's cool... hmm? No. Sorry.... Hey, can I call you back? Mama's Family is on. `Kay. Love you, too. Mmhmm, bye."

Finally. The shrill beep of a warm cordless phone and then silence. I stood from the ottoman and stretched, arms to the ceiling. Muttered something under my breath about a waste of time and padded down to my cool, basement bedroom. I was still a bit annoyed with our conversation as I waded through piles of laundry and scattered papers to my bed. Burying my face under a mound of pillows, I was finally alone. Thank Goddess and It's about time. I sighed.

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing. Had I been asleep for hours? No, minutes. A look of contempt creeped over my face as I rose to get the phone. I knew who it was before I even reached the charger.

"Hey, what's up? Oh, um, no I was just sleeping. Hrm... I love you, too." Look at the clock. Sigh heavily. Act interested. Deep breath. "Oh, sweetheart! I just forgot—I have to pick up something from the store. Can I call you when I get back? Mmhmm... Okay, love you too. Bye." A woman on borrowed time, I threw the phone back down and stomped toward the bed, ready to shriek or sob or tear my hair out. He didn’t even want anything and yet—

Maybe I deserved to slip. My feet went out from under me and there I sat, butt to the hard concrete floor, staring stupidly at the homework and class notes that sponsored my fall. I started to scream but lost interest when I saw it.

Relationships: The 5 stages of decay"Just because the situation starts to spiral doesn’t mean all is lost. Only by examining the situation can you begin to grow again."

I. Differentiation – Whereas you once made an effort to be seen as a couple, you now work to be seen as an individual. When conflicts arise between the two of you—or even when everything is okay—you focus on your differences, rather than similarities. We, Us, Ours -> I, Me, Mine

What was it with him, anyway? Did he have to call me fifteen times a day? We used to have a lot to talk about but you can only laugh at the same jokes so many times before they’re just not funny. I time him, now. 15 minutes is all I can stand. I wonder why he doesn’t feel the same way. Maybe he's just a better actor than I am.

Two weeks later, although it feels like fifteen years. I haven't told him I'm bored yet, was hoping to come out of it. I haven't. But the day before yesterday I yelled—really yelled—for the first time. All he'd done was tell me he loved me. But it doesn't feel like love to me.

II. Circumscribing – Rather than continuing the same old fights, you avoid them. You're filled with an internal rage but as of this point, are not ready to vocalize the problem to others. You stop going out together as much, preferring time with your separate groups, and when you are together, the interaction is limited.

"You just said that!!!" I'd screamed. "Can’t you think of anything else to say?!" It felt good and awful at the same time but since my words have sunk in, I’ve been numb. Let the phone ring.

III. Stagnation– No growth, no real decay, just still. Same old, same old is now a little too old. Nothing seems to change, and your feelings are suspended mid-air, almost.

Boredom is slowly changing into something else. I can't really put my finger on it, but it seems like time has stopped. I'm in a freeze frame and any second the picture is going to snap back. It feels like my life is out of sync.

The phone continues to ring. "Tell him I'm not home." Lie for me, so I can lie to myself. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? God, I just want some fucking space to breathe. I feel like I'm suffocating-you'realwaystherejust... GO AWAY!!

IV. Avoidance – **The Point of No Return** You physically go out of your way to avoid your partner. Being in the same room, perhaps living in the same home, becomes an impossibility as you become more likely to engage in bitter, heated arguments.

Heh. Is something wrong?! Of course something is wrong!! What kind of a stupid question is that? You'd have to be completely blind not to see that something is wrong. With me. It's not you, I see that now, but it's me and I can't take this and I need out. O-U-T and fast. But I can't tell you what's wrong. We'll only start the same old cycle and I'm sick of talking about it. This wasn't how it was supposed to be. Please, just leave me alone.

V. Termination – The relationship comes to a formal close. The event can be private, or public, but must take place in a forthright, finalized manner.

Last night I dreamt that you were with me. We were lying on a blanket outside, watching the stars turn slowly in the sky. And you hummed softly in my ear that song you sing that used to make me tingle. I loved you so much last night. I woke up crying, though. Because that's the only place I love you anymore. I'm so sorry, darling. I've been so cruel to you—and to me too, dragging things out like this. It's over.... I just know, that's all. It's over now.

The Five Stages of Relational Decay is a theory of Mark Knapp, who wrote about it in Interpersonal Communication and Human Relationships.