My Relationship Is On Autopilot – What Do I Do?

So your relationship is running in an autopilot mode and you want to change it, desperately.
Now here is the thing, you can change yourself, but you cannot change or enforce change on anyone else.

A relationship requires two to tango.

Therefore, what you can do, is make an effort to change the status quo, i.e. the relationship’s current autopilot state, by first making some changes in yourself. Your effort may then guide the relationship in the direction of becoming a loving and enriching experience, or it may push to break the relationship altogether, so that both of you may start your lives anew. Either way, there will be movement and transformation will occur.

Here are a few ways to change the autopilot state of the relationship:

  1. Ask yourself the tough questions: At the outset if you want to change the status quo of the relationship, start with yourself. You may have been ignoring this conversation with yourself for quite sometime perhaps due to fear. But now it is time to shut down all distractions and face your fears. Ask yourself:
    • What are my priorities right now? Is it a relationship, career, or a passion?

    • Is my partner one of my topmost priorities?

    • What are my partner’s priorities?

    • Am I one of his/her topmost priorities?

    • Am I proud of my partner?

    • Do I respect him/her?
    • What do I expect out of this relationship?

    • Can my partner provide what I need out of this relationship?

    • Can I provide my partner what he/she needs in this relationship?

    • What dreams do we share?

    • Where do I see this relationship going?

    • Do I see myself with him/her five years or ten years down the line?

    • How do I see myself with him/her ten years down the line?

    • Do we (I) enjoy doing things together?

    • Where do I fit in with his/her family and friends?

    • Where does he/she fit with my family and friends?

    • Where do I fit in into his/her plans of the future?

    • Where does he/she fit into my plans of the future?

    • Do I want to raise a family with him/her?

    • Can I see myself with him/her raising a family?

    • Do my friends and family like him/her?

    • Does his/her family and friends like me?

    • What do they have to say about me and about him/her?

    In asking these questions you are not hiding anything from yourself. You maybe hesitant about some of these questions and nervous about the answers to some of these questions, but understand this is an important life decision. And a decision is better than an indecision represented by the relationship in an autopilot mode right now. For as mentioned earlier, a decision symbolizes movement which means taking a direction rather than staying in status quo.

    1. Discuss your dreams and priorities: Once you have the answers to the questions you have asked yourself above, you get clear on what you want. Now convey your priorities, dreams and expectations to your partner and then ask him/her what is it that he/she wants. Find out if your dreams and goals match. Find out if you are one of his/her priorities. Find out his/her expectations of you. Find out if he/she sees you in his/her life ten years down the line. Discuss about your emotional needs, mental needs, financial goals and needs. Do not brush anything under the carpet if you want the relationship to work.
      You cannot go wrong in the relationship if your communication is clear and you understand each other perfectly. You will find out exactly where you stand in the relationship. 

    3. Convey clearly how you feel about the current situation without blame-game: Tell your partner, “I am upset about this whole situation because I feel I am being overlooked/ we are not talking and sharing things as we used to…” Do not start by saying, “You never talk to me the way you used to.” In doing that you start a game of blame and confrontation and you will be back to square one. Instead when you start by saying, “This is how I feel” you are clearly conveying your feelings and it will be easier for your partner to understand where you are coming from. If by chance your partner does not respond properly, you may need to go for relationship counselling, i.e. if your partner agrees to it as well of course, or you will need to rethink about your relationship. 

    5. Discuss your personal boundaries: A relationship becomes stagnant, mainly when personal boundaries are not defined. In the infatuation stage, all differences disappear and both the people go around in a haze of romantic intoxicatedness. They become enmeshed with each other. Once the romantic fervor subsides, the real work starts. Now without the haze, both the persons see each other’s differences clearly. Some they may be okay with, and some they may not like at all.

      Here, they need to realize that it is their differences that make each of them unique. If they are able to move past the differences and still love and accept each other as they are, they will experience the togetherness and mature love, whilst retaining and respecting their boundaries. Just as Android’s popular tagline says, “Be together. Not the same.”


      Love can only manifest and flourish in togetherness not sameness, for love has no use for copies. And togetherness can thrive with healthy boundaries, where each individual in the relationship allows each other to be different, and allows the other’s uniqueness and gifts to flourish.

      This mature love will now be stronger and a firm foundation to this relationship. For this mature love to grow however, both the partners need to clearly define their personal boundaries.

      In other words, conveying to each other their needs and dislikes in the material, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual spheres. Material boundaries can be discussing financial and property related matters. For instance, what are your financial goals and expectations? What are absolute no-nos for you financially? What are your sexual boundaries, what are you willing to explore and what are absolute no-nos or boundary violations for you? What are our spiritual boundaries, meaning spiritual beliefs, and what are spiritual boundary violations for you? To know more about the types of boundaries you can set see:
      5 Types Of Personal Boundaries For Healthy Relationships

      Discussing all your boundaries clearly will convey your needs clearly and precisely. Your boundaries are also your lines of respect that you have for yourself and you need your partner to respect them just like you respect him/her. To learn how to set personal boundaries, see: How to Set Personal Boundaries for Healthy Relationships

    6. Show your partner he/she is a priority: Now is the time to let your partner know that he/she is a top priority in your life. You can let him/her know through your actions or through your words. After a period of lull in the relationship this may come as a surprise to your partner, so there may be some resistance. However, soon he/she too will soften his/her stance. If in case he/she does not respond, then this relationship may be in danger. You may require relationship counselling to save it, provided your partner agrees.

    7. Plan surprises: A thoughtfully planned out surprise element which is in tune with the likes or hobbies of your partner can give a boost to a sagging relationship. You can plan a sudden date, holiday, an activity together, which will give you sometime with each other and allow you to rediscover each other. Make it a point to stay away from any sore topics during this period and only focus on what you both love the best about each other and what you love doing together. Remember this is an effort both of you are putting in, knowing you are each other’s priorities and that you have a dream of living your life together. So to function in harmony together, consciously focus on what you love the most. In doing so, even your differences will become attractive for each other.

    9. Refrain from control dramas: When the relationship is in an autopilot mode it is natural to feel tense, conflicted and out of control. Some partners instead of trying to encourage their partners to communicate through understanding and patience, start serving ultimatums, or threats or even throw tantrums. It can be frustrating and despairing if you are the only partner trying to bring a change into the relationship. But do not act out of despair. Control dramas and manipulations will get you nowhere and instead ruin the relationship totally. There is no place for ego in a relationship, but self-respect yes. So maintain your partner’s boundary of self-respect while you maintain yours and patiently and lovingly try to draw him/her out. Else you may need external help in the form of counseling.

    11. Bonding with family is important: Getting to know your partner’s family well and bonding with them is important at a time like this. It shows that you are a part of his/her family or are about to become an important member of his/her family. However, do not do it simply to show your partner. Do it because you are sincerely interested in his/her family. Again, invite your partner into your family gatherings. This will also make him/her feel you care enough.
      If by chance you are not interested in his/her family, then you may want to rethink your relationship with your partner. If you are not comfortable with his/her family, how do you see your relationship working out in the long term?


    1. Spend some ‘me’ time: Sometimes, spending a little time away from your partner, when the relationship is in a stagnant mode, provides you a fresh perspective on the whole situation. This time apart can also help your partner. This method though, might not work in all cases. But a little distance at times does increase fondness and brings clarity to your mind, which in turn helps you to sort out your priorities and approach the relationship from a new perspective. Do not let the break extend for too long, however. That can instead cause a rift in the relationship. You can also use this time to bond with your friends and also confide in the friends you trust, to take their advice, support, and help.

    3. Consider relationship counselling: Sometimes a fresh perspective from an unknown person helps. Since both of you are completely inside the picture, engaged in the situation, you are not able to see the bigger picture from the outside. This is what counseling can do for you. A relationship counselor who is not involved in any way with you, can see the bigger picture, help you to step out of your picture, and provide a different perspective. There are dedicated platforms such as where you can choose a counselor for guiding you through this rough patch in the relationship. Alternatively, you can also post a query anonymously here, related to your relationship issues, and a relationship counselor will get back to you at the earliest.

    5. Know when it is time to move away: There is nothing worse than feeling lonely in a relationship. So, when you have tried your best and nothing seems to be working, know that it is time to move away. Respect yourself and love yourself first enough to move away, when you know you are not needed. If you are facing problems with self-love and self-esteem, here are some very detailed practical steps guiding you to remove all your blocks to self-love, and self-acceptance: Don’t Know How to Start Loving Yourself? Clear Your Blocks!

      Know when you have put in your best in the relationship and have reached your limits.

      You cannot spend your entire life working on the relationship. When it is time to let go, let go. Do not think of bargains or compromises you are only extending your disappointment and delaying the inevitable. Something better is waiting for you. Open the door and walk out towards it.
      Do not lug your emotional baggages with you. Work on them and if you need guidance to dispose off your emotional baggages check this technique: Simple technique to Get Rid of Emotional Baggages After a Breakup.

      Or you can also use this Neuro Linguistic Technique (NLP) technique here: NLP Technique to Mentally and Emotionally Break-Off From Your Ex.
      You can also read up on the Ten Powerful Benefits of No Contact Rule After a Breakup.

    To read the first part of this article please go to: Why Do Relationships Go On Autopilot Mode?

    – Anoo Pathak
    Spiritual Counselor & Mentor

    Online Counseling Askmile