How To Manage A Complicated Relationship

Updated April 11, 2024by Regain Editorial Team
“No relationship can be entirely easy and even though you might not see it, everyone’s relationship has challenges. Try to encourage yourself with that while also allowing your partner in on the challenges you recognize in the relationship.” - Ryan Smith, LPC, NCC

A relationship can become complicated when things are unclear between partners. One person may be under the impression that things are fine when they are not because both partners are not on the same page. A complicated relationship often results when one partner isn’t sure what they want or can’t get what they need out of the relationship. One partner may have trouble communicating their feelings because they don’t want to hurt the other. Understanding a complicated relationship includes learning potential problems contributing to the issue. Once you’ve identified that you’re in a complicated relationship, you can take steps to manage it and develop healthier behaviors. 

Relationships can be complicated, but they don't have to be

More than just a social media status

The popular social media platform Facebook lets users define their relationship status as “complicated.” Some people may not understand its significance or see it as a trendy way to show off their relationship status. However, a complicated relationship isn’t a position most people want to be in. It can make the relationship challenging and confusing for both partners. A relationship with this status may experience more conflict, disagreements, accusations, or mismatched feelings and expectations than others. A complicated relationship can leave someone feeling alone and questioning the future of the partnership. Emotional pain and heartbreak, therefore, can often be present. 

Why relationships get complicated

Relationships can become complicated for a variety of reasons. A person may feel different about their partner as the relationship progresses. They may fall out of love or in love with another person outside of the relationship. Or they might experience changes in behavior patterns that send mixed signals about their relationship. Maybe a partner feels like they are being used by the person they are with, or there has been tension between both partners because of a disagreement.

A complicated relationship can commonly occur because one or both partners aren’t committed to the relationship. Maybe there are mismatched expectations or unmet needs that aren’t addressed. Sometimes, a partner’s words are different from their actions, and this can leave a person confused. Understanding the complication can be crucial to determining how to deal with it.

Ways to manage a complicated relationship

Not all complicated relationships come to an end. The relationship may not be where you want it to be, but it is possible to work things out if both partners put in effort. Most relationships have issues here and there that they must solve together. Here are suggested ways to consider when working things out with your partner:

Identify what is bothering you

The reason why your relationship is complicated may depend on what you identify as potential issues. Maybe there is more than one thing bothering you. Being clear on what is bothering you increases the chances of finding a solution to resolve it. Open and honest communication can be essential to any healthy relationship, so try to discuss issues transparently with your partner—rather than leave them guessing. 

Determine if you are contributing to the complication

Think about situations that occurred lately between you and your partner that raised flags about the relationship. Are you giving them your full attention when they talk about their feelings? Are you doing your best to be supportive of them? Have you been focused on your problems or insecurities more lately? Sometimes focusing more on yourself can help you discover something that needs to be worked on personally

Is codependency an issue?

Is one person relying on the actions or attention of another regularly? Codependency occurs when the relationship is imbalanced. One person may be unhappy, or too much time might be spent together. It may lead to arguments, jealousy, or controlling behavior. Sometimes codependency happens without realizing it, or over time.

Discuss it with your partner

An important factor in repairing a complicated relationship is to talk about it with your partner. Partners need to know where the relationship stands. When you feel strongly about the current status of your relationship, avoid putting off the talk. You need to know how your partner feels, and this could involve a DTR conversation. It can be crucial for each of you to assess your relationship, including acknowledging and dealing with problems contributing to the complication.


Talk about it in therapy

Working with a relationship counselor can allow you to understand what’s causing the complication and tension in your relationship. You can also work on yourself in therapy and discover areas in which you may need to grow. Additionally, attending couples therapy with your partner could help. Together, you can gain a sense of empowerment that helps each of you make informed decisions that benefit the relationship. 

Acknowledge what you want

If you’re unhappy in the relationship, it can be vital to express why. When you have deep feelings for someone and want things to work out, being open and honest about what you need can help your partner explain whether or not they can meet those needs. 

Have a support system

Sometimes talking about your relationship with people that care can help you organize your thoughts. People who are familiar with your relationship may have helpful advice to offer or may notice something that you don’t. Some may hide their relationship problems from people they know to avoid embarrassment but talking with others can give you the insight you didn’t know you needed.  

Show that you still care about them

Sometimes couples forget this element when they get caught up in conflict. When things are complicated, they may not show their love or adoration for each other. Doing so shows you still love each other, and you both want to create and maintain a healthy relationship.

Remember why you’re together

Things can get so complicated that you both forget how your love for each other started. Recall the qualities you like about your partner. Why did you want to be in a relationship with them? You may get an idea of how to fix the relationship based on your emotions and their qualities. 

Remove obstacles or make changes contributing to the complication

A relationship may be complicated if partners are unable to make time for each other. Spending time with each other can be important for a healthy relationship. Try working out a schedule that lets both partners devote quality time to each other. Consider other potential barriers contributing to problems in the relationship and possible solutions.

Relationships can be complicated, but they don't have to be

Complicated relationships happen, but you don’t have to continue being unhappy. Some feel they can handle much more than they can before realizing they need a break. Spending time apart may be an option when you need alone time to think things through. During this time, you can focus on what you want, how you feel, and what action is necessary to move forward.

Should you leave?

People may stay in a complicated relationship, thinking things will eventually work out. While some relationships do become healthier and more stable, many others don’t. Sometimes, it may not be worth the trouble to stay if things between partners reach a critical point. When you care about someone, you’re willing to do what is necessary, within reason, to save the relationship. However, you shouldn’t have to fight so hard to keep it or to convince the other person to commit to or love you. If you are not happy in the relationship, ending it may be something to consider. Complicated relationships are challenging, but there are ways to navigate through the emotional ups and downs to find relationship success. 

Online counseling with Regain

Complicated relationships can be stressful and complex. If you’re not sure how to work your way through one, it could be beneficial to speak to someone about it. Regain is an online counseling platform that offers guidance to both individuals and couples. If you and your partner would like to improve your relationship, you can work together along with a licensed therapist. Online therapy allows each of you to meet in a setting you feel comfortable with. You can choose to connect in a variety of ways and come up with goals that can help your relationship thrive. 

The efficacy of online counseling 

Couples experiencing relationship distress may benefit from online therapy, according to this study. Researchers found that couples participating in an online counseling intervention showed reduced symptoms of anxiety. Couples also experienced significant improvements in relationship satisfaction and had fewer depressive symptoms.

Counselor reviews

“Sessions with Natalie are very insightful and give practical advice on implementing new habits and changes. Be prepared to engage and be challenged to think in a different way. I know that my partner and I can already see improvements in our relationship and feel more positive about working through our issues together.”

“Austa has been wonderful thus far. She has helped my partner and I during an unimaginably difficult time... She has also guided us in communicating effectively and setting appropriate boundaries in our relationship. I was hesitant to pursue counseling at the beginning, but I truly believe that it is making a difference for our relationship. Austa is easy to talk to and she is a great listener. I would wholeheartedly recommend her as a counselor.”


If you find yourself in a complicated relationship, it can be difficult to figure out how to remedy the situation. While every relationship looks different, there are some tenants common to those that are healthy. These include things like kindness, trust, empathy, and open communication. Everyone deserves to be in a healthy, fulfilling partnership, and you are no exception. If you’ve tried everything you can to make your relationship uncomplicated without any results, confiding in an online couples counselor could help. 

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