I'm Not Happy In My Relationship, Now What?

Updated March 25, 2021

No matter how solid, every relationship has its ups and downs; even happy couples often quip and quarrel like everyone else.  While these types of disagreements can be healthy for couples to learn to overcome conflict, they can also be incredibly damaging to one or both partners.  When these damaging fights happen, you may have a difficult decision to face – do you stay in your relationship, or do you leave?  For many people, the answer to this will depend on figuring out the answer to a much more complex question – am I still happy with my partner?

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Are you Happy in Your Relationship?  Signs Your Relationship may be the Source of Your Unhappiness

If you’re stuck between “happily ever after” and “hopefully never again” with your partner, it may be hard to tell if you’re truly unhappy in the relationship or if you’re just in a rut.  Before you decide whether or not to throw your current relationship away or give it another go, try taking a step back to get a better picture of what may be going on in your relationship.  See if you can spot any of these tell-tale signs that your relationship is making you feel unhappy.

Things Are Feeling Awkward

Are your most recent interactions with your partner particularly cringe-worthy?  Do your conversations feel uncomfortable or forced?  Have you felt like avoiding spending time with your partner because things are just too awkward?  If so, your relationship may be headed downhill. Research shows that discord in a relationship often stems from an emotional disconnect between two partners.  Carrie Cole, the director of research at the Gottman Institute, argues that this type of rift can occur in a relationship when one or both partners stop creating positive moments in their relationship:  “When that happens, people feel like they’re just moving further and further apart until they don’t even know each other anymore,”

Your Relationship Is Lacking The “Little Things”

Do you spend your days dreaming of date nights past?  Our little love notes and other small acts of devotion a distant memory? If so, these little things (or lack thereof) could be causing some big problems in your relationship.   Dr. John Gottman, one of the Gottman Institute's founders, says that “small things often did” is the mantra that happy couples live by.  When you or your partner frequently forgo this emotional foreplay, you run the risk of your relationship drying out.

Criticism And Communication Crises Dominate The Conversation

Are your conversations with your partner stale or, worse yet, non-existent?  Do you find yourself criticizing your partner’s every move?  A communication crisis is one of the earliest and most easily recognizable signs of an unhappy relationship.

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Healthy relationships are built on open, honest communication.  If you feel like you can’t talk to your partner, it’s probably safe to assume that things are going sour in your relationship.  This type of disconnect will also likely cause some form of discord in your relationship as well; without clear communication, many couples may find themselves arguing more frequently.

Your Desire Died A Long, LONG Time Ago

Does your partner still light your fire, or has your flame burnt out?  If you can’t (or don’t want to) remember the last time you brought sexy back, it may be time to re-evaluate your relationship.

While a waning sex life isn’t always a cause for concern, it can indicate more serious problems.  Intimacy issues can be caused by an emotional or physical disconnect between partners.  If this goes unresolved, you may begin to find yourself feeling unhappy in your relationship.

You’re Constantly In Conflict

Are you and your partner fighting more than usual?  Do you find yourself resenting them?  Studies show that people who are unhappy in a relationship may pick more fights with their partners.  Researchers reason that couples in constant conflict may be experiencing deeper problems than those that are being addressed by their bickering.  These unresolved relationship issues between you and your partner can inspire feelings of sadness, anger, and even contempt (none of which make for a happy relationship).

You Feel Contempt For Your Partner

Do you catch yourself sometimes disrespecting your partner?  When you communicate with your partner, could your tone be described as condescending?  If you find that feelings of contempt are bubbling to the surface of your relationship, you may be unhappier than you realize.  Relationship researchers say that contempt feelings are often deeply rooted in negative feelings about your partner and may even prove that you’re unhappy in your relationship.

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?  Deciding Where To Go From Here

Breaking up with someone is hard, but staying with them can be even harder.  Take some time to weigh your options carefully and commit to a decision that will make you happiest in the long-run.

The Beauty Of Walking Away From Unhappy Relationships

Because we often put so much time and energy into our relationships with others, many people may feel they have no other choice but to stay in a relationship even if they no longer feel happy with their partner.  Some people make this choice optimistically, holding high hopes that their relationship may improve, while others fear being alone more than feeling unhappy.  While many people may believe that the choice to stay in an unhappy relationship shows strength through one’s struggle, experts would have to disagree. When you’re unhappy in a relationship, true strength can actually be seen when you choose to walk away.

The Work Of Repairing A Relationship

If you decide to work on your relationship, know that these repairs often take a lot of time and effort from both parties.  Tony Gaskins, a relationship expert with over ten years of experience, stresses that “you can’t save a relationship unless both people are equally invested,”   emphasizing that “ one person trying [to fix the relationship] will never be enough.”  Before you begin the work, take some time to sit down with your partner and make sure you are both on the same page about how you would like to proceed.

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Appreciate Your Partner Everyday (In Every Way)

Thinking a grand gesture can reignite long-lost love?  While many people believe the best way to show someone they care is to go big or go home, Dr. John Gottman argues that “real-life romance is [actually] fueled by far more humdrum approach to staying connected.”  Gotman goes on to say that “[romance] is kept alive each time you let your spouse know he or she is valued during the grind of everyday life.”  Instead of spoiling your partner with sporadic, potentially expensive surprises, consider setting aside a few minutes out of each day to show them how much you appreciate having them in your life.

Recognize And Disrupt Patterns

Do you and your partner fight about the same things over and over again?  This may be due to a communication breakdown.  When you notice that you and your partner are starting another stale argument, stop the spiral in its tracks by taking a quick break.  Simply walking away from an altercation can help you clear your head and better manage to communicate when returning to it.  When you and your partner do come back to an altercation, take some time to understand where they are coming from by clearly communicating your concerns.  Instead of accusing your partner of something, use “I statements” to express your thoughts on their actions and ask open-ended questions to see things from their perspective.

Get Physical With Your Partner

When was the last time you hugged your partner tightly?  If it’s been a while, you may want to fix that.  Touch can help reconnect you with your partner in ways talking simply can’t.  This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to jump into bed with your partner right away but rather that you may want to consider showing your partner a little extra love throughout the day.  Make excuses to hug your partner, hold their hand, or kiss their cheek.  Even the most seemingly innocent gestures can help reignite passion between you and make you feel closer than ever.

Seek Support

Many couples need to seek professional support to help to get past their problems and prosper in their relationship.  While this may be seen as a last resort to many couples who feel they can conquer their problems independently, Dr. John Gottman argues that this intervention is most effective when done early on.  Gottman says that when couples enter counseling together early on in their relationship, they are often more motivated to make lasting changes.

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Couples counseling can tremendously improve your relationship with your partner by teaching you the skills you need to communicate your needs and cope with stress effectively.  Recent research suggests that 70-75% of couples who enter into counseling together can successfully move past their points of distress and repair their relationships successfully.  If couples counseling is an option, you’d like to explore with your partner, look into local practices, or reach out to our team of Licensed Mental Health Professionals here at ReGain today.

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