It can be quite difficult to define what it means to be unhappy. When it comes to relationships, it could mean a lot of different things. For example, she’s not satisfied how he is treating her in public, or he doesn’t like the way she talks to his friends or family, or this, or that…. we could go on for hours. We might not know what being unhappy means but we can surely feel it.
We all had at least one relationship that made us unhappy, yet we found it hard to end it and we might have stayed in that “unhappy, loveless state” for months, years, decades, or maybe we still are in such a relationship.
Why do we stay? We all have our individual reasons, like being afraid of loneliness, being bored, or we might think the sex is good, or maybe we got used to that person, etc. No matter how extraordinary the couple’s reason for being in an unhappy relationship is, there are some pretty ordinary characteristics that make one unhappy relationship resemble the other.
Let’s consider some of the shared traits of unhappy relationships:
1. They are settling for less than they deserve
In the beginning married couples try to ignore, forget or put under the carpet all the minor things that create tension between them that eventually lead to a state of unhappiness.
Exactly those minor things, with time, become huge annoyances and manage to generate a large amount of resentment and frustration. That is how the couple gets stuck in something that makes partners feel less valued, not appreciated, insulted or very often scared of what their partner could do next to disappoint or hurt them.
However, for some of us, this unsatisfying state isn’t a reason to exit or radically improve the relationship. Deep inside we operate from a subconscious belief that we aren’t valuable, aren’t important that we don’t deserve attention and appreciation. That is how we end up tolerating the “status quo” of our unhappy relationship.
2. They use waiting and hoping as a coping mechanism
With time passing by, relationship problems without proper intervention and resolution, usually become more serious and complicated. In the end, the couple goes through periods of negative mood, depression, feelings of guilt, rumination, isolation, etc.
Instead of being accountable and taking significant steps toward the recovery of a struggling relationship, unhappy couples usually stay passive thinking that their lack of satisfaction isn’t their fault and that in time the situation will somehow change and things will be as they were before (when the couple was still deeply in love).
3. They don’t take personal responsibility for their own happiness
It wouldn’t be fair, or true, to say that unhappy couples are making themselves unhappy on purpose. It is more likely they didn’t , just yet, understand that the aim of being in a relationship isn’t to make one another happy but to exchange the individual happiness that each partner already possesses. Partners must be able to love, care for, appreciate, honour and respect themselves before they can offer unconditional love to their partner.
4. They focus on the negative aspects of their situation
It is easy to get stuck in thinking mostly about the negative effects of an unhappy relationship and forget all about the valuable life lesson it offers. Many challenges that couples face in a troublesome relationship are an amazing opportunity for self-development and personal growth.
Successful couples are often the ones who managed to switch their point of view, and reframe their love life from being an obstacle to their happiness to being a source of skills to bring more happiness in life. This way they could appreciate the struggles too and could make the best out of the worst times together.
5. They make a lot of excuses
Instead of admitting they made a mistake, lied or withheld something from one another, partners in an unhappy relationship usually turn to making excuses. This “habit” limits the capacity for the development of trust and mutual understating on the long term and causes couples to stay unhappy and disconnected in their relationship.
Being open and honest takes a lot of courage and no wonder that so many people are not ready to be vulnerable and admit to their shortcomings and imperfections in character. Many of us lack honesty when it comes to crucial conversations with our loved ones so we hide behind justifications, stories, explanation or even empty apologies.
There will be times in any relationship in which couples engage in habits and behaviours that are hurting the relationship and bringing doubt and challenges. No love story is free from struggle. The key for moving forward and overcoming “the tough times in love” is to admit you are unhappy, recognize what you are doing to create that unhappiness and then do something completely different.
Doing the same thing and expecting a different result will never help your relationship grow and thrive the way you want it to.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.