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Relationships are meant to be happy for the most part, right? They should contribute to your happiness.
But right now, yours isn’t.
Your once-happy relationship or marriage seems a shadow of its former self and you wonder whether it is worth soldiering on.
Yet, in spite of everything, you know that you still love your partner.
It’s the other essential elements of your relationship which are deeply unsatisfactory, leaving you feeling sad, hopeless, resentful, and lonely, to one degree or another.
There could be any number of reasons behind the behavior that makes you so unhappy.
For example, your partner may have lost his/her job, leading to a loss of self-worth and depression, which has taken its toll on your relationship.
Or maybe your relationship has just become one long round of bickering and arguments over petty differences of opinion that have steadily sapped the joy from everything you do together.
Or perhaps the physical side of your relationship has dwindled to nothing, or it has just become a mechanical act, devoid of real passion.
You may think you’re alone in facing your current dilemma, but the truth is that it’s a well-worn path. Many couples have been where you are now – some may have ended their relationships, but others turned things around and flourished again, together.
Here is some advice on how to make it the latter rather than the former in your relationship.
1. Don’t compare your relationship to others.
Your dissatisfaction is likely intensified by the inevitable comparisons you make with the blissfully happy couples in your circle of friends, on screen, and on social media.
A word on that: Stop Right Now! Comparison is, as they say, the thief of joy and it only leads to misery and greater dissatisfaction.
In truth, those fairytale relationships are very few and far between, with the rest of humanity just doing the best they can to varying levels of success.
What they choose to show to the outside world most likely differs considerably from their daily reality.
You may play the same game yourself, pretending to the outside world that everything is perfectly lovely in your relationship or marriage when you are, in fact, deeply unhappy.
2. Examine the current state of your relationship.
It may seem as if your decision would be so much easier if the love had evaporated. You’d pack your bags and be on your way.
But as long as the feeling is still there, you face a dilemma.
There are bound to be many questions in your mind:
– What happened to the mutual love and respect that your original relationship was based on?
– How long do you stick with this situation when it’s making you so unhappy?
– Can you justify staying put and learning to live with the status quo?
– What can you do to rekindle the close relationship you once had?
One thing is certain: you don’t have to stay with your partner just because you still love him/her.
Since your relationship is making you unhappy, you need to focus on the source of the heartache to help you answer the vital and potentially life-changing question: should I stay or should I go?
Clearly, before you can move forward, there’s a whole lot of uncomfortable unpicking of your relationship to be done, analyzing the whys and wherefores of how you found yourself where you are now versus where you would like to be.
No matter how hopeless it may seem now, if you do decide that you want to stay, it is possible to learn how to fix a damaged relationship, to rekindle the love between you, and be a harmonious couple once again.
3. Reopen the conversation.
Make no mistake, the success of absolutely any relationship depends on the three Cs: communication, communication, communication.
Okay, that’s just one C, but it’s such an important one it’s worth repeating.
To make any headway, your number one task will be to restore the channels of communication which may have shrunk to a mere trickle, although you may have barely noticed it happening.
Although you may not see it from where you stand now, the best person to talk about the problems in your relationship with is actually the other person in that relationship.
Taking some time out, away from the everyday grind, may be a good place to start.
A romantic weekend away, a leisurely walk in the park, or reinstating the date nights that may have fallen by the wayside, could give you the opportunity to reopen the real conversation between you in a non-confrontational and loving way.
Explain why some behaviors make you so unhappy and try to gain your partner’s understanding. In return, listen carefully to their side of the story.
Don’t expect an overnight epiphany, but, over time, the agreed changes in behavior should help to brighten the prospects in your relationship.
4. Be prepared to compromise.
Having said that there were only 3 Cs, there is actually one more very important ‘C’ that is the key to the success of every partnership: Compromise!
Meeting each other half way is always going to be more achievable and sustainable than insisting on a complete transformation or reinvention.
Just be sure that both of you are doing your fair share of compromising – it can’t be just you or them who give a little whilst the other still gets their own way all the time.
5. Realize that conflict can be productive.
When unhappiness spreads in a relationship, meaningful verbal communication can all but cease.
Constant arguments can lead to the dreaded silent treatment, since that can seem a better option than yet more verbal confrontation.
Both parties end up treading on eggshells, tiptoeing around each other for fear of triggering more clashes.
That all sounds very negative, but the truth is that arguments can be good and very productive when they are managed correctly.
Zero conflict does not usually equate to a healthy relationship or marriage. Instead, deeper mutual understanding and superior communication skills created by robust but respectful disagreement gives both parties the tools to work through and resolve any conflict.
As you argue, you can develop a more intimate understanding of your partner’s preferences, their pet peeves, emotional scars, etc, which helps to build a stronger connection between you.
Of course, if you are fighting just for its own sake, using shaming or blaming tactics to attack your partner, then that is not constructive.
Things can get pretty ugly if you continue to pick over the same old battle grounds time and time again.
So that brings us back to the importance of our old friends Communication and Compromise, which offer the best method of moving toward resolving your unhappiness and creating a sustainable relationship.
One more important point about arguments: while disagreements are natural and can be positive, arguments that become emotionally abusive or physical are never acceptable. In this case, you have no choice but to leave the relationship and seek professional help if necessary.
6. Look at the part you play in the problem.
Many people who seek relationship counseling are convinced that it is their partner who is the problem. In their eyes, it’s a straightforward case of black versus white.
It’s never easy to accept that we may be the root of any problem. Blaming others for our problems can be the easy way out, far easier than accepting our share of the responsibility.
Focusing on the many ways your partner makes you unhappy is one thing. Thinking, instead, about how you may have been culpable in the unraveling of your relationship will allow a change of perspective, possibly enabling you to see where the rot set in.
Perhaps it’s not your partner that’s making you unhappy, but your own frustration about an unfulfilling career or other external problems.
Dig a little deeper, be honest with yourself and you will likely gain some useful insights.
Remember that any relationship consists of two flawed humans looking at life from two separate perspectives, burdened by different life experiences, quirks, habits, and temperaments.
It’s hardly surprising that differences of opinion and frustrations arise along the way.
Developing an understanding of how you contribute to the strife, and adjusting your own behavior, can go a long way to re-establishing mutual respect, connection, and appreciation.
7. Don’t neglect your own needs.
When a relationship causes unhappiness, it’s very tempting to bury your head firmly in the sand, like the proverbial ostrich.
The problem with this approach is that wallowing in self-pity generally results in greater unhappiness.
If this describes your current behavior, some radical self-care is required.
When you start feeling better about yourself, you will be in a stronger position to address the problems in your relationship.
Make sure you are spending time doing things that bring you joy, be that walking in the woods, meeting family, or hanging out with friends.
Take a look at your diet and check that you’re eating well, because there’s a stronger connection than many of us realize between good nutrition and general well-being. Seeking solace in tub after tub of Ben & Jerry’s is not the way to go!
Exercise is also inextricably linked to good mental health, so be sure you’re getting enough of that too.
This shift of emphasis, putting yourself center stage rather than focusing on the ins and outs of your troubled relationship, will ultimately give you greater strength to identify what went wrong and why, and to set about fixing it.
8. Focus on your friendship.
Taking the time to reflect on the things which originally made your partner so attractive to you is a great place to start.
What fun things did you do together? What brought the two of you joy? Do you think you really know your partner as well today as you did back then?
We may share the same four walls, but do we really pay attention to each other’s likes and dislikes and do we really know what makes the other tick?
Testing out how much you really know about each other can be a fun way to engage with, and thereby connect more deeply with, your partner.
This journey of mutual discovery can be light-hearted and non-confrontational using one of the many sets of prompt cards or apps out there for couples.
9. Don’t make assumptions.
It’s all too easy to assume that your spouse or partner knows how unhappy you are.
It’s obvious, right? How could s/he not know when you’ve been giving all the signals?
But did you actually tell them in so many words?
No matter how long you have lived together, and how in tune you believe your thought patterns have been, it’s impossible for them to know all your innermost thoughts.
Even if they have their suspicions, they will most likely choose to ignore their intuition because they don’t want to believe that you’re anything other than blissfully happy. It’s too painful for them to believe otherwise.
It’s your job, therefore, to set things out in black and white, but always calmly and without being accusatory.
When you do this, give them the benefit of the doubt, and cut them some slack as they catch up with the reality of your true feelings.
Explaining things in this way, and taking care to listen to your partner’s perspective, too, will help to rebuild emotional bridges.
10. Be present in the relationship.
When you are unhappy in your relationship or marriage, it’s very easy to withdraw from the situation mentally. You may be physically present but your mind is occupied elsewhere.
Rather than actually listening when your partner tries to tell you about the ups and downs of their working day, you may be tuned in to your smart phone, updating your status, or thinking about what you’re going to cook for dinner.
Try making an effort to give your partner your undivided attention and really listen to what they have to say.
When they suggest going for a walk, eating out together, or watching a movie that’s not your favorite genre, don’t just dismiss them. Little by little, these repeated rejections put a greater wedge between you.
Sharing activities with your partner may help you to rediscover mutual enthusiasm for things you enjoyed together in the past.
11. Try to have a meaningful conversation every day.
When you’re both caught up in the endless hectic round of work, chores, household finances, childcare, and other practicalities, the last thing you likely want to talk about is the state of your relationship and your true state of mind.
Making a conscious effort to check in with each other daily, even for 10 short minutes, will give you both a chance to talk about your feelings and any stresses you’re dealing with.
This mutual offloading will help both of you to be more understanding.
Express appreciation for things that your spouse has done. Be sure to keep day-to-day logistics out of the conversation. Focus only on how you both feel and talk about things that you would like to start (or stop) doing as a couple.
12. Seek outside help.
Trying to fix your unhappy relationship by yourself is not going to be an easy task.
Talking your feelings through with a non-judgmental therapist could help you to see your position from another perspective and with greater clarity.
They will be able to provide an honest, objective opinion of your own behavior as well as your partner’s and your relationship overall.
Implementing some of the strategies outlined above, and sharing your problems with a relationship therapist can help you to regain the equilibrium in your life and maybe rediscover the happiness you seek within your relationship.
We recommend the online service from Relationship Hero to help get your relationship back on track. You can have sessions from the comfort of your own home and receive the specific advice and exercises you need to bring happiness back into your relationship. Click here to chat to someone or to arrange a session for the future.
That fact that you have read right through to the end of this piece suggests that you have by no means given up on your relationship, and are willing to embrace the challenge of making the necessary changes to preserve it, and even enhance it, going forward.
If, on the other hand, none of this advice chimes with you and you don’t feel that you have the energy, or sufficient will, to bring about change in your relationship to make you truly happy, then maybe you have no choice but to walk away.
Fiction writers and dramatists would have it that love conquers all, but in reality, a well-balanced, fulfilling relationship takes so much more than love to make it work.
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