As I have mentioned on many occasions before, relationships can be very complex spaces because, well because, we are human. We are very individual and complex ourselves and so bringing two of us together (or more in some cases – keep an eye out for my coming episode on polyamory), brings a lot of things to the table.
When I coach people in creating and attracting the best types of relationships, we look at this complexity in order to understand how and why your relationships work out as they do and what leads to any issues that you encounter.
I myself have had a very complicated relationship history and a lot of the time I was quite unhappy and probably stayed in them for way too long. There are several reasons for this and one is that I didn’t actually recognise it at the time. I wasn’t aware that I was that unhappy and I am sure there have been times when you have probably done the same thing.
When you have been in a relationship for a while (and sometimes right at the start too), it can seem like a scary or confusing prospect to break it off and walk away, even when you know you need to.
Now, this can be a positive thing, because you have a lot of feelings for that person, but it can also be quite dangerous.
Becoming attached to someone is what relationships are all about, creating a connection that bonds you in some way. But becoming too attached is likely to cloud your judgement, make it harder to see when it isn’t right for you and bring up the fear when considering walking away.
Apart from your own personal attachments, they may have connected with your friends and family and so you hold on just because you don’t want everyone else to be upset.
I think that you know a couple that really shouldn’t be together and maybe you can understand why they stick it out and maybe you can’t, but they will have their reasons, as maybe you have had in the past.
Staying in an unhappy relationship can take its toll on your physical, emotional and mental health. It also prevents you and your partner from moving forward and onto a happier life.
If you are still finding it difficult to see the signs, or know someone that is then in this episode I am going to talk about a few to be aware of so that you can decide how happy you really are. And if you aren’t in a relationship, then maybe you can reflect on the past and recognise some of the signs that you may not have seen.
The first thing to be aware of is a:
Breakdown in communication
Communication is one of the biggest issues in relationships when they aren’t working out (as I have likely said on these podcasts, or has been said by my guests on dozens of occasions).
Good communication is critical to a healthy relationship with anyone and if you find yourself struggling to openly communicate it is likely a sign of underlying issues. If you notice that you only engage with your partner in surface level conversations or frequently argue without any resolution then it is a sign that you may not be as content as you could be with them.
Using denial is a great tool when pretending to be ‘fake happy’ or that all is fine in your relationship. It is used as an avoidance strategy.
Why would you pretend you are happy when you are not?
There a few reasons why you may do this. What you want others to see, whether in your real life on your social media presentation.
Our mind likes to block what we don’t wish to accept and so refuses to accept your own situation and how unhappy you really are.
On the whole, denial will make things a whole lot more difficult and things will just escalate or bite you on the bum when you least expect it.
Not living in your own reality means that you don’t resolve anything for yourself/within the relationship or seek any help to do so either. Eventually, this is likely to bleed out into other areas of your life too.
There are always likely to be things about your partner that you don’t like or wish they would change. On the whole however, these are things that don’t need to cause an issue and you can live with them quite comfortably.
When this isn’t the case though and criticism has become constant and even relentless, it will start to wear at anyone’s self esteem and sense of self-worth.
If you are in a relationship where there is constant criticism of actions, habits, appearance or even your personality without any constructive feedback or solutions to boot, then it is a sign that there is some unhappiness within the relationship.
When someone is unhappy, they may project this onto others rather than looking inside of themselves at what is really going on. If you are keeping up the ‘fake happy’ space, then your real upsets could be projected onto others.
Shifting focus from your own issues onto others (whether this is a friends relationship or someone in your family), means that you are able to keep your own unhappiness at arm’s length, it is no longer a you problem, but a theirs problem.
Or should I say a lack of.
Intimacy is another essential to maintaining a romantic relationship and if this has gone by the wayside or there is very little physical contact, then it could be a sign of unhappiness. Generally, a deeper issue within the relationship that you need to address. And with intimacy, I don’t just mean sex or sexual contact. It could be as simple as not kissing hello, goodbye or goodnight any longer or holding hands when walking together.
Also known as making excuses.
You can rationalise, justify or just make excuses to unconsciously minimise your emotions and avoid your unhappiness.
There could be some self-blame, shame or guilt about how your relationship has turned out and you are internalising this. You can then look for external justifications for your situation and avoid the real reasons to save yourself from your feelings or to save face to others.
Not Feeling Valued
Feeling appreciated and valued by your partner is another essential in a healthy relationship. If you often feel taken for granted, or take them for granted, find it hard to show your appreciation or feel any gratitude from them, then it is likely that at least one of you has stopped looking at the other in that way and don’t really care what you do for each other any longer.
Removing or suppressing all emotions regarding your current state of unhappiness and replacing them with intellectual statements or quantitative facts instead is a way of tricking yourself that you are emotional safe and in better space than you really are.
This can be more a male trait, especially if encouraged to suppress feelings as child, but what it really means is an inability to process distressing emotions. This creates a block between partners as one isn’t buying into how the other feels and isn’t able to express themselves honestly either. This can lead to one feeling unheard, ignored, dismissed or even condescended when the other tries to intellectualise as they will appear cold, uncaring and lacking in empathy. If you are unhappy in your relationship, you could have started to do this as you don’t feel connected, can’t be bothered or feel safe to connect with them any longer.
If you feel trapped or stuck in a relationship then you may have broken the connection to them because you are unhappy. Not wanting to be around them when you see them, that they are pressurising you into things, that being around them isn’t appealing any longer or are uncomfortable when they get into your space are sure signs that you aren’t happy to be there any longer.
This leads onto Creating Distance to Your Partner
The touching and flirting have stopped (and maybe for a while).
Do you find yourself:
Only wanting to do family things with your partner so that you are never really alone together?
Pretend to be ill or have pains so that they don’t come too close?
Making excuses to avoid date nights?
Spending more time out with friends or encouraging them to get out more, a lot more?
Finding new hobbies that don’t include your partner (and I don’t mean that in relationships, you don’t have your own personal interests as these are also an essential to keeping a sense of self).
Initiating fights or arguments to put a wedge between you.
You Don’t Feel You are Growing Together
Healthy relationships involve growth and change as you share your common goals interests and values. If this isn’t happening then something isn’t right between you.
You are not making progress as a couple or feel as though the relationship has stagnated or you have stagnated in your own personal growth.
Maybe you are changing and they aren’t on the same journey as you any longer or no matter how much you communicate and try and work on this journey together, it seems you are drifting further apart, then it is time to re-evaluate things as this won’t be making either of you happy.
A word that I often have trouble saying, so well done to me for even attempting it on this podcast!
Unconsciously and consciously separating your life into categories, or compartments in order to protect yourself from unhappy or conflicting feelings. Putting in a box and hiding it away in order to function daily.
And yes, a terrible way of trying to deal with or mask your unhappiness. Or most problems you may have in life too.
The box, or compartment you use can only hold so much and for so long before it starts to leak out and in some cases the lid or door just flies straight open.
It can come out in other ways such as infidelity, substance/alcohol misuse, physical illness, anxiety, depression to name a few without even knowing why you acting out in this way
Seeking External Validation
Mentioned in the point above already with infidelity, but it could just be that you need validation from someone else as you are unhappy with who you are with. This may not always be the case as there are other reasons why people seek validation from others even when they are happy with their partners. This will be because there is something deeper within them that has a compulsion to seek it out.
It could be as simple as a reinforcement that you are attractive, intelligent or interesting enough to be noticed as you don’t feel you get this in your relationship, but if you aren’t feeling this in your relationship, then it is likely that this is making you unhappy.
It is essential that you explore your emotions and listen to your body when it comes to your relationships as if you are feeling something, then you are trying to tell yourself something too.
Speak to your partner about how you feel and the state of your relationship and hopefully you can work together to bring the happiness back into your lives.
You deserve to be in a relationship that makes you feel happy and fulfilled so get to know the signs of when you are not and then do what it takes to either bring it back or if that isn’t going to happen, then know you can find someone who will.