Let’s all agree that we’ve said this at some point, even when it’s not true, because it’s normal to not want to admit that we’re struggling—especially in our relationships.
When we enter into relationships, we only anticipate pleasant moments. Unfortunately, there’s no perfect relationship because there are simply no perfect human beings.
At their crux, relationships encompass both satisfying and unsatisfying experiences. However, the unsatisfying experiences should be like a bridge that leads to the good ones. Like everything else in life, one has to step in the mud to learn how to avoid stepping in it in the future. Consequently, we need unpleasant experiences for a relationship to grow and progress.
Now the trap many of us have fallen into—at least once in our lifetime—is not being able to differentiate the normal unpleasantness in relationships from the destructive unpleasantness. I’ve been there myself, and I know how tough it is to be objective about our personal problems.
Nonetheless, I’ve come to realize that happy, healthy relationships always thrive no matter how many challenges arise. By “thrive,” I mean that each partner is constantly learning from previous mistakes, and unpleasant experiences never outweigh the pleasant ones. On the contrary, toxic, unhappy relationships don’t progress. Like a broken-down car, no matter how much you try to repair it, it just doesn’t work.
The hardest part of toxic relationships is identifying and admitting our unhappiness. The reason is that no relationship starts as toxic—or else we wouldn’t be in it in the first place. All relationships have a generally happy beginning. However, the transition between happiness and misery can be so swift and subtle that we don’t realize it’s taking place. We think we’re still happy or that things will change, but the truth is that the relationship might already be dead in its track.
Here are six signs to help us recognize if we’re unhappy in our relationship:
1. Spending time together feels like a “have to” and not a “want to.”
A person who’s happy in their relationship spends time with their partner because they truly want to. It happens naturally, without the need to think about it twice. However, a person who’s in an unhappy relationship spends time with their partner because they feel obligated to. It feels like checking in at work just to get a few tasks done and then leave. If there’s constant fighting or the relationship feels stuck in a rut, we often see our partners because it’s what we’re used to and not because we’re enthusiastic about it.
2. The relationship is the only thing on our mind.
But not in a good way. It’s beautiful—and natural—to think of our partner and the relationship we have with them. But happy and loving thoughts are different than ones full of stress or concern. When we’re constantly thinking about how to save the relationship, if we deserve to be in it, or whether we’re truly happy, it usually means that we’re not.
3. Our personal routine changes.
When one particular thing takes over your mind, our personal routine begins to change. This is what’s referred to as “losing yourself.” The individual identity that we’ve maintained since before this person came around starts to fall apart. Because of our excessive thoughts and exhaustive efforts toward fixing our relationship, we lose energy. As a result, we feel worn out, jaded, and overwhelmed. All of this is unhappiness in disguise.
4. We start to neglect ourselves.
Along with changing our routine, we often stop looking after ourselves. Our emotional distress begins to show up physically, in our looks and in the way our body feels. And while our lives should never just be caught up in how we look, self-care includes our physical self. To look after our body and our health indicates that we respect and love ourselves. When we stop doing that, it’s often because we’re exhausting our energy on something else.
5. When it comes to our partner, we run hot and cold.
In his book, The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle says, “Love has no opposite”—and I wholeheartedly agree. In a healthy relationship, even when problems surface, love is what helps us solve them. The outer situations and conditions in our relationship might change, but our love for our partner never does. However, when a relationship has drained us, we jump back and forth between loving our partner and not being able to stand the sight of them. We become easily irritated and end up focusing on the flaws rather than the strengths.
6. Communication becomes the problem, instead of the solution.
Communication is often the magic wand that solves almost anything—especially when it comes to relationships. But it’s important to keep ourselves in check when communicating with our partner. In an unhappy relationship, communication can sometimes be unhealthy and become a hindrance rather than the answer. We feel like the more we talk, the less we get anywhere. But to love is to communicate and if we’re not committed to doing so in a kind, healthy way, then we might not be happy.