What to Do When You Think Your Relationship is Over

Unhappy woman and sleeping man lying in bedYou are in a relationship, but sometimes you feel something in the pit of your stomach that reminds you that you are not happy. You love your partner with all your heart, yet you feel as if you are missing something better. You wonder if something out there just might be more fulfilling, and you begin to think maybe you are just settling for what you have. You live with this feeling and you try not to think about it.  You make new friends, go back to school, switch jobs, or focus on the kids. You do anything to keep your mind off this nagging feeling that reminds you of something lacking.

Maybe you even talk about it with your mate. “I’m not happy,” you say to him or her. You really are telling them you want something deeper, more meaningful, but you just don’t know how to explain it. Your partner assures you that they are happy and, for a while, you believe that you are going to be OK. You are safe and secure knowing you will be OK.  You try to believe that you will be fine, but you know down deep you really are not. You feel stuck and frozen because you don’t know what to do.

“It’s not that bad,” you tell yourself.  You look at other couples and you find many who are much worse off. You say to yourself, “We’re not as bad as (insert couple’s name here).”  This calms you again for a while, but you know it’s only a band-aid.  You know you will experience this feeling again.

From a counselor’s perspective

You have tried everything you know to make things better and you are not sure what to do next. As a couples counselor I know you are not alone. Many couples find themselves in this situation: somewhat happy, but missing a something that they don’t know how to find.

I often meet couples when they are in this situation. Both will tell me they have lost something. Both will describe the feeling of something greater in their earlier relationship. Sometimes they will talk about passion. They will tell me how there is no more passion in the relationship and they don’t know how to get it back, or if they can ever get it back.

This is a serious situation, but it’s not hopeless: there is a path to a solution. If a couple comes in for counseling, one of the first things I like to do is try and understand each person as an individual. Chances are that each person has been growing and developing, but the partner hasn’t noticed. It’s not that they aren’t seeing the changes; they are most likely too focused on their own needs to be aware. This is how couples grow apart.

As to be expected, each person has been developing as a human. However, the relationship is stuck in a place that resembles the courtship, wedding, and honeymoon days. The relationship has not matured. It’s still an infant compared to the changes each person has been making. In essence, the relationship has been ignored, undernourished, and left to wither. This is no one’s fault. It just happens if two people don’t understand what their relationship needs to keep it evolving.

Unfortunately, when two people feel stuck they usually blame each other. One person thinks “If my partner sensed, knew, or just plain understood, they would know how to make me feel better. Since they don’t know, it must mean they don’t care or we’re a bad match.”

Assessing your relationship

These are dangerous conclusions, but they happen all the time. If you are in a relationship and you are not sure if you are as happy as you can be, why not examine your relationship? Look at the health of that relationship. Do you and your partner regularly do things together? I’m not talking about the day-to-day duties of life. Do you spend good times together? Do you nurture each other and understand each other’s pursuits and goals?

To build a healthy relationship, each person has to understand that the health of the relationship is just as important as the emotional health of each person in the relationship. When couples understand that, they can create something special.

So before you call it quits, why not try working through the unhappiness in counseling? You may be able to build something great, instead ofn leavig the relationship before even knowing what is possible.

© Copyright 2011 by Linda Nusbaum, MA, MFT, therapist in Long Beach, California. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • gary

    gary

    August 1st, 2011 at 2:36 PM

    this is a very common situation and the best approach would be to try and work on it.but that is possible if you initially tell yourself that it can be fixed, that it is not as big an issue to end the relationship,without the zest to hang on to it,the relationship cannot survive for too long.

  • Charlie Sy.

    Charlie Sy.

    August 1st, 2011 at 7:38 PM

    talk about hitting a true chord with me. My wife and I went through a tough patch a little over a year ago. we almost walked away from 15 years of marriage as we struggled through financial issues that had their root in the he doesn’t understand me and she doesn’t get me anymore situation. we both spent money like it was no tomorrow thinking that it would bring back that spark we had right out of college.

    the finances were a sympton and only after we almost reached the breaking point did we really start understanding the depth of our issues. neither of us had made it out of that first 8 years of marriage emotionally. with a few sessions to try and work it out we realized this and are now living a much fuller life. together we are doing things that we never did before. that spark is back thank goodness.

  • RUTH

    RUTH

    August 2nd, 2011 at 3:08 AM

    I’m surprised you had issues in a 15 year long marriage, Charlie. I always thought that after the initial buzz goes down and the excitement flies out of the window, problems and issues creep in. But seems like it can happen in old marriages as well.

  • George

    George

    August 2nd, 2011 at 4:31 AM

    What do I generally think when the relationship is over? Usually it is something along the lines of “thank God that’s done!”

  • tabitha jennings

    tabitha jennings

    August 2nd, 2011 at 12:05 PM

    the major cause of such a feeling is lack of communication.so what would I do if I feel the relationship may be over? Initiate some communication, of course!

    It helps talk and explain without actually starting off a fight.

  • Linda Nusbaum

    Linda Nusbaum

    August 8th, 2011 at 11:47 AM

    Thank you all for writing your experiences and thoughts about relationship issues. That’s how we learn, by getting caught up in stuff that feels bad. We humans are pretty neat. We all just want to be happy. Love that about us.
    Linda

  • LML

    LML

    November 22nd, 2011 at 8:52 PM

    The mention of a ‘connection’ in the article caught my eye. What one ‘needs’ or feels is intermingled with what one had and didn’t have as a young child. Someone who was greeted warmly by caregivers/parents expects the same…someone whose caregivers were matter of fact upon coming home but loving doesn’t necessarily warmly greet their partner instinctively. Instead they may finally use the restroom, get into more comfortable clothes, get the food started. I think that when you were raised by a single parent this could increase the chance that the practical needs were attended to first, because once they did sit down they knew they weren’t going to want to get up! :) So changing means setting specific goals and holding them in your thoughts regularly…which of course does require communication but also continual reminders that the changes are appreciated…as it may take eons to become enjoyable habits rather than ‘I have to go give them a kiss before I go.’ Much love to all as we are social beings and unless it’s too unhealthy save seems worth trying to make some changes for. I’m a big fan of the Meyerson’s ‘Better Understanding Guide’ and they’ve told me they wrote a new book a few years ago too. However, it is work in a sense, but few things have the reward of love.

  • Larry

    Larry

    July 19th, 2012 at 1:49 PM

    i have been in a strange relationship with a co worker we are really good friends she already has a long distance boyfriend that she only see’s every now and then sometimes its 3 weeks before he see’s her he has cheated on her a couple of times that she knows of but she is still with him anyway i have been getting feelings from her that she cares about me there has been times that we hug after leaving work at night and she has said a few times she loved me she has told her mom about me and i have been to her mothers house her mother is a very nice lady and now i have even gotten close to her to and her daughter the one i work with likes the tought of her mother likeing me anyway sometimes she feel so close to me and others she feels thousands of miles away its really a roller coaster ride but i love and care for her so much that i don’t want to give up

  • Ella

    Ella

    July 6th, 2014 at 3:19 PM

    I have been with my boyfriend for a year and 2 months now and were just getting over a month of constant arguing to the point of us screaming in the street at each other, me breaking down crying and walking away from him and he walks away too. He said during one argument in the beginning I wanted you more than you wanted me, now you want me more than I want you.
    That really emotionally hurt me very much and he’s apologised for saying it but I’m still hurt because it’s true. It feels like he doesn’t want to see me as much anymore (we don’t live together) and I have to make all the effort to organise to do something together or to arrange to see each other.
    The sexual spark is there but we don’t have time for that as much as we used to. He’s turned very selfish and arrogant and nasty and I don’t like it but I love him with my whole heart and I’d be lost without him in my life. He means the absolute world to me and he is my number 1, but he said I’m not his number 1 anymore as he is 4 years older than me and wants to enjoy his life a bit more with friends etc before he turns 25 next year.
    I just feel really low and whenever I think about the horrible month we’ve just had, I just sit and cry because everything he’s said hurts but not in front of him.
    Please help me, what I can do to get my caring and loving boyfriend back who spends time with his friends and says I’m his number 1? He rarely compliments me as much as he used to but I compliment him all the time but I get nothing back. He seems too absorbed in his mobile and will sit and blatantly ignore me when I’m trying to talk to him.

  • nizar

    nizar

    August 15th, 2017 at 11:46 AM

    am in a very bad situation in my relationship and the only thing i want is to be happy as linda said

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