You 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.