Have you been feeling stuck in your relationship? Are things not moving fast enough? Do you want to see your partner every night a week, but their work and school schedule means they can only see you about twice a week?
If you are asking yourself, "Am I unhappy in my relationship?" then I have an assignment for you. It's time to grab your favorite writing materials and retreat to a quiet corner. Write down the following question: "Am I unhappy in my relationship?"
Beneath it, answer the following questions as completely and as honestly as you can. This exercise will help you gain clarity about what is bothering you and should help you figure out what course of action will best serve you from here.
1. Am I Being Fair In My Expectations?
Every individual who enters a relationship does so with their own set of wants and needs from a partner. And because every individual who enters a relationship is human, some of those wants become expectations that a partner may be unable to fulfill.
If you think you are unhappy in your relationship, it is probably because your partner is letting you down in some way. Maybe they are not making enough time for you. Maybe they are not ready to move in or make a long-term commitment. Maybe you are the one pumping the breaks and questioning whether your cold feet mean you need to get out altogether.
Some of these let-downs are totally resolvable, depending on your flexibility. Do you really need to see your partner more than, say, twice a week in order to feel connected? Or are you placing that expectation on your partner to resolve a lingering insecurity you have from a previous relationship?
If your partner isn't open to moving in at this time, would they be willing to do it later? Is cohabitation really a step you need to take right this second, or can you practice some patience and focus on the other building other strong foundations of a lasting partnership?
None of these are trick questions. Your past experiences inform what you need in the present — but it is easy to confuse what you need with what you want.
If you are questioning whether you are unhappy in a relationship, consider whether you are expecting too much from your partner too soon. And if you have more desires than your partner can provide, reach out to other networks of support — friends, family members, therapists — to help satisfy what a single partner cannot.
2. How Long Have I Been Feeling Unhappy?
Relationships do go through rough patches, and just because you are unhappy now, does not mean there isn't room for resolution or healing in your relationship. However, if you have been feeling unhappy for weeks, months, or even a whole year, that means it's likely more than a rough patch.
The reasons you are unhappy may very well have changed in that time frame. Past issues may have been resolved and never come up again, but if a new problem crops up every other week, that's a sign you are unhappy in your relationship consistently. The reasons might not even matter.
If you can't remember when you started being unhappy in a relationship, but you've been talking about your feelings with your friends, ask them if they can remember when you started feeling less-than-satisfied and what patterns they have noticed over the course of time. If they've been listening, they will definitely be able to tell you whether this feeling is something new or if it has been an ongoing reality.
3. Does The Emotion I'm Experiencing Right Now Remind Me Of Anything I've Experienced Before?
In other words, are you unhappy because your partner is doing something that reminds you of someone who has hurt you in the past? Old relationships take a long time to heal, and there is no linear process to the grief that comes from experiencing trauma or loss — particularly not for sensitive souls.
Maybe the cadence in your partner's voice reminded you of the way your father used to speak to you, and you are recoiling subconsciously. Maybe you feel anxiety about your partner's wide social circle because you have been cheated on before, or you have fear of abandonment from a different unresolved issue in your past.
If the problem really is with you, and not an incompatibility in the relationship, then you probably need to seek out some resources for healing in order to be the best you can be both for yourself and for your partner.
4. Is My Unhappiness Something I Can Bring Up To My Partner?
Whether or not you are unhappy in your relationship or unhappy in this particular moment, your feelings need to be something you and your partner can talk about openly. If you are planning to be together for a long while, then you are going to experience the ups, downs, and everything in-between that life offers. And some of those downs will take you really, really far down.
However, if you are in a relationship with someone who dismisses your feelings, gets defensive when you bring an issue to their attention, or who otherwise makes you feel like talking to them about your potential unhappiness wouldn't make a lick of difference, that doesn't give the relationship much confidence.
Plus, if you feel like you can't bring your problems to your partner's attention, then it's only natural you would be unhappy in your relationship. Your relationship might be over.
5. Are There Concrete Changes That Can Be Made To Improve This Situation?
If you think you are unhappy in your relationship, identify the cause. Are you unhappy because your partner doesn't turn you on anymore or because you are realizing you have fundamental incompatibilities? Or are there little things you can do to improve the source of your unhappiness?
If the issue is that you don't see your partner enough, maybe you could have a set schedule for hanging out each week. If you feel like you want room to experiment with your identity, maybe you could have a conversation about opening up your relationship.
If you have a conversation with your partner and find that either they are unwilling to make compromises or that the source of your unhappiness is more fundamental than you initially thought it was, then you're going to give something up. And the healthiest loss might be your relationship.
6. Is This Relationship Bringing Out The Best Or The Worst In Me?
Are you irritable with your partner, constantly anxious, worried about the future, or feeling otherwise unstable in your emotional life? Or for the most part, do you feel like your partner supports you and brings out the best sides of yourself?
If you're thinking you're unhappy in your relationship, then think about how this unhappiness is impacting you on a personal level. If you think that, in general, your partner brings out the best in you, then the happiness you're feeling might not be about the relationship at all. Maybe you need a better job or to move to a different city for more opportunities. Maybe you need to buckle down on pursuing those creative ambitions you stalled for your relationship.
A strong partnership has room for you to do all of the things you need to seek out your own personal fulfillment. If you think you are unhappy in your relationship, you need to make sure you are able to adapt and thrive so you can continue to grow as the individual you are.
7. Do I Want To Be With This Person Tomorrow?
A friend once told me this question was the only thing that mattered in a relationship. While I think, at some point, you need to start thinking about more than incremental measures of time, I think he is kind of right.
You never know whether you are going to be able to continue to grow together always, or if circumstances in your life are going to place distance between you and your boo. The only thing you can know, on a day-to-day basis, is whether you still want to be with your boyfriend, girlfriend, or significant other when you wake up the next morning.
If the answer is yes, then you are likely not going to really break up with them today. If the answer is no — if you are so unhappy, furious, upset, or betrayed that you don't want to see this person ever again — then you need to break up with them.
At this point, your unhappiness isn't worth the pain the relationship has been causing you. You can stay in it, but it won't matter because the relationship already is effectively over. You do not want to be with them.
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