It’s late one night and, in your boredom, you’re just sitting there scrolling through social media. Picture after picture involves two happy faces canoodling or engaging in some other equally adorable activity and, suddenly, your stomach goes cold.
Sure, you can remember the days when you were single and images like this rattled your cage but why are you feeling so sad and wistful if you are blissfully coupled up? Could it be that, despite your best efforts, you aren’t actually happy in your relationship?
When addressing concerns like this with my psychology students and clients, I always make an effort to remind them that there is a difference between what people share online and what their lives are truly like. No one wants others to know that their relationship has hit a rough patch. It’s not fair, therefore, to compare our realities with someone else’s well-crafted public image.
That being said, if you just can’t shake the sense that something isn’t right, you need to explore the reasons why you’re feeling this way. Your happiness depends on it!
You’re annoyed by everything they do
When we spend a lot of time with someone, chances are they’re going to annoy us in some way. Maybe they chew too loudly, drive too aggressively, or leave too small of a tip. You might roll your eyes but, usually, these faux pas are not a huge deal. You’re not going to find everything about someone charming and they will feel the same about you. That’s totally normal.
What’s abnormal is if you can’t seem to get through 10 minutes together without wanting to scream in frustration. Their actions may seem like one offensive string of bad behaviors after another — and that’s not good.
Is it possible that you are dealing with the world’s most annoying person? Sure, but it’s more likely that, somewhere along the way, your feelings towards them have changed and you don’t feel as compatible anymore. If you’re going through a tough time, this could be temporary, so don’t be too quick to initiate a breakup!
You avoid spending time with them
In the early days of a relationship, you may feel like you can’t see this new love interest enough. Many hours of sleep have been lost in the name of late-night phone calls with someone you want to get to know a little better. On a date, you might even find small ways to prolong your togetherness just to avoid having to say goodbye.
It’s expected that this sense of urgency will wear off over time and will be replaced with a mutually satisfying level of interaction. If, however, you start finding ways to avoid spending time with them, you might be struggling with the relationship.
If you’re out having a good time with your friends or finally have a moment to yourself after a busy day and ignore a text or phone call here and there, don’t worry. You’re allowed to need some space for yourself. On the other hand, if you cringe at the idea of watching a movie together, it’s time to reevaluate things.
You’ve stopped trying to impress them
When we first meet someone, we really try to put our best foot forward. We wear our most flattering outfits, actually spend time styling our hair, and maybe even learn a new recipe or two. This is a normal part of the courtship process since we want to seem desirable and worthy of attention.
There will come a day, of course, when they will have to see you in your comfy pajamas and favorite fuzzy slippers. You may come down with the flu and be forced to blow your nose or worse — become completely incapacitated in the bathroom. This is real life and, if you’re going to have a reality-based relationship, it will need to include these moments.
Even when we’ve become more comfortable with a partner, though, there is still a part of us that craves their approval. We want to know they still find us interesting and they like us more than anyone else (right?!). If that element of your relationship suddenly disappears, you might have a problem. If you don’t have a need to impress them on any level, you need to question your own level of interest and commitment to this person.
You are feeling insecure
When you first start dating someone, it will take some time to figure out where you fit into their world. Presumably, you will be competing with work, their friends, family, and hobbies for attention — but the right person will make sure that you feel like a priority in their life.
If you are feeling insecure, you’ll have to do some soul searching and it’s incredibly important that you are honest with yourself. Before you assign blame to your partner, make sure this isn’t a pattern you’ve carried through your life and past relationships. Sometimes, we have unresolved issues that lead to feelings of insecurity and only we can address and repair these intimate areas of our hearts and minds.
However, if you can pinpoint things your current partner has done to lead to your insecurity, you need to come up with a course of action. Have you felt disrespected or ignored? Do you wonder if your partner is even ready for a relationship? Are they communicating with an ex in a way that makes you uncomfortable? When you’ve come to a conclusion about the source of your insecurity, speak to your partner and give them an opportunity to respond to your concerns.
You can’t talk about anything without fighting
Communication is one of the most important components of any relationship. When we care about someone, we will make an effort to listen to what they have to say, consider their feelings, and find ways to compromise when we disagree. It’s a beautiful thing to see two people find a shared love language despite their differences.
Early in relationships, it’s not uncommon for us to put aside strong opinions and avoid arguments because we don’t want to scare the other person away. As your bond strengthens, you will feel more comfortable revealing your true thoughts on topics that were previously considered off-limits. It’s normal that this transition will result in an increase in disagreements, since you’re now being more genuine and your discussions have more depth.
If, however, you find yourselves viciously arguing about everything from toilet paper to where you are going to eat for dinner, take a deep breath and ask yourself why this is happening. Did something change in your relationship? If you end up fighting about why you are fighting, consider talking to a couples’ counselor. If you don’t think the relationship is worth that kind of commitment, it might be time to move on.
You can’t imagine a future together
When we are young, we spend wayyy too much time trying to imagine what our futures will look like. Will we get married? Will we have babies? What kind of house will we live in and when will we see our first gray hair? We talk to our friends about these all-important topics and end up having ridiculously high expectations about everything. At least we’re optimistic in our youth, right?
For this reason, we often go into relationships immediately sizing up our partner, trying to determine if this is the one we will spend the rest of our lives with. Sometimes, we might even ignore their flaws just to try to make things seem more perfect than they are. It’s pretty normal, for the most part!
It’s a huge red flag, therefore, if in our moments of thumbing through bridal magazines and carefully vetting boy and girl names (for children we haven’t even had!) that we struggle to imagine our current partner by our side.
Of course, use your common sense in this area. If you’ve only been dating for two weeks, it’s completely reasonable to struggle with knowing if you feel truly compatible. If it’s been two years and you still can’t see a future together, something probably isn’t right.
You’re obsessing over your ex
When we break up with someone, it’s natural to be curious about them from time to time. You might see them comment on someone’s social media page and spend a few minutes clicking through their pictures and rolling your eyes (you know you’ve done it!). You might even have mutual friends who give you updates when something major happens. As long as you don’t dwell on any of it, it’s completely normal.
If you are spending a significant amount of time reminiscing about the “good ol’ days,” devoting hours to stalking them on social media, or grieving the end of a long-dead relationship, you’ve crossed a line. Imagine if you discovered that your current partner was feeling similarly about one of their exes. You would be devastated and you’d also question whether you really matter to them — and you’d be justified.
You’ve been cheating
While you are dating, it’s important to be clear about your expectations regarding infidelity. Once you’ve decided to be in a committed, monogamous relationship, you will need to create strong boundaries with any parties who could become problematic down the line. This could involve ending friendships or limiting contact with certain people, but it’s worth it to protect your relationship, right?
When it comes to being unfaithful, everyone will have their own interpretation of what constitutes cheating. Again, this is why it’s important to have a fully transparent and honest conversation about this from the beginning. Ultimately, though, we all know deep down when we’ve let things go too far.
Obviously, being sexually intimate is usually considered cheating but what about exchanging sexually suggestive texts or sharing personal details about your relationship with someone you’ve been flirting with? Here’s a simple way to know if you’re guilty of infidelity — the behavior makes you feel guilty and you wouldn’t want your partner to find out about it. Be honest with yourself. Have you been cheating? You already know the answer.
Take action or move on
The good news is that, even if you discover you are unhappy in your relationship, you can still make changes. After reflection, you will be better able to pinpoint the ways in which things are lacking. Focus on improving those areas of your relationship before throwing in the towel. That way, if you and your significant other do part ways, you can say you gave it your best shot.
Ultimately, though, you shouldn’t stay in a relationship that doesn’t meet your needs. If you’ve made an effort to make improvements but still feel unhappy, give yourself permission to move on. In the end, you have to do what’s right for you. You deserve and are worthy of happiness!