Not Happy In Your Relationship? Talk About It
After working with hundreds of couples over the years, I continue to be surprised at how many people are oblivious to their partner’s unhappiness…until, that is, they are about to leave.
Too many couples come into my office following an affair, a blow up or a declaration by one partner that they are leaving the marriage. The other partner is not only in shock and despair at this turn of events, but they are also blindsided. They can’t believe their partner is “suddenly” leaving or had the audacity to have an affair. The partner that cheated or is leaving is in shock that their partner is so shocked.
How does this happen? It happens over many months, and even years. Often the unhappy partner would throw disgruntled statements out in the heat of the moment or under their breath throughout the years. The other partner would brush them aside, thinking they were just angry...but 100 disgruntlements later, the unhappy partner is done.
Seldom do I see couples where the unhappy partner has been direct and clear about their unhappiness. More often than not, they pull away and find joy through others (children, affairs, friends). Finally, they give up and decide they can’t stay in this relationship any more.
Not speaking about your unhappiness is not okay. It does not help you, your partner, your relationship or your family. There is no reason for anyone to be shocked by their partner leaving them. The unhappy partner owes it to themself as well as their partner and children (if they have any) to deal with relationship problems head on. Dealing with the issues head on starts with a conversation (not done in the heat of the moment) stating that you are unhappy and what you need changed in order to turn this relationship around for you.
If your partner does not listen, you need to ramp your message up in a steady progression until they hear you or it’s evident they don’t care. Ramping it up may look like the following:
1. Inform them that you are continuing to be unhappy in this relationship and the absence of their effort to change behaviors when you have informed them of their negative effect on you is pulling you away even more. Tell them you will be thinking about your next step if things continue to not change.
2. Begin to take action steps that they will feel if things still don’t change -- such as: no longer go out on dates with them, no longer entertain their colleagues, no longer have sex with them if you are not feeling emotionally connected (Note: do not use sex as a weapon—you want to send the clear message that because they are not treating you well, you are not feeling intimate. You don’t want to give them the message that things are okay if they are not. This decision should not be a moment-to-moment thing, but should be off the table until things truly change).
3. If things still don’t change, inform them you need both of you to seek professional help or you don’t think you will make it.
4. If things don’t change, consider moving out of the bedroom as the last step before separation. Do not think that you have the right to have an affair if your partner doesn’t listen. You have the right to set limits, you have the right to put your relationship on the line and you have the right to leave—you do not have the right to have an affair.
The bottom-line is no one should be shocked if their partner leaves them. If you are that unhappy you should be informing your partner along the way of how unhappy you are and what you are thinking about doing as a result. Slowly pulling away from your partner, getting resentful and then suddenly deciding you’re done isn’t fair to anyone. Deal with the issues directly, be clear along the way on where you stand and then allow the chips to fall where they may.
CHALLENGE: If you are unhappy in your relationship, speak about it directly. Don’t leave hints, wait for them to notice or act as if things are okay. Say it straight and be clear about what your next step is.