Signs You’re Unhappy In A Relationship

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated May 17, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Are you experiencing challenges in your relationship? Do you sometimes ask yourself, why can't I be happy? Research suggests that around 40 percent of people in relationships feel unhappy at some point in the course of their relationship. Not feeling happy all the time is normal and okay. While it’s normal to feel unhappy in your love life, you may want to take efforts to either improve or leave a relationship that is not allowing you to live your best life.

Many relationships experience ebbs and flows in the level of enjoyment or happiness felt. If you find feeling like you're not happy in your current relationship, this can be perfectly normal and does not always indicate that something is wrong. Knowing the reasoning behind a rough patch can help you take action to move forward in your relationship. 

It is okay to not be happy in your relationship

When you’re in an unhappy relationship, you might feel stuck. You may not want to leave your relationship but feel your expectations aren't being met. Maybe your partner is not putting in as much effort as they used to; perhaps they are giving you less support than you need. In any case, if you’re thinking, “I’m not happy in my relationship”, know that you can make a choice to improve your situation. It could feel easier to break up with your partner rather than try to fix what’s happening. However, if you want to try to increase joy and satisfaction in your partnership, there are a few steps you can take that may help:

  • Evaluate the problem - Determine what it is that is causing you to feel unhappy. Increased conflict? A sense of disconnection? A lack of intimacy? Living “parallel lives” but not actually connecting? Dive deep to identify the issue.
  • Choose a response - What you do to improve your situation may depend on what you discover when evaluating the problem. Some options for improving the situation may be spend time together, visit couples therapists, or simply having a long and vulnerable talk about the issues in your relationship.

Not all relationships need to end. If you and your partner are willing to put in the work, perhaps with the help of a couples counselor, then you could return to having a happy relationship.

Common signs you may not feel happy in your relationship

The signs of an unhappy relationship may be difficult to recognize. Sometimes you may be unhappy in other areas of your life and think that you are unhappy in your relationship as a result. However, there are some signs you can look out for to tell if the source of your unhappiness is your relationship. Signs you may be unhappy in your relationship include:

  • You look for excuses not to see your partner. 
  • You feel the urge to be with someone else. 
  • You feel you would be happier living a different life.
  • You aren't attracted to your partner anymore. 
  • You’re using substances to avoid thinking about your conflicts. 
  • You feel your partner does not respect you.
  • You’re irritable or angry often. 
  • You feel sad when you’re with your partner. 
  • You’re “only in it for the kids, house, pets, or [fill in the blank].”
  • You’re struggling with mental health concerns due to conflicts in the relationship.
  • You’re unsure if you want to commit to your partner.  
  • You find yourself chasing how you felt in the past.
  • You realize you no longer love your partner.
  • You avoid date night or other times alone with your partner.
  • You feel resentment toward your partner. 
  • You feel as if you are settling.

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources. Support is available 24/7.

If any of the signs above resonate with you, it could indicate that you are unhappy in your relationship. Although most partnerships experience hard times and changes in satisfaction, if you’re not having any good times with your partner, it could indicate a deeper problem. Long-term, staying in an unhappy relationship could be unhealthy for your and your partner’s mental health. 

Evaluate the situation: Are there other factors? 

Before you identify your relationship as the source of your unhappiness, consider evaluating other factors that could impact your feelings towards your partner. Doing so can allow you to see if any other feelings are masquerading as relational discord. When dealing with internal issues, many people find themselves projecting these feelings onto partners subconsciously. If you are constantly feeling unhappy, some possible sources of discontent include:

  • Depression
  • Loneliness
  • Financial worries
  • Parenting concerns
  • Unhappiness at work
  • Relationship conflicts with friends or family 

With many of these concerns, a feeling of dissatisfaction, irritation, or sadness can spread to your partner. Because you’re emotionally and physically close to your partner, you may let down your guard and unintentionally hurt their feelings. This kind of projection may cause bitterness and discontent on both sides.

How to increase happiness in unhappy relationships

Unhappy relationships don't have to remain unhappy and increasing happiness with your partner may be an option. First, through self-reflection, pinpoint the issue and the feeling you’re experiencing; it could be related to your sex life, communication issues, or future hopes. Second, set a time with your partner to discuss your concerns openly and hear theirs. Consider your goals for the conversation. Do you want space? Do you need to break up? Do you need to change a pattern in your individual life? Have an idea of your game plan regardless of the conversation’s outcome. You might be surprised to find that your significant other is on the same page or open to supporting you through these concerns to form a healthy relationship.

Next, come up with a plan. This is a stage in which relationship advice from a qualified counselor can be particularly valuable, as they can provide you with the support and guidance you may need to help improve communication with your partner and enhance the health of your marriage. When working through these personal concerns, many people also see an increase in joy in their relationships.

If you decide that an external factor is not your primary issue, evaluate what about your relationship is making you unhappy. Try to be as specific as possible in pinpointing the exact area of discontent. 

Some common relationship problems could include: 

  • Communication issues 
  • Difficulties with emotional connection
  • A lack of emotional support from your partner 
  • Disagreement in financial topics or behaviors 
  • A lack of time spent together 
  • A division of labor that feels unfair to one or both parties 
  • Parenting differences
  • Incompatible life goals

You may get caught up in a cycle of negative thoughts when you aren't feeling happy. Negative thoughts and ruminations can cause problems to persist. However, studies show that when people choose to speak with a trained counselor, this effectively treats unwanted rumination patterns. Once you’ve identified the root of your discontentment, reflect on the positive aspects of your relationship. Spend some time identifying healthy habits in your relationship. A counselor may be able to help you come up with a list if you’re unsure. 

Write out your feelings about the relationship, both positive and negative. If you decide to converse with your partner about these concerns, having the list available may help you steer the conversation. It can also help with clear communication. 

Communicate clearly

Communication often works best when done respectfully and intentionally. To do this, both you and your partner may commit to active listening. Choose your words carefully, and resist casting blame on your partner.

Use “I feel” statements to express what you’ve been feeling and suggest the best way your partner could support you. For example:
  • “I feel sad that we aren’t spending as much time together lately.”
  • “I feel angry that you used my phone without asking.”
  • “I feel scared that we aren’t going to last.”
  • “I feel concerned because I don’t know how you’re feeling right now.” 

Listen to your partner’s response and, even though you’ve been vulnerable in expressing your needs, carefully and calmly consider what they have to say. Understand that your partner might internalize your feelings, and they may become sad, upset, or angry. Although you do not need to feel responsible for their emotional state, using empathy may help when trying to work out relationship issues. Empathy is being able to see yourself in someone else’s shoes and feel how they may be feeling. Empathy may help you to respond to them with understanding and gentleness. 

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Consider your future plans 

You may find it beneficial to consider your plans for the future, including whether you wish to stay with your partner or go your separate ways. This is a personal decision that is yours to make. 

When considering your best option, reflect on the length of your relationship, your time together, and your partner’s response to your recently expressed needs. If you feel you’re in a healthy relationship that a few changes could improve, staying with your partner may be worthwhile to you. 

To create a happier relationship, all partnerships require commitment, communication, and compromise. Even relationships that seem successful and healthy from the outside may have their struggles at home. However, if you conclude that your overall relationship is not one built on love, support, and trust, you may choose to do the work of ending it.

Help for when you’re unhappy: A healthy relationship is possible

Even if you want to find new ways to increase happiness in your relationship, a counselor could be a practical option. Online therapy is just one of your options. It includes remote connection with your therapist, flexibility in your schedule, and is often more affordable than traditional in-person therapy. 

A study by Frontiers in Psychology showed that online mindfulness-based talk therapy is especially helpful in treating psychological distress. Those looking for an individual counselor to converse with about their relational concerns may find this therapy form effective. Online counseling is also available to couples wishing to join a therapy session together. 

BetterHelp.com offers affordable online counseling to help you on the journey of understanding why you may be feeling unhappy in your relationship. You can read reviews of BetterHelp’s therapists below from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor reviews

“Stephanie is a gem! She’s very thoughtful, thorough, honest, insightful but most of all helpful. This is coming from a person that never wanted to do counseling and just “knew” I didn’t need it. She’s been key in helping my wife and I find our better place. She made us grow as a couple and individually. Thanks, Steph!”

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It is okay to not be happy in your relationship

“Within just a few sessions with Monica, I was in a much better place emotionally, and mentally, and had renewed hope. After a strong rift with my husband, I needed a compassionate ear that wasn’t my friends or family. She listened, gave me good feedback, and assigned helpful habits. So far everything she suggested has been working really well. Thanks to her, I’ve made great progress, and I’m excited to continue until I’m back to me.”

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Takeaway
Many people don’t feel perfect in their relationships 100% of the time. However, with some work and attention, it’s possible to increase moments of joy and satisfaction in your relationship with your significant other. If you’re unsure where to start, take the first step and connect with a relationship expert today.
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