Being happy in a relationship should be a no brainer. Relationships are supposed to add value to your life, rather than make them more difficult. And yet so many of us can look back at old relationships and see that they were wrong for us — or made us completely miserable. The thing is, you rarely know it at the time. Because that's part of the issue — the self-delusion, the willful ignoring of red flags — you can recognize it in other people, but not yourself.
Most people have seen it before in their friends. You'll say, "I'm worried she's kidding herself" or "He's ignoring all the signs". But we really should trust those around us. "A big one that most people push off to the side is 'your friends and family don't really like him'," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW tells Bustle. "Many people will think that this doesn't matter. Or once your friends get to know him better they will grow to like him more. But studies have shown that our friends and family might be better judges of our relationship than we are. They aren't blinded by pheromones or attraction like we are during the early stages of dating. As disappointing as this might be, if no one around you really likes your partner there might be a reason."
So that's the first major warning, but there are other things to keep your eye out for. Here are seven signs your relationship isn't as happy as you think:
1. Your Partner Is Withdrawing
Relationship unhappiness can come from either party. Although sometimes we ignore the fact that we're unhappy, we can also ignore that our partner isn't OK. If they're acting different or withdrawing from you, you need to check in and make sure they're actually as happy as you're imagining.
2. You Don't Feel Relaxed
You should be able to be yourself in a relationship and if you don't feel secure and sure of your partner's affections, something's up. "Another sign that things might not be going so well is that you are constantly nervous and insecure about the relationship. You might think that things are great and that you are happy, but if you are constantly doubting [their] feelings for you or unsure about whether or not you can expect to hear from [them] again then something's not right," Hartstein tells Bustle. "[They're] likely sending you some kind of signal that [they're] still unsure about you. Now this is perfectly appropriate early on, but once you two have been established as a couple for any length of time, you should be able to feel confident that [they] will still like you no matter what dumb thing you might say or if you are having a bad hair day. If you are constantly on your guard about how [they're] going to respond to you then there may be something deeper going on underneath the surface."
3. You Don't Have Much To Say About It
A lot of times we feel pressured to give a perfect impression of things to people on the outside. Which means, if things aren't actually that great, you may find yourself skimming over the details of your relationship and not wanting to say very much. If you're only giving a superficial version of your relationship to friends and family, it's good to ask yourself what you're avoiding. The same thing is true if you constantly find yourself defending the relationship. "Sometimes, our friends and family will see things that we don't see. We can often get in the habit of defending our happiness and sometimes it is warranted," relationship coach and founder of Maze of Love, Chris Armstrong, tells Bustle. "But the truth is, if you are constantly explaining, rationalizing or defending your relationship happiness with friends and family, you are likely not as happy as you think. [Your friends and family] are seeing something that has them constantly questioning or second guessing your happiness. Besides just defending your heart, make sure you balance it with your head and ask yourself what, if anything, you may be missing."
4. You've Stopped Doing Fun Things
Whatever your quality time is — fancy dates, riding bikes, traveling together — you need to prioritize fitting it in. You can't just occupy the same space a lot and call that a happy relationship. Although we all end up being lazy on the couch some days, relationships need to be built on more than that. Make sure you're helping each other be happy rather than making each other stagnate.
5. You Can't Come Up With Things You Love About Them
It may sound basic, but I've seen some couples who literally can't do this. You need to have things about them you just adore and feel grateful for, beyond just the stability of a relationship. Yeah, you're going to fight once in a while, but not most of the time. And if you can't gush about them, at least in your own mind, then it might just be that you're in a relationship for the sake of being in one, rather than it making you happy.
6. You Have A Lot Of Other Go-To People
It's so good to have friends and family you can rely on — and you should have that. But your partner should be pretty high up the list of people you call when there's something wrong. If you find that you're constantly seeking support out elsewhere, then your partner and your relationship aren't giving you what you need.
7. You Avoid Each Other
This is probably the biggest indicator. If you've stopped having not only quality time, but any time at all then you're probably not really enjoying the relationship. "I have had countless clients decrease the amount of time that they spend with their partner and chalk it up to trust and comfort," Armstrong tells Bustle. "'I don't need to spend every day with Michael, we're fine. Besides, I haven't spent time with the girls in a while.' So says Sara who has had some rough outings with Michael of late. Sara craves daily communication and touch with the people she is dating but she has subconsciously put aside those needs in order to create some space. The problem is, she is not thinking about why she is creating the space. She thinks that she is happy but there is trouble in paradise."
If you feel like this is the case, it's time to take a long, hard look at the relationship. Don't just go along with it because you're already in the relationship — you need to make sure your relationship is just as happy as you want it to be, not just how happy you're pretending it is.
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