If you've ever gotten a sinking feeling that your partner isn't happy, it can spark all sorts of panic and paranoia. Thoughts like "What's going on? Did I do something? Will we break up?" will likely swirl in your head, making it difficult to broach the topic directly. That's why, hen you're feeling nervous about asking what's up, some subtler questions may be the way to go.
If you're just trying to test the waters, asking a few simple questions — mostly about commitment and plans for the future — can be an easy way to find out if your partner does, in fact, seem unhappy. If they are, it's unlikely they'll show much enthusiasm for future plans.
Of course, there can be a million other things at play, which is why you'll want to eventually sit down and have a direct heart-to-heart. "Relationships should be a safe place where you can share emotions and feel secure," NYC-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW tells Bustle. Instead of just guessing, you should feel comfortable asking your partner what's up.
If he or she is unhappy, it'll give you both the chance to figure out what to do next — together. "It ... takes effort on both people to make the relationship work," Hershenon says. "If one person is unhappy, the other person will be doing most, if not all, of the work making it impossible for anything to improve." Read on for some little questions to ask now, so you can get to fixin' what's wrong.
1. "Where should we go on vacation this year?"
As I said above, unhappy partners aren't always keen on making long-term plans. So asking about a future vacation can be pretty revealing. "If your partner doesn't see the relationship going long term, [they] won't want to commit to something in the future, such as a a trip," Hershenson says. This is especially true since vacations require a lot of planning, time, and money — all things an unhappy partner won't want to dish out.
2. "Can I come with you?"
If your partner keeps making plans without you, ask if you can come along. If they're unhappy, Hershenson tells me they might intentionally (or even subconsciously) try to do things without you. While it's healthy to have your own separate lives, it's not cool if this is always the case.
3. "What are our plans for the holidays?"
If a holiday is coming up, casually ask what your plans might be. "Again, if he is unhappy in the relationship he won't be necessarily be thinking of including you for a July 4 BBQ or Thanksgiving." Of course, this could have something to do with family issues or something outside your relationship, so always follow up and ask directly if you think something's wrong.
4. "Can you run errands with me today?"
Suggesting you do something "boring," or something that's all for you, is another good way to gauge his or her commitment to you. "Every relationship involves compromise, but if your partner starts wanting everything his way, it is a red flag he's unhappy," Hershenon says. Your SO should want to help you out and compromise — even when it isn't fun.
5. "Should we open a joint account?"
Money is another way to gauge your partner's happiness levels, especially when it comes to saving and spending it together. As speaker and spiritual counselor Davida Rappaport says, "Sometimes it is best to wait until your partner complains or says something about money." This'll be a good time to figure out how to invest or save together, as well as an opportunity to judge their interest in doing that with you.
6. "Do you want to go do something fun?"
While they could be stressed from work, or struggling with some other issue, it's not a great sign if your partner doesn't want to go on dates. "If your SO is uninterested in having fun or laughing with you, it is often a strong sign that they are not happy," counselor Julienne B. Derichs, LCPC, tells Bustle. "A good sense of humor let's the pressure of the stresses of life be released. If your SO cannot do this it is often a sign they are not happy."
7. "Did anything good happen today?"
Go ahead and ask your SO about his or her day. Do they respond by pointing out the great weather and the awesome burrito they had for lunch? Or do they grumble about everything being horrible? "How you SO answers this question could give you cues as to whether or not they are unhappy in general," Derichs says. If it seems like they're all-around melancholy, their unhappiness likely has nothing to do with you.
8. "What's your dream life look like?"
As you start to feel comfortable being a little more forthright, think about asking your partner a question such as, "How would you make your life better?" Do they, for example, answer by saying they'd like to travel with you, or travel alone? As Derichs says, "How your SO answers this question reveals a tremendous amount about how happy they are in their life and in your relationship."
9. "What's on your mind?"
If your SO seems unhappy, it's important to give them space. But it's also a good idea to let them know you're available to talk. "Giving your SO the room to talk without interrupting, changing the topic, or getting defensive is a great way to find out what's really on their mind," Derichs says. Just let them chat and see what they say.
10. "Do you want to go on a double date?"
The next time your friends are in town, ask your partner if they'd be up for a double date. "If they seem hesitant, ask about why," says Chicago-based dating expert Stefanie Safran. For someone who isn't happy in their relationship, the thought of spending time with another couple may be too much of a commitment. And that's clearly a sign you two need to talk.
11. "Are you OK? You seem unhappy."
As I said above, it's often best to just come right out and ask directly — no subtley needed. "Subtly is not always the best approach," says industrial-organizational psychology practitioner Amy Cooper Hakim, Ph.D. "We need to know why our partner is unhappy so that we can help to fix it. Just asking this simple question lets our partner know that we care and that we want to do our part to make things better."
While it may feel nerve-racking at first, it's important to address the issue at hand — all in the name of a healthier relationship.
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