A couple I’m close with recently broke up after almost a decade together. They were high school sweethearts and, from the outside at least, were the romantic dream. Without going in to too much detail in respect for their privacy, let’s just say they were the kind of couple who couldn’t keep their hands off of each other, even 10 years in. Their split, then, was a shock to nearly everyone who knew them. Why would they end a happy relationship? Why would they throw all of that away?
The answer is: You can never truly know what’s going on inside someone else’s relationship. What looks like a “happy” relationship from the outside is always more complicated than that one word could describe. And, leaving that particular couple and their circumstances aside for now, there a few reasons why you might choose to end a relationship that other people — or maybe even you — call “happy.”
But before we dive into those, let’s talk about that word “happy,” shall we? Not to get too existential on you, but happy is one of those words that seems obvious, but actually encompasses a huge range of things. Also? It’s totally different for every person. So while one relationship might be “happy” because the sex is amazing, another might be “happy” because they rarely have sex but talk a lot and another might be “happy” because they have the same life goals.
"Being happy in a relationship is a wonderful thing, but happiness alone can’t sustain a healthy relationship," Demetrius Figueroa, founder of the dating advice blog and podcast Tao of Indifference, tells Bustle.
So instead of “happy,” let’s go with “good enough” relationships, with one caveat: There’s no such thing as a “perfect” relationship or a “perfect” match for anyone. There will always be issues, in any relationship. That’s just how real life works. As sex and relationship guru Dan Savage likes to say, “There’s no 'one.' There’s .65 — and you round up.”
With that in mind, here are nine reasons you might want to end a “happy” relationship.
1You Don’t Connect Sexually
Maybe you get along in every way — you have the same interests, the same sense of humor, you like the same foods — but you just don’t connect in bed. While you might think that’s not enough reason to end things, I’d like to point out that sex is the one that we’ve decided as a culture separates a romantic relationship from a friendship. So if you get along great but every time you try to do it, it’s just bad? You should probably just be friends.
2You Don’t Feel Anything Deeper Than “Happy”
"There has to be more to a relationship than just happiness if you want a relationship to grow," Figueroa says. "Communication, trust, and a romantic spark can’t be replaced by happiness alone."
3You Imagine Very Different Futures
You want kids. She wants to travel for the next 10 years. You are really focused on your career. He wants to get married, yesterday. If you two have very different views of what the future is going to look like, then you should build your own futures — apart.
4You’ve Confused “Happy” With A Lack Of Conflict
"In healthy relationships, there will always be a back and forth," Figueroa says. "Sometimes you agree, sometimes you disagree, and eventually, there will come a point where you have conflict in your relationship. If the only thing that connects you to a person is a lack of conflict, your relationship isn’t a 'happy' one. The absence of conflict doesn’t make your relationship a happy or healthy one, but it might indicate that your relationship lacks passion."
5You Need To Do Some Growing
Sometimes long-term relationships turn stagnant and it’s hard to figure out how to keep moving yourself forward when you’re attached to someone who has known you for a seriously long time. If you feel like you truly need to be alone in order to keep growing, then it’s worth it to end an otherwise happy relationship. And then once you’ve done that growing, who knows? Maybe you’ll come back together. Stranger things have happened.
6You Don’t Feel Appreciated
"If you’re feeling unappreciated in a relationship, even a 'happy' one, that’s a good enough reason to leave," Figueroa says. "If you feel like your 'happy' relationship is one where you don’t feel appreciated for who you are, and not just the idea of you, or how you make your partner feel, move on."
7You Have An Amazing Opportunity
These days, it’s easier than ever to keep up a relationship long distance, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. And some opportunities are just too good to pass up. So if something like that comes up — a job offer, a long term trip, a free luxury mansion in Bali, but only if you stay for three years — and your partner can’t come with you, it’s worth considering taking off on your own. You have the option of long-distance, of course, but truly ask yourself if you can handle that.
8You Feel Unfulfilled
"There is always the chance that your partner can brighten your day and make you happy, but you still feel unfulfilled," Figueroa says. "Being with someone who makes you smile is important, but there has to be more to a relationship than that. There’s nothing wrong with ending a good relationship where you’re just happy, in order to look for a great relationship where you’re happy and fulfilled."
9They Don't Make You Want To Be Your Best Self
You can be "happy" in a relationship, but still feel like the person you're with isn't encouraging you to be your best self. Nicole Richardson, LPC-S, LMFT, says that's something to take into consideration. "Does this person make me want to be my best self?" Richardson tells Bustle. "And do I bring out the best in them?"
And finally, ask yourself this question: Is good enough really enough?