When I was single for a long time, I used to assume that whenever I eventually found someone who wanted to be with me long-term, I'd be on cloud nine all the time — that I'd be happy simply by virtue of having someone to call my partner. As I've now learned, I couldn't have been more wrong: long-term relationships are full of ups and downs, and your happiness with your partner can wax and wane over time. That being said, learning how to tell if you're truly happy in a relationship is often easier said than done. But what does it mean to be happy in a relationship, and is it the same for every couple?
"True happiness in a relationship can generally be measured by how secure you feel that the other person is 'there,'" relationship and dating coach Brooke Bergman tells Bustle. "It’s the feeling that if push came to shove your partner would be there — that they will fight for the relationship. It is feeling that you can share your most vulnerable feelings. But mostly it is in knowing that you will always return to each other."
Of course, everyone has a different personal definition of happiness, (especially within the context of a relationship) and thus it's impossible to say exactly what it means to be truly happy with your partner. Ultimately, your happiness is something only you can measure — but it's not always easy to reflect and be honest with yourself about whether you're really happy, or merely content in your relationship.
"Generally speaking, we tend to think we know when we’re happiest a lot better than other people do, but in truth this isn’t always the case and more often than not, you’ll find that an objective opinion can shed a lot of light on whether you’re really happy in your relationship or not as happy as you may have thought you were," Caleb Backe, Health and Wellness Expert at Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. "Sometimes, we also get caught up in denial trying to justify why staying in a relationship would be better for you than leaving or trying to make excuses for our own happiness based on the happiness of others or at the sacrifice of our own happiness for the sake of the relationship."
If you've been feeling meh about your relationship and are worried you're not being fully honest with yourself, here are seven signs experts say you're not as happy in your relationship as you think you are — whether you want to stay and work on your relationship or move on and find a new happiness elsewhere is up to you.
1. You Feel Awkward Around Your Partner
It's OK to have awkward *moments* in a relationship — like letting a fart slip during sex or accidentally forgetting their mom's birthday — but if you regularly feel uncomfortable around your partner (or you're just not enthused about seeing them), that's a sign you might not really be happy in your relationship.
"If you notice that you or your partner start to experience a great a deal of awkwardness in doing things that usually brought you a great deal of comfort, security and joy or that you’ve grown apart and don’t spend as much time doing things you both enjoy together or you don’t feel the same level of joy or excitement at the thought of seeing one another or spending time together as you used to, then this is a pretty good sign that things may need to change or that it’s time for you to move on," Backe says.
2. You Don't Know Very Much About Your Partner
The longer you're with someone, the more you can learn about them — but if you notice that you've stopped feeling curious about your partner and no longer have an active interest in getting to know them even better, that could be a red flag.
"It's great to be always learning, or regularly surprised by your partner," Sara Stanizai, LMFT at Prospect Therapy, tells Bustle. "And you don't measure your relationship just by knowing their favorite movie or their childhood best friend. But the amount of info you know shows how much space your partner takes up in your inner world... If you can't answer how your partner 'would' react in certain situations, or if you don't know things about their fears, anxieties, hopes, and dreams, you may not be as connected and therefore not as happy in your relationship as you could be."
3. You Avoid Conflict
It might sound counterintuitive, but conflict in a relationship can actually be healthy: it's crucial to be able to communicate when there's an issue in your relationship. If you and your partner never argue — and you avoid doing so at all costs — that could be a sign that you're unhappy and just don't care to better your relationship.
"There are a small percentage of people who are securely attached, but it is possible that these folks are focusing on what works and avoiding any weak spots in their relationship because they can't tolerate the discomfort of a disagreement," Stanizai says. "So, it's tricky, because you can't always tell if you truly have no conflict, or if you two know each other well enough to hide from conflict. One way to tell is to practice discussing mildly difficult topics and working your way up to more intensely difficult topics."
4. You Have More Fun Alone
In a relationship, it's good to have some degree of independence from your partner — your own friends, hobbies, and of course some alone time to recharge, too — but you should *also* enjoy spending time with your partner and doing things together.
One red flag that you're not so much independent as you are disinterested in your relationship? "You find yourself doing things you enjoy by yourself," Alisha Powell, PhD, LCSW, tells Bustle. "You don’t include your significant other in a lot of activities and you’re becoming more of a loner."
5. You Don't Do The "Little Things" Anymore
When you're really happy with your partner, you'll want to do anything you can to make sure they feel happy, too. Doing little, thoughtful things in a relationship can go a long way, and it's telling if you no longer make an effort to do them anymore.
"[It's a red flag if] you find yourself stopping things that you once did to make your partner happy," Powell says. "Gestures like putting on the coffee in the morning or packing two lunches instead of one have ceased."
6. You Feel Restless
One major red flag that you're not really as happy in your relationship as you might want to believe? If you feel restless, and start imagining yourself without your partner by your side in the hypothetical future (or even the present).
"You start thinking about how life would be different if you were single," Powell says. "You feel somewhat confined and find yourself easily annoyed by your partner."
7. You Don't Share Good/Bad News With Your Partner
In a healthy relationship, your partner should be someone you want to share things, both good and bad, with — and if you no longer feel the desire to share your life updates with your partner (or worse, you feel uncomfortable doing so), that might mean you aren't happy in your relationship anymore.
"This indicates that you don't get your needs met and you're not getting the type of conversation you want from sharing news," Tara Vossenkemper, MA, LPC, ACS, Founder of and Relationship Therapist with The Counseling Hub, tells Bustle. "Part of being in a relationship is sharing wonderful news with your partner, as well as sharing bad news."
Ultimately, only you can decide how happy — or unhappy — you are in your relationship. The most important thing to remember? It's OK to put your own happiness first, and if you realize it's time to move on and find a partner who truly makes you happy, you should feel no guilt in doing exactly that.