What's Missing From My Relationship? 9 Ways To Figure It Out, According To Experts
There are lots of reasons why it might feel like something is missing from your relationship. If you and your partner aren't communicating often enough, you might crave a deeper sense of understanding or connection. If you don't go on dates, it could feel like the spark has left your relationship, and you need to have more fun.
Sometimes the answer is obvious, like in these situations. But the feeling can also be complex, leaving you to wonder what's going wrong, why something feels off, and if there's anything you can do about it. It's an easy thing to brush under the rug; something you might hope will go away on its own. And yet it is worth talking about, especially since it can get worse.
"It’s pivotal for the longevity and health of your relationship to address this feeling right away instead of ignoring it," Danielle Laura, love and relationship coach and founder of H.O.T. Souls Couples Coaching, tells Bustle. "When you ignore or suppress this feeling, it creates a greater distance between the two of you, and over time that can lead to bitterness or resentment, or no connection at all."
While it might be tough to admit something isn't quite right, talking about it will help create a "vulnerability between the two of you," Laura says, and give you both a fair chance to make appropriate changes in order to improve the relationship. You can also try a few of the tips listed below to figure out what might be missing from your relationship, according to experts.
1. Take A Step Back
"Sometimes it’s very difficult to see how to fix a problem when you’re constantly thinking about the problem or experiencing it," Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. So instead of mulling it over 24/7, take a big step back with the goal of clearing your head.
This could mean taking a trip, going on a hike, or whatever else will help "get your mind off of the problem and let you see a fresh perspective," Bennett says. Of course, depending on the issue at hand, the process can take some time, so don't expect to return from a walk with all the answers.
But spending some time alone and taking moments to yourself can help you see the relationship differently, as well as what it might need.
2. Be Honest With Yourself
It can also help to be more honest, open, and transparent with yourself, Laura says, which means really thinking about your core truths, values, and beliefs. And then getting clear on what it all means to you and how it might play out in your relationship.
"This helps us sort through things more clearly as it shows us where the gaps are between what we ultimately need and what we’re missing," she says. "Then, we’re able to bridge that gap accordingly!"
3. Make A List
It can also help to write an actual list of things you need, and spend some time pondering it.
"Sometimes you’re not clear on what you actually need and want, so it’s not properly communicated to your partner, which means those things aren’t being met and further lead to things feeling 'off' or 'missing' from the relationship," Laura says. "When you have full clarity on this and are able to articulate it, it will allow your partner to show you love in the ways you need it most." And vice versa.
4. Chat With Friends
"It’s possible that since you’re so close to the problem you can’t look at it honestly and effectively," Bennett says. The relationship is, after all, something you and your partner live with every day. And you each have your own perspectives, habits, and beliefs, which can be difficult to look past.
In order to gain some clarity, ask family, friends, or a therapist for their perspective, Bennett says. As long as they remain neutral and fair, talking with them can be a big help when it comes to spotting problems you may have otherwise missed on your own.
5. Talk About Love
"It can definitely feel like something's missing in your relationship if you aren't aware of your partner's love languages" Laura says. So if you get the sense you aren't on the same page, or that you don't "get" each other, sit down and figure 'em out.
There are five different love languages: words of affirmation, acts of service, giving/receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. Folks who prefer to be shown love through physical touch (hugs, hand holding, etc.) may not feel very understood if their partner gives gifts instead. And it can leave you both feeling unloved.
That is until you make a few small changes, and keep these preferences in mind.
6. Make Plans
You can also talk with your partner about the things you used to do that are no longer a part of your life, such as going on regular dates, or enjoying a hobby together. Why did you stop doing these things? And do you want to pick them up again?
"Once you figure that out, ask yourself if and how you can incorporate those missing elements into your current relationship and discuss action steps with your partner," Sonia Frontera, a divorce attorney, author, and empowerment trainer, tells Bustle.
You can also talk about other activities you'd like to add in to make your relationship feel more fulfilling, Frontera says. Share things you'd like to try, talk about goals, and make plans to head in that direction.
7. Look For Outside Examples
While it may sound strange, if you catch yourself feeling envious of a certain aspect of a friend's relationship, you can actually use that as a way to define what's missing from your own.
"Adopting a curious stance instead of judgment can help you identify what you're actually wanting, therefore you can clearly state your wants to your partner," Lauren Ruth Martin, LPC-MHSP, therapist and owner of Novel Counseling, tells Bustle.
If you're envious of the fun your friend has with their partner, that may be a sign you need to have more fun. Let it inspire you.
8. Talk About Fairness
If things aren't fair or balanced in your relationship, it can lead to a sense that something isn't quite right. "Maybe you or your partner is frequently asking for more and the other one retreats," Sara Makin, MSEd, LPC, NCC, a professional counselor and founder of Makin Wellness, tells Bustle. "If this is the case, it's important to communicate this with your partner so you can clarify the status of your relationship and expectations from both ends."
Maybe you need to create a few rules or boundaries, so that you both feel appreciated and understood. From there, the relationship will hopefully adjust, and feel better overall.
9. Trust Your Gut
One of the best ways to figure out what you need is by listening to your gut. After all, "you likely have a good idea of what’s missing in your relationship," Bennett says. "Usually, if you look deep within yourself [...] you can figure out where your relationship is lacking." Does it need better communication? More connection? More understanding? Do you simply need to spend more time together?
Whatever the case may be, talk with your partner about how you're feeing, and look for ways to make improvements together.