A sex ed blog with more
How can we cope and support a partner who is unhappy when we are also unhappy? What do you do when you’re quite unhappy with the relationship but think you could be happy again?
First, I think it’s very important to recognize that humans have fluid emotions: good days and bad days, great conversations and really tough conversations. Our feelings change and that’s okay. Moreover, the first 6 months of any relationship are very much the “getting to know you” phase. We are not yet completely comfortable with someone so we hide certain things about ourselves that they may find unattractive. There have yet to be a tonne of serious discussions and arguments in which we learn new and negative things about a person. For me, people I date don’t see my vast range of emotions until after 6 months; this means they’re already in serious like or love with my awesomeness when they see my temper, how strongly I feel things, how I cope when I’m hurt (which is often), and a whole host of others.
Second, the biggest mistake that people in relationships make is to stay together for too long. The hard part is knowing when to keep trying and when to realize that what’s going on, no longer works for you. I wish there were some magical formula that we could all follow in order to achieve happiness in our lives but there isn’t. Everyone responds differently, has unique needs and ways those needs can and/or must be met.
We seem to all have certain expectations of ourselves and our partners once we’re in a relationship. I have come to realize that most of us need to change our expectations at a certain point i.e. when the “honeymoon phase” is over. Or, ideally, be entirely open to accepting a person just as they are and recognize that who we are changes regularly. We may say all kinds of things and think that we are on the same page about a certain topic one day, then come to understand that maybe we are actually on a different page the next. In my current relationship, our pages have changed because we have changed: we are not the same people now that we were when we started dating. It makes sense that our wants and needs are different.
Third, a mistake that many of us make is to stop paying attention to ourselves and focus on the other person in the relationship. I imagine part of this is socially driven and part is biological (generally, women are brought up to be caring mothers, which involves putting others first). For one, self-care is incredibly important. Doing things that make you feel good about yourself, help you stay grateful for the life you have, and encourage you to do more to take care of yourself are vital in maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself, let alone with others. People are interested in being in a relationship with us because of the cool things we do. Of course there are a lot of other things that may make us attractive, but if we stop doing those cool things and don’t replace them with other things that make us happy, we are not nearly as interesting. Really, what I’m trying to say is: You Do You. You must continue to take care of yourself when you’re in a relationship. If you don’t, you will suffer and your relationship will suffer.
Part of this self-care is maintaining or improving our confidence, both within ourselves and within the relationship. I am someone who needs to hear and know that the relationship is stable in order to feel confident in it. I am more likely to hear that when I am feeling quite confident and happy with myself. It seems that in my monogamous relationship, we both need to have our own hobbies, friends, and time away from each other in order to relish the time we do spend together. When I am taking care of myself and he is taking care of himself, we are both better able to meet the needs of the other.
Right now, I am not doing a great job of taking care of myself and our relationship is suffering. We both see it, and we talk about it, and it’s up to me to make the requisite changes. No one else is responsible for my happiness. There are others who can help, who can support, who can give advice, but ultimately I am the one who has to live with all of my decisions or lack thereof. Some of you may be wondering what it means for me to take care of myself. Here are a few things I should be doing (and I am doing some): physical activity to increase endorphins and help me feel better about what my body is capable of, interacting with lots of people everyday, spending time regularly with a number of people who lift me up and make me feel great, laughing regularly, finding another part-time job so as to decrease my financial stress, and seeking a professional therapist or counselor with whom to talk regularly (something I think literally every person should do).
How can you tell when a relationship is no longer working for you? You are the only person who can know that. Breaking up is hard to do, and it can be really tough to know when the time is right. I have learned that you are the only person who can decide when you are ready to throw in the towel, when enough is enough, or when you have faith that you will be able to take better care of yourself and the relationship will improve. Do what you need to in order to feel right in any given situation. You are the person who knows yourself best, so listen to yourself and trust yourself.