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Be Yourself

If you are in a relationship that is ok but not great and are considering leaving then these points may help:

  1. Make an inventory of your needs and prioritise them. Think of the four categories - physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual, and add financial, social, and more. This is very personal. To a feeling-type individual, sharing emotions is number one. If this is you, you may be feeling emotionally abandoned. Someone else may value intellectual conversation, while another person chooses shared interests, a travel companion, or financial stability. This is why no one can tell you what you should do.

  2. Consider which needs are your responsibility to yourself and not your partner’s obligation to fill for you. Are you blaming your partner for your own unhappiness? You are responsible for your own self-esteem. A survey showed that men are happy if their marriage is 50 percent okay, but women are disappointed if it isn’t 80 percent okay. One reason women expect more from their relationships may be because they look to their partner as a means of financial security or personal fulfilment. Men generally look to their careers to satisfy their need for fulfilment. More than men, women’s brains are wired to relate emotionally, and many women appear to lack the self-efficacy and motivation to succeed professionally.

  3. If you’re stressed because of work or depressed for some reason, the relationship will suffer. You may not feel like getting close or able to enjoy anything. Take responsibility for your mood. Counselling may help if you need more support and can’t get it from your partner. You can expect short-term support from them but not with a persistent, chronic problem or grief that continues beyond six months to a year. Your mood, not your partner, may be impacting the relationship.

  4. Pay attention to exactly how you feel around your partner. A key question is how you feel about yourself when you’re together. This is more important than how much they love you. Love and attention will always make you feel better, but they're not the best predictors of long-term happiness.

  5. Apparently, women tend to not trust their gut instincts. Instead, they rationalise staying in an unhappy relationship because the man loves her or is successful. When men are unhappy, they usually tune out their feelings and withdraw from the relationship emotionally, focussing their energy on work, hobbies, or an addiction. Both may seek sex or intimacy outside the marriage. Listen to how your body feels.

  6. You may not be able to define what’s wrong or “what’s missing.” It may be the feeling of connectedness achieved through greater emotional intimacy. That’s not the same as romance but is more honest and deeper.

Take a risk:

  1. When you understand your needs and feelings better, plan a time when you and your partner can have a conversation.

  2. Speak honestly about what is missing for you. You can even say it’s serious and you’ve been thinking about breaking up, but that you don’t want to. You want your relationship to improve.

  3. Explain that you’re “unhappy because of ______.” Be specific about what behaviour they are doing and how it makes you feel. Don’t label your partner (e.g., mean, cold, self-centred), which puts the other person on the defensive, rather than engaging them in the conversation.

  4. State why the missing part is important for the benefit of the relationship. Describe how this behaviour or problem impacts your feelings. Don’t blame but share your feelings and let the other person know the effect that their behaviour has on you and your feelings toward them.

  5. Ask for what you want in the relationship. Specifically, describe the behaviours you’d like to see. Don’t just say what you don’t want. When you complain and say, “You didn’t (or worse, “never”) do X,” you sound like a victim, and the listener will feel criticised and tune out. It’s more powerful and effective to state what you do want. Make it concrete and visual.

  6. Don’t expect your partner to read your mind. Some women object and say, “If I have to tell him, it doesn’t mean anything.” Think again. Isn’t it wonderful that he cares enough to be willing to listen to you and make you happy?

  7. Then let your partner know that if they do what you’re asking how you will feel. This gives him or her incentive. Tell him how loving or happy, grateful, impressed you’ll be when they make the change you want. Reassure your partner that you know they can. Give examples of changes in the past or the way they treat others or accomplishes goals.

You may not be able to describe what’s wrong. It may be a feeling of connectedness achieved through greater emotional intimacy. That’s not the same as romance, but more honest and deeper. It may take a skilled therapist to help you find it together. If you decide the relationship is worth trying to save, consider couples / relationship counselling, before walking away.

One caveat: If your partner is highly defensive or has a personality disorder, such as narcissism (NPD) or borderline personality disorder (BPD), it will likely be more difficult to have this conversation. You can point out their reaction as a problem you would like to see changed. If domestic abuse is an issue, then seek outside support before considering taking this further at this moment.

Thanks to Darlene Lancer for her advice.


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