How to tell your partner you’re unhappy, without breaking up

You’re in a relationship rut, but don’t want to break up with your partner – here’s how to voice your feelings and get back on track.

It’s completely normal for “happiness” to wax and wane over the course of a relationship, so here’s how to talk through the tough times.

At the start of a relationship there are so many hormones swirling around that there’s a constant high produced by oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine, explains psychotherapist and relationship specialist Melissa Ferrari.

As time goes by, that heady concoction naturally dwindles. “What couples do in relationship is we ‘automate’ each other, which means it kind of makes us feel more comfortable and secure because we know the other person,” she explains.

So, how do we voice our concerns before it gets to a point of no return? Melissa coaches us on how to tell your partner you’re not happy.

The beginning of the end

Over time, your partner becomes more predictable and more familiar, Melissa explains. “So, what happens is, we stop being curious about our partner and we stop asking questions or we stop trying to keep getting to know our partner,” she tells.

This, of course, can be a big mistake as when lines of communication breakdown there is more risk of reading each other’s signals incorrectly. It’s during this stage that resentment can build, making it harder to voice how you feel.

Does being unhappy mean it’s over?

In a simple word, no.

“We usually choose someone more like us than not like us or more familiar (like family) so most of the time we attract the partner that does fit, but what occurs is the process that happens in most relationships that I described above,” Melissa explains. 

This can make people feel like the passion is gone or that they are no longer right for each other.

“Couples can leave their relationships prematurely in my experience when they don't fully understand this process,” she says. 

How do you say ‘I’m not happy’?

Okay, so you know it’s time to sit down and have a chat about your relationship, but where do you start?

There are many factors that will help determine how you raise this issue, but Melissa says that one important factor is to know what your partner’s style is when it comes to communication.

“You may know that your partner can get anxious when they don't know where they stand, or your partner may avoid these heaver topics,” she says. “Knowing clearly what kind of style your partner leans towards to can help you navigate the approach.”

So, if your partner gets anxious when they don’t know what is going on, be direct so they don’t get on the defensive right off the bat. If your partner will avoid these conversations at all costs, then create a way where you two are spending positive time together and bring it up when both of you feel more safe and secure. Melissa suggests getting help from a qualified couple therapist also helps.

The talk

Once you get the conversation rolling, it’s important not to play the blame game and make sure that you’re being accountable.

“Name where you know your own vulnerabilities or difficulties are,” Melissa suggests. “Pave the way for self-reflection like this and this may help invite them in.”

Be friendly throughout the conversation and maintain eye contact. Melissa says it’s important at this stage to be very aware of your voice, tone and facial expressions, and remember that you are looking for resolution and a win-win for you both.  

If your partner becomes angry, take a time out and revisit the topic when they calm down and if they’re hurt make sure you show some compassion and understanding – after all they might not have seen it coming.

They also may be agreeable and if you’re both unhappy it’s a great start to pave a new and happy future for you both, Melissa tells.

Looking forward

After voicing your relationship concerns it’s important to take the next step. If you want to stay together and work it out, Melissa advises sitting down and discussing what needs to happen for you both to feel safer and secure in the relationship again.

Plot out the exact concerns you both have and how you’re practically going to quell them.

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