Relationship Advice is a column in CLEO where we ask relationship coaches, psychologists and experts on problems that twenty-something women in Singapore might face in different stages of their relationship. If you have a question for an expert, drop us an email at email@example.com.
This column was contributed by Mok Sin Lai from Relationship Matters. Sin Lai is a trained psychotherapist with six years of counselling experience. She has worked with couples and individuals.
When we feel unhappy in the relationship, sometimes we feel like troubleshooting the relationship issues, but we don’t know where to start as we can’t pinpoint who is in the wrong. Sometimes, we feel like giving up the relationship but don’t really know why we want to—and we wonder if we would still face the same issues with another partner if the problem lies with us.
However, in most relationships, it’s usually not a chink in one’s personality that causes unhappiness. Rather, it’s the action-reactions between the two—the volleying of the verbal and non-verbal messages that you give each other—that brings dissatisfaction. Some possible indications that you may be in an unhappy interaction with your partner are:
- You no longer look forward to spending time with your partner
- You begin to find fault with your partner and feel turned off by small matters.
- If the negative feelings have been ongoing for a while, you may begin to have thoughts of leaving the relationship and hope that someone else will make you feel happier.
- You feel like you are the only one who is feeling this way and find it very difficult to let your partner know your true feelings.
- You blame yourself for everything that goes wrong in your relationship, thinking that you are not good enough.
If you are unhappy in the relationship but cannot pin-point the problem, this process can be emotionally draining for you. It is advisable to seek help from a professional psychotherapist to gain clarity and insight to the relationship.
I love him but he makes me unhappy… so how now?
Unhappiness is mostly caused by the interactions between and dynamics of both parties, so it seems more worthwhile to stay in a relationship if both parties are willing to change the interactions and work towards better dynamics. Otherwise, it may be hard to sustain the relationship in the long run with just your efforts and love alone.
If you and your partner are willing to work it out, it is important to identify what he does that triggers your unhappiness and his reasons behind it. After you have identified the issue, it is important to find a right time to let him know. You may wish to let him know how you really feel and how you would like to understand his reasons and address the underlying issues without being confrontational. This kind of open communication and subsequent combined efforts for both parties to be happy can build your confidence to stay in the relationship for the long term.
If I don’t love him anymore but he makes me happy, should I stay in the relationship?
If you feel that you no longer love him anymore, try to find out the contributing factors that have caused the both of you to be emotionally distant. In order to build and stay in a healthy, positive relationship, it is important for you to be transparent to yourself and your partner about your own feelings. If you do not identify the underlying issue that is wearing off your love for him and work on it with him, it is difficult to sustain this relationship in the long term, even if you choose to stay in the relationship. He may not be satisfied in this relationship if he senses that you don’t love him anymore and may consider leaving this relationship.
How do I know if I love my partner or if I’m just with them because I’m comfortable?
When you stay in a relationship because of comfort or familiarity and not because of love, you may feel unsure whether you can find someone whom you will feel as comfortable as your partner. This usually happens to couples who have been in a dating relationship for a longer period where familiarity has naturally taken place and certain degree of trust has been built. You may also feel quite confused with how you feel towards your partner and may feel resentful towards this relationship. Another tell-tale sign is you will be very passive towards the relationship. You will not actively plan for any celebrations nor will you look forward to anything exciting ahead. You will probably feel indifferent towards your partner and nothing seems to excite you anymore.