Of course every relationship has its ups and downs. But what if it seems like you're always unhappy? Should you seek help or is it time to bail? Here's how to tell if you are in a failed relationship.No one expects the butterflies-in-the-stomach, early romance phase of a relationship to last forever. Arguments and fights are a normal, even healthy part of a relationship, provided you fight fair with your partner. And it’s not unusual for couples to experience rough patches that can last weeks.
That said, there can come a tipping point when a relationship is consistently more bad than good. How can you tell if you’ve reached that point and what should you do? Psychologist and author Sara Dimerman of Thornhill, Ont., shares her insights.
What does “failed” mean?
“Defining a ‘failed’ relationship is different for everyone,” says Dimerman. “In my view, if you’re really at the opposite extreme of what you’d hoped for—you’re not on the same page as a couple, or you’re nowhere near the goals you set for the relationship—that’s something to be concerned about.” While she adds that it’s possible to get counseling and try to mend what's wrong in your relationship, for some people, “they’ve already tried and tried, and it’s depleted.”
Signs your relationship is failing
• An unsatisfying sex life. Perhaps you’ve tried to reignite your sex life, to no avail. “Maybe it was great in the beginning—all you hoped for,” says Dimerman, “and now you’re more connected as friends.”
• Separate social lives. You spend more and more time apart, and/or socializing with other friends, excluding your partner.
• Stressful together time. Your partner seems unpredictably moody with you for no apparent reason.
Should you stick it out?
We all know of troubled couples who stay together despite their challenges. Why bother? “People are often afraid to leave,” says Dimerman. “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Plus, if you’re older, you may worry that there’s no one out there for you anymore, or that ending the relationship might leave neither one of you any happier or more fulfilled.”
But think it through, Dimerman advises. “Life is short. Is this how you want to live? Do you want to waste your precious time being unhappy, or would you be better off on your own or with someone else?”
Plus, she adds, the stress of being in an unhealthy relationship can take a toll on you physically and psychologically.
How to leave
If you do decide to break off the relationship, the first step is to talk to your partner about the reasons why. “Ideally, you should communicate about your dreams that weren’t met,” Dimerman says. “Hopefully, you’ll both realize that you’d both be better off without each other.”
Sometimes though, the relationship is so damaged that having that conversation can be a difficult, painful process. “In that case, you might need a therapist to help you through this transition," Dimerman advises.
There’s also the chance that couples therapy can help you mend your relationship, she points out. “Sometimes being asked questions reminds a couple about what brought them together, and they realize where they hit a roadblock. There’s always hope.”
Whichever way things turn out, Dimerman’s advice is to recognize and address your unhappiness sooner rather than later. “The longer you wait,” she says, “the more there is to overcome.”