Now, none of this is to say unhappiness in a relationship should be an accepted status quo, nor should unhappiness be allowed to fester or left unchecked.
The whole point of being in a relationship is adding joy, camaraderie, and support to each other’s lives—and so when that isn’t happening, it’s important to figure out why, and how to get back to that happy place if possible. If not, it’s important to give yourself the freedom to walk away.
The question is, how do you know if a period of unhappiness is just part of the natural ebbs and flows of a relationship, or if the relationship is truly not working?
“If your partner consistently won’t come to the table to work things out so you can both be happy, if they diminish your concerns, if they shame you, if they always turn it back on you, if they show no sign of care and concern for your well-being, that is not a situation where you can likely get what you need,” says Zimmerman.
She recommends starting off with having an open conversation with your partner about how you’re feeling and what’s not working for you, sharing your concerns without blame and with an earnest desire to listen and problem-solve together. From there, you can identify what changes you both are willing to commit to and observe whether things change after time with that mutual effort—or, as Zimmerman notes, if one person proves to be unwilling or unable to do their part.
“Don’t make this decision after one conversation, but if you cannot get their attention over time, it’s a problem,” she says, adding, “And before you end the relationship, it’s worth making sure you’ve done everything well on your side of the court. That have expressed yourself well, without attacking your partner. That you’ve tried repeatedly to express your concerns. That you’re equally interested in your partner’s happiness.”