13 Subtle Signs You Are In An Unhappy Relationship 

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Relationships are complicated things. In fact, they are one of the few things in life that can become more difficult with time, especially if the partners aren’t a right fit for another, stop making an effort, or fall into toxic patterns. According to research, 6 out of 10 people are unhappy in their current relationship. When a relationship gets difficult, we tend to work on it till the situation changes. And in this endeavor to fix things, we often miss out on the signs of an unhappy relationship.

At the beginning of a relationship, you are in the honeymoon phase and everything is wonderful and you are living in a state of sheer bliss. With time, as reality sets in, the euphoria fades and issues begin to rear their ugly head. We tell ourselves, “This happens”, and it’s true. Some couples can handle these rough patches and make the relationship work. But sometimes, it is not a happily ever after.

Denial about the reality of your situation can leave you trapped in an unfulfilling, joyless relationship. To help you shake off this denial, we bring you the little often overlooked signs of unhappy relationships, in consultation with relationship and intimacy coach Shivanya Yogmayaa (internationally certified in the therapeutic modalities of EFT, NLP, CBT, REBT), who specializes in different forms of couples counseling. She also offers insights into the possible ways to sort out such issues.

13 Subtle Signs Of An Unhappy Relationship

When problems crop up in relationships, all of us try to resolve them. But there are times we are not so successful in our efforts. We wash our hands off the issue and hope it will magically disappear with time or worse give into unhealthy compromises. However, sweeping issues under the rug are rarely the solution to anything. More often than not, these lingering issues fester and grow and infect the whole relationship, damaging it beyond repair.

Shivanya says “Being unhappy in a relationship over long periods is extremely damaging to a relationship and oneself. It eats a person up from within. It is crucial to recognize that you are not happy in a relationship and try your best to fix it right away.” So, how do you recognize you’re not happy in a relationship? Here are some signs to look out for:

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1. You try to escape each other

One of the first things that happen when you are not happy in a relationship is that you stop spending time with your partner. When the mind wants to subconsciously leave an unhappy relationship, you unknowingly start to reject the partner. And this rejection in the relationship becomes apparent in the little things.

“You would rather spend time with your friends than your partner. When you see a call or text from your partner, it annoys or makes you unhappy,” says Shivanya, “You don’t want to pick up their calls or respond to their chats, and even if you do, you try to get it done and over with as soon as possible. You might even start spending more time at work because you no longer look forward to going home to your partner.”

2. The conversation has died off

Patty and Sam sat down for dinner and through the 45 min of them sharing a meal, neither of them uttered a single word. And this took Patty aback. Patty used to love the fact that their connection was so strong that they never ran out of things to talk about. When had this silence crept in? For the first time in her life, Patty began to wonder whether Sam was not happy in his marriage with her.

When you get into a relationship, the first couple of months is very romantic. You never seem to be running out of things to talk about. But with time, this urge fades. However, If you don’t have anything to say to each other for days on end or all you talk about is what to order for dinner and who is picking up the kids, then these are signs of an unhappy relationship. Shivanyna explains, “It is normal for conversations to dwindle in a relationship in time, but if you have stopped communicating your needs, then it can be problematic for the relationship.”

3. There is next to no sex

Sex is a very important aspect of a relationship. It is the way a couple shows affection to one another and it helps strengthen their bond. It is normal for the quality and frequency of sex to fluctuate with time. However, if you notice a pattern where your partner constantly denies sex or shuns away any kind of physical intimacy, then it is definitely a matter of concern.

There might be more than one reason behind a drastic drop in physical intimacy between a couple. It could be because they are not getting satisfaction out of the act or they might not be feeling the emotional connection. Either way, it is important to talk it out so you are on the same page and find ways to revive the spark. If your partner seems uninterested in fixing your sexless relationship, it’s a red flag that points toward their general dissatisfaction with the relationship.

4. Kids are the reason you are still together

Monotony and boredom invariably set in most long-term relationships and marriages. However, if your connection has become so monotonous that you catch yourself contemplating getting out of it, it’s a cause for concern. Even more so, if it’s the “I am unhappy in a relationship but have a baby” thought that holds you back. Then you are staying in the relationship for all the wrong reasons.

In a study involving 2,000 married couples, 47% of unhappy couples said they stayed together because of the kids. A broken marriage does affect a child, but if handled well, the child can have a chance at a good life. What most people fail to understand is that facing a toxic environment since childhood can be far more damaging for a child.

Related Reading: Should You Stay In An Unhappy Marriage With Kids?

5. Conversations turn into conflict

One of the major signs of an unhappy relationship is the high frequency of conflicts. Arguments happen in every relationship; it is healthy even. It goes to prove that you don’t have a superficial relationship. However, if every conversation or discussion turns into a fight, then it is a matter of concern.

When a couple has been in an unhappy relationship for a long time, resentment toward each other begins to pile up, which leads to more and more conflicts. You complain about the smallest things, he chews too loudly, she slouches while walking, he picks his teeth or she spends way too much time in the grocery store. Even the smallest of quirks become a trigger for arguments and fights.

6. You don’t respect each other anymore

You have seen her legs hairy, and she has you burp up songs. When you are in a relationship, you end up witnessing all sides of your partner. Be it the goofy side, the angry side, or even the disgusting side. However, if you find yourself looking down on your partner’s every act or behavior, then it’s among the signs of an unhappy relationship.

Shivanya says, “Respect for your partner is one of the most important pillars of a relationship, without it, the quality of the relationship drops drastically and becomes unhealthy.” When a person is unhappy in a relationship but can’t leave, their equation with their significant other can quickly become toxic. While it is completely natural to have disagreements in a relationship, if you are constantly degrading and belittling each-others thoughts and opinions or disregarding each other’s feelings entirely, then this hostility could be stemming from a lack of happiness.

7. Unhealthy conflict resolutions

Megan, a reader from Louisiana, wrote to Bonobology sharing that she was at her wit’s end because her marriage was on the rocks and she felt stuck. “I realize no marriage is perfect and mine is no different. What upsets me is that every time I try to discuss the issues we are facing, we just end up playing the blame game and it turns into a dirty fight. I know I am unhappy in the relationship but have a baby so I can’t leave.”

Unfortunately, there are a lot of women like Megan. In such relationships, either one or both partners have to contend with unhealthy conflict resolution techniques such as walking out on an argument, stonewalling, minimizing their hurt, or gaslighting. All of this can further augment the sense of discontentment and unhappiness.

8. Trust issues crop up

Let’s all be honest for a minute here. All of us have, at some point, felt insecure in our relationships and dealt with doubts about our partner’s commitment and love or the future. However, if you are snooping through your partner’s phone, downloading apps to keep a track of where they are going, or even hiring someone to investigate your partner’s activities, then you’re undoubtedly dealing with signs of an unhappy relationship and need to seriously reconsider your decision to stay. Studies say that a lack of trust in a romantic partner aggravates problems in a relationship.

Trust issues crop up when you are weary of how the relationship is proceeding. It could be due to your lack of faith in yourself or maybe you noticed some new behavioral patterns in your partner. Shivanya points out, “We are human beings and there are times when we don’t feel too sure of things. However, instead of getting to the bottom of the problem, you are constantly accusing your partner of cheating without reason, then it can be very traumatizing for your partner and harmful for the relationship.” Either way, trust issues never bode well.

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9. You seek validation outside the relationship

A relationship is all about sharing the joys and sorrows of your life. To be loved and cherished and be accepted for who you are. When a person is unable to find that comfort in their relationship, they start to look for that love and acceptance outside. Being in an unhappy relationship can make room for a third to come into the equation.

It could be in the form of a confidant you trust with your deepest desires or someone you casually flirt with, seeking their appreciation and approval. It might start as harmless flirting, but there is an underlying dissatisfaction that makes you reach out to others. If left unchecked, it can leave you to grapple with the setback of infidelity, which can make an already unhappy relationship insufferable.

10. You feel lonely in your relationship

Loneliness has got nothing to do with the number of people around you. One can be lonely in a crowd. You might be surrounded by your friends and family and people who love you unconditionally, and even then, you could be lonely.

When a person feels unheard and unseen, they begin to feel dispensable. When a person is in an unhappy relationship but can’t leave, it takes a toll on them, making them feel lonely in the relationship and resentful toward their partner.

Related Reading: 7 Signs Of Loneliness In A Relationship And How To Cope

11. You have become indifferent to your partner

On the one hand, constant conflicts are signs of an unhappy relationship. On the other hand, no argument in the relationship is a big problem as well. When two people live together, there are bound to be conflicts. You are going to have discussions that lead to disagreements, which, in turn, turn into heated arguments.

If you and your partner do not have any conflicts, it means either one or both of you have subconsciously given up on the relationship to the point that there is no depth in your interactions and you have begun taking each other for granted. And this lack of depth doesn’t bother you anymore. You have become indifferent to each other.

12. You are tempted to stray

According to a study, 70% of people cheat because they are unhappy in the relationship. Sometimes when a person is not able to leave an unhappy relationship, they might start to dream of days when they used to be single. They might even get in touch with an old flame or an ex out of nostalgia. They miss the excitement and passion of a new relationship. Sometimes they get stuck in the loop of what could have been. Unfortunately, these situations can be very tricky. As the person has a bigger chance of slipping up.

unhappy in a relationship but can't leave
Woman frustrated in her relationship

13. You are jealous of everyone

When you are stuck in an unhappy relationship and can’t leave, there is a lot of underlying resentment. And when you are unable to let go of it, you tend to get short-tempered and cynical. You start comparing your situation to people around you and everyone seems to be happy in their relationship, which ends up making you jealous.

When a person is very frustrated in their relationship, they are unable to get out of the comparison trap and can forget that all that glitters isn’t gold. They may not be able to see that all couples out there are dealing with their own set of problems. This adds to their sense of discontentment, making it harder for them to deal with the reality of their relationship

How To Tell Your Partner You’re Unhappy?

Being in an unhappy relationship is not a death sentence for your coupledom. But if left unresolved, it very well can be. When you are dissatisfied with how your relationship is progressing, it is best to talk to your partner about it so that together you can work to resolve the issue. Here is how you can broach the matter with your partner:

1. Figure out what is making you unhappy

Even before you go ahead and tell your partner you are unhappy, it is important to figure out what is making you feel this way. Do you feel that you don’t spend enough time with each other and now your wavelengths don’t match? Does it feel like the intimacy issues have just gotten worse or life has changed since the baby’s arrival, and now you feel it best to leave an unhappy relationship? Knowing what is bothering you will make finding a solution that much easier.

2. Think of what you have to say and be very transparent

Having this conversation is one of the most difficult things you will have to do. So think over what you are going to say before you say it. Such matters can be very sensitive and you need to be very mindful of your partner’s feelings when you talk it out. While being mindful is very important, it is also equally important, to be honest, and transparent about what is bothering you. Your partner needs to understand what is the exact problem you are facing before you both go ahead to resolve it. Otherwise, the issues will continue to fester.

Related Reading: 5 Ways Being Honest With Yourself Will Help You Understand Your Relationship Better

3. Be the bigger person

No one likes to hear that their partner is not happy in their relationship. So, when you do go ahead and try to discuss this, there is a chance your partner might lash out at you. They might project on you and say unforgivable things. It is very important to remember that this angst is coming from a place of pain. Be patient and once things cool down you can work toward a resolution.

4. Tell them what you think will make things better

It is said if you are able to write down a problem, half of it is already solved. If you know what is bothering you and you have an idea as to how it can be worked out, then talk to your partner.

Infographic on signs of an unhappy relationship
Signs of an unhappy relationship

What To Do When Unhappy In A Relationship?

Now that you have recognized the signs of an unhappy relationship and talked to your spouse about it, the next step would be to figure out what is what to do about it. Here are some things you need to keep in mind while working on the relationship.

1. Evaluate the pros and cons

Shivanya says, “The first thing to do when you realize you are unhappy in your relationship is to list the pros and cons of staying together.” It helps you to evaluate your relationship and the reasons you got together in the first place. If the pros outweigh the cons, then it is better to work on the relationship to make it better. However, if the cons outweigh the pros, then maybe it is time to call it quits.

2. Attachment behavior style

A person develops their attachment style between the age of 7 and 11 months. And this attachment style affects all their adult relationships. Shivanya suggests, “It is important to learn your partner’s attachment style, it will help you understand why your partner behaves in your relationship the way they do.”

3. Communicate with your loved one

The importance of communication cannot be stressed enough. If you are unhappy in your relationship, talk to your partner about it. Share your concerns and apprehensions, allow them to say their piece, and focus on a reconciliatory and solution-centric approach. Words have the power to make or break a relationship. Use them wisely.

Related Related: Expert Talks About 9 Must-Try Couples Communication Exercises

4. Learn your partner’s love language

Along with learning your partner’s attachment behavior style, you also need to know your partner’s love language. While the former talks about the way a person forms a bond with you, the latter talks about the way a person likes to show and receive affection. Expressing your love in your partner’s love language can help bridge the gaps in your relationship. At the same time, it can help cultivate awareness about their gestures of love and affection.

5. Consult a counselor

A counselor will help you understand the behavior patterns that are damaging the relationship and figure out a path to overcome them. They will help you get to the root cause of the problems in your relationship and navigate the messy feeling that comes along with them. Sometimes all it takes to save a relationship is a little fresh perspective.

Online therapy from Bonobology counselors has helped many people to move on after coming out of a negative relationship. Whatever your situation is like, it’s going to be good to know that there is help that you can count on. Help is always available here.

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Key Pointers

  • It is common for long-term relationships to hit a rough patch, but if you have been unhappy in a relationship, then you need to get to the bottom of the issue
  • Talk to your partner and be transparent about how you are feeling as well as patiently help your partner process this information
  • Talking to a counselor will help you and your partner work out a solution for your problems

There is no arguing against the fact that relationships need work. And a relationship facing a rough patch that makes people unhappy is far more common than we would like to admit. There is only one of two things a person can do when their relationship reaches that point. Either work on it. Or end it.


1. Can you love someone and be unhappy?

Being in love is different from loving someone. Being in love is the euphoria that your experience during the beginning of a relationship; it is intoxicating indeed, but also fleeting. On the other hand, loving someone is caring about a person even when they are not the best version of themselves. Loving someone is more permanent.

You love someone for who they are, the good, the bad, and the ugly. You might not be happy about what your relationship has become, but that doesn’t mean you stop caring about your partner.

2. Should you break up if you’re unhappy?

When a relationship hits a rough patch, you can do one of two things, either work on it or end it. Relationships take effort, and when you have invested so much time, effort, and emotions into it, letting go can be really difficult.

However, it is equally damaging to drag a relationship past its expiry date. Evaluate your situation, if you realize your partner is worth it, then save the relationship by all means. But if you feel your relationship is at a point of no return, then it’s best to let go.

3. How do you end an unhappy relationship?

If you have decided to end the relationship, then it’s time to have the breakup talk with your partner. It will be painful but do not establish false hope just to ease the pain. Having the hope that things might get better only to know it was all in vain is more painful.

Once broken up, cut all ties with your partner, at least for a little while. And in that time focus on yourself. Irrelevant of the fact whether you were the one to break up or your partner, breakups are hard on both. Take this time to heal.

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