Why Relationships Aren’t Making You Happy

When people talk about relationships not working, they hit on low-hanging fruit: we fell out of love, we stopped trying, they cheated (which is never the real reason), we grew apart, etc.

But the real reasons relationships end are:

  • We over-estimate ourselves
  • We ask too much of the relationship or our partner
  • We don’t develop emotional maturity
  • We use relationships and love to compensate for fears

Today, let’s just tackle the fourth one.

We use relationships and love to compensate for fears

What fears? There aren’t that many…

Reason #1: Fear of being unneeded

Or: unwanted, unloved, unworthy…

What you want:

To feel wanted, needed, appreciated, and valued.

At your best, you:

  • Are very generous, empathic, and good at taking care of others
  • Are friendly and self-sacrificing

But at your worst, you:

  • Treat others’ “love” as a measurement of your self-worth
  • Become passive-aggressive, needy, and/or demanding
  • Become manipulative or martyr-like

What you need to get happier relationships:

Love yourself first, before expecting it from others (scratch your own itch)

If we do not love ourselves, we are equipped with neither the knowledge nor reserves to love others (Without burnout or resentment.)

This is not selfishness — we are an equal part of the “love” equation, and self-love is half of love. Without it, love can neither be given nor received.

How it looks:

  • Love yourself first.
  • Learn about emotional boundaries and codependence.
  • Make sure that you are meeting your needs before expecting others to.
  • Recognize where other people “end” and you begin; what’s yours and what’s theirs.
  • Recognize your motives when you help others, and respect the times when your “help” may not be helpful or welcome.
  • Love yourself first. Everything that you think you need or want in a partner, you must first be providing yourself. Our partners cannot make us feel secure / confident / happy / etc.— we must first give this to ourselves, and only after we have can others supplement.

Reason #2: Fear of not being fully understood

i.e., a partner who does not love the “true you,” or provide an ideal love

What you want:

To feel special, validated, understood, and loved for the full, “authentic” you

At your best, you:

  • Have tremendous personal depth and self-awareness
  • A strong sense of self and identity
  • Beautiful creative work

But at your worst, you:

  • Become self-contemptuous, depressed and alienated
  • Become ashamed, hopeless, and even self-destructive

What you need to get happier relationships:

  • Understand that you are not your feelings
  • Understand that reality can never stack up to our fantasy or ideals

How it looks:

  • Stop dumping so much stock into your feelings. They are not your identity, and they are not a consistent guiding light.
  • Be productive. Self esteem comes from action, so stop procrastinating until you feel “motivated.”
  • Relinquish your need for life to “live up to” a fantasy you’ve created. Expecting it to do so will always end in disappointment.
  • Get out of your head and stop sulking.

Reason #3: You’re afraid of being alone

i.e., just a partner. You want the connection and stability that a relationship promises.

What you want:

To feel safe, supported, and at peace

At your best, you:

  • Are incredibly loyal
  • Can be very easy-going
  • Are invested in the household

But at your worst, you:

  • Become anxious, demanding answers on “what if” and the future
  • Become over or under engaged, either overwhelmed or withdrawn

What you need to get happier relationships:

  • Relax your need for everything to go your way, or
  • Participate more in the moment that’s in front of you

There are other biases, but they cause less pain

Such as…

  • You’re not focused enough on your relationship, or aren’t investing appropriately
  • You expect your relationship to be a status symbol
  • You want too much control, and aren’t yielding enough
  • You yield too much
  • You fear that relationships are “confining,” and never quite what others make them out to be
  • You fear of a partner may demand, expect, or ‘hang’ too much on you
  • You feel other people can just be too invasive

Your expectations are just too damn high

Or they’re wrong altogether.

No matter how you’re defining them, odds are good that your expectations are unrealistic — especially as you expect them to tie directly back to your own happiness or sense of wellbeing.

No matter what the specific problem is, however, it all comes back to us — especially if we see similar issues over and over — and very likely, it falls under something above.

People like to say that unhappiness is due to our partners dropping the ball, or trust, or communication, but 99% percent of our happiness in our relationships comes back to the one thing we control, which is: us.

And 99% percent of the time we’re unhappy, it’s one of these things we need to change.