Is your relationship getting you down? Are you no longer happy in your relationship or marriage?
Everyone experiences tough times, no matter how great their relationship is. That doesn’t mean you need to break up, necessarily.
In fact, it’s how you get through these difficult times that determine how strong your partnership can be over time.
But a lot of how you survive these tough times has to do with how you communicate your unhappiness.
If you’re serious about making the right changes so you can feel happy again — as well as have a healthy relationship that you rebuild together — it’s time to talk to your partner in a way they can hear you.
Here are the 5 steps to help you communicate your unhappiness and possibly save your relationship.
1. Give it some thought
Before you launch into telling your partner about being unhappy, make sure you know what you’re going to communicate.
This may sound obvious but this can often be forgotten in the heat of the moment.
You get annoyed with your partner because they didn’t take out the trash and all of a sudden you’ve launched into a full-on fight, letting your partner know just how unhappy you are and how much it’s their fault.
In the moment, it feels good to get it off your chest. But, later on, you realize you hurt your partner and the fight didn’t really lead anywhere.
Things didn’t get better and you didn’t get to the root of your unhappiness.
Putting some thought into it means working out what’s making you unhappy, what you think you want instead, and how you believe you can both get there.
By communicating these three things you’ll eliminate the risk of conflict, and increase the chances of a positive and fruitful conversation that leads to a happier, healthier relationship.
2. Think of the “how.”
To actually be heard, you need to watch how you say things. Oftentimes, you think so much about what you want things to look like that there’s little time or energy left to consider how to talk about the changes you desire.
This is a problem because your partner doesn’t only hear the content of your words — they hear the way you say them and which words you choose.
In fact, your body language says a lot to your partner, which is why it’s important to learn how to improve non-verbal communication in your relationship, too.
If your partner reads your physical expression as aggressive, they’re more likely to feel attacked so they’ll adopt a defensive stance and effectively rule out any room for real improvement.
In order for your partner to hear you, you need to take into account how you say things, both with your words and your body language.
This involves accepting part of the blame — not because you should, but because it’s true.
3. Take responsibility.
When you’re unhappy in your relationship, it’s easy to blame it on your partner. You believe they’re the sole reason things aren’t great in a certain area.
But the fact of the matter is that unhappiness in a relationship is often caused by both parties. (Providing the issue isn’t about abuse, of course. This is never the responsibility of the partner being abused.)
Accepting responsibility for your relationship and imparting that to your loved one can happen in many ways.
It might look like saying, “I understand I’m difficult to approach when I’m in a bad mood, and that this causes you to withdraw, even if what I truly want is closeness.”
Or, it can be, “I feel upset when you don’t want sex and because I was never taught how to deal with sadness, I turn to anger instead and lash out at you. I’m sorry.”
The above examples take into account both of your reactions and why you believe they happen. They give your partner a chance to understand your behavior and to understand how their behavior affects you.
When you accept part of the blame and take responsibility, you help your partner do the same.
This is a great way to communicate unhappiness in a relationship — and how to turn it into a moment of connection.
4. Do it face to face.
When you experience difficulties in your relationship, it can be tempting to communicate this via text or email. While this is not a bad idea, it’s not usually a great one.
Oftentimes, you do this to avoid emotional intensity or connection — the very thing you perhaps need to experience with your partner in order to feel happy and satisfied.
Texting your partner your annoyances about their reluctance to clean or their low libido might feel easier in the moment. You might be relieved that you’re able to avoid head-on conflict.
But, more often than not, communicating via text about something serious and potentially hurtful leads to more conflict down the line.
Your partner hears so much more than just the content alone. It’s the way you say what you say, both with your tone of voice and body language. They both help your partner understand what you’re feeling and what you want.
When you’re face to face, you can more easily gauge your partner’s reaction and tailor what you say so that your words perhaps hurt less or are heard more clearly.
Even if you’re communicating something negative or difficult, doing it face to face can make the experience a more unifying one.
5. Do it more than once.
When communicating your unhappiness, you’ll want to make sure this isn’t a one-time thing.
This doesn’t mean you should tell your partner how unsatisfied you are every day — that’s more like a fast track to separation! It does, however, mean following up the conversation to see how things are going.
It means connecting about the issue at hand and how you’re both contributing to solving it.
Rarely have I seen couples where a problem is solved overnight or after one conversation. It takes time, dedication, and effort.
So don’t be surprised if you both fall off the wagon or get lost on the way — it’s all part of the process — and it’s OK.
It’s hard talking about problems, but if you want to stay in a relationship that you mostly enjoy, you need to learn how to communicate your unhappiness so your partner truly can hear you.
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Leigh Norén is a sex therapist and writer with a Master of Science in Sexology. She’s been featured in Women’s Health, Thrive Global, The Good Men Project, Elephant Journal, Glamour, and more. For more advice on communicating in your relationship, visit her website. If you want to learn how to talk about your feelings surrounding sex, download her free resource: Talking Sex.
This article was originally published at LeighNoren.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.