A concerned woman considering why her relationship doesn't feel right. She is looking away and sitting with her back to her uninterested-looking partner.

What To Do When A Relationship Doesn’t Feel Right

27 June 2024

Does this sound familiar? You jump into a relationship too quickly only to find that the relationship doesn’t feel right.

Or perhaps you’ve been in a relationship for a while and you have this sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach.

What do you do when a relationship doesn’t feel right?

Do you try to stick it out and fix it? Do you blame the change in the relationship on circumstances such as your partner’s stressful job, or her recent poor health, or his demanding children?

When a relationship doesn’t feel right, things may need to change. However, with the right person you can talk about what’s working and what about the relationship doesn’t feel right. Often it depends on how much time or emotional vulnerability you’ve invested in this relationship. Or, who else will be affected by a possible breakup- like kids or family members who may have become attached to you or your partner?

Here are some points to consider BEFORE you ditch the relationship altogether:

  1. Can you identify what in the relationship doesn’t feel right?

    The better you can communicate your needs, and what doesn’t feel right, the better the chances that your partner can know how to accommodate your feelings and make the necessary changes. Clarity is important here both in understanding what is upsetting you, as well as how to explain this to your partner.

    – Are your personal needs being met? If not, what is being neglected or stepped on by your partner? Can you pinpoint it?
    – Is it a deal breaker like infidelity or being untrustworthy?
    – Is it more subtle like not getting enough time and attention from your partner or not feeling validated when bringing up your feelings?

  1. If you’re having a hard time understanding why your relationship doesn’t feel right, would it help to discuss this with a professional or someone you trust?

    It’s always good to gain another perspective from a trusted professional like a counselor or coach. Or perhaps you have a trusted friend or family member to discuss what in the relationship doesn’t feel right.

    Again, gaining a deeper understanding of your needs, and which of those is not being met, will help when you are ready to discuss this with your partner.

    Additionally, a third-party perspective can offer you different ways to consider your feelings and offer solutions for you to explore.

    Sometimes, it’s just helpful to have some support during this process. Change can be hard for many people. Having a supportive confidant can be a comfort to you in your distress, or they may help you see if you’re just overthinking and second-guessing yourself.

  1. Is your partner willing to discuss what in the relationship doesn’t feel right?

    Ultimately, you will need to sit down and discuss with your partner what’s missing for you in the relationship. Hopefully, the two of you can have a candid conversation where you are both open to listening to one another.

    Some people are not good at receiving bad news or critique. They can get defensive and turn it around to make you feel like you’ve done something wrong.

    In a healthy relationship, there is open, honest, and transparent communication. It’s important that you feel safe when discussing what in the relationship doesn’t feel right to you. It’s also necessary that you listen to your partner’s response with open ears (and heart). Many times, by first saying what you appreciate about your partner and sharing your hope for the relationship will help them to be open to listening to what’s coming next.

    By gauging this conversation, you’ll have a better sense as to whether you can work together for the right solution for the sake of the relationship. Which leads to the next step…

  1. Is what doesn’t feel right situational or systemic of the relationship?

    Some things can change. Others cannot.

    Alicia is a single mom with high school twins in the New York suburbs. Her boyfriend is an empty-nester with his kids launched. As it turned out, his sister wanted him to move to Florida to be closer to her to work on a business together. There was no way that Alicia could do that for a couple of years. The fact that he even entertained the idea was hurtful to her. In the end, they wanted different things out of life and she broke up with him.

    We can’t change people. We have to see them for who they are. And we hope that they are honest about their needs. However, some people are not as self-aware as we would like.

    When something is systemic, it’s part of who they are and that’s not going to change. One of my boomer clients realized her boyfriend had very poor executive functioning abilities. He was bad about planning and considering her needs. He kept her waiting many times, often in uncomfortable situations. He wasn’t a bad guy, in fact, he was very kind but she realized she just couldn’t live with this kind of person.

    Unfortunately, no instruction booklet comes with our partners. We have to spend the time to see if they are the right person for us for the long term. Thankfully most people’s true nature becomes apparent within 3 to 6 months.

  1. Is there something you can adjust for the relationship that doesn’t make it uncomfortable or impossible to maintain?

    Taking a good look at yourself and seeing if you can adjust your expectations about your partner is one thing you can do before leaving a potentially good relationship.

    One of my boomer clients knew her boyfriend had many great qualities. Yet he often didn’t think of including her in family or social situations. When she finally understood his reasons (and they were good reasons), she was able to adjust her expectations. She realized she had lots of independence and freedom to see her own family and friends. She appreciated the quality time they would spend together and how he showed her love. While this relationship wasn’t what she originally envisioned, she adjusted her expectations and is now quite happy with him as a partner.

All in all, you need a partner who will listen and respect your wishes.

This person wants to see you happy and knows that it takes two to make it work. Because when one person stops working on the relationship, it’s doomed. And there is nothing you can do about it.

One concept I share with my clients is to look for someone who has the “capacity” to be in a relationship (along with the desire to be in one).

I hope I’ve given you some ways to re-evaluate your relationships. Just because a relationship doesn’t feel right, doesn’t mean it’s time to ditch it. All in all, trust your instincts. If you see red flags, address them to see if you have a partner who will honor your requests.

If not, it may be time to cut your losses and reevaluate what is important to look for in a good partner. And when you’re ready, look for someone who will meet your needs, this time around.

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