How to Tell Your Partner That You're Not Happy

Do you feel unhappy right now? Do you think the origin lies in your current relationship? Maybe it's time to talk to your partner.
How to Tell Your Partner That You're Not Happy
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 07 June, 2023

How do you tell your partner that you’re not happy? How do you explain that something is wrong and the only thing you feel is stress and pressure? We’ve all experienced such situations at some time or another. Because sometimes, what began as almost a fairy tale, leads to a situation of stagnation and even disappointment that’s difficult to handle or face.

While love is important, so are the types of relationships you build. Indeed, no matter how much you might love your partner, the most important thing is the bond between you, how you treat each other, communicate, and care for each other, etc. In fact, there are many factors that oxygenate and nourish a relationship. On the other hand, there are also many that can destroy it.

Realizing that you’re unhappy in your relationship doesn’t suddenly occur. It’s a slow process that’s full of disappointment, dashed expectations, boring routines that are drowning your hopes, and feelings of despair, At first, you might try and ignore this indefinable feeling that’s dulling your spirit but, eventually, there’s no turning back. You have to act.

Revealing your unhappiness to your loved one is a priority. You can’t keep fooling yourself, and neither can they.

Girl thinking how to tell her partner that she is not happy
Before telling your partner that you’re not happy, ask yourself how it happened.

How to tell your partner that you’re not happy

The writer Sylvia Plath said that, at a certain point in her life, she felt how her lungs were inflated with an avalanche of air, trees, mountains, and people. She took it for granted that this was happiness. Happiness is like breathing deeply and intensely. On the contrary, unhappiness is a shortness of breath and feelings of gloom.

If you’re experiencing a lack of hope, motivation, and vitality in your relationship, it should be cause for concern. After all, love is supposed to mean, above all else, happiness, harmony, and contentment. So, what happens when one of you doesn’t feel it? How do you tell your partner that you’re not happy?

It’s important to clarify that no relationship is a permanent bed of roses, nor is harmony ever experienced 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are always bumps in the road, arguments, problems, and disappointments. The fact that these things happen isn’t an inescapable sign that the relationship is coming to an end. They’re simply signs that there’s something that needs facing and solving.

Let’s see what guidelines you should take into account if you’re in this situation.

Sometimes, the unhappiness you feel doesn’t have its origin in your relationship itself, but in other dimensions that you’re neglecting. If this is the case, you must address them, before your quality of life and the bond with your loved one wears out even more.

1. Reflect on why you’re unhappy and what’s led you to this situation

Before sharing this emotional reality with your partner, reflect. What’s been happening to make you feel this way? You must clarify what triggered this feeling. Knowing its origins will allow you to understand its causes and think about some coping strategies. To do this, try to answer the following questions:

  • When did you start to feel like this?
  • What situations intensify or reduce your feeling of unhappiness?
  • What could solve your lack of well-being and feelings of loss of hope?

It’s possible that the cause of your discomfort doesn’t lie in your relationship but in another context. Some social and psychological realities can orchestrate this feeling. For example, work or the lack of it, personal or existential problems, lack of self-esteem, the weight of past trauma, etc.

2. Focus on your feelings and express what you feel without projecting blame

If you want to tell your partner that you’re not happy, you need to be sincere and assertive. Use the first person to explain what you’re feeling. Use phrases that begin with “I believe, I feel, I want.”

Above all, don’t apportion blame. Avoid expressions like “You only think of yourself”. It’s better to start the conversation by clearly expressing your personal reality and how you feel.

3. Listen empathetically and prepare for their reaction

Diana R. Garland, Ph.D., from the University of Louisville (USA), conducted research on the benefits of training couples in the skill of active and empathetic listening. In fact, there are very few dimensions that can structure a relationship in such a healthy way as knowing how to listen to each other.

It’s also imperative that your partner pays attention to you and understands your personal reality. But, bear in mind that few things can be as painful and worrisome as learning that your partner isn’t happy.

Therefore, you must be prepared for their reaction. And, listening to what they have to say is extremely important.

4. Prepare for change

Unhappiness can be the origin of a personal problem, such as unemployment, latent depression, unresolved trauma, etc. So, you might love each other but not be happy for reasons beyond your relationship. In fact, these kinds of situations are all too frequent and you need to know how to deal with them.

At difficult moments, it’s more necessary than ever to have the support of each other. Indeed, real love means mutual commitment in every challenge and circumstance. It’s this ability to respond actively and authentically to your partner’s needs that allows you to solve any challenge or problem.

If the reason for your unhappiness is a lack of love, don’t prolong what doesn’t make sense out of pity or indecision. You’ll only intensify your suffering.

Sad woman thinking about how to tell my partner that I am not happy

Ending a relationship maturely

Last but not least, in many cases, unhappiness originates from heartbreak. After all, feelings sometimes wear out, fade, and disappear. If this is your case, don’t prolong the agony. Don’t wait to see what happens. Don’t hang on to see if they change, or to see if you change your mind and decide you want them again.

In fact, when disappointment and lack of affection arise, extending your relationship can give way to contempt, arguments, betrayals, and highly unpleasant experiences.

You must prevent this from happening. Act maturely and put an end to your relationship by making the reasons clear. Doing so and expressing clearly that you’ve stopped loving your partner will prevent them from harboring any false hopes.

Your unhappiness has an origin that you must clarify. Knowing how to respond to what’s happened will allow you to act in the face of these circumstances and recover your well-being.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Anderson, Traci & Emmers-Sommer, Tara. (2006). Predictors of Relationship Satisfaction in Online Romantic Relationships. Communication Studies. 57. 10.1080/10510970600666834.
  • Garland, D. R. (1981). Training Married Couples in Listening Skills: Effects on Behavior, Perceptual Accuracy and Marital Adjustment. Family Relations, 30(2), 297–306.
  • Joel, S., Eastwick, P. W., Allison, C. J., Arriaga, X. B., Baker, Z. G., Bar-Kalifa, E., … Wolf, S. (2020). Machine learning uncovers the most robust self-report predictors of relationship quality across 43 longitudinal couples studies. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America117(32), 19061–19071.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.