Are you Running on Empty?
It is natural that we often ask ourselves if we are really satisfied in a relationship and if not, how will we know or what will we do. Is it time to move forward, alone or should I continue down this path and commit to the process of making a relationship work? Does my partner complete me or am I constantly seeking out more from them? Are we happier more than we are arguing or angry with each other? Do I feel like I am growing or am I being held back from pursuing my life dreams? Am I really satisfied?
Don't beat yourself up for asking these questions. It doesn't mean that you no longer love your partner or are somehow betraying them. It also doesn't imply that you are incapable of having successful and long lasting relationships. I interpret these questions as being a part of the human process in relationship formation and would even label them as healthy reflections. It is important to take a step back from the chaos of a partnership to determine if it is making you happy or dragging you down. In fact, by evaluating your levels of happiness and satisfaction you are suggesting that the relationship means a lot to you and your future.
In saying this, however, I also understand that this process can be very lengthy and confusing. The idea of leaving someone is always scary and the fear of loneliness can drown us. On the other hand, settling into a relationship that doesn't fulfill our needs, dreams and expectations doesn't sound gratifying either. How does one weed out what can be tolerated versus what would be detrimental to a happy relationship?
Firstly, give yourself time and patience to answer these questions. It can take someone years to decide if one person is "their person". This decision requires and deserves patience and nurturance. Allow yourself to really feel what comes up in the moment and pay attention to that genuine feeling. Perhaps visiting a psychotherapist, life coach or spiritual leader to get help organizing, interpreting and understanding your feelings could be beneficial. If you rush this decision, it is possible that you will experience resentment and/or regret in the future. Instead, feel more confident by knowing that you gave this decision a lot of intentional thought.
Next, I recommend as much communication as you can manage. I know it may seem contrary to speak with your partner about the possibility that they might not be right for you but it is all about the approach. If your tone is calm and non-blaming, your partner is more likely to listen without becoming defensive or attacking. You have every right to have feelings and therefore, I recommend "I-Statements" which look like, "I feel scared about our future together" or "I feel confused about where we are going and am unsure about what I want from this relationship". Again, I advise seeking outside help from a couples therapist in order to do this effectively. Another bonus in communicating your thoughts/feelings to your partner is being able to then evaluate their reaction. Are they empathetic, understanding, calm, and willing to partake in the process or do they overreact, become defensive and/or angry? It may be important before having this discussion to make a mental note of how you would want a future partner to handle tough conversations.
I also recommend using the metaphor of a Gas Tank to normalize and comprehend what you are going through. When our gas tanks are full, we feel full. We feel more loved, energetic and can often manage stress and disapointment better. When our gas tank is empty we feel drained, on edge and have little effort to give. Therefore, if we are faced with challenges or setbacks we unfortunately, crumble and lose our ability to stay calm and rational. In this metaphor the gas tank is our body, our emotions and our mental state. The fuel is our partner's ability to make us happy; how much they show us affection, compliment us, commit, show up, etc. Here is a question to ask yourself: "does the person you are with make you feel empty or full?". And here is how to answer: if your partner truly satisfies you, you won't feel so drained or defeated when they cancel plans. You won't feel like the relationship is all or nothing. You won't be so let down when they forget to call you before bed. It won't feel like you are unworthy or undeserving of affection and attention. You will be able to manage, remain calm, and forgive more quickly because you are full. You will have enough gas to keep you running.
Now, don't mistake me in that I think one person should be your only source of gas. It is also your responsibility to create happiness and to fill your own tank. Find ways to show love towards yourself and to create a calm, peaceful state of mind. I recommend you do this all the time, whether you are single or hitched. But, when evaluating your relationship satisfaction I am suggesting you ask yourself, "am I running on empty?".