They say that love makes the world go around.
And as cynical as I was about love when I was younger, these days, I tend to agree.
A life lived without love – not necessarily romantic love – is hardly worth living.
On the other hand, nothing can make us as unhappy as love can when it goes wrong.
After all, no one has the power to hurt us quite like the people we love.
And few things in life are more painful than loving someone who doesn’t love you back, or doesn’t love you the way you want to be loved.
But because we want love so badly, we are often very good at fooling ourselves about our relationships.
It’s quite possible to be unhappily in love and not even realize it.
Here are some of the signs to watch out for.
1) You can’t stop thinking about what you can’t have
Often – but not always – being unhappily in love means being in love with someone who doesn’t feel the same way about you.
Endless poems, songs, and love stories have been written about the agonies of unrequited love. But if you have fallen in love with someone who doesn’t feel the same way about you, you probably don’t feel much like singing.
Instead, you may find your mind occupied with thoughts of them throughout the day. And if you’re not careful, these constant thoughts can turn into obsession.
Psychiatrist Dianne Grande identifies five different kinds of unrequited love:
- A crush on someone you don’t even know, such as a celebrity
- A crush on someone you know that you don’t try to do anything about
- Pursuing someone who has clearly told you they are not interested or not available
- Longing for a former lover
- An unequal relationship where one partner feels much more strongly than the other
As Grande points out, it’s important to examine yourself and your motivations to understand why you have strong feelings for people you can’t have.
Is this a regular pattern in your relationships? Are you fixating on unrequited romance so that you don’t have to face the potential trauma of mutual love?
Finding yourself constantly thinking about someone you can’t have is a good sign you are unhappily in love. And if you haven’t realized it before now, it’s time to do some soul-searching to understand why.
2) Communication is not working
This applies more to established relationships that have gone sour.
The thing is, healthy communication is the lifeblood of a relationship.
Nobody stays the same forever. Change is a fundamental law of the universe, and the people we love are not immune.
You will change, and so will your partner, and the only way to keep love alive as you become different people is to keep communicating honestly and openly with each other.
If you can’t do that, you’re probably in a very unhappy relationship where no one is getting their needs met.
Do you feel like you can’t talk to your significant other without upsetting them or yourself? Do you feel like there are lots of things you can’t say, or facets of your personality you are scared to reveal to them?
If so, you may be unhappily in love. And unless you get those lines of communication open, your relationship may be in great danger.
3) You make all the moves
This can apply to an unrequited romance or the early stages of relationship, but it also happens in long-term committed romantic relationships as well.
Do you find yourself putting in most of the effort it takes to make a relationship?
Are you the one who comes up with all the plans to spend time together? Are you the one who always asks somebody else out on a date? Do you find yourself doing an unfair share of the household chores?
There are lots of different ways this can show itself. But when you start to feel like you’re the only one putting effort into a relationship, it’s a good sign that you are unhappily in love, even if you don’t realize it yet.
Relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein argues that part of why this happens is because we all have different needs. Often, we tend to show our partners love in the way we would want it to be shown to us, rather than the way they want it shown to them.
And if you start to feel that you are putting more work into the relationship than the other person, it’s very easy to start resenting them.
4) You are not a priority for them
This is similar to the point above about a partner not pulling their weight, but it is even more noticeable.
And even worse, this can happen in both a casual relationship or in something more long-term.
Everyone has their own life, and it’s important to maintain that when you enter a relationship.
On the other hand, you also need to make one another a priority.
If the person you love makes it seem as though they would rather do almost anything than spend time with you, it’s a really bad sign. And it can be intensely painful to feel rejected like that.
This isn’t just something that happens in romantic relationships, either. It’s also often the case in family relationships, where people often take one another for granted.
As dating expert Davida Rappaport says, relationships change through time, and sometimes, it’s necessary to shift your priorities.
But if that becomes a common situation, it’s a good sign that you are unhappy in your love life.
5) You lose yourself around them
To some extent, we all lose ourselves in love. That’s especially true when we first start falling for someone.
However, it’s important to remember that you are a unique individual with your own goals and self-worth, and it’s important not to sacrifice yourself completely to any relationship.
Signs you have lost yourself to a relationship include:
- Abandoning hobbies and interests
- Not making time for your friends
- No longer talking about ‘I’ and ‘me’, but only about ‘us’ and ‘we’
- Never spending time alone
- Merging your opinions with the other person’s
Relationship expert Darlene Lancer writes that healthy relationships are interdependent. That means both partners sacrifice parts of their lives, but not the whole thing.
6) You change to make them like you more
This is an even more worrying sign of being unhappily in love.
The thing is, a person who truly loves you should love who you are.
That doesn’t mean they think you are perfect. But it does mean they ought to appreciate you, warts and all.
On the other hand, if you feel like you need to change yourself to be good enough for them, that’s a clear sign that you are unhappily in love and in danger of losing yourself.
We all change with time, and the relationships we find ourselves in can often change us, too – hopefully for the better.
But whether it’s a new crush or someone you’ve been in a relationship for years, you shouldn’t have to make radical changes to your lifestyle and personality to make them like you more.
And if you do, it’s probably because you’re unhappily in love without even realizing it.
7) You don’t know where you stand
Figuring out where you stand with someone else can be difficult, especially at the start of a relationship. But in a longer-term relationship, it should be clear how you both feel about each other.
If it isn’t, you’re probably very unhappy.
The uncertainty of not knowing how a person feels about you can make you miserable. So if you are uncertain about how your significant other feels about you, you are probably unhappily in love.
8) You fixate on everything they do
As I’ve already mentioned, it’s never a good sign if you lose yourself completely to a relationship with somebody else.
Another thing to watch out for is fixating on everything the other person does.
Because we all want to know where we stand in a relationship, we look for signs. Often, we fixate on trivial details of who called who or when they last texted, and try to find hidden meanings in the things they say or don’t say.
This is an easy way to drive yourself crazy.
9) The people closest to you notice a change
Because we don’t see ourselves from the outside, we are sometimes the last to notice when our behavior has changed.
That’s why it’s so important to have a group of friends or family around you whose opinions you trust.
The people closest to you may be the first to notice that you have changed. And because they aren’t blinded by desire, they can take a more objective look at your relationships and tell you if they seem unhealthy.
If the people closest to you are negative about your relationship, it’s worth hearing them out. Often, the people around us have a better idea of what’s going on in our lives than we do.
Are you unhappily in love?
Love should enrich your life. But it also has the possibility to go very wrong.
And when it does, you may well be the last to know.
Keep an eye out for the signs that you are unhappily in love. Because sometimes, the biggest mystery is our own hearts.