Expressing your feelings with "I" messages can be a first step out of unhappiness.

How to Communicate That You Are Unhappy Without Hurting Your Spouse's Feelings

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

When you are unhappy, it’s tempting to blame someone or something for the situation and demand it be fixed. Unfortunately, blaming your spouse for your emotional state isn’t helpful or likely to resolve the problem. You must become an effective communicator so that you and your spouse can problem-solve together.

Don't Blame

Don’t dump your unhappiness on your spouse. Express your feelings with "I statements," suggests "blame expert" Dr. Neil Farber. Use words such as, “I really don’t feel like I’m very happy right now,” or “When I look at my face, all I see is sadness looking back at me.” Identify why you feel the way you do, if you can, advises psychologist Emilie Ross Raphael. Provide as much objective information as you can, such as how your unhappiness expresses, when you noticed it and an acknowledgment that your unhappiness affects your family.

Own It

Take responsibility for your own feelings. Remember the pop psychology phrase, “Happiness is a choice,” and realize that part of your unhappiness is due to choices you make, such as not pursuing a new hobby or learning a new skill, or failing to take care of yourself. Think about things that could bring happiness and use that as a portion of your communication, such as “I realize I’m not happy and I think it’s because… and I would like to…” Ask your spouse to be a part of the solution by helping you make time for a new endeavor, find money in the budget to pursue something new or support your desire to step out and make it happen. Speak your feelings so they aren’t stuffed and waiting to erupt all over your spouse.

Share Ideas

Based on what you have expressed, ask your spouse for suggestions if you don’t have the answers you need. If you’ve expressed that you don’t feel like the romance is there anymore or you feel distant, ask him how he thinks things could be improved. You could also ask him if he feels the same way. Once he thinks about it, he might agree that he isn’t as happy as he would like to be and will appreciate the opportunity to express his own unhappiness, notes Raphael. Brainstorm solutions you can tackle together, such as committing to a date night each week, taking up a new hobby together or exercising together. Listen to one another and make sure you understand what your partner is feeling or proposing before responding, suggests relationship expert Dr. Greg Smalley.

Create a Plan

Tackle the plan together. Perhaps he watches the kids while you take a class at the gym or you hire a babysitter so you can go out together. If neither of you is the victim and both of you are committed to changing things with identifiable steps, it helps improve engagement and intimacy and makes you feel better about the situation.

Get Support

Sometimes the reason for your unhappiness can be more than your spouse can help you with. Seek counseling from a reputable source to gain objective perspective about your unhappiness. You can clue your spouse in on what you talk about if you desire -- even ask him to join you if circumstances warrant it. Don’t expect him to be the sole source of your support when an outside source can be more objective and provide additional ideas you can implement.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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