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Why We Stay in Relationships When We're Not as Happy as We Could Be

Updated: Dec 10, 2019

It’s two in the morning and I’m lying in bed awake. The clock’s tick echoes through the walls of the room. Outside of my window, cicadas and crickets join in unison to play their melody of the night. Every noise rises to orchestrate a resounding sound of solitude. I’m not in bed alone tonight, but I’m lonely.

I’ve been here before. Awake and restless in the middle of the night, thinking of how nothing is really wrong in my relationship, but how everything isn’t exactly right, either.

What in life is exactly how we want it, though? When are we ever entirely fulfilled in love?

I’m not sure if I’ve ever been with someone who was my “second half,” the one who made me “whole.” I don’t believe someone else can complete you, though.

It’s your job to do that for yourself. Yet, here I am, my mind waking me up from sleep at 2 am, to question me about how happy I really am in my relationship, nudging me to step into that territory I already secured off with, “NO TRESPASSING.”

I think I could be happier.

Maybe I don’t need to be happier, though. Maybe I could just stay in this space forever, waking up in the middle of the night every once in awhile to contemplate love. Maybe I will be happier eventually. One thing I am certain of, though, is that I’m not ready to be alone.

Ah, alone: that two syllable word that scares the living hell out of everyone who hears it. No one wants to be alone. Most people who are in relationships avoid it like an infection and people who are already alone run from themselves, as if being chased by a pack of grizzly bears.

Let me be clear, here: There’s nothing wrong with being alone. Some of the best times of my life have been when I was single. Being on your own, and growing as a person, go hand in hand; we tend to learn the most about ourselves when it’s just “me, myself and I.”

Rather, I’m talking about the misconception of being alone versus being lonely. There’s a common myth that the two equate to each other; in reality, they couldn’t be further apart. To rephrase: No one wants to be alone and lonely.

Although, it’s funny how you could be lying next to someone — the heat from his or her body touching yours, the sound of his or her breath filling the air — and still be wishing someone would come and wrap his or her arms around you to cease the loneliness.

We’ll do all sorts of crazy things to avoid being alone and lonely when in an unsatisfying relationship.

We’ll continue to fight until we’ve lost our voices, we’ll cheat to find what we’re lacking, we’ll complain to our friends about our partner’s failings and we’ll fool ourselves into thinking that he or she will change to the exact way we want him or her to be.

What we fear the most, however, is ourselves. What will we do when we don’t have someone to call during our lunch breaks? How will we survive going home to an empty bed? What does it feel like to address only yourself about what you want to do for the day?

We become so accustomed to people, even when someone isn’t the perfect fit, that we find ourselves stuck in traps of which we are unknowingly the masterminds. If you’re continuously asking yourself, day after day, if you’re happy in your relationship, chances are you’re not.

When you really think about it, you have one of two options:

1. Stay in your current relationship and try to see if things will change for the better, all the while wondering what life would feel like with someone else who’s more like you.

2. Take a leap of faith and let yourself be alone and lonely for a little while. Take your chances on a flourishing, perennial happiness without settling for less than what you really want and deserve.

It doesn’t take a relationship expert to tell you that someone who is whole-heartedly in love with his or her partner is most likely not walking around having an internal debate about the state of his or her personal happiness.

Rather, this person walks around, basking in all the greatness of how amazing and satisfying the relationship is. That’s how it should be, right?

As much as the truth dangles above our heads, for some reason, it takes a while for us to realize that it’s more beneficial to tread unknown waters, risking being somewhat depressed for a while, than to stay in something we know isn’t right just to avoid imminent heartbreak.

These are the years of our youth that should be copious in love, passion and excitement. Let’s take our chances on the undiscovered and not settle for anything less than absolute bliss.


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