What is the effect of relationship dissatisfaction on mental health and well-being? The answer is considerable. Research suggests that upwards of 25 percent of people remain in unhappy relationships long-term because they are unable to break up with their partners, leading to tremendous suffering and unhappiness. Failing to part ways can lower the well-being of both parties and lead to various mental health conditions.
How Can Unhappy Relationships Damage Mental Health?
Unhappy relationships can damage mental health in several ways. For instance, many people start feeling depressed because of the sense they are trapped in a situation they no longer want. They can’t escape the relationship so they shut down, and start viewing the world less positively. Over time, brain changes can occur, leaving them permanently worse off than before.
Self-esteem can also take a hit. Abusive partners can make life difficult, particularly when cohabiting. It’s hard for the victim to avoid unpleasant situations, which can eventually take their toll on how they view themselves. They might start to see themselves as unworthy, unlovable, or bad.
Unhappy relationships can also lead to anxiety. Vulnerable partners may fear their counterparts flying off the rails or doing something crazy. Worries about abandonment and rejection are also common.
Finally, unhappy relationships can affect mood. People in dysfunctional situations with others in their life can find it challenging to feel good about their lives or prospects because they don’t know what their partner will think or how they will react.
What Contributes To Relationship Dissatisfaction?
Experts believe several factors can contribute to relationship dissatisfaction, but most couples only require one or two to begin experiencing significant problems.
Infidelity stands at the top of the list. Affairs and cheating lead to lost trust, which can be hard to repair, even long-term with the help of a therapist.
Next comes unrealistic expectations. One partner might believe that their counterpart in the relationship can deliver more. When they don’t, it can become a source of self-imposed suffering.
A lack of intimacy is also an issue for some couples. Failing to connect in the bedroom takes its toll on many mates.
Finally, personality differences can lead to relationship difficulties. This factor is why selection is critical. Partners need to fundamentally mesh with each other on a basic trait level for a relationship to be sustainable.
Idaho divorce lawyer, John Frick, understands the value of dealing with relationship dissatisfaction early. He says that the consequences of a breakup can be severe, including the emotional and financial toll paid by one or both parties during legal proceedings. The result of breaking up with a partner can have a devastating long-term impact on a person’s life, particularly if the relationship has gone on for a long time or one partner contests the divorce in court.
He and others like him recommend that parting couples seek out mediation to reduce the impact of a breakup. Working with professionals, he says, can help take some of the emotion out of the situation and make it more procedural. Reducing conflict may lessen the risk of either party losing out financially.
What Are The Health Risks Of Relationship Dissatisfaction?
Relationships and the real world intersect closely with each other. Partners’ perceptions of satisfaction can have a toll on their real-world health.
For instance, partners in unhappy relationships are more likely to experience cardiovascular disease. Negative thought patterns lead to changes in heart and artery function, increasing the risk of conditions like angina, and, in extreme cases, strokes and heart attacks.
Low relationship satisfaction can also lead to chronic pain. Psychosomatic symptoms can develop in people who aren’t enjoying their relationship and suffer because of it. Tension and stress can lead to real symptoms in the body, such as muscle tightness and idiosyncratic pain without any obvious or immediate cause.
Problematic relationships can even lead to immune system dysfunction. Partners in unhappy marriages, for instance, are more likely to experience autoimmune diseases and be less able to fight off colds and flu.
How To Deal With Relationship Dissatisfaction.
Professionals, like Frick, often deal with clients whose relationships have broken down completely. However, he recommends that anyone in an unhappy marriage considering divorce speaks to professionals first. Having both parties understand the consequences of going through the legal procedure can put it in context and lead to reevaluation. Couples may be less likely to want to break up if they become aware of the full impact that such a decision is likely to have.
Couples can also seek professional advice from other sources. Mediators, Frick confirms, are another helpful strategy to get parties talking and discussing the situation rationally, instead of from an emotional place. Having a trained person there to get to the bottom of the issue and resolve it can be transformative.
Other strategies include things like:-
- Enhancing positive interactions. Spending more time doing things that both members of the couple enjoy and prioritizing them, particularly at the weekend.
- Practicing forgiveness. Accepting that the other person is a fallible human being and will occasionally make mistakes can also help boost relationship satisfaction. Couples who acknowledge each other’s humanity are more likely to succeed long-term.
- Expressing gratitude. Being grateful for the relationship itself is another powerful way for couples to mend bridges and reconnect. Focusing on the benefits it brings, instead of the costs, can make a tremendous difference in how each party perceives the other.
- Setting boundaries. Finally, partners telling each other what they will accept, and what they won’t, can foster enhanced relationship satisfaction. One party might require more privacy than the other, for instance.
For Frick, though, some relationships aren’t salvageable. While both parties would like to make them work, an event, personality issues, or unrealistic expectations might be intractable. In these situations, individual partners should consider going their own way, particularly if abuse is involved.
Relationship satisfaction isn’t set in stone and can vary significantly over time. Unfortunately, many people get into relationships that harm their health and well-being. The trick is to apply best-practice or consider “uncoupling” in some way if there’s no way to make the relationship work without damaging either party’s health.