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How to Be Happy Even in an Unhealthy Relationship

Here’s my dirty little secret: I write more about breaking up than fixing unhealthy relationships. So, this week’s series is on how to be happy even if you’re in a relationship that isn’t healthy. One of the most important things I’ve learned from my readers is that not all relationships – not even the unhealthiest, most abusive ones – can simply be abandoned.

How to Be Happy Unhealthy Relationships“Love is something that we nurture and grow,” says Brene Brown in The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. “Love is a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.” She adds that we have love only when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known. What does this mean for us who want to learn how to be happy even in unhealthy relationships? We’ll find out…

Here on Blossom, I write a four-article series on one topic a week. This week’s theme is “how to be happy” and “healthy relationships” – and it includes specific tips on how to be happy even in unhealthy relationships, lessons learned in unhealthy relationships, how to fix unhealthy relationships, and how to gain confidence and create healthy relationships. All the links to this week’s posts are at the end of this article.

How to Be Happy in Unhealthy Relationships

Imagine is the focus of today’s post. Before you can learn how to be happy even if you’re in a loveless marriage or if you suspect your husband is cheating on you, you need to start setting your intention.

What advice have you already received about how to be happy, or unhealthy relationships? Before you read my tips, take a moment to think about what you already know. You know more than you think – and I suspect you’re much smarter than you give yourself credit for!

Imagine yourself happy in your relationship

Do you have a vision or goals for what you want to create in your relationship? If not, then you can’t make it happen. It’s like trying to drive to Mayne Island in British Columbia without a map; you’ll waste a lot of time going down the wrong roads and buying tickets for the wrong ferries because you didn’t take time to prepare.

Maybe you’re like me and you feel compelled to check in with God when you’re considering your future. Prayer is a powerful way to learn how to be happy! It helps you see what you really want in your life, how to create what you want, and even how to fix unhealthy relationships. Prayer also helps you learn whether it’s even possible for you to learn how to be happy in your current relationships. If they’re unhealthy, maybe there is no fixing the problems…but you won’t find out until you take time to imagine the possibilities and get clear how you will be happy in even the unhealthiest of relationships.

If you’re not into setting intentions or prayer, you might find How to Make a Vision Board for Your Relationship helpful. It’s the same idea, with a different source of energy. Connecting with God is more powerful than clipping photos of magazines, but the act of creating a vision board might make you happy. For a little while.

Write down what makes you happy

You can’t create happiness in your life unless you know what it means to you to be happy!

This is a crucial tip for happiness – especially for women in unhealthy relationships – because it takes your general “I want to be happy” notion and makes it more specific. Writing down what makes you happy will help you see what happiness means to you, which in turn will show you what you need to start doing to create more happiness in your life.

About 15 years ago, I started writing down my relationship goals. I didn’t get married until I was 35 because I had no idea what marriage was all about. I grew up with a single schizophrenic mother, I had no brothers or uncles, and I was afraid of and intimidated by men. When I wrote down my goal of getting married, I realized two things: 1) I was tired of unhealthy relationships with men who weren’t good for me; and 2) I had no idea how to be happy with a good, solid man.

So, I got counseling. I knew I couldn’t find love unless I got help. I’ve now been married for 10 years to a loving, dependable, kind, gentle, wonderful man who had actually been my friend for 17 years! I learned how to be happy – and my first step was writing down what I needed for happiness.

I’ve also been a Christian since I was in my late 20s. That makes me very happy, but it didn’t stop me from getting into some very unhealthy relationships.

Learn how to nurture and grow love

In the quote above, Brene Brown says love is a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them. In other words, we can only love others as much as we love ourselves. It follows that one of the most important tips on how to be happy is learning how to give and receive love.

Unhealthy Relationships How to Be Happy

How to Be Happy Even in an Unhealthy Relationship

If we hate ourselves – and we even abuse our bodies with drugs, food, alcohol, sex, lack of sleep or exercise, unhealthy foods – then our capacity for love diminishes. We can’t love and care for others if we don’t love and care for ourselves. If we aren’t happy with who we are, we can’t create healthy relationships. We can’t love fully, deeply, or madly.

How is your relationship with yourself? If you keep finding yourself in unhealthy relationships, can you see a pattern in the men you’re choosing? Does love exist within each of you?

You need to learn how to love yourself if you want to learn how to be happy. And, you need to learn how to choose men who are loving, kind, solid, dependable, trustworthy…and who love themselves.

Questions for you

Have you made a list of the things you believe will make you happy? If you haven’t, please feel free to share in the comments section below. Are unhealthy relationships making you unhappy? What do you imagine will help you move forward in your life?

I can’t give advice, but I welcome your thoughts.

Are you in an unhappy, unhealthy relationship? You may find How to Survive an Unhappy Marriage helpful.

On Blossom this week

Every week I write a Four-Day Series on specific topics for women who want to Blossom and flourish in all seasons of life. This week’s theme is “how to be happy” – and today we focuses on “unhealthy relationships.”

Here’s this week’s lineup:

Do you feel like you can’t be happy in the relationship you’re in? Remember that giving up doesn’t always means you are weak. Sometimes it means you are strong enough to let go.

Is your relationship in trouble? Get 7 Steps to Fixing Your Marriage from relationship coach Mort Fertel. It's free and helpful, no strings attached.

Need encouragement? Sign up for my weekly "Echoes of Joy" email - it's free, short, and energizing. Like me!


5 thoughts on “How to Be Happy Even in an Unhealthy Relationship”

  1. I’m in a relationship where I feel like it’s very unhealthy….. but I do everything that I know how to do to try and to keep my boyfriend happy…. emotionally, physically, mentally, financially you name it I’m on it….. bUT seems like through all that I do… I still get disrespected when I’m around him and when I’m not around him…. constantly texting other females as if he’s not in a relationship at all…..

  2. I broke up with my boyfriend just yesterday telling him every neccessay reason we should seperate.i’ve been in dis relationship for five month now and nothing seem to change for the better,i’ve known him as a chronic liar from day 1 he lies even when so obvious that nothing to hide,he is not caring not just in financial aspect because i can understand with him since he’s an applicant but at least he should be showing by little way,our relationship is upside down,i can’t understand him not even trust,he doesn’t store my contact by any name for five month now since we met and if i approach him,he wud tell me he loves me i’m confused i don’t know if to let go or not. I love him but i feel it’s not mutual.please help,i need an advise

  3. Thank you Laurie for your feedback…

    Even thou our relationship had problems… Getting over the pain of a breakup takes times. A brick doesn’t have to fall on my head for me to let go. He left on Dec 30th to bring the New Years in with his son and hasn’t contacted me while he has been away. I’m not sure when he is returning. I know the only way to rid myself of the overwhelming straming thoughts are by renewing my mind, spending time with peoplewho love me and has my best interest at heart, doing things I enjoy, prayer and meditation. I can’t do thing just to fill the empty space, I have to do things that are meaningful to me. I’ve been down this road before… Once the pain leaves I’ll be fine. I”m still really sad about this ending. There is one thing for certain, we sometimes don’t get closure and have to close the chapter ourselves…..

    Thanks again for support and comments.

  4. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Dear Sharan,

    Thank you for sharing – it takes courage and strength to be honest about your relationship! I really appreciate your presence here.

    About your relationship…I think that if you look over what you wrote, you will see the truth. You said you’re in an unhealthy relationship, he’s comfortable seeing you once a week, he won’t include you when it comes to his family, and you feel like you might be settling.

    I think you are right on every point. Now, you need to decide if you want to stay in an unhealthy relationship – and accept that he won’t change – or if you want take a risk and let him go. There is no right or wrong answer; it’s just a matter of making a decision that you can live with happily.

    He can’t make you happy. Only you can decide what you need to be happy, and then you need to find the strength to pursue it.

    What would your life be like without him?

  5. Hello everyone, I”m in a relationship that is not healthy. We’ve been together for nine months and he won’t include me when it comes to his family. I feel sick on the stomach when he tells me his daughter is coming to town. Early on he set the stage for me not to visit when his daughter or stepdaughter were in town. Its my fault I didn’t stop this early on. I thought I was giving him a chance to decide when he was ready for me to be inserted into his family. It’s nine months later and nothing has chenged. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Eve has come and gone and he spend it with his children who live in different states. I’ve been following the relationship post this week and I’m going to take a look at codependency. We are both divorced empty nesters. My expectation is spending time with him on the weekends or when its convenient during the week. He’s comfortable seeing me once a week. I want more time with him. I’ve mentioned spending more time and not being included in his life. He says he’s going to do better but hasn’t. I feel like I might be settling… Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

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