The Right Way To Explain To Your Wife You’re Unhappy (No, It’s Not A Sad Face Emoji)

By Dr. Kurt Smith

January 10, 2024   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

The Right Way To Explain To Your Wife You’re Unhappy (No, It’s Not A Sad Face Emoji)

No one is happy all the time. That’s actually a good thing – feeling the lows allows you to recognize and appreciate the highs. But when you’re unhappy with your marriage and that feeling doesn’t change, it can be a whole different story.

Living with unhappiness in your marriage shouldn’t be accepted as normal or “just the way it is.” Making the right changes, however, can be really difficult. Especially when those changes start with explaining to your spouse how you really feel.

Beginning a conversation like this can be particularly difficult for men. Men have a notoriously hard time not only talking about their feelings, but often even recognizing them. So, it’s no surprise that many men struggle when it comes to talking to their wives about feeling unhappy in their marriage, and so often just live with it or have affairs.

What’s an unhappy guy supposed to do?         

Understand The Meaning of Your Feelings

The first thing you need to do is be clear with yourself about what you’re experiencing and whether it’s actually unhappiness. Yes, it seems like that should be a rather straight forward determination, but “unhappy” is a pretty generic word and a catchall for a whole host of other feelings.

People often confuse unhappiness with their partner with dissatisfaction in their lives, or even depression. Before you go telling your wife that things aren’t working and you want a divorce, you owe it to her and yourself to really understand what it is your feeling.

Understand The Meaning of Your Feelings
Photo: positiveparentingsolutions

In order to gain that clarity, ask yourself the following questions:

  •       Do you find yourself looking for distractions or ways to avoid your wife?
  •       Are there negative, nagging feelings you continue to try to ignore?
  •       Have you become apathetic about what she does, where she goes, or whether she’s even around?
  •       Does the idea of being intimate seem like a take it or leave it choice? Even a turn-off?
  •       Are there other people you’re more interested in engaging with than your wife?
  •       Do you know you need help but haven’t made any effort to get it?

Answering yes to more than one of these questions is a good indication that you’re unhappy with your marriage. But before you put this down and start fretting over how to tell her, go ahead and ask yourself these additional questions too.

  •       Do you reminisce about the way things used to be between you?
  •       Do you wish she would do more things with you, or wish she’d show more interest in you?
  •       Can you picture scenarios with your wife that would make you happy?
  •       Do you feel like she’s preoccupied or ignores you?
  •       Does it feel like kids, work, or household issues are a higher priority for her than you are?
  •       Do you still love her?

If you’ve answered yes to those questions then what you may be feeling is dissatisfaction that’s led to unhappiness.

Dissatisfaction implies that satisfaction could be possible if changes were to be made. Satisfaction is a precursor to happiness.

If you are just generally unhappy and there aren’t any particular changes that you can envision making a difference, then the problems in your marriage may present a bigger challenge.

Figure Out If It’s You, Her, Or Us?

Once you have a clearer idea about what you’re feeling, the next thing you need to do is determine why you feel this way. Is the source of your unhappiness you, her, or the combination of the two of you together?

Often marriage problems are less about you and your spouse as a couple and more about what you’re each experiencing individually and how you’re handling it – or not handling it.

For instance, perhaps you imagined you’d be at the top of your career, financially set, and driving a fabulous car at this point in your life. If the reality instead is that you’re still working your way up the corporate ladder, have had some financial setbacks, are rocking a cheerio-laden minivan, and having marital issues, you may be experiencing (or on the verge of) a midlife crisis.

A midlife crisis, or even just personal feelings of dissatisfaction, frustration, or failure, can create unhappiness in a marriage. This, however, often has more to do with you than it does the marriage itself.

Figure Out If It’s You, Her, Or Us?
Photo: authorlove

The same can be said for your wife. Is she experiencing all those things and possibly dealing with her own midlife crisis? If so, then some of the problems in the marriage could be originating with her.

It’s important to understand, though, that even if the unhappiness has a “you” origin or a “her” origin, it’s still ultimately an “us” problem.

Part of any happy marriage is effective communication. Neither one of you will be happy all the time, so being able to talk to each other when things are bothering you, or you’re wrestling with internal stress is crucial.

On the other hand, if you two have developed fundamentally different priorities, can’t see eye-to-eye on them, or have what seems like irreconcilable differences, then the primary source of unhappiness probably has more to do with the way you’re communicating and interacting with each other.

This is an “us” problem that you’ve both contributed to and will need to work together to fix.

Have A Conversation, Don’t Send A Text

So, now that you’ve narrowed it down a bit, the final step is to start the conversation. Notice I said, start.

If you’re feeling unhappy in your marriage, nothing you can say during an initial conversation will miraculously change things. What it will do, however, is open the door and begin to set the stage for conversations about the changes that need to be made.

Have A Conversation, Don’t Send A Text
Photo: shape

Try using the following outline to start the dialogue. Explain to your wife that…

  •       You’re dissatisfied with the way things are and it’s making you unhappy, or
  •       You’re generally unhappy and don’t want to stay that way, and
  •       It could be due to how you feel about your current situation, or
  •       You feel like she’s dealing with things in a way that’s affecting your marriage, and
  •       That neither of you are communicating effectively

Using some version of this conversation starter, can help you begin to turn the dial in the right direction.

If you’re unhappy in your marriage there’s no reason to stay that way. Making the necessary changes is possible if you’re willing to start the conversation.

Dr. Kurt Smith

Dr. Kurt Smith is the Clinical Director of Guy Stuff Counseling & Coaching, a Northern California counseling practice that specializes in helping men and the women who love them. His expertise is in understanding men, their partners, and the unique relationship challenges couples face today. Dr. Kurt is a lover of dogs, sarcasm, everything outdoors, and helping those seeking to make their relationships better.

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