On miserable relationships

I’ve never been in love so I’m sure there’s something I’m missing, but I just don’t understand. What is the point of staying in a relationship where you’re miserable 85% of the time? What’s so special about that 15% that makes everything else worth it? Am I right in thinking it’s really just fear of change and instability?


Where are you getting your numbers? Because if you’re surrounded by people in relationships composed of 85% misery, that speaks volumes about your potential for any kind of emotional well-being.

To be clear, the relationships you’re referring to are very unhealthy and should not be considered either normal or desirable. Misery should not be the resting state of any relationship, much less its defining characteristic.

If your friends are in relationships where they’re 85% miserable, you should distance yourself from their drama — don’t participate, and certainly don’t emulate. If your parents are the ones who are 85% miserable, you’re a little bit more fucked, but at the very least, you can start framing your parents in terms of how not to be in a relationship.

This isn’t about whether you’ve been in love. It’s about whether you’ve had any healthy relationship models in your life.


5 thoughts on “On miserable relationships

  1. The asker says:

    I dashed this off just after waking up, so in retrospect my phrasing was pretty broad, but it was prompted by my frustration with a specific friend’s relationship. She always talks about the unhealthy parts of their relationship but when I ask her why she doesn’t just leave, she goes on and on about how much she loves him and how great he is — you know, when he’s not openly insulting her. Abuse victim mindset, or just human weakness?

    • The Coquette says:

      She doesn’t leave because the relationship is meeting her needs. That’s the thing you’re having a problem understanding. It may not be healthy, but I promise, there is an underlying reason for the misery.

      Try not thinking of it as weakness. Your friend is merely doing what she knows how to do. Her misery is an expression of a learned pattern of behavior. The pattern can be unlearned, but first it has to be brought to the surface and understood.

    • I wouldn’t trust the amount of complaints vs. compliments she talks about with you as being reliable in terms of the percentage of misery vs. happiness in their relationship.

      If a friend is using you for venting purposes, then you probably are going to hear disproportionately more about her spouse’s failings. You hear all the bad stuff, but you don’t hear any of the neutral stuff, and not a lot of the good stuff unless it’s especially good.

      In this case, if he’s routinely insulting her, that doesn’t bode well. But in terms of couples in general, you really can’t know the inner workings of their relationship based on conversations with just one of them.

      I should also point out that even if it is 85/15, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a relationship should end. It may only have become bad recently, and it may be something for which there’s hope of improvement. So it really depends on how long it’s gone on and what kind of misery it is; for example, loneliness vs. abusiveness.

  2. Charlie says:

    Seeing and learning from healthy relationship models in action do make a difference, even if somebody already believes they are possible in theory. Not that you’ll ever be completely free from experiencing pain/gain firsthand even if you do this kind of introspection, but observing other people’s actions can help inform your own:

    “____ isn’t really for me because of ____ , even if this couple does it often.”
    “If I act like [insert person here], ___ will likely happen to the relationship.”
    “I will model how ____ acts in arguments, since they still respect the other person and themselves at the same time.”
    “Some negative aspects of ____ reminds me of myself. What shall I do to not fall into the same pattern? Hmm…”

    As for picking who to be around with, Coquette’s right about staying out of their relationship drama when possible. Granted, you may not always be able to (e.g. parents, helping a friend/sibling leave an abusive situation, etc.). While You can’t always pick your parents or situation, learning from them is always free game at least.

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