No one’s life is perfect. However, some people appear to “have it all figured out.” They seem successful and happy. In reality, everyone struggles and no one’s life is perfect. That being said, while no one and no lives are perfect, each individual experiences moments (and hopefully plenty) of love, happiness, joy, and rejuvenation. You might be thinking, “I don’t have those moments… ever. In all honesty, I hate my life.” There may be a reason you feel unhappy. There may be many reasons. Regardless, your relationships are a huge factor in determining your perceived state of happiness.
If you hate your life, then why should you scrutinize your relationships more deeply? Imagine a spider web. You can see perfectly each strand and each ring growing larger in diameter as your gaze moves away from the center. Imagine that you are the center of the web and the web itself is your life. If a tug or tear happens even on the outermost ring of the web, you, as the center, experience it. If something happens to part of the web, it affects you as well as the web. Your web is impacted by life situations such as your career, where you live, and your physical health. However, relationships can have some of the most significant impacts on your life. The metaphor of the spider web can help make sense of how relationships impact people. If you, in the center of your web, are terribly unhappy with your life, it is important to determine the different parts of your life that could be affecting you negatively. When evaluating your relationships, here are three questions to ask yourself:
Are your relationships fulfilling? Most people want significant relationships to be challenging, supportive, and/or deep. Not all of your relationships need to possess all these qualities. However, if you find that none of your relationships exhibit any of these qualities, your unhappiness might stem from having superficial relationships. Most people appreciate those who challenge them to be better and to grow, who support them unconditionally, and who give them space to be their true selves. If you lack these kinds of relationships, your unhappiness might stem from a lack of fulfillment.
Are your relationships toxic? If your relationships are filled with drama, pain, and unhealthiness, your relationships might be toxic. If you feel drained by your relationships and they make you feel worse about yourself or your life in general, your relationships might be toxic. When relationships are toxic, they suck you dry, leaving you devoid of emotions like happiness, fulfillment, and joy. If you find yourself happier when you are away from certain people, it can be a sign that those relationships are extremely unhealthy.
Are your relationships non-existent? If you find yourself struggling to think of relationships in your life, you might be suffering from a lack of closeness. You might have plenty of superficial acquaintances, but mostly find yourself alone on the weekends or the one standing off to the side at social gatherings. People are relational beings who crave belonging and connection. If you experience a deep loneliness or an insufferable sadness from a lack of belonging, you might be unhappy because you feel you have no one with which to share your life.
Contemplating these questions can help you discover if your unhappiness with your life is a result of your current relationships. This self-discovery can lead to better relationships, and as a result, a happier life.
Michelle Overman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. She also has a special interest in working with athletes and has been bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. She is in the process of becoming a Certified Mental Performance Consultant to further her expertise in sports psychology. Prior to her move to Abilene, Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families. Michelle earned a Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy and has been working in the field for 6 years.