When you hear about a couple that just broke up, you probably assume they weren’t happy in their relationship.
But that’s not necessarily the case. Some breakups have to happen even when both people are happy — and they’re often the most devastating ones.
We usually think of happiness as everyone’s ultimate goal, but the truth is, there are a lot of other things people want from life and from relationships. Some people may not be satisfied with happiness alone if they’re not also learning and growing, for example. So, having doubts about a relationship you’re happy in is normal, and it doesn’t mean you’re being too picky. Being in love is not enough to help a relationship survive, and neither is being happy.
Even if happiness is your primary goal, the happiness you're feeling in your relationship could be temporary. “Falling in love releases euphoric hormones in your body such as dopamine and oxytocin,” sex educator Stef Woods, J.D. tells Bustle. “These hormones increase your sex drive and your attachment to your significant other. But these euphoric levels decrease with time. The end result for some couples is that they realize they love each other but aren't in love with each other.”
Here are some reasons to consider breaking up even when you’re happy in your relationship, because there’s a lot more to relationships than happiness:
1 You Want Different Things
Even if you’re happy right now, you won’t be happy down the line if you can’t give each other what you want in a relationship. If one of you wants kids and the other doesn’t, for example, staying together may just be postponing the inevitable, marriage and family therapist Melissa Divaris Thompson, LMFT tells Bustle.
2 Your Values Conflict
It’s actually possible to happy with someone whose morals you disagree with, as long as these things don’t come up often and you get along on the surface level — in the short-term. But in the long-term, you’ll probably get frustrated and feel like you’re compromising too much, says Thompson. You may start to feel like you have to censor yourself to avoid disagreements — and like you're not really heard when you do express yourself.
3 The People You Love Disapprove
There are problematic reasons someone might disapprove of a relationship, but if your friends or family have legitimate concerns, they may be seeing something you don’t, says Thompson. In that case, your happiness may be an “ignorance is bliss” situation.
4 Your Partner’s Not Happy
Unfortunately, happiness is not always contagious. “It is possible to be in a relationship where one person is happy and the other person is not,” licensed counselor Monte Drenner tells Bustle. “This situation can happen because each person may have different needs and expectations of the relationship and also different standards for what makes them happy.” And if we really love our partners, we ultimately want them to be happy, too.
5 The Relationship’s Not Going Anywhere
Sometimes, we’re happy for the time being, but we know we’re going to want something that lasts longer, and our current relationship is stopping us from getting that. “Wise and intuitive individuals can realize their significant other is making them happy presently but conclude that this is as good as it gets,” says Drenner. “Since they don’t want to settle for a future they don’t desire, they realize that breaking up is the best option.”
6 You Make Plans Without Considering Them
If you find yourself making short- or long-term plans as if your partner weren’t in the picture, you might subconsciously feel like the relationship has an expiration date, Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW, a therapist specializing in relationships, tells Bustle. Whether this reflects an incompatibility or just you not wanting to be in a relationship, this desire to be without them could override happiness.
7 You’re Daydreaming About Someone Else
This is normal to do occasionally, but it becomes a problem when the fantasizing is constant, says Hershenson. You may be wondering if someone else is better for you or just looking to sow your wild oats. Either way, you might grow to resent your partner for never letting you explore other options.
If you’re happy in your relationship, you may lack motivation to break up — and the breakup may even feel wrong. The good news, though, is your happiness means you can end the relationship on a positive note and keep the door open to staying friends with your ex.