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“My partner’s a good person but I’m not happy”

Can you be in a good relationship but not happy?

It’s a difficult internal dilemma. Your partner’s a good person and you feel like you should be happy, but you’re not. 

We’re conditioned to think that good people make good partners, and relationships end because of wrongdoing or conflict. But this is an over-simplification. The reality is, it’s much more complex than that. 

Struggling to find happiness with a nice partner 

Being in a relationship with a nice person doesn’t mean you’re immune from feeling incompatible. Nor does it mean that you’ll automatically be happy because your other half isn’t a bad person. Unfortunately, it can make it harder to decide what to do.


Firstly, there’s the guilt. If your partner’s a good person, how can you do this to them? “There are people in unhappy relationships with partners not half as decent as mine, who stick it out. Why can’t I?”. 

Disrupting the status quo 

Then, there’s the worry that separation will damage the relationship you have. By disrupting the status quo, will you make things worse? Determining whether the risks outweigh the future benefits is not easy. 

Am I being selfish? 

There’s also the worry that putting yourself first and initiating a separation is selfish. The last thing you want to do is hurt them. But then ignoring your own feelings might mean denying your own future happiness.  

What will others think? 

Perhaps, it’s not just your partner’s reaction you worry about. Caring what your family and friends will think about your decision is natural. However, anticipating judgement and how you might defend your decision is anxiety-inducing and unlikely to help you.  

Being misunderstood 

The fear that your choices won’t be understood can also prevent you from moving forward. When the reasons are subjective and nuanced, it’s more difficult to explain why you want to end your relationship with ‘one of the good ones’.  

Unhelpful opinions 

Well-meaning suggestions that relationships take work; “nobody’s perfect”, “it’s just a difficult phase” and “you’ll work it out in time”, can unhelpfully persuade you to deprioritise your own happiness. 

But what about your feelings? 

The dynamics of any successful relationship involve a complex blend of factors like compatibility, emotional connection, intimacy, shared values, and good communication. Not to mention external factors like health and financial security. The sheer number of variables involved means it is so much more complicated than just kindness.  

Sometimes, it’s essential to name and separate your personal needs and aspirations from those of your partner. Acknowledging your individual needs doesn’t diminish the ‘goodness’ of your partner; but it is an important step towards understanding and cultivating your own happiness. 

Clearing up the legalities of divorce 

So, what are the legalities of divorcing a partner that hasn’t done anything wrong? 

The mindset that there needs to be a ‘good reason’ for divorce hasn’t fully shifted, despite no-fault divorce being introduced in April 2022. Since then, there is no longer a legal requirement to pin blame on someone, or the need to shoehorn your reasons for wanting to divorce into one of five technical categories.  

Instead, all that’s needed is for one or both partners to feel as though their marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down’ – or to put it another way, that you no longer want to be in your relationship. 

“I’m not sure what to do for the best” 

If you’re preoccupied with being unhappy in your relationship, but not making any progress, a relationship coach or discernment counsellor could help you reach a decision. Their support might help you gain clarity and confidence about the direction you want to move in. 

Like any major decision, take your time to weigh things up carefully before settling on what you want to do. 

Perhaps, ask yourself what you would do if you knew everything was going to be okay.  

“I’ve decided I want to separate” 

After time spent questioning your feelings, it can be tempting to quickly get things started when you’ve reached a decision. But don’t rush. 

Taking your time to carefully lay the foundations for what comes next and giving your other half time to come to terms with what’s happening, can help preserve good feeling for the future. 

Be honest. Your separation deserves transparency and openness. 

Honour the relationship you had by approaching conversations with love and respect. Showing your partner that you value them still can set the tone for an amicable and collaborative divorce. 

Leaning on the experts 

Empower yourself to make decisions that are fair to you both by speaking to a family lawyer. Even in amicable separations, finances and children can become sticking points. Leaning on expert advice for the things that matter most means you can make informed choices that will enable you both to move forward positively. 


Making the decision to split from a partner involves a great deal of soul-searching, especially if you feel like you should be happy. However, being in a relationship with a nice person does not guarantee compatibility or automatic happiness. Even if your other half is a good human being, it’s your right to pursue happiness and choose what happens in your life.  

Useful resources

Thinking about divorce or separation?

What to do if you think your marriage is over

A beginner’s guide to trial separation

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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