I slammed my car door shut. “Finally some peace,” I thought. My darling boyfriend and I had just gotten into an intense argument about family boundaries. In my mind, he was clearly not concerned about my happiness. Not at all.
So I was going to respond in as many un-happy ways as possible, including dramatic car exits. The more noise and grunts you make, the better you can shove your unhappiness in someone’s face, right?
The whole drive I stewed over the fact that he just would not morph into Superman coming to my every beck and call, listening to every desire or whim, and providing me with the unending happiness I totally deserved.
Sound crazy? That’s because it is, dear friends. I fell into the deep, common (yet dangerously comfortable) trap of giving up all responsibility for my own happiness.
Somewhere between car door slamming and coming back home, I realized, for the 31,594th time in my life, that my unhappiness was not coming from my darling boyfriend – who truly does care deeply about my happiness and always has – but from refusing to own the fact that I am the only person actually responsible for my emotions.
I know I’m not alone in this. I talk to so many people – especially women – who hand over their happiness to their romantic partners saying, “Here sexy lover, you are now responsible for everything positive in my life.” We don’t do this intentionally. We probably aren’t even aware it is happening, but – oh how we feel the side effects!
Why do we do we expect someone else to make us happy?
Handing over our happiness to someone else feels like a massive relief at first. If we aren’t happy, we do not have to blame ourselves, and we do not have to do the hard work of figuring how to make a U-Turn back to Happy-Ville. It doesn’t help that society has fed us the lie that men are supposed to be our Prince Charmings, here to chivalrously swoop us away from our sucky lives.
But here is the truth: Your happiness – both the momentary bliss and long-lived fulfillment – is nobody else’s job. It always and forever will be 100% your job.
1. Other People As The Source Of Your Happiness Is Not Okay
Each human being only has enough power to be the source of one person’s happy. Sure, we can spread all that happiness like glitter and share it with the world. But when it comes to creating and maintaining real individual happiness, we only have a one-size portion.
This means when you expect your man to create and maintain your happiness for you, he will fail and you will be disappointed every single time. The universe gave him the directive to maintain his own happiness. Not yours.
When it came to my darling boyfriend and I, his version of what family boundaries should look like brought him happiness, but didn’t for me. Instead of blaming him for the unhappiness I was feeling, I could (and eventually did) figure out a way to maintain my own happy boundaries without infringing upon his.
I used my brain and my personal comfort level to lead me toward a choice that made me happy. I was the source.
2. Other People As A Supplement To Your Happiness Is Okay
If it is not his job to make you happy, does that mean you are doomed to a life of unhappy relationships?!
Not at all. While you cannot rely on your partner to top off your happy tank (your job!), you also do not want a partner who constant drains your happy tank either.
He can’t source, but he can supplement. Big difference.
Think of your romantic partner as the added bonus to an already fulfilling life. If you don’t feel fulfilled or blissful, his entrance into your life will not fix that. Actually, it will probably make it more complicated.
Choose to be with somebody because they add even more joy and fulfillment to your life, not because you think they will bring some spark you cannot seem find on your own. That spark will burn out in time. And you will still be left with…. Yourself and your feelings.
3. Accept It, Change It, Or Leave It. Don’t Blame It.
I can hear the “but”s now to these first two points.
- But what if he is an abuser? Then it is his fault.
- But what if he keeps cheating on me? That is all on him.
- But he’s an addict. His poor choices are the problem.
- But what if he refuses to listen? Isn’t listening his responsibility?
You’re right. Your partner’s actions are indeed his responsibility. But the outcome of those actions as it relates to your life falls in your lap only.
If you are with an abuser, do everything in your power to leave. If he cheated, either find peace so you can regain happiness in the relationship, or leave. If you are with an addict, get help or get going. If he refuses to listen, work toward your own happiness – go to counseling, try new methods of communicating, etc. – or leave.
Don’t spend the rest of your life blaming somebody else for your unhappiness when you are fully and completely capable of trying to change or removing yourself from an unhappy situation.
Accept it. Change it. Or Leave it. All three of those are in your control and allow you to own the way you feel. In my case, I chose to change things.
4. Be Your Own Happiness
Now that we’ve gone over whose job it isn’t to make you happy. Let’s look at whose job it is to make you happy.
One of the most common negative patterns I tend to fall back into is not taking care of myself. Frequently in my life, I detour and take side roads that follow the “should” shame or the “I’m supposed to” guilt, and I abandon everything I want and need.
This leaves me unhappy. Obviously. My happy tank falls to zero. When I feel depleted or unfulfilled I can desperately scramble to latch onto my boyfriend to do that happiness-creation OR I can become my own happiness.
When I am sourcing my own positivity, it means: I am no longer reliant, I am no longer out of control, I am no longer irresponsible, I am no longer handing over my power. Instead, I am simply loving myself enough to take care of myself.
5. How Exactly Do We Make Ourselves Happy?
We may know we need to be the source of our happiness, but sometimes we aren’t sure how to do that. For so long we have been waiting rescue, we forgot how to rescue ourselves. Here are three things everybody can to do source their own happiness and not get lost in their relationships.
Learn/Remember What Makes You Happy
There are the things you need in order to be happy and the things you want in order to be happy. Both are important.
Shrugging off everything you want because you think it’s selfish is a root causes of losing your happiness in the first place. Then we do the actual selfish thing: demand somebody else provides our happiness. And when it comes to our needs, they may not feel initially thrilling. Like working out everyday. But I know that physical exercise makes me feel good in the long run.
Pay attention each time you feel good and write down what happened. Here were a few things off my lists:
- Work out consistently
- Sleep more
- Manage my money better
- Keep family boundaries that make me comfortable
- Say “no” when I feel like saying “no”
- Get manicures and pedicures at a nail salon
- Listen to my favorite music in the car
- Eat a piece of dark chocolate before bed
- Take a trip to see my girlfriends
Keep/find your own interests:
One way to source your own happiness is to keep your own interests you had before entering the relationship. Or you can find new solo interests if you lost your others along the way.
Yoga is all mine. Sure, I’ll talk about the great yoga session I had with my darling boyfriend. But I go. I learn from the teachers. I know the lessons I’m learning on my mat. It is separate from him. And it fills up my happy tank tremendously.
Keep/find your own friends:
In a similar fashion to having your own interests, keeping or finding your own friends is important. We are communal people; we need our tribes. If your partner is your only person, you will drain him of everything. So, let’s “spread the wealth,” so to speak.
Have your own friends that you can vent to, share you stories to, ask advice from, have fun with, etc. You will not only feel happier after you do, you will also remind yourself that you are capable of maintaining other relationships that help fill your tank too.Remember those friends are only supplements to your happiness, not the source. Same rules apply.
Repeat After Me: “I Am Responsible”
Taking responsibility for yourself and your feelings is the ultimate act of strength and empowerment. You are not a victim. You can’t be blown about by other people’s thoughts or emotions. You are in control.
Melody Beattie, author of the important, life-changing book, Codependent No More, created a “waiver” she suggests people sign to take responsibility for their own lives. One stipulation of that wavier says:
“I am responsible for my participation—or lack of it—in life. And I take complete responsibility for the outcomes and consequences of all decisions I make, understanding that ultimately it is my choice whether I become happy, joyous, and free or stay miserable and trapped.”