Are you secretly hoping that you can find someone who will love you and make you happy? If so you are going to be sadly disappointed.
No one else can be the source of your happiness.
Are you secretly hoping that your loving attention can make someone else happy? I hope not because that thought leads to disillusionment.
Happiness is a personal choice.
As a Marriage and Family therapist I want to set the record straight.
You are the only one who is capable of making yourself happy.
Your partner is the only one who can make himself/herself happy.
Every time that you talk yourself out of doing something that you love because your partner doesn’t want to join you, you erode your personal joy.
Every time a married couple fails to encourage each other to do what they love, the relationship suffers. An invisible downward spiral is created. I have seen this over and over in the counseling office. It looks like this.
1. We don’t take responsibility for our own happiness.
2. We start to be lethargic and we lose our personal joy.
3. We look at our partner with less interest.
4. We blame them for being boring etc.
5. We zero in on the negative in our partner.
6. We start to fantasize about someone out there who could make us feel happy.
7. If we stay in our marriage we distance, we shut down, and we live with resentment and bitterness.
8. We make poor choices. We may leave our marriage emotionally. We may use substances to create a pseudo-happy state. We may have an emotional or sexual affair or we file for divorce. Why? This person didn’t do what they were supposed to. They didn’t make us happy.
I wish you could sit in my counseling office and listen to the people who one or two years after their divorce acknowledge that they were married to a good person. My client, often tearfully, says “I was blaming him/her for not doing something I was responsible to do for myself.”
The question of the day is how can I foster my own happiness?
I would like to suggest five ways.
1. Own Your Own Preferences (don’t abandon yourself)
Have you let your partner distract you from loving and living your own life?
This week I sat with a client who used to go to the beach two or three times a week to watch the sunset. Her soul filled with both the beauty and the majesty of the ocean. Guess what she hadn’t been to the beach at sunset in seventeen years. Why?
You guessed it. Seventeen years ago she asked her husband to go with her and he didn’t want to. She stayed home with him instead of doing what she loved.
Before you judge her too harshly ask yourself these questions.
Who is it that I used to be?
What did I used to enjoy doing that I haven’t done in forever?
Why did I let that go?
Every healthy, loving relationship involves some sacrifice. Perhaps we don’t get to do what we want on a certain day because there is something on the schedule that we have deemed more important. The tragedy here was that she had abandoned and sacrificed herself in the name of love.
2. Savor Pleasure (don’t let the moment pass unaware)
How often do you enjoy the moment? Do you focus on the here-and–now or is your focus more often on the past or future? We can stop and enjoy the pleasure of special events, weddings or vacations. Yet how many of us pause and consciously enjoy the pleasure of the moment that we are in?
Another client shared how busyness had robbed he and his wife of consciously enjoying the time that they had together. As a result, even though he loved his wife, he was lonely in his marriage.
We are all capable of slowing down and learning to savor the moment we are experiencing right now. Appreciating life’s moments contributes to our happiness and the joy of living. Research has reinforced that time affluence and enjoying the moments in your life predicts happiness more than monetary affluence.(Fred Bryant, Joseph Veroff)
Multitasking is the enemy of savoring.
When is the last time you really hugged your spouse and were present with them in that moment?
3. Keep A Gratitude Journal (don’t be a fault finder)
Even when we are unaware we are constantly talking to ourselves. So often our self-talk is guilt inducing, competitive, fearful, anxious or pessimistic. The content of the conversation that we have with ourselves directly affects our happiness or lack of it.
“One word of destructive self-criticism does about 10 times as much damage to your self- esteem as does a word of criticism
from someone else.”
(Phillip C. McGraw, Self Matters, p.201)
What if you caught yourself doing something well and you recorded it in a gratitude journal? Do you think that might affect your happiness?
When I was a little girl one of my favorite games was finding what was wrong with a picture. Unfortunately that well honed skill can be used on my husband. He doesn’t appreciate it and I certainly do not benefit.
What if I made it my personal goal to catch my husband doing things that I appreciate? Do you think that might affect my personal happiness?
We have control over this. The reason I suggest that you record this somewhere is that you can revisit your list.
If you would make it a daily habit to jot down three examples of personal success and three of your mate doing or saying something that you value, it could redirect your thinking. I believe that you would be more aware of personal growth and be more grateful for your partner’s contributions to your relationship.
4.Stretch Out Of Your Comfort Zone (don’t get stuck in a rut)
Truly happy people seem to have an intuitive grasp of the reality that sustained happiness is not just about doing things that you like. It also requires growth and adventuring beyond the boundaries of one’s comfort zone.
Our brain is wired to attend to things that are novel.
Curiosity is required to move out of the familiar. Anxiety is the result. The novel always leads to feelings of discomfort and vulnerability yet from this springboard we often discover delight. Our favorite marriage question is this:
When is the last time that you did something for the first time?
If it has been too long for you to remember, start now. Your happiness depends on it. So rather than grabbing pizza and a burger why not experiment with African or Indian cuisine? Oh yes, there is the risk that you might not like it but there is also the possibility that you will love it. It just might become a new favorite.
5. Laugh At Yourself (don’t be a stick in the mud)
When is the last time that you laughed so hard that you could barely catch your breath? When did you kick off those sensible shoes, dance up a storm, jump on a trampoline, or chase one another around the bedroom? If you can’t remember you may be fun-impaired. It is a wasted day if laughter has been absent from it.
God is a comedian whose audience is afraid to laugh.
H. L. Mencken
Are you fun? Do you approach life with a sense of humor? How much joy and laughter can you stand? Lee Ann Womach had an amazing song out on the country western charts. In it she suggests that her daughter choose the dance rather than sitting it out on the sidelines. Do you choose to dance or are you afraid that you might look silly? I hope not. We all look silly but what fun we have and frankly who is watching anyway. Probably one or two less than we think.
Take responsibility for your own happiness. It will revolutionize your relationship.
Warning: If these suggestions seem absolutely impossible to you, please get to your doctor’s for a physical, to a therapist to talk about your situation and to a psychiatrist. You may be suffering from depression. If so it will be impossible for you to choose happiness.
Until our next Conscious Lover’s Blog…