Have you noticed how many people have transformed their belief in “happily ever after” into “make me happy or I’ll find someone else who will?” It’s the silent threat permeating a great number of Southern California marriages.
When personal happiness becomes our highest goal in life we become like children. Have you noticed how children hate delayed gratification, pain, boundaries, and frustration? They want to feel good all the time. As parents, we call that immaturity. Yet unfortunately, adults too often act in a similar immature, entitled way in their relationships.
As a result of this unquenchable quest for happiness, some abandon their mate, their friends and even at times their children. The people close to them are left battling feelings of insecurity, an erosion of trust and broken hearts.
The unrealistic dream that someone else is responsible for our happiness needs to be trashed!
In marriage counseling I often compare the example of the three candles used in a wedding ceremony. One candle represents the wife, one the husband and one the marriage relationship. After I have presented this visual to a couple, I ask them about each of their individual candles. What in their individual lives makes their candle glow? Often someone says, “My spouse” to which I reply, “wrong answer”.
The looks I get are fascinating at that point. I grin and say, “There is no question that your mate can light your fire,” but the glow of your individual candle is up to you. Your mate can influence you, but your happiness is your responsibility.
What makes your candle glow?
What gives your life meaning?
What do you need in your life to feel content?
The answers begin to come. Here are just a few that I have heard over 34 years of marital counseling.
- Feeling connected to and enjoying my children
- Valuing and feeling valued by my friends
- Taking care of my pets
- Feeling as if my contributions on planet earth make a difference. (Work, Volunteering)
- Pursuing goals that stretch me out of my comfort zone
- Taking personal time to restore and renew myself
- Challenging myself physically…exercise, sports, etc.
- Working on personal growth and character issues
- Reading books
- Learning something new
- Growing my personal relationship with my Higher Power, Jesus Christ
- Feeling loved by God in spite of my failures, mistakes, and inadequacies
All these things and more make our individual candles glow. They leave us feeling as if our life is full, interesting and meaningful. When we take personal responsibility for keeping our candle glowing, then we share out of fullness rather than emptiness when we get together with our mate.
If happiness is our ultimate goal and one day we find ourselves unhappy, we assume that something is horribly wrong. Since our partner is usually somewhere in the close vicinity it is easy to blame them. Why aren’t you able to make me happy? There must be something wrong with our relationship. I better find someone who can make me happy.
I only wish I could bring you into my counseling office to witness the depth of despair one or two years after a divorce, when the marriage ended because one spouse felt entitled to more happiness . I hear statements like these.
- “He was a really good person. I was bored with my life and I blamed it on him. I wish he wasn’t married to someone else.”
- “I’m still in love with her. All these gals I pursued in order to feel good about myself don’t even compare, and now my wife’s gone.”
Don’t expect your spouse to provide what only personal growth can!
Certainly as mates we can profoundly affect one another. We can encourage love and bring joy to our partner. We can even light their fire! We’re just not capable of making them happy.
Happiness is our assignment and it’s our personal challenge!
Ultimately happiness is an inside job!
Until the next Conscious Lover’s Blog…