Will Smith said it best: “You cannot make a person happy… You can make a person smile. You can make a person feel good. You can make a person laugh. But, whether or not a person is happy is deeply and totally and utterly out of your control.”
Let me rephrase that.
Your happiness is your responsibility.
Within a relationship, you can support your lover, have fun with them, and enjoy the wonders that life has to offer. But you cannot make them happy.
Happiness is something entirely internal.
I dated a lot of men, several of whom I barely had any interest in. But I dated them because I was unhappy, and I thought they could fill everything I was missing in myself. It took way too many boyfriends for me to finally realize my happiness wasn’t someone else’s responsibility. And that’s probably why my relationships kept getting progressively worse and worse.
I took a year off dating and focused on myself. That was scary AF. I didn’t know how to be alone.
But I trudged through and built a life that made me happy. I did activities that lit up my curiosity, took myself on dates, and did all the things I always wanted to do but didn’t because of who I dated (think: dyed my hair pink).
And what that taught me for the relationship I’m currently in is this: I need to be more selfish.
My happiness isn’t something I’m going to come to my boyfriend for. I made that mistake too many times. I know better now.
I had a conversation with the new beau that self-preservation is of the utmost importance to me in our relationship. Yes, I will be selfish at times. But it will also make me a better partner.
In past relationships, I showed up as an insecure wreck with my past traumas bleeding out every hole in my body (you’re welcome for that visual). I came to these men with a pretty facade, but once that came down, things were quite the opposite.
When I took a break from relationships, I worked with a therapist on a lot of my limiting beliefs and traumas. He helped me come to an understanding as to why I dated the kind of men I did. I talked about my past to uncover how it affects me today. He helped me work on being more in touch with my authentic self.
I realized that I was unhappy with my life, myself, and the people I chose to let in.
And you know how I fixed all of that? Focusing just on myself.
I started working towards building a career I loved and felt proud of.
I began with writing on Medium about past relationships and what I learned from them. What blossomed was being able to support myself doing something I loved.
I picked up old hobbies I let fall to the wayside over the years.
In high school, I loved drawing. It’s all I ever did. In the margins of my notes, on the side of tests, literally anything with paper.
I fostered my friendships that I truly valued.
Instead of spending every waking moment at a boyfriend’s house, I prioritized my friends. And while doing so, I realized who was worth investing my time into and who was actually toxic.
I created boundaries I never had.
And that was magical. I stopped putting up with “games” from guys. I refused to be treated like someone’s second thought. I stopped saying yes to everything for the sake of other people’s happiness.
I began being selfish.
Because in this life, only number one is going to look out for number one.
My boyfriend is incredible, and I am thankful for him every day. We put in the effort to make sure the other knows we care for them. I do my best to be a great partner and try to enjoy the present with him.
But I show up as my best self for him, and everyone else in my life, by prioritizing myself first.
My happiness leaks through into all aspects of my life. And since we established that happiness is an inside job, I need to check in with myself and preserve my identity outside of the relationship.
When we engulf ourselves in our relationship, you risk losing the magic of what makes you you. Codependency is a very real condition within romantic relationships. It causes a lot of distress for the person and their partner.
The responsibility for your happiness lies in your hands; the same goes for your partner. Creating a fruitful life in which you both have your separate hobbies and friends actually creates a better foundation for your relationship.
So remember, in your relationship, be selfish. It’s the best thing you could possibly do for your partner.