When a friend gets into a new relationship, we automatically ask, “Are you happy?”
It’s instinct – a well-intentioned one. We care about our friend’s happiness and this is a factor. Yet the question starts to leave the implication that happiness is the product of the relationship, and exists only as a result.
It’s the same thing when a friend moves to be with the person they love. They can be happy now, we say.
We’re taught to find happiness in a partner. When we talk about marriage, we say that we want someone to make us happy for the rest of our lives. When couples wed, we write cards reminding them they’re responsible for keeping their new spouse happy.
Wedding vows are not actually the culprit. Traditional vows focus on unconditional love, not on happiness. Corinthians says love is patient and kind, it doesn’t say love is happiness.
While it pains me to say this, Disney is more to blame. It’s the phenomenon of being whisked off by a prince that promoted the notion that one person would be our source of happiness – our only source of happiness. (Princess is sad and alone. Prince saves Princess. Princess is happy because of Prince. End scene.)
We’ve romanticized relationships almost to our detriment. A healthy, positive relationship is the bliss of comfort, satisfaction and knowledge of another person that we sought and found and loved. It brings happiness, there’s no doubt. Love should bring happiness, but it shouldn’t provide the foundation for your happiness.
Relying on a relationship to make us happy is putting all our eggs in one basket. What happens when the basket breaks? If our relationship is what’s sewing our happiness together, then what’s to stop us from unraveling?
Nothing. Nothing is stopping our happiness from disintegrating if our relationship does. If we hand over our happiness to someone else, we surrender our control.
We each deserve someone who knows how important our happiness is and wants to nurture it. Someone who will tend to our happiness as they would a plant they were determined to grow. We don’t need someone that can hold our happiness in one hand, because that gives them license to drop it.
We commonly assert that a relationship would make us happy when we’re seeking commitment.
We’ll be happier because then we’ll be in a relationship, which we can use to leverage as happiness. It will give the illusion of happiness, because if we can get him or her to commit then we will get our way. We will get control and validation. We reach points in our life when we just need one thing to go our way. Just one. If we can lock down the love part of the life equation, we can check something off of our list, and we’ll be happier.
Except that it won’t work. At best, it will be a temporary fix. Trying to take control and force a relationship is just a grab for power over someone who doesn’t want to relinquish theirs. The validation of a relationship can help support our happiness but it can’t create happiness nor will it ever be sustainable.
We need validation of self before anyone else’s can make us happy. If we stay wholly reliant on a partner’s approval, then we’re just handing over our happiness. Chasing someone else’s approval and love is taking up time we could spend seeking our own approval, our own love – the latter is the only one that can lay a foundation for happiness.