We Don’t Want Our Friends To Be Happy

We say we want our friends to be happy, because of course we’re supposed to want our friends to be happy, but when a friend says he or she is happy — or when several friends say they are happy, for reasons that somehow seem more perfect than the last reason given — we publically congratulate, wish well, hope for the best, but internally we are pricking specially made voodoo dolls with pins so sharp, we hope these friends of ours feel the pinch for weeks, if not longer.

Not me, you might be thinking. I love when my friends are happy.

But you don’t. Not really. Because when a friend is happy, and when this happiness is shared with you — and what better defines a friendship than the ability to share ups and downs, but mostly ups, since who wants to share downs? — you can’t wait for the happiness to end, because this happiness sheds light on your unhappiness, and your unhappiness, when lit by someone else’s happiness, is uglier darker more debilitating than when the people around you are similarly distraught unhappy drinking to feel better.

Admit it. The last time your best friend told you about a stellar date or about a first time that became a second, and then a third, or when your best friend trilled the news that he had gotten a raise a new job a corner office, you celebrated and you congratulated and you made the obligatory gestures and noises we make when we are obliged to gesture and make noise, but you couldn’t wait for the job to suck, because your job sucks and no matter how many resumes you send out, no one calls back and no matter how many interviews you go on, you never get the new job the raise the corner office.

A new baby? Hope it cries all night. A long-overdue weight loss? Nothing you can do about those thighs. A new apartment? Hope the neighbors are loud.  Sold your first novel? Hope it ends up remaindered.

We get unhappy. We understand unhappy. We can solve unhappy. Try harder. Pick better. Do more. Don’t worry. Remember that it gets better. But happy? We don’t know what to do with happy because happy feels fragile and illusory. We don’t get happy because we can’t plan for happy, and those moments when we feel happy, part of you — of us — is waiting for the feeling to pass, for a bird to sh-t on your shirt or a car to cut you off or your coffee to spill, ending your happy and bringing you closer to normal, which is not happy and maybe even not unhappy, but somewhere in the middle, getting by, wishing for more, settling for less.

Because how can we appreciate happy if we haven’t slugged through and survived unhappy? Which you will. Survive and slug through, because happy is possible; just ask that friend you publicly wish well and secretly can’t wait to see fail. TC mark

image – Antony Griffiths


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  • Anonymous

    It’s not that I don’t want my friends to be happy, I just don’t want them to be happier than me.

    • http://stefyania.tumblr.com stefyania

      oh we made that a drinking game though…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1580441990 Kim Brobeck Hill

    Note to self: Don’t make friends with William Henderson. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

     I’ve never taken personal happiness as so personal…I know without friends/family/advisers, I wouldn’t get far in life…so I guess I’m saying I’d hope that my happiness is communal.  Take a look at the list of acknowledgments I put together, and you’ll get what I mean. 

    I will admit that I do experience a bit of envy when I see friends getting far in life, but I attempt to use it as a flame under my feet to do more…I’m at a point in my life where that flame is burning hot.  Grrr. 

  • Erin

    This is accurate.

  • aggle

    nah i’m sincerely glad for my friends achievements and happiness, this is wack

    life is short and hard if you see someone else succeeding why bring that downnah

  • http://www.nicholeexplainsitall.com EarthToNichole

    It’s not that we don’t want our friends to be happy. We just don’t want them to be more successful than we are.

  • loo

    self awareness —> immature bitchiness justified

  • Rishtopher

    I don’t think anyone genuinely wants to see their friends fail or vice versa. I think it’s just that people get annoyed at “humblebragging” and just wish for it to be over. 

    I kind of feel like people who are truly happy about stuff don’t normally bring it up. ‘Cause when you’re happy, you don’t know you’re happy, you just feel it.

    • Janey


  • http://www.twitter.com/clowve Joyce

    Only Aquariuses get this. Aquariuses are wallowers.

    • kgb kgbb

      Wallowers.  Made me laugh twice! :-)

  • AJ

    I really like commas and wished you used them more. But you’re engaging so there’s that.

    • a.


  • Bealtaine

    I want my friends to be happy but I prefer when those happy moments to happen when I’m there.Stupidly selfish but what are you gonna do?

  • kgb kgbb

    Like an old school friend who has a hot husband, 2 beautiful kids, 2 expensive cars, a HUUUGGGEEEE house, great social life, tons of friends, and is ALWAYS HAPPY.
    When did I miss the happy bus?

  • Tori Johnston95

    I love when my friends are happy. There’s so much misery going around that any bit of happiness is infectious to me. Of course, that could just be because I’m generally at least somewhat content in life and I like to allow the happiness they’re feeling to affect me. I’m one of those obnoxious “glass half full” people.

  • 17

    And I always felt so evil… Nicely put.

  • Ohai

    “We don’t know what to do with happy because happy feels fragile and illusory.”

    accurate. like it.

  • macgyver51

    Maybe you just don’t understand what it means to be a friend.

  • http://twitter.com/sophiezhao Sophie Zhao

    We want our friends to do well. But not better than ourselves.

  • http://twitter.com/Rockstarwakafs Anti-idiot

    thats very true.

  • Suzy

    I can’t say I always agree. it feels so much worse to see a friend dear to you unhappy than it does to see her/him happy.

  • alice

    This article and comment section are why I abstain from ALL interpersonal relationships. I like to keep everyone at a comfortable distance. I’ve got a lot of acquaintances with whom I barely speak and all my newly ex-friends LOVE to see me in misery… or at least it satisfies the status quo.

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