Once upon a time, I went through a very painful divorce. It was so easy to blame my spouse for my unhappiness. After all, he cracked open our family on a sunny afternoon and started another one.
Just like that.
Lately, I have been speaking to a number of clients who have broken up or are going through rough times with their partners. The following statements often come up:
He’s just not making me happy any more.
I’m going to look for a new relationship, one that will finally bring me real happiness.
So, are you and your partner responsible for each other’s happiness?
THE SPOILER – Each person in the relationship is responsible for their own happiness.
Many of us are taught that once we reach adulthood, life should be about the power of self-responsibility.
If we are to lead satisfying and independent lives, we should improve upon them daily.
On the other hand, what happens when our self-reliance muscles are underdeveloped and we can’t depend on ourselves for happiness solutions?
As a person grieving the loss of my marriage, I felt like I was walking in a heavy fog.
I naively thought that something or someone would bring me clarity. YES, then I would know the direction I was going in.
Who was I kidding thinking someone owed me clarity, or should take care of me and fill my needs?
And then the terrifying thought set in; no one was coming to rescue me or to spare me the need to come to terms with my own misery.
I had to face the inescapable recognition that I alone am the owner of my life and that I had to figure out what would make me happy.
I can’t begin to tell you how this journey helped me grow, saved me years of wasted time and frustration, and gave me the tools to achieve successful future romantic relationships.
So, if you’re jumping into a new relationship or needing to fix the one you are in, let me challenge you to do a couple of things:
- Commit to the idea that your partner is not responsible for your happiness.
- Commit to the idea that you are not responsible for your partner’s happiness.
When it comes down to it, as human beings we hope our relationships will make us happier than being alone. And, they should. After all, we need each other.
However, your life and happiness are your responsibilities, not your partner’s.
While self-responsibility is an easy concept, it’s often hard to come to terms with it.
As a practicing psychotherapist, I regard my primary task to assist people to access strengths they may not know they possess or do not know how to access them, so they can cope more effectively with the challenges of life.