Happiness for One Has Never Been More Necessary
Your relationship status doesn’t matter; your happiness does
It would be pretty bold of me to say that relationship status means nothing right now. When faced with global lockdown, of course it matters who we’re locked down with in our homes.
For people in abusive relationships, life has never been more dangerous. For people in unhappy relationships, life has likely never been so unhappy. For people in long-distance relationship, it’s never been more uncertain. And for people who are single, loneliness may be more apparent than it’s ever been.
Times are stressful in a way they’ve never been before for most of us. I have a near-constant hum of anxiety, and every night, I am plagued by nightmares. Yes, I would love to have my partner’s presence as a support during this anxious time, but since that’s not possible, I do my best to manage on my own.
I’ve long advocated for happiness for one, and it’s never been more necessary than it is right now.
My happiness doesn’t come from my partner. It comes from me. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t add to my own happiness; he certainly does. But he’s not the reason for it.
Regardless of our relationship status, learning to source happiness for ourselves has never been more important. Our worlds have been reduced to necessary errands, long walks, and our homes. Our social lives have been made entirely virtual, and for some of us, our love lives have had to make this transition, too.
While a pandemic raises our collective anxiety, personal peace and happiness isn’t about external circumstance but rather an internal way of being.
I learned a long time ago, deep into the wrong relationship, that if I wanted to be happy I’d have to source that myself. I’d already figured out that the disastrous relationship I was in would never bring me happiness. I got very good at paying attention to the small joys of life. I learned to make plans independent of a partner who had no desire to spend time with me. I began creating my own happiness even though I wasn’t at all happy with my circumstances.
When I left that relationship, I got to learn this lesson again from a new perspective. I met someone who centered his happiness on me. At first, I was flattered by the attention — likely because I’d had so little of it before. But then I realized the danger of being someone’s joy. If his entire happiness was based entirely on me and our relationship, then that meant his unhappiness was equally dependent on me.
Soon, every bad day became my fault. Every bad mood meant I was failing in my role of delivering to him his self-worth, validation, and good feeling. Every small annoyance became my fault. What was once undisguised admiration and near-worship became increasingly insidious verbal abuse. His bad moods were taken out on me, the one who had let him down. When I called out these behaviors, the gaslighting began.
When I was finally able to extricate myself from this situation, I realized something important:
I never again wanted to be the reason for someone’s happiness.
It was a learning experience, one I wouldn’t have had in the previous relationship. It reinforced this idea that we have to source our own happiness rather than relying on others to provide it for us. Both partners need to be able to come to a relationship self-reliant enough to provide their own esteem and sense of well-being.
It prepared me for the relationship I have now. I’ve learned to create my own joy, and he knows how to create his. The pressure isn’t on each other or the relationship to serve that role. Our relationship is about love and connection, not about providing each other with something we’re missing.
We’re not two halves creating a whole but rather two whole humans creating something special together with our relationship. The relationship isn’t our completion; it’s just a beautiful addition to the lives we’ve created for ourselves.
Right now, I don’t feel happy. I mostly feel stressed. That’s the outside circumstance. I know that if this circumstance were to change, if our lives were to go back to the way they were before, I would return to my internal happiness. It hasn’t left me; I’m just dealing with new stressors.
Regardless of our relationship status, life is providing us enough stress without the added pressure of expecting someone else to make us feel happy. Not only does this pressurize our relationships, placing an undue burden on them, but it also ignores the fact that our feelings of joy and self-worth fall under the category of personal responsibility. I would hate to think that my partner relied entirely on me to fulfill some missing quality in his life. I’ve had that relationship, and not only is that an unfair expectation, but it also signals codependence and, often, abuse.
While the stress of our current predicament doesn’t leave a ton of space for feeling joy, it can be a valuable time to source if we base our happiness entirely on external circumstance or if we’ve made internal provisions for our well-being.
Happiness dependent on external circumstances looks like basing how we feel on what’s happening around us — what other people are saying or doing or how we’re impacted by the world around us. In Psychology, this is referred to as an external locus of control. When we base on our world view on this, our happiness or unhappiness is dependent on something or someone other than ourselves.
An internal locus of control acknowledges that our own actions and perceptions dictate how we feel regardless of outside circumstances. People with an internal locus of control take personal responsibility for their feelings and reactions and perceive the world from a perspective of empowerment.
If you haven’t already determined which perspective you have, you can find out here.
For those who have an external locus of control, it’s possible to cultivate an internal one. It’s also never been more essential. We need to be able to shift the responsibility for our well-being onto our own shoulders because no one else has the ability to imbue us with a sense of completion.
Once we take back our power and accept that we’re responsible for our own well-being, we can start taking steps to care for ourselves during this challenging time. I may feel anxiety more than anything else, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do things in service of feeling happier. Instead of calling my partner up and expecting him to do something about my feelings, I look for ways to feel better. I go for a long walk or play a favorite song. I look for beauty in my environment or watch my favorite movie. Sometimes, I do talk it out with my partner, but the intention is to share and not to shift the responsibility for how I’m feeling.
The perfect relationship with the perfect person won’t ever make us happy — not just because perfection doesn’t exist. Life is going to keep changing and keep throwing challenges our way. That’s the nature of it. If we allow every bit of how we feel to be impacted by these changes, life will only seem difficult and impossible.
If, however, we own responsibility for our feelings and reactions, we’ll feel empowered enough to make the choices that bring the kind of changes we want. Life will stop happening to us, and we’ll start creating the lives we want regardless of the events outside of our control. The world can shrink down to four walls, and we can still learn to be happy inside them — or what passes for happiness when we’re all riddled with stress. We can find ways of making our lives bearable, inserting joy into even the most stress-filled days.
Happiness for one isn’t just possible; it’s the only serving size it comes in.
It’s never been more important to find our joy regardless of relationship status or outside circumstance. If we haven’t embraced it yet, there’s never been a better — or more important — time.
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