Have you ever heard this saying, “Happy wife, happy life?” Or, “It’s my job to make my husband happy?” Or, “He just doesn’t make me happy?” I so often hear people talking about being responsible for someone else’s happiness or holding someone responsible for their satisfaction in life. Think about the pressure of that statement, but also the lack of personal responsibility.
If someone else is responsible for my happiness, then what exactly is my responsibility? To passively wait for them to behave exactly the way I want them to? Not only is that lazy, but it’s also taking away all choice and responsibility for finding my own happiness in life. It’s the perfect victim mentality if you want to not own your own destiny.
On the other hand, what if you were responsible for your own happiness and your partner was responsible for themselves as well? Would this mean you wouldn’t do things that your partner enjoyed? Of course not. Just the opposite. However, if your partner wasn’t happy, you wouldn’t put the burden on yourself to turn that around. Maybe you’d be a partner in their happiness, but not the one ultimately responsible.
When we own our own happiness, we get to choose how we feel regardless of what is going on around us. My partner is angry and yelling? I don’t have to engage in that. My partner wants me to do something that I don’t want to do and thus they are upset with me? That’s their problem and not mine. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do things to make your partner happy. But rather that your partner’s happiness shouldn’t depend on you doing what he or she wants.
I remember a psychology professor teaching our class about the word and the concept of “enmeshment”. She told us it’s a version of enabling in that we are so enmeshed or entwined with other’s feelings that we take on their emotions as our own. This is not only draining, but ultimately enables them to not take full responsibility for themselves.
Being responsible for anyone’s happiness but our own is the biggest and most burdensome relationship lie. It’s not that we have a lack of feelings or empathy for our loved ones, but rather that we have a detached involvement. We hear them, we empathize or even sympathize, but we know and believe that their emotions belong to them and our emotions belong to each of us. It’s empowering for both people in a relationship to believe and live this.
So start today! Own your own happiness and let your loved ones do the same. Watch how you each will grow and thrive when you take responsibility for yourself, your feelings, and how you approach the world. Let me know how you do.
Lisa Kaplin, Psy. D., CPC is a professional certified life and executive coach, psychologist, and professional speaker. She helps people tackle that “One day I’ll do this and then I’ll be happy” goal, today. You can reach Lisa at Lisa@lisakaplin.com or lisakaplin.com. This article was originally published on Lisa’s blog.
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