Somewhere throughout the evolution of relationships we as people have come to believe that we are somehow responsible for other people’s happiness (our partners, parents, children, bosses, friends, etc.). However, as beautiful of a gesture as it is to care about someone else’s well-being, feeling responsible for someone else’s happiness, as touched on in a previous blog post on The Evolution of Parenting Issues, only puts us and that relationship in a very dangerous position rather than an endearing one.
How do we make someone else happy, for instance? Is it through acts or gestures of care? Gift giving? Physical affection? Is it really the healthiest thing for that relationship to put all the responsibility of someone else’s happiness on you or your other? Or is happiness the sort of thing that we can really only obtain and experience for ourselves?
This is of course a very subjective topic where one’s opinion is undoubtedly a reflection of what “relationship” means to them. However, it is an important aspect of relationships that commonly gets overlooked. It is so engrained in society that we are supposed to make our partners and children happy, but why? Doesn’t that just blur the lines or where we end and the other person begins? Furthermore, focusing on someone else’s happiness allows us to ignore aspects of ourselves that we may be struggling to sit with or work through. In other words, feeling responsible for someone else’s happiness can be a tactful way of using that person to ignore things about ourselves – things that may be needing our attention in order for our personal life and relationship to thrive.
Of course, there has to be some sort of enjoyment or pleasure for all parties involved in order to keep the relationship going. After all, if there was no bond there would surely be little connection holding the two or more people in the relationship together in the first place. But how do we strike that perfect balance between our personal life and our relationship? How do we achieve personal satisfaction and a fulfilling relationship? What do we do?
Every now and again there are articles or studies that come out pertaining to this very question. While there is certainly some utility in the various things these publications have to offer, what we as people crave more than anything in our quest for fulfillment is to feel seen, heard, and accepted by an other – especially when there are things about ourselves that we may have a hard time seeing or accepting. There is something about that experience that makes us feel validated and welcomed by others and ourselves. The irony is that this can only happen in relation to an other. However, the difference with these relationships is that our job and responsibility in them are actually little more than to simply be in them rather than do something in them. When we try so hard to make our others happy, we can so easily be focused on doing something for them that they are unable to do for themselves. In the process, we either dedicate ourselves to cycles of frantic disappointment or make ourselves sick trying to please the other. When we do that, the relationship becomes strained and “ill.” When we take the pressure off ourselves to constantly have to be doing and can simply be, not only does the relationship improve, but we also feel better about ourselves in the relationship, which then cyclically makes the relationship all the more rewarding.
For example, as a therapist I am constantly tempted with my own desire to try to make clients happy only to find myself stuck with having to live with my own limitations as a person. Oddly enough, it is the moments when I can dispel myself of this desire and pressure to do and can simply give in to the simplicity of being with them in their struggles that the most powerful and rewarding therapeutic works actually gets done. As a result, the value of our relationship only deepens by granting the other the space to simply be, as well.