As we say goodbye to the month of July, and Independence Day celebrations fade from our memories, here is some food for thought. (No Fourth of July leftovers – I promise!)
I spent years thinking my ex-wife’s happiness was my responsibility and when she failed to be happy, I blamed myself, assumed I was a failure as a husband and was sure our marriage was doomed. And that brought all kinds of collateral damage with it. For the record, my ex-wife did not expect me to make her happy. But somewhere along the way I picked up the erroneous belief that her happiness was my responsibility.
This past Independence Day inspired me. I decided to implement a BYOH (Bring Your Own Happiness) policy for a more independent world. On a day that celebrates the birth of our nation and our freedom from oppression and tyranny, I realized that as individuals, freedom from the dependency on others is truly empowering because we become responsible for our own results in life. But when it comes to being happy, we often look to others to make us happy! That’s not independent thinking – it’s dependency on someone else!
How about you? Do you look to others to make you happy? Are you independent enough to be your own source of happiness? Do you pull your hair out trying to make others happy? And, does the mere thought of letting others find their own happiness trigger a feeling of guilt in you?
Relieving ourselves of the responsibility of making others happy does not make us aloof, detached or uncaring. I have heard many men echo the phrase, “happy wife, happy life”. But can a man truly make his wife happy? Think about it…if it’s his responsibility to make her happy (and her responsibility to make him happy), what happens if one of them fails? If he fails to make her happy, his own happiness is jeopardized because he’s inadvertently put her in charge of keeping him happy as well. A dynamic like this will eventually take a toll on both people when one isn’t happy.
Perhaps “happy wife, happy life” was the author’s implication to men to become a husband that understands how to ‘be and do’ in a relationship (behave in a way that doesn’t impede on her ability to be her own source of happiness).
The danger lies in drifting too far in either direction. If you are at the center of her world, and she finds happiness in a job, a hobby, friends, or a new direction, your world may seem as if it’s crumbling when she finds happiness outside of you. The flip side of the coin is just as dangerous – if you slip up and criticize, disrespect, or take her for granted, she may find it far more difficult to get over if you’ve made yourself the center of her world and source of all happiness.
Successful relationships are the result of two ‘whole’ people coming together to compliment the other in the pair. By ‘whole’, I mean each one individually subscribes to the ‘Bring Your Own Happiness’ understanding, and therefore these two happy people come together and create an expansion of happiness.
Too often as men we take on the burden of turning around an unhappy spouse, or expecting our spouse to make us happy. Whether the burden falls on husband or wife, this behavior (according to my friend and fellow blogger, Lynette Landing of Bare Naked Talk blog) is called “inappropriate responsibility.” Feeling it’s your job to fix your spouse’s pain and suffering, trying to protect them from all harm, jumping through hoops to keep them happy…these are all examples of “inappropriate responsibility” because in saving another from every bump in the road, you are basically denying them their own lessons and opportunities for growth and that’s not your job!
But the good news is, each of us individually, gets to fix one person! Yes, we are responsible for our own happiness and pain; therefore, appropriate responsibility means looking in the mirror (and letting your spouse do the same).
Perhaps you will look at future Independence Days from a more personal perspective going forward, and join me in claiming our independence from making others our source of happiness, or (inappropriately) becoming the source of theirs.
Fellow Traveler and Guide
Please note: The author is not a licensed medical or psychological professional and the contents of this blog and its posts are not to prescribe cures or solutions. The reader assumes all responsibility for using the contents for his or her own edification.