It's happened! I'm in my first relationship since my divorce. The man is amazing, obviously. I wouldn't be with him if he wasn't. He is sweet, he is thoughtful, he is honest and genuine. Yet when my friend asked me the other day if he makes me happy, my answer was no. She looked at me with confusion, unsure of why I would be with someone who doesn't make me happy.
Before I continue, let me say this. In my new relationship, I feel many things. I feel safe. I feel secure. I know where I stand with him. He never holds back how he feels, and he spoils me with affection and thoughtful surprises. He reads relationship books with me (ok, he listens to them, I read them) and compares notes with me when we've both finished them. But he doesn't make me happy.
So what's wrong with me? How could such a great guy not make me happy? Nothing is wrong with me. Absolutely nothing. My boyfriend doesn't make me happy for one simple reason: I was already happy when I met him.
A few months after my divorce, I sat in my therapist's office and announced, "I think I'm ready to start dating!" After applauding my excitement and readiness to move forward, he looked at me and said, "Now let's make sure you're the best you that you can be before you invite someone else into your life." That simple statement stopped me right in my tracks. I went from thinking about the kind of man I wanted to date to thinking about the kind of person I wanted to be in my next relationship.
We spent the rest of that session reflecting on who I am at the core and on who I had let myself become during my marriage. We talked about something my mom had said when I first started dating my ex-husband. She'd said, "You're always so much happier when you're in a relationship." At 23, I thought that meant I'd found the one, my true love. If he could make me so happy, there was no way our relationship wouldn't work.
Rather than finding my own happiness, I counted on someone else to provide it. So many of us do this. The danger in doing so is that it gives all the power over your emotions to someone else. When how they treat you makes you happy, great! You post it all over social media, you talk about the relationship all the time, you let it consume you. But there's a downside to that. Allowing someone to have that much control over your happiness means that they have equal control over your other emotions. It is too easy to then be faced with just the opposite: if they're not making you happy, they're making you sad. Or even worse, they're making you jealous, angry, insecure, and unsure of everything. And that is a lot of power to give someone.
I left that therapy session with a renewed hope for future relationships. Dating was put on the back burner while I dealt with getting my life back on track. I focused on getting our house sold, being there for my parents in light of my dad's cancer diagnosis, getting my girls and myself started with a new school year, and getting moved into our new house. Through all of that, I reflected daily on what life had thrown at me and on how I was letting it affect me. While it was a lot to handle at times, I focused on what needed to be done and came to peace with all that was happening. When I found peace, I found happiness, and I gave myself and only myself the power to control my emotions.
Does this all mean that I have no emotion in my new relationship? Not at all! I am happy and content when my boyfriend and I are together. I find joy in being with him and am excited thinking about the time we get to spend together. He makes me laugh, he respects me and encourages me, and he reminds me of why I want to be the best me that I can be. But I would never burden him with the responsibility of making me happy. As I've said before, I want the man in my life to enhance my happiness, and he does just that.
And all of those thoughtful things he does for me? He doesn't do them for my happiness. He simply does them for me.
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