Dating Advice

Your relationship shouldn’t make you happy

Dr Karin Anderson Abrell

We’re all looking for a happy, long-lasting relationship, but did you know that you shouldn’t be relying on that relationship to make you happy? Dr Karin Anderson Abrell explains all

Happiness. We’re all searching for it, but all too often we look in the wrong places – especially when it comes to love. We catch ourselves thinking, ‘once I meet someone, I’ll be happy’ or ‘if only I were married, then I’d be happy.’

This line of thinking is fundamentally flawed.

Here’s why your relationship shouldn’t make you happy:

Happiness is an inside job

Your happiness is your responsibility. No one can make you happy – or make you feel anything for that matter. According to developmental psychologists, a hallmark of adulthood is taking responsibility for our lives. Our finances, our decisions, and our emotions. As Oprah Show psychologist Dr. Robin Smith asserts, our relationships are healthiest when we ‘show up as a grown-up’. Grown-ups take responsibility for our emotional wellbeing – including our happiness.

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Expecting your partner to make you happy is unfair and unloving

When we expect our relationship to make us happy, we place an unreasonable burden on our partner. Moreover, it’s prudent to consider our motivation for pursuing love in the first place. Do we intend to walk hand in hand through life, supporting one another through good and bad times? Or do we hope the relationship will bring us the joy and fulfilment that we couldn’t provide ourselves when single? Carrying emotional baggage into a relationship with the goal of having your partner figure out how to fix you is unfair and unloving.

Happily-ever-after starts with two happy people

When describing couples, marriage therapists often use the adage, ‘water seeks its own level.’ Or, to put it another way, ‘like attracts like.’ Therefore, if you would like to be with a happy person, you need to get happy yourself. You’re much more likely to find a happy relationship when you’re already happy on your own.

Marriage makes us happy – for a while

Some of you may be thinking, ‘okay, maybe our relationships don’t make us happy but what about when we meet ‘The One’ and get married? Aren’t married people happier than singles?’ Actually, no. A meta-analysis of 18 longitudinal studies found that people typically experience an uptick in life satisfaction immediately after getting married, but levels of happiness remain constant before and after marriage. In fact, even this boost in life satisfaction declines shortly after the wedding. In other words, we enjoy a ‘honeymoon period’ and then return to our standard level of life satisfaction. Still more troubling, when asked about relationship satisfaction, people report a decrease post-wedding – and this downward trend continues. Clearly, marriage doesn’t make us happier!

Take a tip from Abraham Lincoln who once said; ‘Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.’ The beauty of this truth? Your happiness is always under your control. Decide to get happy now! Take the steps you need to feel happy and fulfilled single. That way, you’ll attract a happy person into your life and both of you can enjoy your relationship without expecting it to make you happy!

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Luhmann, M., Hofmann, M., Eid, W., & Lucas, R. (2012). Subjective well-being and adaptation to life events: A meta-analysis. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 102 (3), 592-615.

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