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“If only my partner would do this, or stop doing that, I’d be happy.”
“So-and-so’s husband is always so thoughtful. Why can’t my husband be like that?”
“My wife always makes me so angry. Why can’t she just give me some space?”
Do any of these sound familiar? Do you ever find yourself feeling stuck, frustrated, resentful, or angry toward your partner? Or perhaps, instead of anger, you just feel bummed out that your relationship isn’t quite how you’d imagined it.
Whatever the case, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that everyone else has a better relationship than we do, and that we have somehow been shortchanged.
Today we’re going to challenge that thought.
Who is Responsible for Your Happiness?
Let’s explore that question. Whose job is it to make you happy? Your spouse’s? Your girlfriend/boyfriend’s? Boss’s? Parents’? Children’s? Who has the power to make your day wonderful or completely ruin it?
All healthy relationships require a solid understanding of the following truth: You, and only you, are responsible for your own happiness. No one can make you happy or sad, no one can ruin your day, and no one can break your heart without you letting them.
Sure, people will do things you don’t like, forget important events, say unkind things, and otherwise not show up how you expect. All of that is real. What’s also real is that none of that directly affects your happiness. It’s how you choose to react to those situations that affects your happiness. Research has shown that happiness stems from our own internal interpretation of what is happening, and that we can therefore choose to be happy, even in the most difficult of situations.
Hamlet said it best:
“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”
(And while Hamlet may not have been talking about living a life of centered non-judgment when he uttered those words in William Shakespeare’s famous play, the statement is nonetheless thought provoking.)
Relationships are wonderful. They can add tremendous amounts of happiness to our lives. But we must be careful to not fall into the trap of thinking that we need a certain relationship to be happy in life.
A relationship in which one or more individual expects the other to “make” them happy is a breeding ground for manipulation, frustration, and disappointment. Partners in such a relationship will always feel some level of dissatisfaction or resentment, because their partner will never quite meet all their needs. If you’re expecting someone else to make you happy (or expecting to make someone else happy), you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
In contrast, a relationship in which both individuals own responsibility for their own happiness sets the stage for honesty, thoughtfulness, and selfless love. Partners in such a relationship work on becoming whole, complete, happy people on their own, and welcome a relationship as added friendship, support, love, and partnership. They take responsibility for their own needs by communicating them to their partner or addressing them themselves. This enables them to love unconditionally and give without expectation.
Better Relationships Start With You
The content on this site has one purpose: help people build strong, healthy, satisfying relationships. I invite you to take a look around, and put the principles, ideas, and techniques to the test. As you do so, take time to check in with yourself and your expectations. Are you taking responsibility for your own happiness? Or are you expecting others to make you happy? Are you reading the articles thinking, “my partner should really do this!” or are you looking inward, thinking “Ah…I can do this…”?
Got it? Try it.
What do you expect to get from current or future relationships? Are you looking for your significant other, coworkers, or friends to make you happy? If so, take a few moments to step back and figure out why. What can you do to begin to find happiness on your own, and bring a full, complete person back into the relationship?
Photo by Vera Arsic
10 thoughts on “Is Your Partner Making You Unhappy?”
Michael, i’ve Been looking for materials like this on relationships and I finally stumbled upon your site and just can’t stop reading. I’ve been married for 44 years and been searching for materials to help improve our relationship. Thank you, I found it and so grateful you made it available for those of us that’s struggling in our relationships.
Thank you for taking the time to comment—I’m thrilled to hear you’re finding the content valuable. It’s always nice to hear from readers and gives me the motivation to keep writing!
Well, in a “healthy” relationship this is true. I wish the author had addressed the fact that “unhealthy” relationships can contribute to unhappiness. Women and men who struggle with self worth may already feel that they are the problem. There are some situations where the partner is just plain selfish and apathetic. For example, my husband laid in bed watching TV while I was having suicidal thoughts. I ended up having to call a neighbor to talk with me. ultimately I ended up in the hospital. Some would say I took charge and did what I needed to do to take care of myself. But does that mean that his lack of action didn’t contribute to my depression? I stayed with him knowing that I can’t rely on him emotionally. I have other support systems in place. Again, I am taking care of myself. Does that mean that his lack of empathy is excused?
Part of the reason I have stayed is the mindset that I am responsible for myself. Does that include sacrificing my happiness?
Bottom line is that some actions or lack there of can affect us negatively. Not everything is simple.
Thank you for sharing, and for asking these questions. First off, let me say that I respect you for taking action and reaching out to other when you knew you needed help. That is *never* easy, especially in that dark of depression. It’s that type of responsibility that I’m absolutely advocating for.
And you hit the nail on the head when you said “I stayed with him knowing that I can’t rely on him emotionally.” You recognized that he wasn’t willing to change—at least not at that time—and you recognized that you had a choice in whether or not you’d stay.
You ask the question, though, “does this excuse my husband’s actions” and “do I need to sacrifice my own happiness?” And my answer to both is an emphatic “no.” From what you’ve described, his actions (or lack of action, perhaps) absolutely affects you, and only he has the power to change that. So where your responsibility comes into play here is deciding what you will and won’t put up with. I’m advocating for making your own happiness a priority, and making changes—whether in a situation, mentality, requests, boundaries, etc.—to ensure your needs are being met.
Does that make sense?
Your last paragraph to Gecko is spot on. My husband and I have been going to marriage counseling for 10 years. However, while there have been small accomplishments made, my husband never thinks he’s part of the problem. When I try to talk to him about situations that are making me unhappy, he doesn’t like hearing that he’s doing things that make me feel that way, so turns it around that it’s my fault. Then he just continues to do things his way. Two years ago he also stopped therapy, feeling he no longer gets anything out of it. It’s so frustrating that after 45 years of marriage, this is what it’s become. I often say to myself “what has changed so drastically that he no longer feels I’m important”. Thank you for your comments; they make me feel like I’m not necessarily doing something wrong here.
Thank you, and my heart goes out to you for your situation. That’s a tough place to be in, especially after so long.
“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”
It is altogether too much mental work to try to maintain your center and happiness around someone who is constantly trying to bring you down. No man (or woman) is an island. Especially in a marriage.
Couldn’t agree more. If the people around you are dragging you down, it’s time to have the hard conversations, set some boundaries, and do what you need to to take care of yourself. Thank you for weighing in.
“When I try to talk to him about situations that are making me unhappy, he doesn’t like hearing that he’s doing things that make me feel that way, so turns it around that it’s my fault.” This is my constant dilemma as well. It’s turned into that I’m being selfish or too sensitive or can’t take a joke. So much that now I really don’t know what to feel or how to feel anymore??? I also feel like over ten years I have tried lots of ways to connect or be open or change my way of thinking read the books, scheduled date nights, stayed optimistic but now I just feel resentment, anger and frustrated and I don’t know how to turn back from that side of things. I simply don’t know what to do next.
That’s not an easy situation to be in. If you haven’t already, you might try finding a good couple’s counsellor. If you’ve gone the rounds and your partner makes light of your requests or feelings, it can be helpful to talk it out with a third party. Of course, if your partner won’t even entertain the thought of counseling or therapy, you’ll need to set firmer boundaries. Deciding first with yourself what you are and aren’t willing to put up with in the relationship, and what you will do if he decides he isn’t willing to honor that.
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