“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” ~Marianne Williamson
The single most troubling idea that we absorb growing up in the western world is that the pursuit of happiness happens out there. Most of us spend much of our lives seeking something outside of us that will make us happy. Advertising lures us to purchase fast cars and the latest high tech phone or gadget among the millions of other marketing ploys that cement in us the tragic misunderstanding that our happiness is out there somewhere waiting for us. Most of these messages confuse us even further because the happiness that is sold is a paired happiness. We believe that our relationships, like the stuff they accompany will also make us happy.
Actually this is probably the single most lethal thinking error that kills countless of decent relationships. I sometimes lose my audience when I tell them that relationships are not designed to make us happy. At their best, they are our life’s work that provides the deepest mirrors into whom we are becoming and offer up the safest environment to learn how to love better. Long lasting relationships are not a product of luck; they are the courageous soul baring efforts of two people committed to discovering themselves and each other.
Yet the happiest couples I have known over the years share one significant common feature: both partners own themselves. They aren’t looking for someone to complete them, and although they share their sorrows and frustrations in life with their partner, they don’t expect their relationship to fix them. This was a hard earned lesson for me in the first decade of my marriage, which I entered believing would cure me of my insecurities and fill up my emptiness. The many ways that my marriage failed to do those things only added to my disillusion and anger that my marriage wasn’t making me happy. This turned into a blame game that slowly but surely consumed the intimacy and fun we shared. It is still a wonder to me that we came out of it intact.
I was reminded of this painful past when my eldest daughter came home in tears from her new shared home with her boyfriend. As she lamented about all the ways she felt invisible and unappreciated in her relationship, I remembered the crazy codependency that characterized many years of my early marriage. Incapable of giving to myself, I poured all my best love into my partner and the relationship expecting that it would be returned in kind. Mostly we don’t get back what we give in love- this is a close runner up in thinking errors about relationships. In reality, each person gives what they have to give, which is not necessarily what you want them to give. Believing that you can control how your partner loves you and how they show their love is another associated thinking error that generally leaves both people gasping for air.
When you are full of yourself and responsible for your own happiness, this give and take becomes both the ongoing art and negotiation of how you grow your capacity for love. When you are lacking inside and waiting for your relationship to make you happy this negotiation becomes a lethal battleground where both people ended up wounded and the relationship is usually pronounced dead. Relying on someone else’s ability to love you enough when you don’t love yourself feels like life or death. It can be quickly impossible to negotiate when it feels like your entire internal life is riding on the outcome.
If only someone that I could have heard would have told me that my relationship to myself was the foundation for any and all of my other relationships, we could have saved years of strife. More importantly had I understood what it meant to look for my own happiness within myself I would have saved years and not a small amount of money searching out in the world. It has taken close to five decades for me to know that there is nothing out there that will fill me up as much as recognizing and honoring what is in me. Learning how to witness my own mind and develop the capacity to choose what this mind entertains is the foundation.
Most human minds produce so much negativity that it would take a steam roller to really feel loved by someone else. Even the very best relationship and true love is no match for a continuously armed mind intent on its own unworthiness. Realizing that we are not at the mercy of our thinking patterns and that like everything else in life, how we think is both changing and changeable is the open gate to finding your happiness within. You will be amazed at how much love is coming at you from all sides but has never been able to penetrate.