I don't even know where to start on this subject. I feel like I've had some deep revelations as I have been thinking a lot more on the concept of love these past weeks. And especially on what it means to love someone.
I know there are many ways to define true love, but today I want to focus on one aspect of it, and that is on the topic of recognizing our role in the other person's happiness.
True Love is Not About Making the Other Person Happy But Helping Your Person Create a Feeling of Happiness on Their Own
I was reading this book called How to Love by Thich Nhat Hanh, and at the end of the book, there is a questionnaire section for couples to ask themselves in order to look more deeply into their relationship.
I was struck by questions 16 and 17:
16) Are you capable of creating a feeling of joy for yourself?
17) Are you capable of helping the other person to create a feeling of joy?
Now, I don't know about you, but when I read the second question, it really made me pause and think a little. Number 17 was not what I was expecting. I thought the natural question that would follow “Are you capable of creating a feeling of joy for yourself?” would be “Are you capable of creating a feeling of joy for the other person?”
But no. That's not what he asks.
He asks, "Are you capable of helping the other person to create a feeling of joy?"
Are you capable of helping your partner create a feeling of joy for themselves?
The difference in wording is subtle, but the difference in meaning is huge:
Our partner is not responsible for our happiness // Each of us is responsible for creating our own happiness.
I was on the phone with a good friend, and I was sharing about some of my disappointments in love. To make me feel better, she could have told me “Steph, you are amazing, anyone would be lucky to be with you,” etc. But she didn’t.
Instead she said, “Stephanie, remind yourself that you are amazing, and remember to give yourself lots of love when you’re feeling down.”
Isn't that amazing?
Instead of trying to solve my low self-esteem, she encouraged me to address it... on my own.
We cannot be responsible for anyone's happiness. True love is about inspiring others to find that happiness on their own.
In the past, I was in a relationship with someone who straight-out told me, “My job is to make you happy.” When he realized that he couldn’t carry the weight of this responsibility and that it was truly exhausting work, he walked away.
To make it your responsibility to make someone happy is like making it your responsibility to make sure the weather is sunny every day. We simply don't have that much control.
We can only be responsible for the world inside of us.
And of our partners' world, we can simply stand beside them as they weather their own storms, and as they seek to create a little sunshine of their own.
When we can accept this, I believe that’s when we can begin to understand what it means to truly love another person. That’s when we will be able to start loving more deeply and more freely.