“I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me?”
— The Beatles, Norwegian Woods
Some years ago, I had a girlfriend. We’ll call her Mary.
Mary was a distinguished student, a career-oriented girl, a strong-willed woman, an ambitious person, a firm holder of her beliefs and convictions, an incurable enthusiast, a smart cookie, a bookworm, a chorister, and a passionate designer.
My relationship with her was also special. You see, for the first time in my life, I was dating someone with complete approval from her parents. They welcomed me from day one, and, although they didn’t live together and didn’t always get along well, mom and dad were always nice to me. They liked me. Her siblings liked me. Even her pets liked me. It was great.
I was overjoyed with the prospect of sharing the rest of my life with Mary, and I wasn’t afraid to shout it from the rooftops. My Facebook timeline was full of photos of us and every little occasion we celebrated, every food we had together, and every corny love phrase we could find online.
Back then, it was like a dream come true. For the first time in a long time, I felt alive and complete. I was optimistic. I wasn’t afraid. I felt genuinely happy, like my life was worth living. Mary was everything I had ever dreamed of.
Which is why, of course, she left me after just eight and a half months.
The consequences of delegating the responsibility of your happiness to your partner
Mary had been a bit distant during the last few weeks of our relationship. Every time I asked if everything was okay, she would just say she was tired and stressed out. And so, one November afternoon, after about three weeks of the same old, same old, she dropped the bomb.
Mary said she’d had enough with me and my self-pitting attitude, my lack of vision, my non-existent ambition, my abysmal self-esteem, my low career standards, my never-ending whining and complaining, and my perpetual tendency to put off my projects.
But there was one other thing she mentioned that day. One key element to her decision to break up with me: My over-dependence and needy attitude toward her. She also said she could no longer see herself by my side in the future, and that she didn’t even love me anymore, at least not as a woman can love a man. And then, with a painful “I’m sorry,” she made it official.
So much for my happy ending.
In the days that followed, I called her repeatedly, wrote her a bunch of letters, bought her flowers, and tried to take her out to dates. I also dropped a mountain of presents upon her feet and begged her over and over again to reconsider her decision. Basically, I was spending up the last shreds of dignity I still had left, all in a desperate effort to “save” the relationship and make her fall for me again.
Nothing worked. It was over. Mary didn’t want to see me anymore, and there was nothing I could do to change that, no matter how hard I tried.
To make matters even worse, Mary took out all of our photos from Facebook and started posting new ones. And let me tell you: They were painful to look at. She was always smiling, her eyes shining, always in the company of friends and family, and looking radiant. I, on the other hand, was depressed, lonely, and sorry for myself.
I simply couldn’t understand why she seemed so unaffected and care-free, while I was the living embodiment of misery. In my mind, it seemed completely unfair.
I started listening to sad romantic music and watching videos about relationships, trying to understand where things had gone wrong. You see, I needed to know why and how I had so massively failed at having a long-lasting, significant relationship with a good girl.
Why you need to find happiness before you find love
That’s when I stumbled upon 500 Days Of Summer, which is currently my favorite movie. The film, in combination with this whole experience, made me realize I had made a really (and I mean, really) bad mistake. And since this is also one of the most powerful lessons I’ve ever learned the hard way, I’ll type it in bold:
If you aren’t happy, then you’re not ready for love. Starting a relationship before you find happiness in your life will only bring misery upon your partner and subsequently upon yourself.
To illustrate my point, I will now compare Mary with my former me.
- Mary was passionate about her career choice and personal growth. Me, I had a job to pay the bills and save some money, whenever possible.
- Mary was enthusiastic and willing to try out new and exciting things. Me, I would call myself a failure over a badly cooked patty. I'm serious about it.
- Mary directed all her efforts into her studies to someday ‘take the world by storm’ (in her own words). Me, I used to express plans to look for a scholarship abroad and go to graduate school, which I never got around to doing.
- Mary believed in herself and would persist in all efforts to succeed, even against all odds. Me, I would usually just quit before I even tried anything.
- Mary could deal with criticism and learn from her mistakes. Me, I would take criticism to heart and kick up a fuss based on it.
You get the picture.
Now, why would someone like her be the girlfriend of someone like the back-then me? Well, I guess it happened because at some point we found each other somewhat attractive, shared several hobbies and interests, and agreed on most points of view about romance. Also, we both came from failed relationships and were willing to give love a new chance with someone new.
As it turned out, however, those reasons, while relevant, are just superficial. I discovered you also need to know where you’re headed in life in order to have a successful and happy relationship. Someone with a clear vision of the future won’t be happy sharing their life with someone who doesn’t know what to do with theirs.
In short, I was an unhappy man. I entered the relationship believing that love alone would make me happy. Having someone special by my side was enough for me to believe that my life was worth living. I thought love would give meaning to my existence, however pathetic it was. Somehow I masked all my shortcomings and frustrations by fooling myself into believing all I needed was love to make sense out of everything.
Mary, on the other hand, entered the relationship as a happy person. However, she was getting the happiness taken out of her soul because of my needy attitude, so she had to do something about it. She broke up with me, and since her happiness wasn’t based merely on being by my side, she was able to go on with her life, happy as ever.
And that happiness made all the difference.