Happiness is a Necessary Component of a Healthy Relationship

Joe Duncan

Learn to View Happiness as a Set of Skills


How often in life do we bounce around from person to person, always trying to find what we feel will make us truly happy? We spend so much time searching for that perfect relationship. It’s as if we can’t give ourselves permission to be happy until we’ve found the perfect partner. And, ironically, in doing so, I’ve seen a lot of people become miserable, lonely, isolated, and unhappy in a way that makes them unattractive.

This makes it harder to find the very partner that they’ve convinced themselves they need to be happy. The circular reasoning here is mind-boggling and I’ve noticed that when people do this, they usually want the joy of a relationship without the pain or uncertainty that might come along with it. The uncertainty makes them insecure and insecurity makes us unhappy.

It’s a vicious cycle.

This constant striving, this looking at relationships as something to be obtained and not something to be built, all radically misses the point of relationships. Relationships are what we build when we have the other aspects of our lives in order.

For those who don’t know yet, relationships are for people who are already happy. And I don’t say that to be mean or to be exclusionary. There’s some method to my madness.

Hear me out….

Just like I’ve seen unhappy people become miserable and stay single for decades, I’ve also seen plenty of people who were unhappy and managed to get into a relationship with someone. This latter bunch didn’t fare much better. It almost always resulted in disaster.

They ended up in relationships that were defined by struggle and conflict. They fought because they felt that nagging insecurity and uncertainty. They thought their newfound relationships would solve all of these problems and let them finally enjoy the happiness they’d convinced themselves a relationship would bring.

They were still lonely, just like those who ended up alone, but they were with someone they secretly despised or just barely tolerated.

They finally found what they’d searched for and their joy was short-lived. They quickly got bored and they needed to search for new happiness, perhaps a new relationship, but now, they had the equivalent of a ball-and-chain attached to them.

They couldn’t break up with their partner because then they’d be totally alone, but at the same time, they weren’t fulfilled, either. So they were back at square one. And just like that, they ended up in the exact same state of confusion they started out in, only now they had a lot more responsibilities.

The thing about happiness I’ve learned is, you can’t expect happiness to come to you from the outside. Happiness isn’t something you go obtain, it’s a skill you learn how to do. It’s actually a combination of a lot of different skills that help you deal with the unpleasant moments of life.

Think about it. If you want to be happy in relationships, you’ll need to learn different skills like patience, listening, understanding someone who’s different from you, how to love someone through difficulties, and how to forgive. That last one is especially tough.

Happiness is a series of skills to be mastered. Once we frame it this way, we see that happiness is a prerequisite for successful, healthy relationships in life.

If we’re not happy when we enter a relationship, we’re going to constantly question our decision. “Did I make the right choice? Or did I choose this person just because I needed them at the time?” And lacking the skills to be able to work our way through these uncomfortable feelings and confusing thoughts, we push them aside. We don’t answer them. We don’t address them. We end up just coasting and going with the flow, like a ship at sail with no destination port. We’re lost at sea.

In a perfect world, we want to commit to someone because we’re comfortable and secure in the fact that we’ve chosen what we want and who we want and we’re ready to stick with it; not because we’re uncertain and the person we happen to find ourselves with is simply what’s available or what eases our pain and fills a void of blank emptiness within us. That void should be filled by our actions and our lives…not our lovers.

I’m not trying to say that unhappy people don’t deserve relationships. We all deserve love. But I am saying that unhappiness, discontent, and insecurity are all toxic to relationships in the long haul. They’ll all make our relationships much more difficult. And if we don’t master the skills necessary to make ourselves happy when we’re alone, we’re almost certainly going to make someone else miserable, dragging them down to our level.

It’s okay to admit that we’re not quite ready for a relationship and still have a long way to go working on ourselves before we can get to a place where we can enter a new relationship with clear judgment and a sound mind. It’s okay to say, “You know what? I’m going to take time to myself and master my own life before I share it with someone else.”

The good news is, this makes building your relationship something you can do best when you’re single — before that future relationship has ever come along.

Cliche as it may sound, we need to practice loving ourselves and our lives, fostering happiness as a process to be both learned and mastered before we can explore the wonderful world of sharing our happiness with another. Most people seek out relationships to not feel alone or to ease pain, and personally, I think these are the wrong reasons to be looking for someone.

The process is simple: first, find and foster love and happiness, then become successful before ourselves, in our own eyes, and then we find someone who complements what we’ve built to share our lives with.

This is the key to a successful relationship…find happiness first, then share it with the right person once we get there. Happy people should be quite, well, happy to commit to us if they like us, and we can rest assured in the fact that they’ve chosen us out of wanting rather than need.

And guess what. When we flip this around and look at it from the opposite perspective, we see that we want to look for someone else who’s happy. Raise your hand if you’ve dated a partner who was totally miserable and no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t “fix” them.

Something tells me there are a lot of raised hands out there right now.

We can’t fix unhappy people just like we can’t expect unhappy people to fix us.

That’s our own responsibility.

So we should look for people we don’t have to fix and we should become people who no one else has to fix. That’s the recipe for success.

Think of relationships as the icing on the cake of life, the thing that completes us once we’ve completed ourselves; it can only complete an already-complete process when we move from one stage of life to the next, and only then are we ready to graduate into the world of commitment — once we’ve done the work.

Photo by Tamara Bellis on Unsplash

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Keeping Florida informed with the latest. Life isn’t a series of many moments, but one moment that is always changing. Catch me on: https://twitter.com/JoeMDuncan

Orlando, FL

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