“Stop giving someone the job of making you happy.”
…stolen from a friend of a friend of a friend’s status on Facebook.
One of the many things I nagged my second husband about was the fact that after we married, he never brought me flowers anymore. When we were dating, he always brought me flowers. He knew the florist down the street from my house in St. Joseph, MI, by name. He said she commented to him one day that someone was a very lucky woman. He replied, “You don’t know my sweetie.” He was so taken with me when we were dating that it was not uncommon for me to get flowers on every date. One time he brought me 4 yellow roses – my favorite, and he knew it. He explained that this was our fourth date, and he was counting. I’d never had a man treat me like this before. After we married, the flowers stopped. The adoration of me stopped. His happiness with me stopped. There were lots of reasons for this, but I focused on the fact that he never brought me flowers anymore. He heard it many times.
When I got into recovery for codependency, I realized – because they told me – that I had to focus on making myself happy. Those programs are not about the other people in your life that cause all kinds of chaos… they are about me and for me. I finally told myself that if I wanted flowers, I should give them to myself. When I ran that logic through, I realized it wasn’t the flowers that I wanted at all. When I finally learned how to make myself happy, I started to realize that even if he started bringing me flowers everyday, it would not make me happy. What I wanted was to live in a sane environment. I wanted to be loved the way I was in the beginning… or even close. I wanted all of the things that those flowers represented to me. I finally relinquished the desire for him to make me happy by giving me flowers because I realized that he wasn’t capable of delivering the things behind those lovely fragile creations. And, without that, the flowers were lifeless.
That’s the problem with codependency. We think that if someone changes how they behave or how they treat us, we will be happy. And, yet, we are denying the reality that this is who they are. Yes, if they are using substances, they can quit. Even if they quit, there is no guarantee that loving treatment will be there. I do think that other people, places or things can contribute to my unhappiness. They can make it more difficult to focus on my own needs. But, only I can make myself happy. Only I can surround myself with things that contribute to my happiness. So, if I’m with someone that is taking away from my happiness, the only real answer I have is to do what I need to to minimize the impact they have. Sometimes that may include leaving. Other times it may just mean setting boundaries and focusing on my own behavior and needs. He’s spending all of our money, and I want to have less fear around money. I need to come up with a way to protect my interests in that area. I cannot force him to change. Nagging about money is ridiculous. It’s a short-term solution to a long-term problem. I’ve often said that I made myself dependent on undependable people and then got mad when they were undependable. Whose fault is that? That’s my mess to clean up.
I so often focused on the ONLY thing that I couldn’t change and that was another person. Being single has given me a great gift in that I realize how to make myself happy. I no longer have a scapegoat living in my house. If I want flowers … or love … I have to find a way to get them with people who can … or will …. give them. If I feel lonely, I can’t nag my partner about spending more time with me. I have to open up options for me to interact with other people or to get spiritually connected. It has helped me become much more self-sufficient… and .. in turn … I’m happier. It’s even changed my perspective on what a partner might bring to my life. I now am only looking for companionship and love. I know that these things can only be freely given. I also know that they can be taken away, and I accept that risk. Even thought it hurts when somebody leaves, I can still accept their decision because I know I can’t force it through manipulation or guilt. I hope in the future I can give a partner the freedom to be who they are and not be so dependent on them to meet my needs or make me happy. Yes, it would be nice to have someone to take the garbage out… but it’s not really the garbage that’s the issue. The underlying need of being loved and cared for is what’s at stake. Along the way, I’ve learned how to love and care for myself, so there’s not such a desperate need for someone else to provide those very important human needs. And, when it’s a want … and not a need … I can more easily consider it a beautiful gift.