Some time ago a friend came by who was struggling in her marriage. She was frustrated that her husband doesn’t make her happy. She and I are really good friends and are committed to reflecting truth back to one another… So, my question for her was, “Is that really his job?”
I believe our culture encourages this thinking of looking outside the self for someone else or something else to make us happy. I would like to consider the possibility that the very idea of this is backward thinking. We are being sent on a wild goose chase. A Course in Miracles tells us the mission of the ego is “Seek and do not find”. Yeah, wild goose chase. This is not new information. Marketing exploits this idea based on the premise that you are not enough …. if you buy this thing, then you will be okay. You’re not enough just as you are. It’s easy to sell the pursuit of happiness to those who feel they can’t find happiness themselves. And yet, does that pursuit ever really make you happy?
After my second marriage of almost 10 years, I took a long break from relationship. I pretty much did not trust myself to choose a good mate so I turned my attention to myself. Turns out this was the best thing I could have ever done for myself. I had been in relationship pretty much full on since I was 16 and here I was 40 years old and not having a clue about what a healthy relationship even looked like.
The first thing I discovered was that I had spent a whole lot of years looking for approval outside of myself and yet I didn’t even like me. And that was a hard pill to swallow. I had done enough self-help work to that point to know this was a problem that needed to get solved. So I vowed to myself, then and there, to start a relationship with myself. I began with the simple but brutal practice of looking at myself in the mirror every day and saying, “I love you Cath”. At first, this was terribly awkward. Because it wasn’t actually true…so it felt uncomfortable. But I did it every day anyway and after some time (maybe a few weeks) something in me began to shift. And I started to see myself differently. There was a sweetness, an innocence that I had never seen before. And I would hold my face with my hands, as a mother would do for a child. I began mothering myself. What I realized in this process, was that I didn’t actually receive this kind of mothering as a child. Not because my mom didn’t love me, but perhaps because she didn’t receive that kind of mothering from her mom. Regardless, there was a part of me that was longing for this kind of loving attention. And for the first time in my life, I was getting it….from myself! And it was amazing! I began other rituals too. I like would start taking myself out on dates to nice restaurants. I would get all dressed up and ask for a table for one. I felt so special. I would go to the yoga classes I loved! I would have dance parties with myself in my house. Yep. Light all the candles to set the mood and everything! I would read books that I was excited about. I started to really LOVE hanging out with myself.
As an introvert, I got to a point where I liked my “Me Time” more than anything! I even felt comfortable with the idea of not having a mate. I felt whole. And this was so empowering! Right? All those years when I was looking for someone else to complete me or looking to my partner to make me happy, what I was actually doing was giving my power away. And so finally, I was reclaiming my power. I was whole and complete, just as I was. And nothing had actually changed except that I had begun to turn my attention inwards rather than to the outside. I was too busy looking outside myself so I couldn’t see what was waiting for me here at home. Me! I was waiting for myself! To come home!
Then one day I made the decision that the only way I would consider another relationship, is if it was an add. I just wasn’t willing to compromise myself as I had done in the past, looking for love and approval in my mate.
And because I already felt whole, that would really have to be something pretty special. So I made a list of all the things my mate would need to be for me to say yes to another relationship. That list was three pages long! I remember one of my friends at the time saying to me, “Girl, don’t you think that is a bit too much to expect?” My answer was that I wasn’t interested in settling. I would rather be alone. And I meant it.
Sure enough, I had a date with my dream mate in less than one month! I am telling you, it’s amazing what happens when you aren’t willing to settle!
So what is the real point of my story? In all those past relationships I was looking for someone to fill an empty space inside of me. And they couldn’t do it. Even if they tried, especially if I expected them do it. I was the only one who could do it and the more I looked outside of myself for love, the more I felt unhappy and unfulfilled. And I would blame them for not being there for me. But the truth was…I wasn’t there for me.
Moral of the story: True happiness comes from loving yourself. Fulfilling your own needs. From feeling worthy of love because you were born that way. No one else can make you happy. Only you can do that. Happiness is a choice… one you have to make every single day.
I had a deeper realization talking with my friend about her perception of her husband’s failure to make her happy. I realized that even though I now have my ideal husband that I give thanks for every single day…it’s still my job to make myself happy. Even though he would love to be the one to make me happy, because he is such a giving person…it just doesn’t work. The truth is, I am only happy when I am treating myself well. His treating me well is not enough …if I’m not doing it for myself, I can’t receive his gifts. If I am not being loving and kind to myself, I can’t feel his love. If I am being hard on myself, I will inevitably be hard on him, which pushes him away from me. If I am telling myself that I am not enough, then I will experience that empty place inside that is never satisfied. For me to be a container of receiving, I have to love myself. And through loving myself, I feel worthy of love. And then when he does the smallest thing, I can actually experience it and appreciate him for it. And then, of course, because this is how manifestation works, I end up receiving more than I ever could have hoped.
So whose job is it to make you happy? Only yours. You hold the power. It’s always been you. You just gotta bring the power back home.
Take a really close look at how you may be giving your power away. Even in little ways. Maybe you are currently in a relationship where your partner can’t get it right to your standards or expectations or hopes. Or you wish they would _ (fill in the blank)__. See if you can take a deeper look at how you might not be fulfilling your own needs and desires in your life instead. Stop thinking about what they’re doing or not doing and take a look at what you might be doing or not doing.
Another line from A Course in Miracles is “Whatever is missing in any situation is what I am not giving”. This is a wonderful line to contemplate - maybe you are not giving to yourself. Or you may not be extending compassion. This is an invitation to look closer at yourself when you find yourself pointing a finger at someone else.
Or maybe you are currently feeling lonely and wish you had a relationship. Instead of looking outside yourself, try enriching your relationship with yourself instead. As Byron Katie says, “Be the love of your life” Because when you love yourself, you are opening yourself up to being loved.
So nurture that relationship with yourself every single day. Make it your number one priority and don’t worry about looking for your soul mate. Because if you don’t fulfill that need inside yourself, you will find yourself just as lonely in a relationship as you were not in a relationship. The emptiness will still be there.
I’ll leave you with a line from the Sufi mystic poet Rumi “Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along”
By the way, I have a monthly drawing for a free 45-minute coaching session with me. All you have to do is fill out this short survey here that offers me blogpost/podcast ideas that are relevant for you! All answers are confidential.