My happiness source is not my spouse. He isn't the keeper of my joy. No one is.
"When you aren't depending on your husband to fill you up, then he can make mistakes and you are still okay. He can say the wrong thing and you can forgive him quickly. He can struggle and question his direction and you don't fall into despair. He can be your partner and your friend, because he does not have to be your savior."
-Lysa TerKeurst, Am I Messing Up my Kids? ... and Other Questions Every Mom Asks
I have read those words over and over again. I've read them both in my head and aloud hoping that the repetition would result in each of those words embedding in my memory forever. Words, ready for retrieval during those moments that I needed to be reminded that contrary to what movies and romantic dramas may lead me to believe it is not the husband's job to make his wife happy.
I wanted that notion to stick because so much of what I did and said suggested that I believed otherwise. When I met my husband, the mere thought of him made me giddy. I felt so happy when I was with him in a way I had never experienced before in a romantic relationship. He did, indeed, make me happy. And because he did such a great job at making me happy, that became my expectation—that he would always make me happy. That his main objective in life would be to make me happy and strive to ensure that my face was always with a smile.
It sounds so selfish as I type it but to be fair, I wanted to make my husband happy, too. To a fault. I wanted to make him happier than he had ever been. I'm a people pleaser by nature so I charged myself with the task of making the people I cared about feel special and loved. If they were happy with me then I was happy with me.
On the flipside, if they weren't happy with me, I wasn't happy with me.
Part of the chorus of one of my most favorite love song has the following verse "you're the other half that makes me whole." And each time I listen to it I think of my husband. When he and my kids walk around with a piece of my heart, that's when I feel that life is exactly as it should be—more beautiful than it is broken. Still I don't expect them, nor want them to be subjected to a life by my side just so that all the pieces of my heart are there. So that I might feel whole.
Once upon a time, I believed in the saying "happy wife equals happy life," but I'm not so sure I do anymore. Being a wife and mother gives me so much joy but I cannot place the weight of that joy upon the shoulders of my husband, especially because it's a weight I know he'd try to carry because he loves me so much. In fact, his attempts to make me happy had gotten to the point that he was neglecting his needs and silencing his voice in an effort to refrain from "rocking the boat." His silence and consent did not result in a happier him. Nor was it a balm for the achiness I felt from my struggle with depression or the growing pains I attribute to life.
He started to feel immense pressure to not do or say the wrong thing. My past struggles with codependency resulted in a wife who took everything personally and assumed she was always doing something wrong. I wanted him to fix the things in my life that needed fixing because I felt like I couldn't. I depended on him to always pat me on the back rather than reaching over and pat my own. I thought I needed him to tell me I was enough when the truth is I needed to see that on my own because his words meant nothing if my heart wasn't open to receiving them.
That's not what I want for him. I don't want him to feel like he always has to validate me.
I want my husband to be free to be who he is and to express his heart's desires without fine-tuning it to please others, including me. I want him to have the freedom to have a crappy day (goodness knows I have my fair share). And I want to start realizing that I don't have to give or do something for someone in order for them to value me or in order for me to value myself.
My decision to start writing was the result of my husband encouraging me to find what made me happy. To find something that I could love and enjoy beyond being a wife and a mother. It wasn't something he could discover for me, I had to find it on my own.
In my journey to self-love, I realized 6 things:
1. I want my husband to continue to be frank and honest with me and tell me the things that I don't want to hear but need to hear because marriage is about making one another better not happier.
2. In order for him to freely do so I need to create an environment where he realizes that it is safe to. There should be no penalties for saying what is on your heart or mind, particularly when you are saying it with love and kindness.
3. There is a happiness that comes from the realization that not everything is about you or because of you. Spouses have bad days. Children have bad days. We all have our "off" days. They aren't an indicator that you're failing or doing something wrong. They're an indicator that you're living life.
4. My happiness source is not my spouse. He isn't the keeper of my joy. No one is. Yes he will sit with me in it and marvel and share smile as I soak it up. But I take ownership of it. And in freeing him of the responsibility he's been able to experience more of his own.
5. Realizing #4 has made all the difference; I'm slower to anger, quicker to forgive and humble enough to ask for help and seek forgiveness.
6. Things change when happiness becomes more of a "bonus" than your life's mission. Happiness is not rooted in what we can do for one another but how we can make one another better.