Who Makes Who Happy?
There seems to be a lot of confusion about this in the relationships I encounter.
Several times a day I hear someone say s/he really doesn’t want to do something. But s/he is going to do it anyway because-and in creeps this you know what I mean tone that makes me want to look around to see who it is that knows what they are referring to. Like I missed an all-important episode of some sitcom that then defined a relationship pattern for our time.- Because of course they are doing this thing for a partner, or a friend, or even a parent. Of course there are times when this is just showing up for family, or community, or even keeping a commitment that no longer seems as enticing as it did when one made the plan. But what happens when this kind of thing becomes an ongoing pattern?
During the week there are events you aren’t excited to attend for work, and one for your partner’s work as well. The weekend arrives and there is that baby shower that your friend really wants you to show up for and a family dinner on Sunday, both of which you could happily skip in favor of anything from a hike to a nap with a good book. If a person isn’t careful, an entire life can be lived full of things that make sense as an iPhone appointment but not a experience.
Why does this happen? Well of course culturally we are supported, some cultures more than others, to be a part of our families, our communities. We are expected to keep close ties to churches, social groups, work, friends with whom we share a college history, identity cultures, and more. We want to support the arts. We want to see our friends. We are social beings. And beings who require, some more than others, down time to rejuvenate, reflect, relax, create, connect. Once set in motion, it is easier to stay in motion than it is to stop.
But there is something else at work here as well that I think we are all familiar with, hating to disappoint. The guilt people feel for saying “no”. It may seem silly, but these are weighty matters. I see many people allowing the barrage of requests and demands of daily life actually define the course of their lives for them. They are so loathe to face not meeting the expectations of someone important to them.
But we are powerless over other peoples’ expectations of us, and indeed their happiness in any form. To think that our friends or family would crumble under a moment of disappointment from us is either giving them very little credit or ourselves a bit too much. If it is retaliation in some form that is feared, then perhaps a good look at the quality of the relationship is something that has been put off for too long.
There is a lovely phrase, “Thanks so much for inviting me. I’d love to attend, but I am previously engaged.”, that works wonders for letting people know they are appreciated while still keeping your freedom. There is also the elegant, “That sounds fun, may I check my schedule and get back to you?”
In the long run, it is really your happiness that matters and you are not powerless over that. In fact, you are the one responsible. Perhaps it might be beneficial to wonder if you are disappointing yourself. Have you been saying no to yourself all along? Not meeting your own expectations? Did you ever even consider yourself in the equation? If you start thinking of all the times you put your own needs/desires aside to attend to those of others….
it’s not too late to run out for some flowers
or you can still get good Giants tickets online
But if I were you, I would think of something fast!