We are responsible for our own happiness, right?

This is a bit of a venty and ranty post not directed at any particular readers here. It is as if my recent paragraphs of thoughts lately on my own codependent tendencies in response to others I hold dear having a lot on their plates has past the point of simmering and into the boiling over and making a mess. The single person who inspires this particular post does not even know I blog. But even if she did, and read this, it’s more a reiteration of a rather intense conversation we had today just after another long-time friend’s wedding reception.

It was an imperfect ending to a joyous cake occasion. And let me just say, after months of no cake, the tiny little slice tasted amazing. I think the heavens open and choirs of angels sang directly to my tastebuds.

Yes, I think my eyes may be glazing over in memory of that wonderful sugary deliciousness. Back to my own emotional kitchen.

We are back to the old backstory of cheating husband and trying to pick up the pieces and reconcile. Okay, that’s not my reality, and I am the first to admit to being potentially terrible friend in this regard. However, I think that if you are still so angry at your H for his poor choices and so distrustful of him now when he is trying to repent and demonstrate regret for those poor choices, maybe reconciliation is not the wisest path at this moment in your lives. Maybe separation and working with a professional therapist from 2 different corners is a better use of time and energy.

She says they cannot afford 2 households and that is the first step toward divorce. In her anger (understandable), she is not letting him get off so easily. She also feels unemployable after 20 years as a stay-at-home mom. Then she used the dreaded “d” word – she “deserves” her life and lifestyle and not having to try and reenter the workforce because of a mistake he made. He screwed up; he needs to fix it.

As anyone who knows me can imagine, that landed like a lead balloon.

We can agree that he screwed up, because he did, big time. No matter what the circumstances, even I at my liberal understanding best cannot fathom or condone cheating on your partner. Leave them, then go off to be with whoever has caught your fancy, but don’t be a douche and sneak around. If you fear leaving your partner will be insanely hurtful, do you really think finding out she’s married to a douche who cheats is somehow better and going to hurt less? Lust must dramatically lower the emotional IQ of a cheating spouse.

Thing is, they both pay for his mistake now in various ways, and it seems an impact of the decisions about how to move forward characterize how those payment transactions unfold. If the choice is divorce, then it becomes more a financial transaction than an emotional one. If they choose to pursue reconciliation, it is primarily an emotional transaction with gutting the details of the affair as well as the real and perceived circumstances leading up to that destructive action as well as what is required of both of them to heal this terrible breach. However, trying to reconcile requires negotiation and new agreements, and I certainly do not believe anyone gets a free pass to be continuously disrespectful and abusively angry to a partner based on prior bad behavior. Not that he does not deserve such treatment, but it does not seem helpful in the long-term solution. Nor does the straying spouse get away scott free and with a fresh start as if they had all debts discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Nope, whatever choice gets made after the affair comes to light, the conversation is just beginning even if the topics are very different. And if reconciliation is the goal, hashing it out in therapy seems first order of the day.

I understand bad things befall good people and that recovery is incredibly hard. How we respond/react to and live with the hardships in our lives can be defining for us as an individual. We cannot control anyone else’s feelings or actions, but we control ourselves and choose who we become for the days that come after.

And I also I understand I say this from my safe place of a long and faithful marriage. We separated for a time during a really bad patch, and yes, we were both free to pursue and date others during that time without marital penalty and M and I have stuck to our agreement that what we did on our own time during that separation remains separate. It is not ammunition to be fired at or fuel to be tossed on the fire of any fights we have had since that time. From that perspective and experience, I am 99.99% sure I am the one who would be leaving if such an event were ever to come to pass in my own household. I would also potentially be the one paying alimony, and while it would suck eggs to be in that position, I am simply not the type to emotionally beat the shit out of M in retaliation for hurting me, breaking my heart, betraying my trust. All 3 have been done to me over the course of my life, and in each instance I walked away rather than trying to extract revenge, so I feel confident in saying it is simply not my way. Far better for me to never see M again after such a great fall.

Despite all that, despite my philosophical outlook and privately held opinions on their union, I am most insulted and upset about her abandoning any and all personal responsibility for her present and future happiness. She has put me in the awkward position of feeling like a terrible, unsupportive friend. Her H cheated. From her perspective, he needs to not only actively participate and repair their marriage, he needs to continue to grovel and scrape and accept her punishment for his terrible deed until she decides he has suffered enough, as has she. And he needs to make it up to her, forever apparently. Their marriage is presently at an impasse, because she’s dreadfully, desperately unhappy and he is not doing enough to make her feel better.

Try as I might to gently or directly bring up her responsibility and personal stake in her own long-term happiness, she is adamant that he hurt her, he took away her joy, he needs to restore it. She is so adamant that I started to wonder  when she believes individual happiness becomes someone else’s responsibility? Is it the moment you become engaged? The day you marry? Maybe the minute you realize you have fallen in love?

No question, no doubt that M makes me smile and laugh and my life infinitely sweeter and better. He makes it easier and more desirable to be the better version of myself for myself. But, I cannot hold him responsible for my happiness, and I kick back hard when he has suggested in the past that I am so key to his ability to thrive as a person. Of course I do not want to hurt him. Of course I want our marriage to remain healthy and strong. Absolutely I want more than anything for him to be happy. But it would be unfair of him to be so dependent upon me for happiness and joy and feeling like life is worth living. I want to enhance his life, not be his whole life. I’d be crushed and smothered under the weight of that responsibility.

I know my stand on financial independence – I always want to be capable of caring for myself, no matter what – and the older I get the more conscious I become of the trend of emotional dependence. Sometimes it’s real as in the young adult children of helicopter parents (my most recent experiences at work with difficult employees has scarred me forever), and sometimes it’s related less to the emotions involved than to the financial strings attached.

But I also recognize that I cannot help someone so entrenched in their pain, that by continuing the conversation I am only enabling them to burrow deeper into their safe trench. Trainer J recently advised me to “drop the bombs and walk away” when it comes to these types of situations, and I had to take it to heart and put it into action today. To the best of my recollection, I said the following: “H is not responsible for your happiness. If your marriage is floundering from his horrible choices and mistakes, perhaps it would be realistic to discuss and evaluate your healing as well as legal options with competent professionals.” And with that I hugged her and walked to my car and drove away. She tried to protest, or say more, but I put out my hand in a “gotta go” motion and did the kindest  thing I could in the moment, which was walk away from an unproductive conversation.

There have been a dozen or more unread texts and 2 unplayed voicemail messages since then. I will get around to them eventually, just not right now. I need some distance and a decent cooling off period between now and the next rendition of reading/listening to her point of view.

This is one of those reasons why I am glad I blog, to examine our conversation from a more level-headed, less emotional perspective. I don’t know that I am more right or more wrong that she is, but I have a clear and practical vision of how my life is and what changes I can make to improve the less satisfactory parts of it. If I am incapable of taking action or refuse to get off the couch to try, then I hope and pray I stay quiet and don’t bitch or whine about my choices to others. Depression and emotional distress comes in many forms, and I am self-aware enough to recognize my limitations. I make plenty of mistakes from reacting rather than slowing down and thinking choices through, and because of that I try not to do anything, make any decisions when I am in a compromised state of mind. Always it is better to try and slow down and think about the consequences of my actions, and it is not something I can possibly teach to anyone else. I have also learned how to ask for help from others, and to seek out professionally trained experts when I sense overburdening my family and network of friends with the new day, same issues loop.

Somehow, this exchange matters to me in my own emotional growth and courage to be my authentic self. Somehow, I feel as if I just trashed a long friendship in a fit of exasperation. Somehow, it is as liberating (if yet another long friendship is on the curb) as it is frightening.

I have always been open and direct about what I think, how I feel, yet I have also been willing to soften the delivery to avoid making big waves in the tiny little pool that has been my life. In this instance, I do not feel as if I were too harsh or too hard. However, I am a little concerned over what feels like dwindling patience … but not really, not as genuinely as I probably should be if I am truly feeling some regret. I can feel my emotions locked in battle for balance, to right my codependency wagon and allow me to be a supportive and encouraging friend without allowing myself to be sacrificed on the altar of another person’s problems. The one thing I know to be absolutely true about enabling? The more you do it, the worse it gets. The enabled party continues to need, and to take, and to unintentionally suck the life right out of me, and to never truly understand what sort of injury I have incurred.

And the responsibility for that injury is mine and mine alone.

This liking myself, improving my level of self-respect and confidence – it is surely is not for the faint of heart or weak of spirit. When I embarked upon my quest for better health, I had no idea what unusual paths and forms it would take. I remain committed and glad I got started, and on this there is no second-guessing or worry that I made mistakes.

Or maybe I am developing a deeper understanding of that #sorrynotsorry hashtag. I know I do not live in a vacuum, and I know life is complicated, no matter where you land on the mentally/emotionally balanced and healthy scale. This is not my brand of crazy I’m struggling with today; this is my brand of healthier choices expressed. And I do feel happy about that.

2 thoughts on “We are responsible for our own happiness, right?

  1. Yes we are responsible for our own happiness. Why would you want to give that kind of power/control of your life to anyone else? Just be cause you think you “deserve” something doesn’t mean that you are going to get it. And if in your life you always have gotten it until now they should understand how lucky you have been.

    And while your patience feels like it is dwindling – it may simply have been set to high to begin with. You are becoming a new person.

    Completely agree on the if you want to be with someone else – wrap up your existing relationship first.

    • Thanks, SAK. I know my own tendency toward codependency, and as I mosey along down my new pathway, I find it rearing up again and again. It’s just another one of those unfortunate and completely unexpected side effects, like people being bothered that I am as entrenched in the exercise and cleaning up my diet.

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