Ten years ago, I wrote how we often make the choice of something else less important over our own and our loved ones’ happiness. This article has generated a lot of positive comments over the years apparently because it resonates with people. With another decade under my belt, I’d like to expand a little on the premise I put forward in that original article.
Our Lives Are Our Choice
At some point in our life, we may forget or give up the responsibility of directing our life to where we want it to go. We sometimes feel buffeted about by the forces of nature, relationships, family, children and more, and feel out of control of our own destinies. We forget to look deep within ourselves and remember who we really are and what really makes us happy and alive. We give that power up, to others, and then place the responsibility (and the blame) when they fail to “make us” happy.
But no one else can make us happy unless we first choose to open ourselves and our lives up to that possibility. Happiness is within each and every one of us. No one else can make us happy unless we first choose that we will place happiness – both our own and our loved ones – above other, less important things in our lives, such as winning an argument or being “right.”
Revisiting Mr. and Mrs. Smith
When we last left them, Mr. and Mrs. Smith liked to argue in their relationship. They’re two independent, competitive people, so neither really enjoyed “losing” an argument, even stupid, tiny ones about chores or helping with cooking or such. They placed the idea of “winning” the argument over not only their own happiness, but that of their loved one.
Why did they do this? Because at some point, we all learn that there is some sort of value to winning stuff. You win at sports, you get kudos. You win a spelling bee, you get a trophy. You win someone over you’ve had your eye on for years, and you feel a warm glow inside. We just like to win things, but often we don’t know when to stop when it comes to applying our winning philosophy to interpersonal relationships.
In interpersonal relationships – you know, those at home, at work, even with your own family – the parameters that define your relationships and communications can be very complex. For instance, when your boss “asks” you to do something, it’s rarely a legitimate question of your ability or time – they are simply phrasing an expected task in the form of a polite question. When your spouse asks you to take out the trash, again, it’s not really a question, but a request that isn’t up for debate.
But most of us don’t get a course in interpersonal communications in school or at any other time in our lives. It’s a shame, because such a class would help clarify these kinds of communications and understand that not every situation is worth “winning.”
Mr. and Mrs. Smith didn’t know when to say, “This isn’t worth my effort to ‘win’ and cause us both emotional pain.” They would argue and argue until one finally tired, and the other person “won” the argument. But all the winner really “wins” is the satisfaction of wearing down one’s opponent or in being “right.” Meanwhile, their spouse is tired of arguing and tired of being “wrong” and unhappy. It’s no wonder 50% of all marriages end in divorce, some of us just don’t know when to stop!