We'll file that response under "Duh!", right beside any of the zillion tomes currently on bookshelves promising us how to maximize our happiness.
Happiness has become an industry and we're convinced that there's some secret formula that will unlock our own.
And yet, in this great New York Times piece, author David Brooks notes (and I'm paraphrasing here) that situational happiness doesn't lead necessarily to, well, happiness. And though suffering is in no way to be confused with happiness it often leads to growth. And growth can lead to, you guessed it, happiness.
In other words, that which does not kill us can, with time, make us happy.
It's important, of course, to understand how we define "happy". Happy that comes from the outside – in the form of money, status, material things, sex, even people – will be fleeting. Money comes and goes, status can slip, things lose their lustre and people, even those we love deeply, disappoint us. Happiness built on that is the proverbial house built on sand. If, however, our "happy" is built on a deep sense of who we are, work (whether paid or not) that makes us feel useful and purposeful, a wisdom borne of experience, compassion for ourselves and others, it becomes less a feeling than a way of being.
The first path is outsourcing our happiness; the second makes it an inside job.
It flies in the face of everything our culture holds dear, especially around love. "You complete me," Tom Cruise famously said in Jerry Macguire and we all swooned. Renée Zellweger should have replied with, "only when you can feel complete within yourself can you offer me the type of partnership that will survive all the crap that is no doubt coming our way."
Similarly, I cringe a bit when I watch the happily-ever-after storylines that books and movies offer our kids (and us adults). Or when I listen to the I'm-nothing-without-you song lyrics that saturate pop music (and I'm not even talking about the "let's get drunk and dance naked on tables" lyrics, though there's that too). My 11-year-old daughter, who resents boys for taking up half the planet, nonetheless thinks Pink's "True Love", in which she sings of a beloved whose neck she'd occasionally like to wring but also notes that "life would suck without you", is nothing like real love. Actually, I tell her, it's pretty bang on. She makes it clear that she prefers her romantic education from Disney Channel.
I don't want to raise cynics. But I also don't want to raise fools who think that happiness is something we achieve when he thinks we're pretty. Because of course that means it can be taken from us when he thinks our friend is even prettier.
MBS, who frequently shares her insight with others here, had this to say in response to our poster's husband's "it felt good" comment:
Something we all should ask ourselves is whether we expect others to make us happy. I think we are all guilty of that. I think it is a common belief we go into marriage with. I think it is the root of most marital dysfunction. Maybe that is the lesson to be learned from infidelity and we can dismantle the myth of "true love" and "happily ever after."
For marriage to last, it means accepting each other's imperfection and still showing up with love and kindness for your spouse. He couldn't do that so he is the one who failed at being a partner. The next woman he is with will also reveal her flaws and fail to live up to making him happy and he will go looking again. The cheaters who haven't learned their lesson will endlessly repeat this cycle.So rather than dwell on how you could have made him happier, think about how you can be compassionate and kind to yourself. That also will ultimately make you a better partner.
That, my friends, is how to achieve happily ever after.