“Are you happy?”
For someone who professed to be terrible at giving advice, he was a ninja of tact. When in doubt, and pressed for an answer, simply rebut with a question in turn – it’s a fail safe tactic. Particularly when you’ve been put on the spot by someone you don’t know all that well. Oops.
The problem with the ‘are you happy?’ benchmark is that happiness isn’t static. If we all did what made us happy in the short term, well, the world might be a very different place. It’s called adulting.
“Happiness is fleeting and at times elusive. We won’t always grasp it, and we’ll forgive ourselves if we don’t. Our lives might not always be happy, but they will be full with experience and with one another.” (via A Practical Wedding)
I’ve been finding happiness in the little moments. But I don’t know if those are enough. I don’t know if that makes up for the overall instability of our current existence – because this is my LIFE, and I’m the only one who has to live it and the only one who can take full responsibility for it.
I can’t tell if I’m cold or codependent (that probably changes from moment to moment). I can’t tell if I’m expecting too much and need to learn to roll with the punches or if I’m an idiot for sticking it out so long. I feel like I could paint at least two very different pictures, two very different interpretations, of the past few years, and I honestly don’t know which would be the more accurate. I don’t know where to draw the line, because there is no clear demarcation for these kinds of things.
From a wholly pragmatic perspective, I should have walked months ago. I tried, sort of. But I’m very good at that womanly thing of Putting Others First. Too good.
The question I’ve been asking myself a lot is: How do you know? There are things we’ve been taught are dealbreakers in relationships. But for most of us, it’s not that clear cut. So many times I’ve just wished for someone to tell me what to do, and be done with it.
What is expecting too much? What is expecting too little? Am I settling? Am I being unrealistic?
I ain’t saying she a gold digger, but I do require an equal partner.
Truths to live by
It’s insanity to keep doing the same thing and expect different results.
Do not expect other people to change.
I am the only person responsible for my own happiness.
(Oh, and the sunk cost fallacy – throw that in there too.)
Words of wisdom
I’ve been finding a lot of comfort in a lovely comment left here some months ago:
“I used to go to sleep some nights thinking I was going to wake up the next morning, pack a suitcase and head to my mom’s and start the separation process. … I also would give myself ultimatums like ‘if it’s not better by this date I’m leaving’”
I remember reading somewhere – I suspect in a post about unconventional relationship advice – that you must be willing to walk away. Now, I know it’s commonly thrown around that people just aren’t committed enough today and that they give up too easily or expect perfection. But to be frank, I’ve yet to see a single example of this in the lives of anyone I know. We’ve all got the opposite problem – we don’t know when to walk away. We hang on for all we’ve got.
I thought I was willing to walk. But it took months to actually muster myself to that tipping point and look over the edge.
And I can’t lie, the terror I felt was almost paralysing.
Being there, though – that was a turning point. I was making plans. I was saving listings on TradeMe. I went and looked at another place to live. It wasn’t just an option; I was committed to leaving. (Not necessarily the relationship, but definitely the living situation, for many pragmatic reasons.)
What changed my mind? So many little things, barely on the spectrum at all, really – a toothbrush, an unexpected encounter – but enough in aggregate to drive me into even deeper contemplation. Ultimately, a third path started to crystallise. I ran scenarios, crunched numbers. I thought I found a way to get what I wanted, without having to shake up my entire life right now. A win-win, as they call it. There’s nothing quite like feeling backed into a corner, and finally seeing a sliver of light in a new option as it reveals itself.
The most important thing is not my marriage. It’s ME.
I certainly haven’t been acting like it. But once I finally cemented this in my mind, things became a lot clearer.
Again, this is my life. I only get one, and I’m the only one living it. There are things I cannot control in it, things that have made life quite miserable. But there are other things I can control, and can change, to mitigate that. Sour as that lemonade is to swallow, it’s not as bitter as the lemons.
So, I’m making plans to achieve the things I want. My number one priority is myself. The status quo is unsustainable; a 2016 without progress is unacceptable.
Hopefully the future still involves us growing old together – but if it doesn’t, I have made peace with that. That might sound depressing, but I find this freeing.
Happiness is having a plan.
TL;DR: Money is the most important thing in the world. Don’t believe anyone who says it isn’t.
(Sorrynotsorry if that offends your romantic heart.)