who is responsible for your happiness?

I have had a few epiphanies in my life. One of those epiphanies came when I was 22 years old, about six months after I got married. I realized that I had made a mistake—that I needed to leave him. But that wasn’t my epiphany.

My epiphany was that everyone is responsible for their own happiness.

My ex-husband (it feels so weird to say because we were together for so short a time, it almost doesn’t seem real) was a very damaged person. He was abandoned at birth and abused by adoptive parents who didn’t want him. He is extremely intelligent and kind—but damaged. It couldn’t work out between us for many reasons, and I realized that soon after we married. But I was afraid to leave him. I didn’t want to hurt him. I was afraid that if I left him, he might hurt himself. So many horrible things had happened to him in his life, and I didn’t want to be the last straw that made him end it all. I think because of that fear, I was in denial about leaving him. We were living apart for a few months and I still believed it would work out.

I don’t remember exactly what I was doing the moment it all became clear. But it was a sudden realization—an epiphany—and perhaps it seems cold and callous, but it was necessary. I realized that we are all responsible for our own happiness. I realized that if I left him, and he chose to end his life, that that was his decision—not mine. And I realized that I only have one life, and I need to do what I can to make sure it is a happy one. I can’t give my life away for fear that someone else will be unhappy. I need to take care of my own happiness first. I am responsible for my happiness.

Happiness is an elusive feeling for me. I have major depressive disorder—I have had it since I was born, though I wasn’t diagnosed until I was about 12. When I finally got on medication, I realized that the way I had felt my whole life wasn’t what I was supposed to be feeling. I realized that my feelings, my state of being, wasn’t normal. I realized what happiness was.

I’m still trying to figure out how to keep a grip on this elusive feeling called happiness. Sometimes it slips from my grasp, and when I notice it’s escaped again, I need to figure out what I need to adjust to get it back. Maybe that will be a life-long thing. Monitoring, adjust, grasping, hunting for my happiness.

My happiness is important to me. Maybe it’s more meaningful to me than to others—or I appreciate it more than others do, because of my difficulties in obtaining and retaining it.

My boyfriend—is that still what I call him now that we are on a break?—has found it hard to deal with my attacks of depression. He wants to help me, but how can he? I’ve always done it on my own. I work through it, I work, I wait until I am happy again. I don’t need help, I don’t even know what would or could help. I am responsible for my happiness.

But he says that couples need to help each other be happy. That their happiness should be interdependent—intertwined. I don’t understand how this can be. Practically, I mean (sometimes I have a hard time thinking in abstracts). Shouldn’t you be able to take care of yourself first, before you are ready for a relationship? I don’t know how there can be a balance here.

I’m very interested to know your thoughts on this. Who is responsible for your happiness? Does anyone help you with it? Do you need their help?



  1. Lakia said,

    March 9, 2010 at 2:41 am

    I agree with the statement that everyone is in charge of their own happiness!

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