“Whoever is happy will make others happy too.” Anne Frank
Here’s a great question I got from a client in my membership program:
If it’s not our job to make each other happy, what is our responsibility or obligation towards our partner? Do we have one and how can it be defined?
We learned – almost as soon as we come out of the womb – how to get our needs met. When I was behaving in a way that was pleasing to my mother or father they shined their love in my direction. And when I was misbehaving that light was taken away from me in one way or another.
It doesn’t take much to figure out how to play that game if our goal is to be liked or feel loved: just do what others want you to do.
And in that process of learning to people-please in order to be loved, we come into our closest, and what should be our most loving relationship assuming we know how to make them happy. Duh! Just do the things they want you to do.
And surely, they will do the same for us.
We say so in our wedding vows.
I’m meeting all of his needs and expectations. He’s meeting all of mine. Everyone’s blissfully happy.
At least that was the plan.
Do you recall what you said in your wedding vows? I bet it was some version of: You will always feel loved, adored and desired. If you ever feel sadness, I’ll be right there beside you. You will always be appreciated, understood, and we will spend our lives perpetually loving one another.
We make completely unrealistic expectations and inevitably fall short time and again.
But we also say the words, “till death do us part.”
So, we break the vows about being the perfect partner every single day, but boy do we remember: till death do us part. So, the assumption is we’re going to remain together no matter how much we hurt one another or how unloving we have been to one another.
Until one person in the partnership says, “Enough. No more. I’m not doing this anymore.”
And the other partner is stunned and left reeling.
This is a very long, involved answer to, What’s my obligation to my partner?
The long answer is, Whatever unrealistic thing you said on the day you took your vows.
The short answer is your job is to just love your partner…(until loving your partner requires you to no longer be loving toward yourself).
BTW – Now that the naivety is gone, you can re-write those vows anytime…