Responsibility: The Foundation of Healthy Relationships
Welcome to the course!
My name is Michael Sorensen—I’m the author of the best-selling book, I Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill behind Extraordinary Relationships, and will be your personal guide through this course.
I’m thrilled you’ve signed up, as the principles and practices we’ll discuss here are powerful. If you complete the course and act on the principles therein, you will begin to see results immediately. The principles we’ll discuss here are universal. They’re applicable in any relationship (romantic, professional, or otherwise), remain true across cultures and languages, and are no respecter of age, gender, or background. They are rooted in the human desire for belonging and connection and are therefore appreciated on some level by everyone.
So without further ado, let’s dive into the first lesson.
Who Is Responsible for Your Happiness?
I know the word “responsibility” isn’t exactly the sexiest way to begin a course, but hear me out. Whose job is it to make you happy? Your spouse’s? Your girlfriend/boyfriend’s? Boss’s? Parents’? Children’s? Who has the power to make your day wonderful or completely ruin it?
All healthy relationships require a solid understanding of the following truth: You, and only you, are responsible for your own happiness. No one can make you happy or sad, no one can ruin your day, and no one can break your heart without you letting them.
Sure, people will do things you don’t like, forget important events, say unkind things, and otherwise not show up how you expect. All of that is real. What’s also real is the fact that none of that directly affects your happiness. It’s how you choose to react to those situations that affects your happiness. According to Dan Gilbert’s TED Talk, “The Surprising Science of Happiness,” research has shown that happiness stems from our own internal interpretation of what is happening, rather than the event itself. That means we have the power to choose to be happy, even in the most difficult of situations.
Hamlet said it best: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
And while Hamlet may not have been talking about living a life of centered non-judgment when he uttered those words in William Shakespeare’s famous play, the statement is nonetheless thought provoking.
Relationships are wonderful. They can add tremendous amounts of happiness to our lives. But they are not in existence to provide a happiness we can’t already find within ourselves. A relationship in which one or more individual expects the other to “make” them happy is a breeding ground for manipulation, frustration, and disappointment. Partners in such a relationship will always feel some level of dissatisfaction or resentment, because their partner will never quite meet all their needs. If you’re expecting someone else to make you happy (or expecting to make someone else happy), you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
In contrast, a relationship in which both individuals own responsibility for their own happiness sets the stage for honesty, thoughtfulness, and selfless love. Partners in such a relationship work on becoming whole, complete, happy people on their own and welcome a relationship as added friendship, support, love, and partnership. They take responsibility for their own needs by communicating them to their partner or addressing them themselves. This enables them to love unconditionally and give without expectation.
Better Relationships Start with You
Over the next ten days, we’ll dive into dozens of powerful, proven techniques to improve your relationships. As you begin to practice these techniques, take time to check in with yourself and your expectations. Are you taking responsibility for your own happiness, or are you expecting others to make you happy? Are you reading the lessons thinking, “They should really do this…” or are you looking inward, thinking, “I see where I can improve.”
Got it? Try it.
What do you expect to get from current or future relationships? Are you looking for your significant other, coworkers, or friends to make you happy? If so, take a few moments to step back and figure out why. What can you do to begin to find happiness on your own and bring a full, complete person back to the relationship?
That does it for today, but tomorrow, we tackle one of the most powerful, proven approaches to improving your relationships: validation.
Share with friends