Episode 112: Happiness Is An Inside Job

Staying with someone to make them happy may not be what you think it should be.

Staying with someone to make them happy may not be what you think it should be.

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic:

Talk about the idea that you can’t “make” someone feel any certain way.

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Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at albery-jones.com for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at domduong.com.

Podcast transcript

Sharing sexual fulfilment has always been an option in my relationship (marriage) for 5 years, never have we executed the mission, had a couple of failed attempts and hurdles to overcome that have all been from one side (in other words issues with my partner, no offence).

They are like a wonderful loving rollercoaster of amazing!!! But they are constantly unhappy and miserable. I have offered everything on the table, unselfish, endless love even to the point where they could have a secret I wouldn’t care I just want them to be happy and I want my ride or die bff back. They have earned the right to be happy more than anything.

I’m sad because I just feel like I have failed them because they feel like they can’t trust me enough to just be honest with me when it comes to expressing their feelings…. Currently: we have opened up to two things 1.) saw someone attractive 2.) would have sex with my mom. Both normal totally acceptable things 3.) freaked out for over a week because they thought I was going to freak out because of a person they forgot to tell me about from before we were together

I know wtf that’s so dumb lol  but… Now: I have been told that they think it’s extremely wrong for them to even have theses normal thoughts and feelings. SO I AM EXTREMELY CONFUSED. I guess my question is am I wrong for feeling like 1.) this makes no sense at all to me 2.) if nothing makes sense than it has to be that they are just so scared and all alone and in fear to tell me what’s really happening to them?

I’m the most non judgmental, pansexual, zero pride, loving, caring, selfish, supportive, non judgmental, non standard person there is and I have done nothing to make them not trust me or worry and have been an open book so idk. I might also be hurting myself and going through emotional distress and abuse or something but I don’t even think about that because I never question being there for them for a second so I’m Definitely falling apart but am okay with that .


So all due respect, you're not completely making sense here. And it's a little hard to understand what's happening. But I do kind of think you're lying to yourself a little bit because you're you're sort of like, “I never questioned being there for them for a second”.

But clearly you are questioning because if you weren't questioning whether or not you should be there for them, you wouldn't have written in this question. So you aren't questioning that you're whether or not you should be there.

You say you're definitely falling apart but you're okay with that you're not okay with falling apart. Who would be okay with falling apart? And your mention of a roller coaster really reminds me of people who think that dramatic people are exciting, and that when people ignore them, it's much more interesting and who tend to kind of go into hugely up and down relationships because almost like healthy, calm relationships are boring to them.

And I don't know if that's necessarily the case. But are you like mistaking these emotional ups and ups and downs as love? Because there are a couple of things that I have problems that I have within your letter, and I don't know if this is — and I'm not trying to be judgmental necessarily here, but I don't know how old you are.

But I tend to see people who are a lot younger having this attitude very frequently. And that isn't a bad thing. But I think it is kind of a product of culture, a combination of lots of different things. But yeah, there are a few things here.

One, you shouldn't have “Ride or Die” people in your life. I know that's like super romantic and hyped up and like “oh!”. I feel like this is like an effect of trauma to be honest with you. This idea that somebody's going to be with you no matter what just screams at me like “I didn't have a parent or guardian who should have been there for me. So I'm going to make someone else into that sort of unconditional completely always there for you type of person.”

Adult love is and should be conditional. You should not and no one should love you unconditionally as an adult because you should have conditions for your love and that if someone doesn't treat you right, you should walk away.

And I know that people like, “Oh that's not what I mean”. But like really, your love should be conditional and there isn't anything wrong or unromantic about having conditions for the people who love you and for your love for other people. It should be conditional. You should actually judge you kind of create this picture of yourself.

And I'm not trying to hate or anything about it but you can be a little selfish and I don't know if you if you meant to say you're not selfish, it's a little confusing, but you should judge. You shouldn't just accept whatever is coming to you. Supporting people with absolutely no strings attached is not a virtue.

That is a result of having no boundaries, and having an inability to stand up for yourself. So you should actually be a little bit judgmental of situations you should think about things and go. I don't know, maybe this isn't the best for me. You shouldn't ride or die for anyone you don't need to die. Who's dying? Why why why?

Why? Nobody needs to die. In what— are we Romeo and Juliet? What situation? This isn't a zombie apocalypse. Nobody needs to die for anybody. So no, no, no, no do not be ride or die for anybody. Right or die for yourself. If anybody. The only unconditional love you should have unless you have children is for yourself.

You should not love other people and support them unconditionally. That is a absolute horrible recipe for disaster. And the other thing is like you're focusing on your ability to make someone else happy. Happiness is an inside job. And we don't really like that like a lot of people don't like that because a lot of people choose misery.

And that's the thing like — okay, certain circumstances in our life happened to us, right? And they suck and they cause us to be sad. Like when people die. That's a shitty thing. You are sad and I'm not negating that. But what I am saying is that the entire internal process of making choices every day as a grown adult, is your own personal choices.

How you choose to go about life, how you choose to look at things, you know, some of that can be because of circumstances that have happened to you. But at the end of the day, even if you have a severe mental health problem like depression like anxiety, which I have had for a long ass time, and I'm pretty sure if you went back to tell me even two or three years ago that happiness is an inside job and that I'm choosing to be anxious, I would have been deeply offended.

However, I chose. You know nothing changed about the world between when I used to be constantly anxious, constantly unhappy — nothing changed about the world. The world didn't become a better place. The situations and the systems that had power over me did not have less power over me suddenly, but I chose to look at things in a different way.

I chose to get therapy I chose to try and and repair my situation I chose to change. So happiness is an inside job. This person that you're with, you cannot make them happy. You cannot fix them and that's kind of part of this super romantic thing like that comes with that ride or die bullshit that like you can fix somebody and you can— it's a nice feeling because you feel in control.

Because you can control a situation. You can fix somebody. You can become their internal unconditional loving support, and they're just gonna look at you and appreciate you for all that you are another and it feels empowering. It certainly feels a lot more empowering in the situation then going and “I can't control if someone's going to actually care about me or not”.

And that may come from your childhood. I certainly know that I had a lot of stuff in my childhood. that convinced me that I could control the people around me, that if I was just a little bit calmer, a little bit nicer if I had a little less anxiety if I looked a certain way, then maybe other people around me would love me more maybe you know all I have to do.

It's a very clever trick, especially when you're a child and you rely on adults as a child to take care of you. You rely on them. You cannot leave that situation if it doesn't serve you. So in situations where children do not get the loving support and care that they need, do not get told of their value by their immediate caregivers are not given the proper support that they desperately need from them.

Instead, their brains will go, “Okay, this is bad because we need these people to survive”. And as humans in general, we need social connections to survive, as I've said multiple times as a reason why being put in solitary confinement causes us to go crazy we need people to survive. So our brains will go, “Okay, maybe if I just do this, it will fix this and they will suddenly start to support me,” because that gives you hope.

That gives you a little shining ray of hope in this situation where the immediate caregiver who you rely on and need to survive is not giving you what you need. And that passes on into adulthood and continues to create a learned helplessness within us. Continues to create a situation within our brains that disempowers us because you're an adult now.

You can't fix another adult. They have to fix themselves, but you do not have to stay in that relationship unlike when you were a child and when I was a child and I couldn't leave a situation that didn't serve me I have the power to leave a situation that does not serve me.

And even though I don't have the power to control somebody else, and that sometimes is quite sad— because you know I actually have a better power and realising that you have that better power is kind of part of coming out of that in greatness that was that maybe happened to you during your childhood. I'm only speaking for like myself at my experience.

But I do see shades of this in the thing and the ways that you're talking about this in terms of like, “Oh, I've done nothing to make them not trust me. I’ve been totally supportive and I completely—“ you know. You shouldn't be happy with being miserable just because they are. Maybe you need to step away from this situation.

Seek out a therapist regarding like— do you have a problem with staying in emotionally turbulent relationships and getting drama confused with like a lot of love? And thinking that because this is a super dramatic situation. This person is super roller coaster, that there's something about that that feels safe to you.

Maybe you were around emotionally turbulent people your whole life and you kept that you kept the support, you kept them grounded. And that's where you kind of established your identity. That's where you established your safety within that situation. So now that you're grown, you continue to seek out situations where this other person is super emotionally turbulent, super dramatic.

And you are then again responsible for maintaining this calmness, maintaining the kind of you know, keeping them grounded, but actually that's not a good place to be in. And even though it may feel safe somewhere somehow emotionally or even it may be feel a little exciting. There are lots of people like I said, who you know, when someone starts ignoring them, or someone starts being very up and down, which is kind of — I can't really say if this I don't have enough information about this situation to say whether or not there are signs of it being abusive or not.

But I do know that definitely there are a lot of people and a lot of situations where when someone is sort of super emotionally higher low and goes back and forth, the roller coaster like you were describing, they find that exciting to a certain extent, because and my therapist explained this to me because there was a situation that I was in where I couldn't find my I could— How do I explain this?

There was somebody who I was interested in and they behaved in a way that I couldn't understand. And it was like my brain couldn't let go of this. And I wanted to let go of it. But my brain couldn't let go of it. My therapist explained that you know if you took an if you take an animal in like a test and you gave them i f food every time that you rang a bell and they knew every time they rang the bell that they would get food they would in a way become used to that and it would somewhat become “boring”, because it's predictable. Their brains wouldn't remember this they wouldn't think about it.

But if you didn't always give them food every time you ring the bell. Then as soon as you ring the bell the animal is going to become super interested in whether or not there is food because there's not food all the time. So it becomes so much more interesting for the brain to fixate on.

Because there's a problem to solve, like, what causes the food to be there? I don't know. So sometimes when you have a person who's very up and down to some extent, it's a little bit more interesting for your brain because your brain is trying to figure out like what's the problem here?

And especially if you come from a situation in your childhood where adults around you have made you responsible for their feelings and saying things like you know, you make me so mad or like I'm mad because like if they over emotionally react to things or get angry at you because you know, if you spilled some milk and they flip out if you do something and they flip out and or you know as a child bad if you do certain things, you know.

You're walking on eggshells your whole life because you know if you do certain things you might trigger something or you're just trying to prevent an emotional overreaction at all times and you're sort of walking on a tightrope constantly, then you will start to think that you are always responsible for other people's feelings. And when you feel that way and you do have someone who's kind of very up and down.

It can be very interesting in some ways for your brain because you're like, “What is— how do I fix this? How do I—?” And learning how to step away from that is really, really important. Because as I said, happiness is an inside job. You don't make someone happy. Yes, we contribute to our each other's happiness. We hope that relationships that we have will contribute to our happiness. It's the point of having relationships, right?

But at the end of the day, really, it's the choices that we make as individuals. It's the way that we choose to look at the world. It's the way that we whether we choose to reach out for help or not. We can't force someone else to do that. They have to do it themselves. So whatever emotional stuff that this person that you're with is going through, as Clementine Morgan says, you can't fix the problem by being good because the problem is not that you are bad.

You can't fix this person. You can't change how they decide to look at things. You can't change whether or not they get help. You can't change their perspective. The only thing you can do is stay on or get off the roller coaster. And I think that you should really think about that whether this is a ride you want to be on whether you don't deserve a situation that is this volatile.

And whether or not you're seeking out volatility because there's something in volatility that feels safe to you. So think about a few of those things because I don't think that you're actually okay with this. And I think that I would especially seek a therapist for the kind of, you're kind of actively lying to yourself with all due respect.

You're kind of going, “I don't have a problem with this. I’m fine. I can stay. I can do whatever I can be there for them all the time, blah, blah, blah” — but you do have a problem with it. And you're creating this version of yourself. That is this superior, angelic, completely selfless, perfect independent, you don't have to be that person and no one is that person, because no one should be that person.

No grown adult should unconditionally love another grown adult in such a way that causes them to ignore their own feelings and betray themselves. There is nothing virtuous about that. There isn't there truly, truly isn't anything virtuous about that. I'd also check out Haley McGee on Instagram because there's a lot of stuff about like people pleasing here.

And it's really tough because I feel like people who have this mindset are probably trying to come from a place of virtuosity are trying to come from a place of I want to be a good person. So let me just give up all my boundaries and just give everybody everything and just, you know, I don't have any needs. Just take just take everything you want. But actually there isn't anything virtuous or good about those things.

Because it actually takes courage. And it actually takes a form of love for yourself and for other people to set those boundaries and to say, no, actually, I won't put up with this. So I think that that's something that you really need to think about that this shouldn't be just a ride or die situation that there's no dying. What? Who's dying? Why are we dying?

What's going on here? Okay, there's there's no— let’s— until the zombie apocalypse. I know that the world's you know, things are bad. But we're— things are actually not that bad. And we're okay. There's no need. There's this is not an apocalypse. Nobody needs to ride or die. This isn't Mad Max. This is not needed. Okay, nobody's killing—. Let's not no, just no.

So really, really think about this. I feel like you're lying to yourself a little bit. It's a little hard to understand some of what you're saying. But I do feel like you're not okay with this situation. And I think that there needs to be a lot more therapy here to break down some of this kind of putting yourself in this virtuous constantly giving people pleasing pretty much type of trope and blind yourself and not stepping away from situations that maybe aren't serving you.

And kind of having these romantic ideals which force you to be this type of person who has no complaints about anything when it's okay to have complaints. about things. And maybe you need someone there for you that can help you understand that. It's not a bad thing to be conditional about your love to have standards have boundaries, and to stick up for yourself and that letting people walk all over you is not actually something that makes you a supportive person. So yeah, I hope that's not too harsh.

I think that you know, I understand the situation that you're in, I understand when you really really care about somebody, it can feel right or die and get that but it is really really important and I have been somebody who has found myself in situations where I've given a lot to people and felt really betrayed. And in some of those situations, like I'll be very, very real. I had no one to blame but myself because I'm the one who decided to give and I'm the one who didn't stop myself and that's really hard.

That's a really hard pill to swallow. But happiness as I said is an inside job. So in the times when I've been unhappy and that's kind of another reason why we don't like to admit that we can't make other people happy because that also means that when we're miserable in some instances, it's because of the choices that we've made.

And that really sucks but it is the truth. And I don't mean it to be harsh, but it is sometimes something that we kind of have to take a good hard look at ourselves at and think about. So yeah, I hope that helps and good luck.

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