Welcome to my virtual therapy room! I am Dr Lori Beth Bisbey and this is Sex Spoken Here. Remember that this podcast deals with adult themes so if you don’t have privacy you might wish to put on your headphones. Today we will talk about the two myths that I believe cause the most problems for us in creating relationships that work and keeping them working long term. Are we looking for happiness or joy?
‘Someday my prince will come’. ‘And they all lived happily ever after’.
Many of us were raised with these fantasies, believing that happiness is connected to finding ‘the one who completes us’. The cultural conditioning runs deep. Even people who make alternative life choices can find themselves dreaming about living happily ever after or meeting that one person.
These fantasies cause more pain than they do pleasure. Let’s start with the idea of living happily ever after. The story goes that we work hard to find that right person and overcome obstacles to be together and then finally we reach the goal and get to live happily ever after. The problems with this fairy tale are legion. Life is not static. People do not get to a place where they are happy in a relationship and then remain there without any work ,without any issues occurring, forever. Things change. Our relationships go through changes as we age, if we have children, when jobs change, when finances change and hopefully as we grow emotionally and spiritually. If we believe that sustained happiness is the goal we are bound to fail. This leads to dissatisfaction first, can lead to relationship breakdown and even depression.
Happiness is an emotional state that is based on external factors.
It is future based as well. As a result, we have no control over the feeling. Someone else or something that happens causes us to feel happy. We have no agency when trying to find happiness. Agency is our ability to act and/or to exert power. When we have agency we are able to create changes internally but also in the world around us.
Joy is an emotional state that is internally based.
Joy can come in moments or it can be more stable. We can find joy even when external circumstances are tough. It is often seen as a more spiritual quality. I remember waking up full of joy during a period where I was struggling financially. I took joy in the nature around me. For me joy and gratitude often go together. Many people are so caught up in the drama of their lives and in reaching for that happily ever after that they fail to take joy in all that they have and all that they are each day.
I am already complete by myself. I need no one to complete me. I don’t have a ‘better half’ or an ‘other half’. I am already whole. When I am in relationship with someone, two whole people join together. If that relationship ends, though I may grieve a great deal, I am still whole.
Believing that you need someone else to complete you denies your full potential. You are handing over your power to the mythical perfect partner. You are giving away your agency again and waiting for someone to ‘give’ you happiness, to ‘cause you to feel happy’. When you need someone else in order to feel productive, to feel good, you are setting yourself up for unhappiness and loss. Being dependent upon someone else for your good feelings and in order to feel good about yourself is a sure road to relationship failure and can also lead to a loss of confidence and depression. If the relationship ends, you are returning to your earlier state. Half a person is a broken person.
Expecting someone to complete you, to be that one person who can create your happiness is giving someone far too much responsibility.
This builds a co-dependent relationship which is not a healthy basis for relationship. Co-dependency in a relationship is marked by excessive need for the other person, problems with boundaries, problems with intimacy, imbalance in power leading to controlling behaviour, and high levels of drama.
Instead of a co-dependent relationship, we should seek an interdependent relationship. In this relationship, the individuals are whole and emotionally healthy. The partners rely upon each other and support each other. Each party is deeply involved but they do not sacrifice themselves or compromise their values.
If we are not looking for someone to complete us we recognise that we can have relationships with more than one person. For some people, this means multiple romantic relationships. For other people, this means very intimate friendships that compliment one romantic partner. We gain more support, more variety and as a result a richer life.
I learned in my graduate training how to stay in the present and I teach many clients how to do the same. I practice this in daily life as this is hard to maintain in my personal life. There is so much pressure in our culture to look back and look forward. Being in the now is often seen as irresponsible and frivolous. In my view, it is incredibly adult and demonstrates high levels of emotional intelligence and maturity. It is the letting go of fear and anxiety and the acceptance of all that you are and all that is around you that allows us to be in the now.
Thanks for joining me for Sex Spoken Here with Dr Lori Beth Bisbey.
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I look forward to seeing you next week.