Happiness comes from within?
Over the course of my adult life, I have read this statement more times than I can count. Coffee mugs, magnets, bumper stickers, all emblazoned with these few words that I was never fully able to comprehend. While I am well-educated and fluent in the English language, it was the concept that confused me, not so much the words.
Happiness? Inside of me? You mean like, my morning coffee?
As if I took a page from the "Daddy Issues for Dummies" handbook, I put the power of my happiness in the hands of whatever relationship I was in at the time. I determined my worth and purpose in this world based on whether or not someone loved me in any way shape or form. Regardless of the nature of the relationship, good, bad, or tragic, I felt as if I could not be an inherently happy person unless that happiness was coming directly from someone else. Unless someone else was loving me, spending time on me, with me, or thinking about me.
The diagnosis? Emptiness. Loneliness. Ignorance. The cure? Keep reading.
My mom had always said, "For how successful and capable you are in your professional life, you are that much dumber in your relationships."
Sounds harsh, doesn't it? But it was true. I stayed in way too many horrible relationships just to maintain my "happiness." I found myself deflated, broken, and unable to function once said relationship came screeching to it's very ugly halt, not knowing where or what to do next until I quickly coupled up with the next guy. Hence, a cycle that continued for more years than I'd like to admit. A cycle that left me so out of touch with myself, my own needs, what I really, deeply, and truly needed to be happy.
I was always in awe of the friends and other women I'd come across who were happy and successful in their lives, went about daily life with a positive attitude, and were able to love themselves without the company of another. "How could she be so happy if she's single?," I'd wonder, mostly jealous that I was incapable of the same strength. But these suspiciously happy women were all around me, all of the time. I felt sub-par to these women because I knew I couldn't be that girl who felt worthy without a relationship, and I began to hate myself for it.
Then came my worst relationship to date. I'll spare you the details, but trust me when I say it was the lowest I had stooped in my long trajectory of bad boyfriends. He was as awful on the inside as he was charming on the outside, and I knew this -- everybody did, but I held on to whatever endearing qualities I could find in him. Until it broke me -- mentally, physically, and in every other way possible that there was to break someone.
And then I finally found my cure.
Being that a major car accident was the beginning of the end of this relationship, I needed many months of recovery to be able to walk again and let my body heal. At the start of my recovery process, I couldn't bear the thought of being locked away at home, unable to get out and socialize now that I was single again. It sounded like torture to me, actually. But then one week turned into two, two turned into a few more, and out of nowhere, I began relishing in the solitude of my new existence.
I used my time to focus on myself. I read books that interested me. I watched Ellen episodes on repeat and laughed until my cheeks hurt, I spent time with friends in a capacity that was much more fulfilling than going out on the town to meet some new guys. Once out of my casts and able to get around with the help of crutches and a wheelchair, I spent the second half of my recovery in South Florida, at my mom's apartment. I was 28 years old, and never imagined I'd be shacking up with mom again to be taken care of, but it was one of the best parts of my road to physical and emotional recovery, that and her beautiful balcony I'd sit on for hours on end just staring out at the sea and enjoying the breeze.
Not only did I come out of recovery healed in the physical sense -- I felt ready to tackle my life in a new way, emotionally. I knew that at this point in my life, it was time to love myself. Time to make myself happy. Hell, I finally had a chance to be alone with myself and get to know who I really was and really wanted out of life. And I did everything in my power to put myself and my needs first, spending long stretches of time alone and loving it. Even when relocating to a new city.
My happiness within finally reached normal levels. From there, it radiated out of me to finally attract the right kind of man, one who understood my independence and love for taking care of myself. And I got married. And it feels so good that it's not my marriage that makes me happy, it's me that makes me happy in my marriage. While my husband definitely turns up the happy dial more often than not, that's just a bonus, no longer a barometer for the satisfaction of my soul.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the NationalDomestic Violence Hotline.