What do you do when your partner is going through a rough time, but your life is going great guns in comparison?
Maybe they’re facing redundancy and you get a promotion, or they are really struggling to get their business off the ground but your work is blooming, or maybe they are just in a funk and can’t seem to climb out of the hole they are in just yet.
Maybe you’re wondering if you should:
- Hide your happy feelings
- Lower your energy to match theirs
- Go down into the hole with them to show your support
- Or be fragrantly happy in front of them and hope that it rubs off
I’ve been asked about this topic by friends, family and clients for years and it can be a really sensitive subject, because of one main emotion: guilt.
Many of us have been taught to feel bad for feeling good (especially when others are down in the dumps).
Friends and clients have said things like:
“But if I feel good, it will make him feel bad.”
“I don’t want to make him feel worse, so I’ll keep my good news to myself.”
“I feel so guilty because things are good for me but not for him.”
Have you said or thought similar things yourself?
Then you’ll know what happens next. Rather than feel the full impact of your own joy, and holding onto that feeling in your body for as long as you can, you may tend to dampen your exuberance, not share your good feelings or happy news, which results, inevitably, in you not feeling great for much longer.
Not a great outcome, right?
[Tweet “Trying to protect someone else’s feelings by diminishing your own is a misguided kindness.”]
I know you are coming from a good place when you choose to do this, but it will not result in your sustained happiness, or your partner’s – in fact, it will keep you from it.
But there is a way around this, so stick with me.
What I’ve come to realise is that the real question in this scenario is not how do you stay happy, but how do you stay happy while feeling like you’re still supporting your partner?
Because no one want’s to ignore another’s pain just to hold onto their own happiness, so how do we acknowledge the feelings of our partner while maintaining our own?
Boundaries + compassion allows a space for everyone to be with their own emotion.
I was once in a situation where things were going well for me but not for my partner at the time. We were living together so every day I was faced with his struggles in a certain area of his life. It was really weighing him down and there was no quick fix.
It was a really tricky situation to navigate because I would come home happy, or with good news, and he would be at the end of another frustrating day and feeling all kinds of self-doubt and inadequacy. I didn’t want to descend into that emotional space with him, but I still wanted him to feel supported and understood.
Here is the mindset and practical actions I took to stay in my happy place while supporting him at the same time. My way may not be your way, but perhaps it will spark some ideas for how you could approach things differently if you are struggling with this right now.
“I am responsible for my happiness, you are responsible for yours.”
Some people may find this challenging as often we’re taught that it’s our job to make other people, particularly love partners, happy. It’s not our job to make them happy. We can contribute to their happiness, hopefully we do, but it’s not a failure on our part if they are not happy. It is not our responsibility to “fix” things for them so they are happy.
“I can only control my own feelings, no one else’s”
This is why if we try to take responsibility for someone else’s happiness we are setting ourselves up for failure. The only emotions we can control are our own. You are in charge of yours, your partner is in charge of theirs.
Sometimes, when you’re in a close relationship, emotions can get confused because you are so connected and empathetic. So just observe your feelings and ask, “Who does this belong to?” If it’s not yours, it should soon disappear. If it is yours, it will likely hang around for you to resolve. This practice will help you keep healthy emotional boundaries.
“I allow you to be where you are, and me to be where I am”
Accept that life has its ups and downs and all relationships have rough patches. Don’t expect your partner or yourself to be positive and happy all the time or to necessarily resolve things quickly. Just allow them to be in this space and know that it is part of their journey. And likewise, allow yourself to be happy!
“I believe in you”
This is one of the greatest gifts we can give to someone when they are struggling and doubting themselves. We can believe in them. We can see them for the resourceful, creative and capable person that they are (as we all are).
This doesn’t mean we can’t assist, help and support. It means allowing them the space to solve their own problems and believing in their capacity to do so. Because when they do, their confidence and self-belief will skyrocket. To show your support and willingness to help you could say something as simple as: “I know you’ll work it out honey. I’m here if you need any help or want to talk.”
Show support and compassion (without dimming your joy)
You can show love and support without needing to dim your own glow. Listen to their woes without passing judgment OR enabling them, so put a time limit on it (this is important for you and them), and steer the conversation to another topic when it’s time to move on. Be free with hugs, their favourite dinners, or a foot massage, little things they like that show you are supporting them. Offer ideas or advice if they ask for it, but don’t be attached to them using that advice.
For me, compassion is on the same wavelength of love, joy and happiness, so you can still keep your own vibration high, while showing compassion, love and support for your partner. Sink into your heart space and act and speak from there. This is far more empowering for both of you than slipping into their negative space along with them.
Nurture and celebrate your own joy
If you’re feeling happy you’ve cultivated that, you’ve chosen it. Please, don’t squander it. Set aside some time, alone if you need to, to just enjoy your positive feelings. Feel them in your body, expand them if you can by sending them to the tips of your fingers and toes and the top of your head. Feel it everywhere.
If it doesn’t feel right to share your good news or happy vibes with your partner, then meet or call up a friend who can freely share in your joy. Don’t deny yourself this self-expression just because someone else is feeling down. You deserve every wisp or flood of good feeling you can create.
So, to recap:
- Hold your space; allow them to be in theirs
- Believe in their ability to solve their problems; and your ability to be happy and fully supportive at the same time
- Come from a vibration of compassion, not commiseration
- Celebrate and nurture the gift of your own joy and happiness.
What has this brought up for you? Are you already trying some of these things or intrigued to try out something new? Do you feel like these would work for you? I’d love to hear what you have to say on this topic of being happy when your partner isn’t so please leave your comments below.
If this is something you’ve been struggling with for awhile and would really love some one-to-one guidance and support on how to navigate your situation, I’d love to help you come up with some solutions on the best way forward for you and your partner. Book in for a complimentary coaching call over here.
To your sustained happiness,
PS. The first meet-up for The London Joy Club is tomorrow in central London. Join us for a glass of wine or a cup of tea, some giggles, and an exploration of how to boost our everyday joy through our senses. More details of what, where and when over here.