So here’s the lowdown on love and happiness—everyone has their own version of how they experience them. That goes with saying that the definition of love and happiness are fluid. For me, love is when I feel unconditional warmth and tenderness toward myself and/or another person, and in some cases, yes that brings me happiness. Happiness can show up in ways where love is never even a factor—it can be waking up to a sunny day (particularly where the weather is clear skies with a consistent 73 degrees), or it can be eating a large veggie pizza (add pepperoni and pineapple) from my favorite Italian spot absolutely guilt-free. Happiness can really mean anything you choose, whether it involves love or not.
Now if I were to ask one of my friends how they define love, they’d likely say, “Love is when a person loves me for who I am, provides me with endless amounts of intimacy and support, gives me gifts, listens to me, is my best cheerleader, etc.” I would probably get a huge laundry list over the next two hours about what their partner, or parent, or someone else needs to provide in order to know they are loved. Once they have that, THEN they will be happy.
There can be an infinite amount of ways in which we may define love, but the biggest distinction to make is whether we view love as something we can tap into within ourselves, or whether we have to obtain it from something or someone externally. No matter which definition resonates with us, we have the opportunity to find love and happiness. However, love found outside one’s self is often short lived, and therefore so is the happiness associated with it.
Why does this happen? Usually when someone is searching for anything outside of himself or herself it usually means they don’t believe they are capable of obtaining it on their own. Ultimately, this may stem from thoughts such as, “ I am not good enough, I’m not pretty enough, I’m not lovable, etc.”
In romantic relationships, people experience this with the Honeymoon Phase. When a couple first enters a relationship everything feels so exciting—they get warm fuzzy feelings when they’re around one another, they think about each other non-stop, lust is at its all-time high, they maybe even fantasize about taking trips with each other, and envision their happily ever after without a single fight or flaw. This phase can last a week, a month, one year, or perhaps even two. Nevertheless, the excitement will die down, and then the true test begins of whether or not they are experiencing lasting love with their partner. If each partner recognizes that they are the sole creators of love for themselves, the relationship becomes a true partnership, in which love is merely being reflected from one person to another. Those who are unable to recognize their self-love are usually left feeling unfulfilled in the relationship, ultimately leading to its downfall.
So back to the question at hand—Is love the key to happiness? To truly answer this question, I have to rephrase it, because the more I think about it, the more I’ve realized our focus has been in the wrong place in our pursuit of overall life fulfillment: Will I embrace myself as I am, knowing I am the embodiment of love AND happiness? We have the full potential to create a thriving life full of love and happiness, no matter how we choose to view our world. The key to it all is to understand how we want to view that world, so that we may continue to move forward making the choices that best serve who we are and how we want to live our lives. For those who may need a little more clarity on just how to do that, consider the following questions:
- What does love mean to me? (What does it look like? Feel like?”)
- What does happiness mean to me? (What does it look like? Feel like?”)
- How do I create my own love and happiness, completely detached from another person? Make a list of all the ways you love yourself, and another where you create your happiness.
- Of all of the things I expect my partner to provide for me, if any, which can I just as easily provide for myself?
- How do I gift my love and happiness to others so that they may thrive too?
- How do I sacrifice my love and happiness so that others will approve of me?
- How do I hold myself back from receiving love and happiness?
- How might I be doing a disservice to myself, and to others, by not allowing myself to love and be happy in my own, authentic way?