Life plans don’t work because they often don’t reflect reality and they are regularly based on external factors. Feelings–not life plans should guide our actions. I am going to illustrate this from the perspective of romantic relationships.
We often hear one or more of the following:
- I thought I would be married before turning thirty.
- All my friends are getting married. I’m feeling behind.
- My parents were married much younger than I am now.
- All my friends have better luck dating than I do.
- I keep getting invited to other people’s weddings.
- My parents keep asking me when I’m going to settle down.
Planning for a marriage, hoping for a relationship, wanting either a marriage or a relationship by an arbitrary age is not overtly planning for a healthy relationship. By failing to overtly plan for a healthy relationship and desiring a relationship because you want a relationship are not good reasons to have a relationship.
Comparing your lack of a relationship to the supposed success of your friends and/or the expectations of family aren’t good reasons to have a relationship.
The best way to find the kind of loving, supportive relationship almost all of us want is to be guided by our feelings. Specifically, we need to pay attention to the sometimes elusive feeling of happiness.
If we approach relationships with the idea we are going to love whom makes us happy, our odds of finding love are greater. If we approach relationships knowing our partner must make us happy, our odds of finding love are better. If we approach relationships understanding our happiness is non negotiable, our odds of finding love are better.
I’m not suggestion we live for a delusional fantasy where life is always happy, someone else will always make us happy, or work is never required. The truth is that loving relationships, like everything else worth having, take work, compromise, and sacrifice. But loving relationships–no matter how hard we work, how much compromise we make, how many sacrifices we give–can’t exist without happiness.
The key to love isn’t what mom wants for us. The key to love isn’t the relationships of our friends. The key to love isn’t pinning a status to someone and something by a certain age. The key to love is happiness. The key to happiness is a special love. The key to happiness is loving yourself enough to realize your happiness is more important than anyone else’s feelings about you or societal expectations. It’s only when happiness guides your relationships can you find a relationship that makes you happy. Happiness can’t guide your relationships until you know your happiness is the most important thing in your life. In this respect: be selfish! Don’t give your heart to someone unless they truly make you happy and your happiness matters to them. Don’t let anyone convince you that holding out for as much happiness as you can get and insisting your happiness matter to your partner is idealistic.
Before dismissing me as crazy and this idea as some kind of new-age nonsense, ask yourself two question. How many married people do you know who are truly happy? Of those, how many of them value their happiness?