Other People’s Happiness is Not Your Responsibility (Not Even When It’s Your Spouse)

It’s not about being selfish, it’s about impossibility


Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

One of the biggest things I learned by going to a counselor was this — you can’t MAKE other people happy. You can twist yourself into a pretzel, you can be a slave or a doormat, you can spend a million bucks — whether the other person is happy or not IS UP TO THEM.

The other thing I learned is that people are unhappy because of their own shit. Sometimes you might do something to annoy or upset them, but when they pay out on you, that’s not about you — that’s about them. About their own insecurities, doubts, fears, mental unwellness or shame.

All the same, it’s really, really hard to deal with someone yelling at you, or being nasty or rude or stabbing you in the back. I’ve felt that burning sense of “WTF?”, too, and the angry feelings in response. I’ve cried, and I’ve also carried the anger for much longer than I should.

I confess that there are a few people I have never been able to forgive. Ever.

I guess I am human.

Some examples. Someone very close to me, who had been a nurse for more than 30 years, got cancer. She had a big operation, she recovered (but was told her condition was sadly terminal). She was determined to go back to work for as long as she could. She had patients who relied on her, although she worried about whether to tell them about her diagnosis or not.

The few people who actually gave her the hardest time? Several of whom shied away from her and distanced themselves, like she was somehow infectious? Her fellow nurses. She was devastated. In talking to her about it, we agreed that it said a lot about them and their fears. All the same, WTF? The hurt of that never left her.

Many people saw the loving, caring person she was and supported her 100%. The others…

Another example. I was trying to buy a house. It was an incredibly stressful time, with high octane auctions that I lost out on and prices going up, week after week. A couple of people close to me helped a lot. They offered advice, their honest opinions on various houses, which I really needed. But one wanted to help…



Sherryl Clark - writer, editor, poet.

Writer, editor, book lover — I've published many children's books and three crime novels for adults so far. I edit other people's fiction and poetry.