Sometimes, the motivation can be spot-on, but if the target is off, the effort doesn’t really matter. Drive east looking for a sunset, and even with a full tank of gas and broad spectrum eyewear, the destination will never be reached.
In a more everyday example, there’s being happy in a marriage. It’s an often-said desire, achieved by some, but for many couples, it feels like an endless struggle, and people are left to wonder what’s wrong with their situation. But rather than a missed opportunity, maybe the problem is the wrong approach. As noted psychiatrist Frank Pittman once said, “Marriage isn’t supposed to make you happy. It’s supposed to make you married.”
The warped perspective you have about wedded bliss is a holdover from your dating period. Everything was great. Adrenaline was firing. Time was unhurried, and the positives dominated. All of that created two lingering beliefs. Number one: “This is the right person for me. They should make me happy,” says Dr. Paulette Sherman, New York City licensed psychologist.
This is something of a new concept. In the past, marriage was for things like social status, safety and children. Then it shifted to a spouse being a best friend, confidante, and source of self-esteem, says Dr. Dianne Grande, licensed psychologist in Batavia, Illinois. It’s a tall order, and a tiring one. In his work, Eli Finkel, Northwestern University professor of psychology, has called it the suffocation model of marriage, and spoken to us about how higher expectations coupled with less time invested has led to increased rates of marital dissatisfaction.
There’s a certain personal responsibility for feeling happy, but just like how spouses can make each other miserable, they can also make each other feel good. “Happiness is contagious. Another person can affect you,” says Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at University of California, Riverside and author of The How of Happiness.
That brings us to Lingering Belief Number Two: “It will always be effortless,” says Dr. Pat Love, relationship expert and co-author of How to Improve…
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