By Roger Nygard, Author, and Filmmaker
HOW TO HAVE A LONG HAPPY RELATIONSHIP AND A SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE
When I interviewed dating expert Lucia Demasi for my documentary THE TRUTH ABOUT MARRIAGE, she gave me an insight that now seems blindingly obvious: “If you rely on another person to make you happy, eventually you are going to be unhappy, because if someone has the power to make you happy, they also have the power to make you unhappy.” If you place your happiness in somebody else’s hands, you are at their mercy.
Lucia also made an important distinction by asking whether I felt best when either giving love or receiving love. She explained, “The good feeling comes from the fact that you are giving love because it is coming from you. You can’t feel [somebody else’s] love. What you are feeling is yourself loving that person.”
Jesus’ biblical definition of love is well known for having tried to get across that it is indeed better to give than receive. When I interviewed Rabbi Lazer Brody, also for the documentary THE TRUTH ABOUT MARRIAGE, he too was in this “modern love camp” with the Christian Savior, in that Rabbi Brody was emphatic that “love is giving.” He teaches that marriage exists to combine two souls, with an emphasis being on what you give to your partner.
DO YOU FEEL LOVED?
One of my favorite descriptions of love came from co-parenting expert Rachel Hope, whose definition of love is one of behavior—something measurable. “Most people think love is just their feeling: ‘I feel a loving sensation so therefore I must love.’ If it is not followed up by action that you can clearly see—this person is behaving in a loving way—then I don’t think it counts. It only counts if the loved one really experiences the love.” What good are words if you don’t follow through?
If you allow people to treat you in a way that’s not acceptable, it’s up to you to make changes so you can learn how to respect yourself. Not only are you allowed to unfriend people, you must clear out the emotional vampires from your life, the ones who seem to suck the energy out of you every time you interact. This is another way for you to improve how you can feel loved.
My friend Joe Yannetty (who is also co-writer of my comedy film about car salesmen called SUCKERS) once told how me how his wife resented it when he enjoyed himself. “She would say things like, ‘how dare you have fun when I am here not having fun?’ I used to think that if she was sad it was my job to cheer her up. And if she was angry, I must have done something to upset her. And if she was dissatisfied, I must solve the problem. When you learn that it is not your job to fix others, it is so freeing.”
WILL LOVE MAKE YOU HAPPY?
Another expert I interviewed for my relationship book The Truth About Marriage was Neil Strauss, the notorious pickup artist of the wildly popular books The Game and the sequel Rules of the Game. Strauss now writes about how to keep relationships alive. And he sees the ideal of how to be happy all the time as another misleading cultural myth, as well as a recipe for misery:
“Whenever you are not happy (sometimes we are sad, depressed, angry, in pain), that moment of thinking, ‘I’m not happy,’ just reinforces the sadness because now there’s something else to be upset about. The goal is acceptance. The measure of a good relationship is not, ‘Are we happy all the time?’ It is, ‘How quickly do we fully recover from conflict, and love as we did before?’ The secret is to work on yourself. If you work on yourself and your reactivity, one of two things are going to happen. Your partner will be inspired, and meet you up at your emotional level—or you will see who they are and outgrow them. But no part of a healthy relationship involves trying to change, control, or have expectations of your partner being any way other than what they are.”
LEARN HOW TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
Our culture teaches us to sacrifice our wants and needs, to do what we think our parents or friends want us to do or do what will make us popular. But, much like when there is a loss of cabin pressure and oxygen masks drop down, you have to put on your own mask first before you can help anybody else.
Do what you need to do, to first make yourself happy, and then by doing so, you will make everybody around you happier.
Relationship expert Claire Brummell gave me this advice for THE TRUTH ABOUT MARRIAGE documentary, “If you learn to listen to what is right for you and do what makes you happy, you not only fit in, you can find people with whom you belong.”
When being happy in a relationship does not come naturally, counselors become the teachers we desperately need. Psychologist Dr. William J. Doherty is a family and marriage therapist, and professor at the University of Minnesota. He has authored several books like Take Back Your Marriage: Sticking Together in a World That Pulls Us Apart. Dr. Doherty emphasizes that the first key to a successful relationship is to realize that you are responsible for your own happiness:
“Almost zero percent of engaged people think they are ever going to get divorced. It is the myth of being ‘exceptional’—if I could wave a magic wand, I would try to help people explode the myth that they are going to be immune to [anti-marriage] forces. The level of interpersonal competence needed to succeed at marriage has never been higher…. If the goal of marriage is to make me happy, there are going to be times when I’m not happy. Happiness is a byproduct of a life well-lived. If I choose my soulmate to make me happy, I am aiming for something that will slip through my fingers.”
If you’d like to learn more relationship and happiness tips, check out the links below for the funny documentary The Truth about Marriage and The Truth about Marriage relationship book by Roger Nygard. Both will help you find the right relationship and keep it healthy and vibrant.