“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them”
Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island
In therapy, I frequently refer to partnerships as having three entities: Person A, Person B, and the Relationship. A & B are independent and interdependent. Relationship – although the glue that supports and holds the partners together – is entirely dependent on the partners while being the most important of the three. Confused? Picture it as a Venn diagram with Relationship in the overlapping portion of the circles and continue reading for my explanation of the old chestnut about making other people happy.
You cannot make another person happy. You can give enough (time, energy, love, and resources) to your relationship that the other person can find the freedom, encouragement, support, and acceptance they need to find their own happiness. In healthy relationships, the other person is then moved to reciprocate by also giving to the relationship. This way, you build a strong enough relationship to accommodate each person’s imperfect attempt to love the other. During the times that one or the other (or neither) can give to the Relationship, you will have hopefully “banked” enough to sustain you through the challenging times.