Love and Happiness

Can you have happiness without love?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this question lately. My opinion is; no you cannot find true lasting happiness without love. This does not mean “love” in the sense of an intimate relationship with a life partner or spouse. Granted, loving someone and being loved can and does bring tremendous joy, happiness, and purpose to our lives, but it is not a requirement for happiness. We only need to think about monks or people of highly enlightened states who have found happiness within themselves. In this context I’m talking about love for oneself.

For years I was unhappy. Sure I seemed happy on the outside and thought I was happy, but I always felt as if something was missing in my life. Any happiness I experienced was short lived. My happiness mostly came from professional accomplishments or material possessions; they weren’t keys to happiness rather but distractions. My answer to how to find happiness or “how to be happy” was anything that distracted me from knowing my true self. Intimate relationships never lasted very long either, usually because I felt as if I was giving up something; like personal freedom or the pursuit of my dreams. I know, it’s backwards thinking. At least a way of thinking that’s bound to leave me lonely.

The real reason I failed at building deep personal relationships with others was my lack of self-love or as someone else recently described to me, emotional connectedness. We’ve all heard the saying that it’s impossible to love others unless you love yourself. Certainly I agree to some extent, yet there are some that would argue with this type of logic. Here’s an example:

For years I thought I loved a lot of people; I would do anything to help them out and truly thought of myself as selfless and altruistic. Looking back, I see that what I felt for others was not true love; it was an attempt to be liked. Most of the things I did for others were self-serving in that I was seeking acceptance. The actions and emotions—even though I may not have realized it—were conditional. And yes, there are those who would argue that even with unconditional love, there are some motives there as well. Doesn’t it feel good to do something for someone you love unconditionally?

Although I would give freely, conversely, I had tremendous difficulty accepting anything from others. That includes gifts, love, or emotional intimacy. So even though I thought I was giving love, I was still unable to accept it due to low self-esteem and lack of self-love. No matter how much I helped or thought I loved others, I was continuously left wanting more, thus void of true long-lasting happiness.

How is Love and Happiness Related?

When my wife was 20 years old her mother was killed when she was hit by a car while exchanging information along the side of the road after an accident. My wife was very close with her mother and the loss was extremely hard to accept. My wife once said “after her mom died, nothing was ever as good as it could be.” She went on to say, “don’t get me wrong, life is good and even great, but when something great happens in your life, your mother is the first person you want to share it with.”

I love my wife dearly, and she is always the first person I want to share things with. She is my biggest fan as I’m hers. However, we both realize that our happiness is not contingent on each other. We realize we’re just not that powerful. Sure life may be less exciting or fulfilling without each other for a while (honestly it would suck), but we have happiness within ourselves that transcends our relationship with each other. It would be like when she lost her mother, it might not be as good as it could be, but happiness is still available to all of us regardless of who is in our lives. The key to harnessing this happiness, especially when we lose someone, is shedding expectations of those currently in our lives and not living in the past.

One of the biggest mistakes I ever made in a relationship was constantly trying to get to “the way things used to be.”  That is a disaster waiting to happen; today’s expectations are tomorrow’s resentments. The past is in the past; tomorrow will never be the same as today. By limiting your future to the way it was before, you’re also limiting the chance for greatness and something beyond your wildest dreams!

At times in our lives we all need someone to be our biggest fan, someone to encourage us when we doubt ourselves or share in our victories. Likewise, we should all be someone else’s biggest fan. I do not think I knew how to truly love and support someone until I learned how to love myself. There’s just a completely different level of compassion for others once we learn to have compassion for ourselves.

I’ve had a lot of friends over the years that have experienced tragedy and great joy; and I believe I was there for them when it counted. But I don’t think I ever really “felt” for someone sincerely as I have since I’ve discovered self-love. A few years ago when I was early in my spiritual journey and self-discovery process, I met this girl who had lost hearing in one ear years before I met her. It was a source of frustration for her and I knew she really missed the ability to hear music like she used to. One day I was sitting in a meeting and received a phone call from her, she informed me that out of no where she was able to hear out of her bad ear. To this day I remember the sincere feeling of joy I felt for her good fortune. It’s hard to explain but it was different than anything I had ever felt. It was then, in comparison, that I realized the lack of compassion and caring I had truly held in my heart up to that point for others. In years prior I would have been like, “that’s cool, good for her” but this was different, more deep and sincere than that. I attribute this to the process I was undertaking to learn how to accept, love, and feel compassion for myself. Since then, I have experienced extreme happiness.

As for how love and happiness are related; the more love I have for me (emotionally connectedness), the more love I can give. The more love I can give, the increased inner happiness I experience as I’m more open to accepting love from others.

Comments

  1. blueeyes7 says

    Gud write up. I had read about aristotles concept of friendship. He claim it is based on self love.
    I thought that self love was an end; not a means. Thus i scrap self love and assume love as the means. Isn’t that the ends pre exist in the means?
    I have been trying to find my personal values. It seems I value friendship. I think love is ok until my fortunate encounter with ur blog…
    I learned that self love is the means and that happiness is the end.
    I admit I had the same feelings of unhappiness as yours when focusing on love unconsciously. Still lack understanding of the matter back then. But hey.. thats growth isnt?
    Thanks. More Power. blueeyes7

  2. PJW5552 says

    I would not use the word self-love to describe the path to love and happiness. You certainly had low self-esteem and that probably reflected your home environment. Parents are critical to providing their children with a sense of self-worth. All children need to receive “unconditional love” from parents otherwise they seek that love from others who are more likely to take advantage of them than providing unconditional love. You probably learned that early on which made your offers of help more contingent on getting something in return instead of just giving out.

    The path to love is “emotional connectedness” and that emotional connection provides the happiness you feel. What you are overlooking with the friend who regained her hearing is that you had a true emotional connectedness with her and so when she shared her good fortune you felt genuinely happy for her. Our emotional connectedness is enhanced by our ability to share our feelings with each other and the greater our emotional connectedness the greater is our happiness.

    The secret to love and happiness is being emotionally close to each other, sharing our feelings, ups and downs with each other and becoming (for lack of a better word) closer to each other. Separating our emotional self from others isolates us and prevents us from forming a true emotional connectedness with others that is essential for happiness. Emotional connections are invisible connections between ourselves and others that are both dynamic and functional. When they break or become weakened it is extremely painful. When they are present and functional, they provide us great happiness and joy. The stronger the connection, the greater the happiness it provides us. Not all emotional connections are of equal strength and for some reason we are able to form much stronger emotional connections with certain individuals than others. What people often fail to understand is emotional connections are functional and dynamic. They can be reformed if both individuals want them to be. Too often we assume if an emotional connection is too strong or too painful we would just rather not endure the risks. Actually, those risks just may be the most important ones in our lives.

    • Jared says

      PJW5552,
      Thank you so much for your insights. Certainly a lot to think about there. You know, I’ve done a lot of work and looking back (therapy, etc.) on my childhood. The only real thing I could ever come up with was some possible resentments towards my father maybe. He worked a lot and wasn’t the typical father like teaching me how to play ball, coaching my sport teams, etc. He measured himself more on his ability to provide. Although the last few years I had a chance to get to know him better and we became a little closer, at least as close as we could be at the time. He was a simple and hard working man. He died suddenly in 2010. Was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and then passed away 10 days later. My mother was all loving and I always felt that unconditional love from her you referred to. Although, it is quite interesting how you mentioned “they seek that love from others who are more likely to take advantage of them.” That’s pretty insightful as I had a relationship with someone early in college who I would say exploited that need from me. It was an odd deal, although I learned a lot from it, it was a pretty unhealthy relationship and it baffles me now why I continued to be a part of it.

      Emotional connectedness. I completely agree with that in the sense of developing the connectedness with myself. Something I never really had early in my life until I really worked on myself through therapy, support groups, etc. which all developed out of desperation to survive a dark time in my life. It’s as if my whole life was living as this split person. It reminds me of this commercial years ago for an allergy medicine (I think), this guy is walking through the woods and there’s two versions of him, both a little blurry and translucent. Then, after taking the medicine he comes together as one clear person. That’s how I feel today, one whole person at peace with who I am and true to my identity so to speak.

      I completed had separated my emotional self from others my whole life, although the kicker is I had no idea that’s what I was doing. Until now in retrospective. We don’t know what we don’t know! When relationships got too close or real, needing emotional input and acceptance from me, I would skate away not really knowing why. It’s really as simple as the dreaded question asked by someone in a relationship, “what are you feeling?” I had absolutely no idea really! So what usually happened was I would just blurt out something that sounded deep and would make them feel better. The ol’ telling you what you want to hear thing. Which got me into many relationships which weren’t healthy and I knew I didn’t want to be in but had no idea what I needed or wanted.

      Too often we assume if an emotional connection is too strong or too painful we would just rather not endure the risks. Actually, those risks just may be the most important ones in our lives.

      Well said. The experience for me was after really, really establishing that emotional connectedness with myself, I was open to it with others. It meant I knew who I was, what I was feeling, what I wanted and needed (and didn’t need) from myself and life. Acceptance of pretty much myself, the world, and my place in it. Then I was able to open up completely with someone, being vulnerable (because I knew I would be OK) and completely connect with someone. That was when I meant my wife. And yes, I did feel a little risk at first, opening up completely in a new way, but connected all the same with my emotions and knowing everything would be OK. It’s amazing and wonderful, the only fear now is loosing that sometimes, but I know that’s not really possible either, that it’s dynamic as you say and evolving and as long as I stay connected to it (pretty much daily and minute by minute, being present to self and what is going on with me) I can be happy. Even when my father passed away I was present and OK. And as a result of being emotionally connected, I was able to share my feelings, thoughts, fears, & love with him; letting him receive it however he could, if at all. Being OK with self allowed me to express myself with no expectations in return.

      Thanks again for your contribution here and great insights!

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