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Monday, 18 September 2000

You Can't Make Anyone Love You and Nobody Can Make You Happy

Written by  Michael Tobin

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You Can't Make Anyone Love You and Nobody Can Make You Happy

You can't make anyone love you and nobody can make you happy. Whew, is that ever hard to buy. I can already hear the screams of protest: "What do you mean you can't get anyone to love you? What a depressing thought! You mean there's nothing I can do to get my wife to love me? What are you saying? There's no love in a marriage? If so, why get involved with someone if they can't make you happy! Why are you telling us this depressing garbage?"

Well, the truth of the matter is, it's not depressing; it's liberating! Here's how:

First of all, we've all been hypnotized into believing that our true love will heal all hurts. All we need to do is find our handsome and brave Prince Charming or our beautiful and compassionate Snow White and magically all pain will disappear. Our perfect love will know how to give to us unconditionally; will be devoted to making us happy and will anticipate and meet every one of our needs and wants. Our perfect love will heal all our hurts and will be infinitely patient with every one of our shortcomings. This compassionate and giving spirit will have one goal in life: To give endlessly to make us gloriously happy.

If there is anyone among us who has such a partner, please post it on our bulletin board. It's more rare than a snow leopard. The statistical probability of finding such a pure soul is about the same as a forty-two year old couch potato quarterback being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. Sorry, but life just ain't like the movies. Your average hooker doesn't marry a billionaire Richard Gere look alike.

So here we are. We find what we think is our best chance for marital bliss and in the end our partner just doesn't deliver the goods. Here's the problem. We both think: It's my partner's job to make me happy. What results is a battle between two unhappy individuals, each of whom believes that his or her needs are more important that the other's. So while he is worrying about getting his needs met and she's worrying about getting hers met, no one gets any needs met. Sorry, a relationship is not about getting someone to love you.

John Kennedy said it perfectly, "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country." I don't know if President Kennedy was aware just how revolutionary that statement was. It in essence said, Don't focus on your rights. Rather, focus on your obligations. Don't be a taker. Be a giver. The country's strength is based on the willingness of its citizens to give of themselves for the common good. A rather strange idea in this age of Me, Mine and I.

What Kennedy said about the country can also be said about marriage. Ask not what your partner must do for you. Ask what you can do for your partner. I'll let you in on an interesting marital secret and truth. The foundation of a relationship is giving. To create a successful, loving relationship we need to be guided constantly by the question, What do I need to do in order to create a loving relationship? By letting your spouse's needs be at least as important as your own, you'll begin to develop true love. I'm not suggesting you make this shift so you can use it as a manipulative technique to get your partner to love you. What I am saying is that it's natural to give to one who gives. It's easy to love someone who loves.

I'll finish with this suggestion: For one week focus your attention on giving to your partner. If you don't know what your spouse needs, ask. Try to think about what you can do that your spouse will most appreciate and then do it. Notice how he or she responds. Tell us about it.

Last modified on Thursday, 12 January 2012 13:40
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Michael Tobin

Michael Tobin

Dr. Michael Tobin has been a psychologist since 1974, specializing in marital and family therapy. He is the author of numerous articles on marriage and family relationships and is the founder of WholeFamily.com. He's  been married to Deborah for 38 years and is the father of four children and grandfather to five.

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