The Relationship Coach: Stop outsourcing your happiness


“Happiness is an inside job. Don’t assign anyone else that much power over your life.” (quote by Mandy Hale)

One of the greatest gifts you can bring to a relationship is taking responsibility for your own happiness. A common issue I see in relationships is when one person is looking to the other to source their happiness. We think that someone or something outside of ourselves will create our feelings of contentment.

Rebecca Stark is a mastery certified life coach. She is the owner of Rebecca Stark Coaching. (Courtesy photo)

That’s a lot of pressure to put on any relationship.  When we believe our happiness depends on the actions of others, we often experience disappointment and frustration. And it’s because we’ve given them an impossible task. When someone repeatedly doesn’t meet our expectations of bringing us joy and pleasure, it can cause us to withdraw and stew in resentment. It feels like they are withholding our happiness, and that makes us want to withhold in turn. The relationship quickly becomes a score card, both parties keeping tally, and sadly, no one wins.

No one can make you happy. People can do things that we have certain thoughts about and that is what creates happiness. Your husband brings you flowers and you think, “Oh! That is so thoughtful. He loves me so much,” and you feel loved and appreciated. Or you might also think, “I wonder what he did wrong. Why is he bringing me flowers?”, and you feel anxious and suspicious. The actions of your husband didn’t create your feelings, the thoughts you have about those actions create how you feel.

Your child puts his dishes in the dishwasher, but leaves crumbs all over the counter. You might think, “Good grief, why can’t he just finish the job!?”, and you feel angry. Or you might think, “He remembered to do his dishes!”, and you feel grateful. Again, not the actions of the person, the thoughts you think about their actions create how you feel.

The purpose of these examples is to show that the feelings you experience are created from the meaning you are giving any certain circumstance, therefore, it is not what is happening to us or around us creating happiness. It is how we choose to respond. We are entirely responsible for our feelings.

Outsourcing happiness, expecting the world around us to deliver our good feelings, is disempowering. It means we have no control over when and where we get to feel happy.

We are at the mercy of things outside of our control. Or we try to control the things outside of us in order to get what we need.

There is a much simpler way, one that restores your sense of power and dignity. Source your own happiness. If you need to feel appreciated, show yourself appreciation. Buy yourself some flowers, write yourself a note of thanks for all of your hard work. Validate your own efforts.

If you need to feel loved, check in with yourself and ask yourself how you are doing. Ask yourself what you need at this moment and give it to yourself.

It’s not about feeling happy all the time. Nor is it to say that we don’t find true joy in relationships. It’s about taking full responsibility for your own emotional well-being. When you do this, you’ll notice an interesting thing start to happen. You feel more appreciated by others. You’ll feel more validated, more connected. You find yourself more focused on how you can contribute to someone else’s happiness, rather than seeking how to get your own. You’ll also notice the people around you feeling more relaxed in your presence. When they aren’t under the pressure to provide your emotional fulfillment, they’re more free to give to you because they want to, not because they’re afraid of disappointing you. When you let go of your expectations, often you’ll find that others exceed them.

Sourcing your own happiness allows you to be interdependent, rather than co-dependant and that leads to much healthier relationships.

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Rebecca Stark Thornberry is a Mastery Certified Life Coach and the owner of Rebecca Stark Coaching. You can contact her at 720-412-6148 or visit

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