The Fine Art of Being Happy When Other People Aren’t

one yellow smiley face ball in a sea of blue sad face balls
Image by Pixabay / CC 0

Caring about other people’s happiness is often framed like a virtue.

Good people care that other people are happy. And they especially care that the ones they love are happy.

In fact, some would argue, whether you care about another person’s happiness could very well be what defines love.

The trouble with happiness is that it comes and goes as it pleases. Even peak experiences only thrill for so long, due to a little thing known as the hedonic treadmill, or the happiness set point.

No matter who you are, you aren’t going to be happy all of the time. At least not an active state of bliss. You could be relatively calm, content, mindful most of the time, sure. But even in that state, you might very well experience the occasional pain or discomfort.

It’s no different of course with anyone you might care about, even love.

They’re going to have times when they aren’t happy either, even if everything goes as it should (and it won’t — accidents are a part of life). There might even be times when they are not only not happy but actually unhappy.

Happiness being as fleeting as it sometimes can be (thanks, human neurochemistry), it’s entirely possible that it’ll be extremely rare that you’re happy at the same time as the people you love are all happy.

Inevitably, even if you only are looking at one relationship, one partner, you may very well find that you are rarely both actively happy at the same time. And instead, when one of you is happy, the other might be neutral or struggling.

You can express that you’re happy for your love when they’re happy (and vice versa), but that’s an entirely different thing than independent happiness. Feeling like you’re in a good place in your life. Sometimes it syncs up, but other times, it doesn’t.

It was a hard pill to swallow, but I’ve had to accept that it’s rare that everyone is happy at the same time — and as the definition of “everyone” increases in number (to include everyone you know and care about), unanimous happiness becomes statistically impossible.

Someone will be struggling.

So one of the skills I’ve had to work on over the years is learning how to be happy even when other people aren’t. Even if that person is someone I love.

Provided I’m not doing something to actively contribute to that unhappiness or lack of happiness, then I have to not take it personally or think that I’m not allowed to have happiness simply because they’re struggling.

This doesn’t mean being unsympathetic or completely uncaring in the face of that suffering. It’s good to take steps to try to make the world outside of you better, fairer, happier, as a matter of course. To make those the default actions that you take. What you do habitually, naturally.

But feeling a need to be emotionally burdened while doing so, letting unhappiness rain on your own, completely unrelated parade? It’s unnecessary.

This is so much easier said than done. But I try.

I let myself enjoy good days, even when not everyone is having a good one along with me.

Because if everyone in the world had to be happy at the same time for anyone to be happy, then there wouldn’t be happiness.

And what kind of world would that be?

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Books by Page Turner:

Dealing with Difficult Metamours

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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