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Where does happiness come from in a relationship?

It's not realistic or healthy to expect people to be happy all of the time.

Human emotions are complex, and they naturally fluctuate based on various factors such as life events, stressors, relationships, and personal experiences. Happiness is just one of many emotions that individuals may experience, and it's normal to go through periods of joy, sadness, anger, contentment, and a range of other emotions.

Expecting constant happiness can lead to unrealistic standards and unnecessary pressure. It's essential to acknowledge and accept the full spectrum of human emotions as part of the human experience. Allowing oneself to feel and express a wide range of emotions, including those that are perceived as negative, is crucial for emotional well-being.

Moreover, difficult emotions often serve as signals that something may need attention or adjustment in one's life. For example, feelings of sadness might indicate a need for self-care, while anger might signal a boundary violation. By understanding and addressing these emotions, individuals can promote their overall mental and emotional health.

Striving for a balanced emotional state, where individuals can navigate both positive and challenging emotions, is a more realistic and sustainable approach to well-being. It's okay not to be happy all the time, and acknowledging and accepting a variety of emotions is an important aspect of maintaining mental and emotional resilience.

Some people look to relationships as a source of happiness.

The role of relationships in contributing to happiness can vary for different individuals and depend on various factors. While healthy and supportive relationships often bring joy, fulfillment, and a sense of connection, it's essential to recognize that relationships alone cannot be the sole source of happiness.

Expecting a relationship to be the sole determinant of your happiness can place undue pressure on it. True happiness usually involves a combination of factors, including personal fulfillment, self-love, meaningful connections, and a sense of purpose. Individuals who cultivate happiness within themselves are often better equipped to contribute positively to their relationships.

It's also important to acknowledge that relationships inevitably involve challenges and fluctuations. No relationship is perfect, and there will be ups and downs. Open communication, understanding, and shared values can contribute to a healthier and more fulfilling partnership.

Ultimately, while relationships can certainly enhance your overall well-being, it's crucial to cultivate a sense of happiness and contentment within yourself and not solely rely on external factors, including relationships, to provide it. Balancing personal happiness and healthy relationships can lead to a more fulfilling life overall.

Relying solely on relationships to create feelings of happiness can be a risky endeavor.

Expecting a romantic relationship to be the sole source of happiness can lead to detrimental consequences for individuals and the relationship itself. Firstly, this expectation places an enormous burden on the partner and the relationship to fulfill all emotional needs, creating unrealistic pressure. Relationships inevitably encounter challenges, and when one relies solely on the relationship for happiness, it sets the stage for disappointment and disillusionment during difficult times. This heightened dependency on the partner may also hinder open communication and authentic expression of emotions, as individuals may fear that expressing dissatisfaction or unhappiness could disrupt the perceived ideal of a continuously happy relationship.

Secondly, relying entirely on a relationship for happiness can contribute to an unhealthy form of codependency. In a codependent dynamic, individuals may lose their sense of self and become overly reliant on the relationship for validation and emotional well-being. This can lead to a lack of personal growth and independence, as the focus shifts exclusively to maintaining the relationship at the expense of individual interests and aspirations. Furthermore, if the relationship faces challenges or ends, individuals who have heavily invested their happiness in it may find themselves at a loss, struggling to cope with the emotional aftermath and potential feelings of emptiness. Ultimately, expecting a relationship to serve as the exclusive source of happiness can undermine the autonomy and resilience needed for both individuals to thrive.

An alternative strategy for experiencing relationship happiness is based on personal responsibility.

When I work with couples who have placed unrealistic expectations for happiness on each other, I typically adopt a multifaceted approach to address and modify these expectations.

Firstly, I facilitate open and honest communication, encouraging each partner to express their expectations and desires while fostering empathy for their partner's perspective. Through guided discussions, I help the couple identify and understand the origins of these unrealistic expectations, often exploring past experiences, cultural influences, or familial patterns. Interventions may include setting realistic relationship goals, teaching effective communication skills, and promoting individual self-awareness.

I also work to dismantle patterns of codependency, encouraging each partner to find personal sources of fulfillment and happiness beyond the relationship.

Additionally, couples therapy may involve exploring healthier coping mechanisms for dealing with challenges, fostering resilience, and promoting a shared understanding that acknowledges the complexity of human emotions and relationships. By dismantling unrealistic expectations and fostering a more balanced perspective, I assist the couple in building a foundation for a healthier, more sustainable, and fulfilling relationship.

Below is a strategy I developed for couples who are interested in developing more personal accountability for their individual happiness while continuing to build a mutually satisfying relationship.

  1. I am the primary person responsible for my well-being.

  2. I choose to have people in my life who I value (because they contribute to my well-being in some way).

  3. I value my partner because they contribute the following to my well-being: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  4. I choose to focus on the qualities of my partner, and the qualities of our relationship, that I value.

  5. I accept the difficult qualities of my partner and our relationship. At the same time, I expect that my partner and I will both work on these difficult things. I understand I may need to adjust my expectations. I understand that the difficult qualities of my partner and our relationship may never be fully resolved.

  6. With respect to the difficult qualities of my partner and our relationship, I choose to notice and appreciate the hardship my partner is faced with in meeting my needs, and how, despite the hardship, they continually try.

  7. If I know in my heart I can’t live with the difficult qualities of my partner and our relationship, because the negative impacts on my well-being are too significant, I will demonstrate honesty, integrity, and kindness to myself and to my partner by ending the relationship.


To foster a healthy and balanced approach to happiness in a relationship, it's important to maintain individual well-being, pursue personal interests, and cultivate a sense of fulfillment independently of the relationship. A strong, healthy partnership often thrives when both individuals bring happiness to the relationship. Expecting your partner to be the one who “makes you happy” or making yourself responsible for doing the same for your partner can be detrimental to a relationship over the long-run.

I talk with couples about how to have healthy expectations for relationship happiness. This can be an especially useful conversation in the context of premarital counseling services in Denver, CO. To schedule a free 20-minute consultation contact me.

couples therapist denver

About the Author

Diana Calvo is a Denver couples therapist. She provides professional support to couples in all stages of relationship and has experience working with the many difficult issues couples are faced with. Diana offers premarital counseling, couples therapy, discernment counseling, and divorce counseling services to Boulder, CO and Denver, CO. All gender identities, sexual orientations, and relationship styles are welcome.


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