Social Question

Just_Justine's avatar

Can being in a relationship make you happy?

Asked by Just_Justine (6486points) February 27th, 2010

I have been reading a few questions on relationships, like “are some people meant to be alone” for example. It has got me thinking in a big way. The main trains of thought on this are the notion that someone else could make me happy, and the other is why I simply cannot have relationships. A little history. Traumatic childhood, then what I thought a naive belief that someone else could make my life better somehow. Many years of therapy and a new belief that I am responsible for my happiness. Happiness of course is a big subject. So I am using it in this context here for this purpose. I am not in a relationship because I find most people after a while become to me, tedious, demanding, and needy. I come from a long line of needy family members. But to assume all relationships are based on need, I think is skewed thinking? Some people say it is because “I have not yet met the right person”.

In therapy I learned and lived the idea that happiness was something you found within you, you certainly did not seek it in a partner. For example “If I am with a great guy I will be much happier”. Or “If someone loves me” I will be happier. Or even “I want to make this person everything and make them happier”. In a way I feel therapy polarized me to thinking that “No one can make me happy” only myself. I have moments when I am happy of course. But I would not term myself a happy person. If the answer lies in between how do you assimilate certain happiness with being with a person and being OK? About oneself. My question then is can someone else make you happier? Is my thinking skewed because I believe most people are needy? Do you believe there is a “right person” that can create some inkling of happiness?

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50 Answers

DarkScribe's avatar

No, it isn’t that someone else can make you happy, it is that having someone to truly share your life with can increase your happiness. Another person cannot make you happy, but they can improve your contentment with life. It all comes from within you. I am happier than most men I know, and my wife is a major part of that, but she isn’t the only source of my happiness although she is certainly a catalyst. She is my “Hard Headed Woman” and I love her for it, but what makes us both happy is sharing all aspects of our lives – good and bad. She brings out the best in me.

On the other hand, settling for the wrong person simply in order to have a relationship can be soul destroying. I was past thirty before I met my wife. We have been together for more than twenty-five years now.

mammal's avatar

no, but it can make you miserable

BoBo1946's avatar

@DarkScribe agreed…you can only make yourself happy, not someone else!

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

I think it is unwise to look for things to make you happy. Most people enter relationships because being with the other person makes them happy, but that in and of itself is not the cause. Happiness results from relationships when they provide a spark to your life – but for that spark to catch, you need to have the framework in place.
Happiness, in my opinion, chiefly comes from a contentment with who you are. Self control is the only complete control you ever really have, so to be happy you need to learn to live with yourself and enjoy the different things that make up you. Although I realise that I have flaws, I am content with who I am, which then leads to sharing that with other people.

I have been with my girlfriend for close to a year and a half now, and she can potentially make me very happy. However, she also has the potential to make me feel awful. Throughout our relationship, I have had to learn to be in tune with her emotion, but not make mine dependant on hers. To be truly happy, you need to develop an ability to be pleased with who you are (without being smug or arrogant) so that you no longer rely on external factors to dictate your emotions.

Sophief's avatar

I never thought I could ever be happy, with anyone or with myself. My past relationships have been very volatile. I was the worst girlfriend possible. I never broke up with them because I never wanted to be alone. Then I met my current partner, and I realised I can be happy and I can love. We have never had one single disagreement and we are very happy. We don’t need to interact with others, we are content. Though I am not 100% happy with myself, I am 100% happy with my boyfriend and our relationship.

Lothloriengaladriel's avatar

no, I’m in a relationship, and quite unhappy.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

No,it’s all up to the individual to make themselves happy—but you knew that:)—

laureth's avatar

Relationships can help support your happiness, or help you find happiness in places you didn’t think to look at by yourself. They’re a double-edged sword that can also make you desperately unhappy too. It depends on the relationship.

veronasgirl's avatar

I think that if you have found the right person then being in a relationship can make you happy. My SO makes me happy everyday with the little things he does, and I do the same for him. We support each other and have fun together. He makes me want to be better than I am, he makes me want to get up in the morning so that I can just hear is voice. I have had relationships that have not made me happy, but have made me angry and slightly crazy. That is part of the reason I know that my current SO is the keeper. :)

Neizvestnaya's avatar

It’s the sharing with another the the things in life I love and enjoy that make me happier.

marinelife's avatar

No, you cannot get happiness from someone else. And to put that burden on a relationship is to doom it.

mollypop51797's avatar

It depends on what kind of relationship you have with that person. If it’s a good relationship, that’s what keeps you together, but technically, it’ the person that makes you so happy.

CaptainHarley's avatar

This is a very, VERY common problem in relationships. We’re hoping someone can fulfil our lives, make us happy, but many of us never seem to find that “right person.” The reason happiness in relationships is so elusive is because “we have the cart before the horse,” as the old folks use to say. When your focus is on your own happiness, it can’t be on someone else’s, which is where the problem comes in.

I am reminded of how water pumps use to work: if you wanted to recieve, you had to “prime the pump” with what little water was at hand. It was an act of faith: put the only water you had into the pump so that it would give you more water back.

Relationships work a bit like that: before you can recieve, you have to give. Mutual love is the very best kind, but someone has to prime the pump. And if both people prime it, you’re on to something! : )

john65pennington's avatar

Relationships are what both partners make it. some people were born to be “loners”, but most people are not. some people are co-dependents and depend on a partner or other, to completely carry them through life. my aunt is this way. she married three drunks, just to have someone around her house to talk to. all three died of kidney failure and now she is still alone. most people need someone else to share their life with.

Chongalicious's avatar

No matter what has happened, I’ve always been a generally “happy” person. Usually when I am in a relationship it does nothing but stress me out! But with the relationship I’m in now, he does nothing but take the stress away, and yes, he makes me even happier. You can’t depend on others for your own happiness but having someone to be happy with most definitely boosts your mood :)

Velvetinenut's avatar

No. Just got my divorce papers three weeks ago. Have been very happy since being single.

Janka's avatar

My husband certainly makes me happy daily.

I think there is a difference between being happy about someone, and relying on them to make you happy. Your therapist was probably talking about the reliance on a particular good thing, rather than about being happy about good things. (Err. I do not feel I explained that very well. But I can’t do better for now.)

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Wow, some good answers. You’ve partly restored my hope for society. Everything a person feels comes from within. Another person can’t make you mad, you let them make you mad. Same with happy. You have to be content with what you have, and then you can be happy with being content. A good relationship makes you content, a lousy relationship is crap city. I think we need that connection with some else to be content, but a lousy connection is worse than no connection, so sometimes it’s better to be alone than in a lousy relationship.

Cruiser's avatar

You really need to have a sense of self fulfillment and happiness in order to truly be happy in a relationship.

Just_Justine's avatar

@Chongalicious OK you got me, I think a few missed the point. But all answers did answer the question in a way.

Just_Justine's avatar

@Janka would love to hear when you can!

thriftymaid's avatar

Sure it can. I thought I would probably want to be alone from now on, but I’m questioning that now.

wundayatta's avatar

Last night, we were having a midnight snack with friends, talking about creativity and dance and how dance can blow you right out of your mind, releasing you from those fears and nasty perceptions and worries so you can be the person you are without that kind of shit.

Since I’m concerned with the issue, I asked my question about whether love can be unhealthy which eventually led to the idea that you really can’t love someone else if you don’t love yourself. To which, I said, “I don’t believe that. I love many people, but I don’t love myself.”

Earlier that evening, I had been dancing with the woman who was now seated to my left. She is a strange woman to me. She shaves her head and she climbs on the walls, and she marches totally to her own tunes. She had to be told that the idea is to relate to others, not separate yourself from them.

I’ve gotten used to dancing with her—she is pretty intense and focused and that really helps. I’m pretty intense and focused myself, when I dance. It’s an amazing thing and it’s the only time that I forget I’m a worthless asshole. I wish I could do it every night of the week and twice on Sundays. I don’t like the way I feel about myself.

This woman and I are paired for the eye contact dance. When I dance, I take off my glasses, so I can’t see anything very clearly if it’s more than a foot away from me. Her eyes are like raccoon eyes to me. Dark circles. I can’t see any other detail. I just focus myself on feeling the energy and using my peripheral vision to sense my partner’s movements.

At the end of the evening, we talk about the dance. When it was her turn, she spoke about the eye contact dance, and said that she felt the most intense, pure love coming from my eyes and it made her feel… I don’t remember. Something good.

Apparently, I had a weird expression on my face in reaction to what she said. She got all flustered. She thought she’d insulted me or something. But the truth came out as we sat at the table later. I could not believe she was seeing that or feeling that because for me—first of all, I can’t even focus my eyes, and second of all, I don’t have that place in me that is filled enough to make anyone respond that way. So I was shocked and disbelieving.

When I told them I didn’t think you had to love yourself in order to love others, the person who said that, and my dance partner for the eye contact dance both couldn’t believe it. They agreed that it couldn’t be true. My dance partner said there was no way she could feel what she felt if I didn’t have that kind of love inside me.

I say this because in my life, I have always felt that love came from the outside. I have felt I needed a relationship in order to be ok with myself. I am terrified of being alone because I think I’ll probably kill myself without any human contact—intimate human contact very soon. When I feel suicidal now, the first thing I was to do is to make myself all alone.

I’m about as needy a person as you can find, and I use my neediness with great effect to drive people away. I am completely reliant on my relationships to be happy. If I am not connected with others—many others—some intimately and others not so much, I lose my sense of self, and I freak out, and if it goes on for a while… I don’t know what I’d do, but I don’t think it would be good.

So I don’t buy this inner love stuff. I’ve never had it, and I doubt if I ever will. But it doesn’t seem to matter because other people think I have it anyway. I am nothing without other people. But with them, if they really love me, I am so happy and so confident and I can do anything. When they slide away or have no time for me or they don’t really desire me any more… I sink down to places that are hard to rise up from.

There is no way I can overstate my need for love. Anything I say can not begin to pierce the surface of my need. But it doesn’t scare me. I know that I’ll never be afraid to find love or to make a mistake. I can’t afford to have that fear or to let that fear stop me, because if I do not reach out to others and if I do not create the most intense and intimate or relationships, I believe that I’ll die. I have no choice, then. My happiness is completely dependent on others. I am truly blessed that I am able to create those kinds of relationships for myself when I truly need them. So far.

CaptainHarley's avatar


Some notes:

1. You don’t know yourself yet.
2. You fear love because you don’t know yourself.
3. You drive others away because you fear love.

DrMC's avatar

@Just_Justine haha – in short terms yes and yes.

Yes, we are not built to run it alone. In the jungle a single human is a tasty treat. A tribe turns the predator into the hunted.

We are wired from the ground up to seek out protection in groups and this involves a reward system.

you are a product of your upbringing – and needy people can be a pain in the ass. You have to look at both sides, you too have evolved to adapt to these people, and your counselor was working to reverse that. As you grow and change, you will become more attracted to people that are similar to our development level and personality style.

Dating for you is not dead. It’s just different.

wundayatta's avatar

@CaptainHarley Your first two assertions are about things you can not know. They are interesting opinions. I wonder what evidence you would use to support them.

As to the third—where did you get the idea I drive others away? Did I say that? I don’t recall, but if I did, I would mean that when I’m depressed I drive people away. At other times I try to attract them.

Finally, I wonder how not knowing yourself makes you fear love?

slick44's avatar

You have to first learn to love yourself. that will bring you happiness. another person can only enhance your happiness.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

@DarkScribe Your answer is nearly exactly what I would have said. Therefore you must be right!

Chongalicious's avatar

@Just_Justine Thanks, I try hehe but yep you do already have that happiness within you, sometimes there will be a certain someone who can bring it to the surface more :D It’s a wonderful feeling.

CaptainHarley's avatar


We become at least partially comfortable with who we think we are, rather like “better the devil you know than the one you don’t.” Love changes us, makes us reassess things. This can be very threatening to the self-image we have created for ourselves.

“Trying to attract” people does not equate to actually doing so. Concluding that people are boring, or banal, or stupid, or idiots is a self-defense mechanism designed to keep them at arms length because one fears intimacy.

Finally, you are correct, those are my opinions based on 66 years of experience and not a little training.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

The right relationship can lead to great happiness. We completed each other, our strengths and weaknesses fitted together perfectly. One warning: when your happiness is totally dependant on such a relationship, the loss of your partner is devastating.

MorenoMelissa1's avatar

You have to first be happy with yourself before you can be happy in a relationship. I had a hypnotherapy session this morning and it helped me quite a bit and in return my relationship as well.

JeffVader's avatar

Can it…..? If it doesn’t make you happy, whats the point in it at all?!

Just_Justine's avatar

@wundayatta I totally understand your answer

josie's avatar

Happiness is the emotion that you feel when you achieve/accomplish something that represents great value to you-could be money, could be an award, could be saving a life, whatever.

It also could be discovering, developing and keeping a relationship with someone. The relationship itself does not directly provide you with happiness, but the act of successfully developing and sustaining the relationship certainly could. The issue for some is running into somebody that they love enough that the challenge seems worth it.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@josie- That’s a great way to say it! I’d clip this and re use it again and again whenever people ask, “what is love to you?” or “are you better alone or with another?” GA

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Can’t be said any better than that Josie.

Janka's avatar

Am I the only one who does not think that the sense of accomplishment is the only possible source of happiness?

josie's avatar

@Janka Like all the things we value, we either find a means to accomplish them, or provide ourselves with them, or we rely on somebody else to do it for us. Our own actions can be planned are thus predictable and absent caprice. Plus, we gain satisfaction from the accomplishment. If we wait for somebody else, perhaps they will cooperate and provide us with what we need. Or perhaps they will not. If they do not, then what? You can’t force them. Plus, we will have to confront our own inability which is definitely not a source of happiness. If they do not, then we have to do what we should have done in the first place. But if we face that reckoning late, it may be very difficult to learn how to adequately provide value for ourselves. So why wait and imagine happiness has some other basis?

BoBo1946's avatar

Happiness comes from within yourself! You can be a “ditch digger” and be happier than Bill Gates! Money and accomplishments do not always mean, being happy!

josie's avatar

@BoBo1946 Unless those things represent your high values, then they would mean being happy. Everybody decides what they value or not.

Janka's avatar

@josie I definitely agree that accomplishment is a possible cause and possibly even a necessary condition for happiness. I do not, however, agree that a sense of accomplishment is all that happiness is.

philosopher's avatar

A relationship with the right person enriches your life. Feeling corrected to someone else makes most people happy. Most Humans are social beings.

BoBo1946's avatar

happiness is a state of mind or, in my case, lack of mind! lol

Aster's avatar

Being in a relationship with someone you like, respect, have shared values and chemistry with and laugh with is MUCH superior to being alone. It has Joyous moments ! With someone you don’t trust and don’t like who you also find cruel is Miserable and it’s better to be alone in that case.
Look around: don’t you find 99% of the singles are looking for a partner? Why? Loneliness can be quite painful.(just like this mosquito buzzing me)

diavolobella's avatar

I think that being in a good relationship can add happiness to your life, but cannot make you happy in and of itself. If other areas of your life are lacking, such as your career or your health, having a happy, loving relationship can mitigate that and make your life in general more tolerable, but it can’t solve your problems. It can be comforting and it can be a respite, but it’s not a fix. To be “happy” I think you have to be generally content in all areas of your life, not just your romantic relationship. That is why people who are truly content with themselves as individuals aren’t desperate to be in a relationship. They know a good relationship is a bonus in life, not the be-all, end-all, and therefore are able to make better choices when it comes to a mate. That is why you seldom see a happy, well-rounded person with good self esteem enter into or stay in a bad relationship.

markylit's avatar

Yes, definitely, but provided you get into a relationship with the right person for you. And with right, it’s not just the hot bod and smart looks. it;s also about mutual understanding, trust, respect, and the whole lotsa jazz that comes with relationships.

noraasnave's avatar

A relationship can make your happier, provided you are happy without the relationship.

A relationship is kind of like alcohol, it makes you more of what you already are.

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