Shayne on You: Staying positive despite others' unhappiness

Dear Maggie,

How do you go about staying positive when someone you love is desperately unhappy? Iím talking about my mother. She is absolutely miserable. Sheís been married to my dad for thirty some years, and he completely dominates her. She waits on him hand and foot and all her ever does is criticize her. Heís so possessive of her time that she never has any free time to do what she wants, to go out with friends or experience anything new. He gripes about ever penny she spends.

I canít bear to see her so unhappy. Everytime I think about her, I cry. It just hurts me so much to see her in this situation that I find it impossible to be happy myself. How can I be happy when sheís not?

I always thought that when I had a home and family of my own, I could be her way out. Now that I have those things, I was finally able to ask her to leave my father and come live with us. I was shocked by her reaction. She was offended and acted as if I must be out of my mind to suggest such a thing. She was stunned to think I would even suggest it.



How do you make someone get happy when they donít even seem to want to be? How can I convince her to put herself first and start living her life for once? Please help.

Best,

Devoted Daughter

Dear Devoted,

Your motherís happiness is none of your business.

OK, thatís harshly stated, and probably a little bit over the top, but I have a point to make and you dearly need to hear it. You are asking your mother to change her behavior because it makes you unhappy. You donít like seeing her dominated or ruled by your dad. You donít like seeing her in a relationship that you deem unworthy. You say you canít be happy if sheís not. But how does you being unhappy make her any happpier? It doesnít. Your mood has no bearing on hers. So choosing to be unhappy for as long as she is, is ridiculous, since it has no impact on her mood whatsoever.

Besides, you cannot know how your mother thinks or what she feels, because you are not her. You donít have her lifetime, her experiences, her personal history, or her perspective. Obviously, she doesnít mind the things you disapprove of in her life, because if she did, she would change them. She has the right to choose the course of her own existence.

Now hear this part, because itís important. Your happiness does not depend on what anyone else does. Your motherís choices do not have the power to force you to be happy or unhappy. You decide that.

You can whine about this until your mother is pressured to give in and live her life the way you want her to. But as soon as she does, youíll find other people you need to change in order to make yourself happy, and if they give in, youíll find still others. And youíll never really be happy with any of them, because you are the only one with the power to make yourself truly happy.

So stop focusing on your motherís life, and turn your full and undivided attention toward your own happiness. Let her worry about her own.

Best,

Maggie

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