We will start this article with a controversial statement – fixing or solving your problems does not bring happiness to yourself or your relationship.
We can feel some readers bristling at this comment.
Particularly those readers who take a great sense of pride in their ability to solve problems or fix situations. Believe me, we were right there with you. Like most counselors and therapists, we’re big believers in solving problems.
So how could I say that solving problems doesn’t bring happiness?
Because it doesn’t. It brings relief. Relief often feels like happiness when you’re first feeling it. Who doesn’t feel a moment of happiness when they no longer have to deal with a problem or tense situation?
But, look at what’s going on when you’re solving a problem. When fixing a problem or situation, you’re looking backward at what happened previously. Typically, in a couples counseling session, this means the couple spends time describing a problem that’s been bothering them for some time or repeating itself over and over. Then, they want the counselor and their partner to help them fix this problem.
We’re not saying this isn’t helpful. You do not want, nor should you want, to stay stuck in harmful or destructive patterns. You absolutely need to correct, redirect and problem-solve these recurring issues to build a healthy relationship. But, the correction itself does not bring happiness. It helps solve a problem, which provides relief. This helps set you on the path towards experiencing happiness.
What is happiness, then?
Happiness is a creative and generative process. It is forward-looking.
When you’re deep into problem-solving, you’re stuck looking backward, trying to solve things that already happened. This is not creative or inspiring. It is work that is important and needs to be done, but again, it’s relieving something that occurred previously. Dealing with these problems will free you up so that you can then reach happiness.
How do we find happiness?
When you move from desperation or negotiation towards inspiration, you find happiness. It can help to think of things in the form of questions.
Here are some of the types of questions you might be asking when you’re free from problems and approaching happiness together as a couple:
- What could we create together that we don’t have now?
- What skills could we develop or strengthen in our relationship to make it stronger in the future?
- What attitudes could we work on building up or expressing more?
- What positive habits could we work on building together?
- What types of things inspire us to grow closer together?
- What would we attempt if we knew we couldn’t fail?
- What is something we could do together that requires bold confidence?
- What else could we accomplish if we were functioning as a strong loving team as individuals, as a couple, and as a family?
When you’re asking yourself these types of questions as a couple, you’re working together. You’re dreaming of things to do together, forming common goals, planning for the future, and possibly even finding ways to use that combined energy to serve and help others.
To make this exercise even more powerful, each of you think about what you would do as an individual on this team that would support the goals listed above.
You will begin to experience subtle but powerful differences. There’s a redirection of energy when you look forward instead of backward. Your eyes are fixed on hope and possibility instead of dread at what will weigh you down.
Step towards happiness together
We hope we inspired you a little bit today to change how you think about happiness, problem-solving, and your view of your relationship with your partner.
Again, we don’t mean to minimize problem-solving. We can’t step into inspiration and creativity when bogged down in past issues.
Solving your problems is an important step, not the end goal. It frees you from the swamp of the past so that you can walk boldly forward united as a couple. You don’t want to stop once the problem is solved. That’s just the beginning of your work together. Shift your goal instead to, what will we do now that the problem is solved?
An excellent exercise to get you started is to take time together, as a couple, to go through the questions listed above. Each partner should write down their answers to each question. They should take time to really dream big. Don’t just put down the answer you think your partner wants you to say, but think about where you’d really love to be as a couple.
Once you’ve both written down your answers, go through and compare them together, maybe over a date-night dinner. Avoid saying anything discouraging or making snide comments as you go through your answers. No, “how would that happen” or “like that’s possible.” Remember, we want to dream and have positive, cooperative energy focused on the future.
If you really want to add some zing to this exercise, try to guess what your partner wrote before comparing notes. It helps you understand your partner’s view of the future more deeply.
If you struggle with going through the questions together and would like support from a Developmental Model trained practitioner, please let us know. We have couples counselors in many different regions trained in the Developmental Model of couples counseling who can help you get unstuck from the past and focus on your bright future together. Please let us know if there’s anything we can do to help you on your journey together!