Happiness: How do we know when we have found it?

By Joyce Alexander, RNP (retired)

We frequently talk on Lovefraud about finding healing and being “happy” again. We discuss the words “forgiveness” and other emotionally charged words that have individual meanings and try to come to some conclusion that we have a definition of these words for ourselves.

I got to thinking about the meaning of “happiness,” and how I will know when I have reached it. What is happiness to me? For me?

After my husband died, there was a period of time when in my profound sadness and grief, that I thought “happiness” could be found in finding another mate and husband. I went seeking that “happiness,” and instead of a life mate and loving relationship with a new man, I found a psychopath who was seeking a new “respectable wife” to cheat on. My feeling of “happiness” was very short lived when I realized he was still “carrying on” with his former mistresses, which essentially amounted to a harem of needy women hoping he would “choose me.”

I elected to get out of that relationship. I found a great deal of sadness in my life at that time, but the “happiness” I had sought was not in view. I later realized that it could not be provided to me by someone else, but was something I had to provide for myself.

Wanting to be happier

Recently I read a great article entitled, The dark side of happiness, by Gareth Cook. A couple of short paragraphs in particular of this long article stuck out:

It is not so unreasonable to want to be happier. Are we really just supposed to stand by and let life have its way with us?

Well, yes and no. One of the most powerful ways to boost happiness ironically is to learn acceptance. Instead of viewing negative emotions as a failure, learn to see them as a healthy, natural part of the human drama. Negative feelings are often there to tell us something, an invitation to reflect, to make a new plan, or examine an issue more slowly and carefully. This basic notion can play an important role not just in therapy, but also in a balanced and meaningful life.

Who among us doesn’t want to be “happier?” But what is going to “make me happy?” That is the big question.

I hear people say, “I will be so happy when I get out of college and can get a real job.” I’ve said such things myself. When I do, I remember my grandmother telling me, “Don’t wish you life away, child,” to remind me to savor the todays of my life, not live in the future when thus and such may happen to “make me happy.” I’ve found that when things happening are the things that “make me happy,” the feeling of “happiness” it engenders doesn’t last long, but is a fleeting joy.

Today I dropped a heavy glass lid out of the top of my cabinet when I was trying to rearrange it and broke a glass canister that sits on the counter and held my oatmeal as well as a glass of water I had sitting there ready to drink. It made quite a sound as it broke. My son helped me clean up the mess and he said, “Well at least it wasn’t your grandmother’s serving dish.” I laughed and said, “Honey, I broke those a long time ago, but it wouldn’t matter if it was my grandma’s serving dish, because things are not that important to me any more. I’m not going to be unhappy because something is lost or broken.” (Though I admit I recently got angry when I realized that a former friend had also stolen an emergency stove I had stored in my barn!)

Joy and happiness

I also look at the difference between Joy and Happiness. Joy to me is getting a new puppy or a new car, or making a great dish for my friends and me to enjoy. Joy seeing the pleasure in someone when I give him or her a gift. It isn’t “happiness,” but the accumulation of joy builds to create happiness.

What is the difference though in “happiness” and in “joy?” The definitions below may give us some guidance.

From the Free Dictionary

joy (joi) n.

1. a. Intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness.

b. The expression or manifestation of such feeling.

2. A source or an object of pleasure or satisfaction: their only child, their pride and joy.

v.joyed, joy·ing, joys


To take great pleasure; rejoice.

1. To fill with ecstatic happiness, pleasure, or satisfaction.

2. To enjoy. 

According to the definition of happiness is:

1. the quality or state of being happy.

2. good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy.

Don’t know about you, but I can’t say I totally agree with these definitions! Let’s see what others think. A definition of happiness, actually several definitions, are listed on the web site Happy Life.

What the sages say

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Mahatma Gandhi

“Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.” Eleanor Roosevelt

“Getting what you go after is success; but liking it while you are getting it is happiness.”  Bertha Damon

“Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them.” Leo Tolstoy

The “definition” of happiness in the dictionary is sort of a self-defining word, “happiness is being happy” and still leaves us wondering what it means. The above website’s quotes from several sages seem more to define what “happiness” is, though I think each of us can and should define what “happiness” is to us as individuals, how we can build that happiness with the smaller joys of life, while realizing that our feelings of sadness at times, or remorse, guilt, or even shame, are signs that we might need to reflect inwardly for guidance in our lives.

I personally agree with Eleanor Roosevelt’s definition: “Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.” To me, happiness is the culmination of the smaller joys of life, from the enjoyment of a well cooked meal, to sharing a laugh with a friend. The personal satisfaction I experience at the end of a day when I have done my best and lay my head down on my pillow in peace.

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Thank you. Junior is still snarky, don’t get me wrong. During the three months he was getting clean, he was a total asshole. The first two months in, I was the blame, but that was okay, I was WILLING to be. At that point, I was SO DONE, I didn’t care anymore. I knew the state would be putting him back at home and the “drug court” program is FABULOUS. A life saver for sure! He can be put back into jail just for abusive behavior at home. I’m still on the fence about this and the first week at home, he relapsed, but came to me immediately, as well as to his PO to let us know. They UA him constantly and he has a tracker to answer to as well. The family therapy has been the critical element, as well as the therapy I’m getting. I was blessed to find a therapist who knows about the disorders, specializes in PTSD and I just did my first round of EMDR. Very interesting experience. Dealing with it all isn’t “fun” by any means, but it’s beyond necessary. My other children are doing really well and benefiting by speaking up and out. That has been excrutiating for me because I know my behaviors in my past relationshits said they were neglected as well as the spoiling of my daughter.

Oxy, actually, when it gets so bad you have to let go, while it’s really painful and there is a grieving process, it’s a relief at the same time, do you know what I mean? I worry about my grandchildren and I do hope they will remember me as they get older. Not only this, Ox, but she is soooooo obvious in what she’s doing, others seeing it, people are dropping her like a rock. She does it to EVERYONE. IT’s all about HER. Oxy, I’m CONVINCED that this is genetic and have been researching the genetic component to all of this.

One of the things I find so difficult is that because society perpetuates the notion of abused children (I’m not saying there isn’t here), that children who abuse their parent goes overlooked. I’m not proud of the way I parented my children and I understand THEIR right to their pain and their RIGHT to have it out with me, but the element of respect is MISSING in this child and her behavior is OUTRAGEOUS!

Tobe, no matter what mistakes you’ve made as a parent, the one thing I’ve learned is that it doesn’t give that child permission to exploit, threaten or abuse you. Letting go of your child will be really hard, but it’s also a huge opportunity to heal your own wounds, as well as help your other children heal theirs. I realize that right now, it’s painful, but I can almost promise that once you address the children who were neglected, for the sake of the “spoiled” one, you will see that those efforts for the children that ARE NOT disordered will be the very best gift you could ever give of yourself. I’ll be praying for you and know that I’m thinking of you and hoping that through tragedy (it always is when your child is disordered), can come a multitude of blessings for yourself and the children who really need you right now.

God Bless you tobe.

And Oxy? Thanks again, given your experiences with your own children, it means a lot to me. The jury is still out with Junior, but I’m hopeful. But should it turn out that his psych eval. shows a disorder or that he cannot complete the program because a disorder exists, I’m ready to let go. I approach it all with caution, but have reached the point in my life in which my boundaries are well in place now and I have no problem cutting off if it means the emotional safety of myself or the other children. We shall see.



LL!!!!!! So great to hear from you! Believe it or not, I think about you time and time again and wonder how you are doing!! There is a special “cyber-bond” we have here! lol

It is So amazing what we go through in our lives! My best girlfriend is going crazy with her kids right now..16 and 18. And I thought it got easier as they got older!

I’m really feeling that genes have SO much to do with who we are! Coming from a family of 5 kids…I can see it so clearly! We are ALL different.

Lady Gaga is on to something…”Baby you were born this way”.

I know environment has something to do with how we turn out, but, damn…..80% is what it is. IT IS WHAT IT IS!

I know I gave in to my daughter too much…even made her too responsible at a young age…but it was the way she was…very precocious for her age and I thought it was so cute to see a little petite child with such a strong personality…able to make decisions so easily…so sure of herself in so many areas. I thought I was building confidence in her by allowing her to make decisions! I guess I OVERDID it!
But, hey, I’m not perfect.

I don’t even mind the independent nature that she has and the confidence to be who she wants to be….but, the devaluing of ME as a mother….being “unfit” and “insane”, etc…the CRUEL HEARTLESS way of treating me….is totally unacceptable to me.

I don’t like who she has become. I am so non-judgemental with people….and I always judge people by their “HEART”, not even their intelligence, etc…

If you have a good heart, you are a good person…even if you don’t like me, or make mistakes…etc…

To see your own child turn into a cold-hearted, selfish person is so shocking. Especially you know that you loved them with all of your heart from before they were even born.

This is something that I never experienced before. To have a man demean me, use me, con me…hate me…(her Dad), is one thing. But, to have a little life that you cared for and loved ….turn into a monster …is unbelievable! Shocking.

All of my relatives and friends are in shock. Noone would ever predict that my first daughter could say and do what she is doing. Its just hard to believe that she has it in her…and it never showed!

LL….you are one intelligent strong woman. You write so intelligently and are so wise. I can tell you have a big heart.
I truly feel that we cannot blame ourselves for anything that happens to a child as they become who they really are as an adult. All we could do is our best..without abuse…and let them go to be who they will be for the rest of their lives.

I gave her roots and wings. She chose to fly in a different direction……she owes me nothing. I loved her unconditionally…and it hurts not to feel the love back…but …the operative word is unconditionally.

I do feel badly for my two younger daughters who have grown to despise her in the past few years when she became the little selfish monster she did. But, they are relieved to have her out of the house…but hurt that their sister won’t look at them in school.

I have been explaining to them that she is who she is and is making choices that she will have to deal with later…and to just pray for her….because she is not “well”.

Thank you LL…..I appreciate your feedback and hope to see you hear again.

HUGS!!!! ToB


Hi all. Don’t mean to change the subject here…I wish we had a forum to post in on this site! The support is so wonderful but it can be a bit tricky finding the right places to post/comment.
To those of you dealing with children with spath traits, you are some of the strongest people I’ve known. God bless you and may he give you his strength when you feel yours is failing.

I am about 3 weeks removed from my relationship with my spath xbf. He gave me an ultimatum which I felt was too controlling. He moved out and within 2 weeks got his own place. He was living with me for five months after getting a new job. I have to wonder if he was only staying with me to save the money to get his own place, then conveniently picked a reason to leave by giving me an ultimatum he knew I would have a hard time accepting.

To make a long story short, I dug my heels in. I felt he was being controlling. I resented it. After a week I relented, agreed to his terms, but he’d already put down the money on his new apartment. A few days later I broke up with him because it was the same old crap I’d put up with before we lived together–him going out with friends, not calling when he said he would, not inviting me along…him doing exactly what he wanted with no consideration for me and expecting me to be completely fine with whatever he wants whenever he wants.
And then of course his lack of consideration is twisted into being MY fault. I am the one who isn’t being understanding. I am the one being accusatory and not bothering to ask questions. I am the one being unreasonable in my expectations.

The day after breaking up with him I asked if he wanted to talk. He drew out the possibility of getting together to talk for a week (supposedly because he was moving, then had to get his place in order). When he did say he would make some time he said it would have to be on the phone and not in person, and if that wasn’t good enough then he didn’t know what to tell me (I had not seen him since he moved out a few weeks prior).
“The talk” ended with him saying he needed time to think and me saying I could not wait for that. I told him if he needed time to think it meant he did not want it. The last time he needed to think about us it took 3 months. That was 3 months of agony for me and I said I would not go through that again. He hung up irritated.

Apparently he does not think while driving, while at work, while eating…you know normal times when the rest of us can have simultaneous thoughts in our heads. Apparently his version of needing to think involves no stress, nothing else to do and everything in his life going right at the time. THEN he can think.

The next day he does not call (for the first time ever in our 1 1/2 years of being together). The next day I am in a car accident when a woman rear-ends me twice. I am shaken up that day, stressed. I was on my way to take my sick dog to the vet (she turned out to be OK!). I thought, “What next?!”

He does not come over to see that I am ok, to make sure I don’t have a concussion and start acting strange…nothing. In fact, later that evening he breaks up with me!!! And he blames the demise of our relationship on MY flaws.

So heartless, selfish and cold.

I have come a long way since meeting him. I had 3 times the education he did when we met. I have a great career with lots of potential. I am not unattractive. I have been asked out by 4 men since I started getting out, working full time and meeting people. He HATED hearing about that. You see, I think I am a real prize. A great catch. But he makes me think I am worthless. He has not called or tried to contact me in any way since coming to get his stuff a few weeks ago. He has completely let me go. And while I know I instigated some of that by having enough and not giving in to him, I can’t help but feel insulted that he can just walk away and go on with his life as if I mean/meant nothing to him.

I think once I started not giving him complete control he “gave up” on me to move on to his next “project.” I am so angry I wasted my time on him, wanting to believe the best in him, even when he was ranting and cursing at me over something that was HIS fault (that he managed to twist into mine).

I know in my heart it’s not me, it’s him. But I can’t help feel insulted at the complete ease with which he erased me from his life. I loved him and I offered him compromises. He threw them back in my face. If he ever finds anyone else that will put up with him as I did he better buy a lottery ticket because that will make him one lucky s.o.b.

I know it’s good that he has not contacted me. And I have not tried contacting him either. I have stuck to NC and it has not been that difficult, especially since he has gone NC as well since getting his stuff from my home.


Welcome Vidya,

Don’t worry about finding a place to post… It’s a blog, so post where you think it’s easiest.

Yup they ditch you at your weakest physical moment. Somebody else here posted how their ex-spath reasoned the best moment to lay off a worker was when something went wrong in their private life. People with empathy wouldn’t do that… it feels like kicking a dog that’s already down. Only cowards or people who enjoy inflicting pain do that.

Mine ditched me with a line facebook message, and switched from me to the new victim at the same time, while I was recovering from an operation. Had been a-walking for a while, and was uncaring and annoyed when I was able to finally reach him 3 hours before I had to go to the hospital for my knee operation. And I had been leaving messages and calls for over a week then. By then of course I was upset, and his “oh, yeah, that knee of yours” knee-jerk response only made it worse. I was crying in my mother’s arms as the nurse came with the stuff I had to wear for the operation. Poor nurse thought I was crying over the operation. It felt all dead inside then, but I held on for a couple of days more, blaming myself… I should have done more, gone deeper into depth, not be so rational, not pushing him to be more responsible of managing his own divorce papers… thinking I should have done his papers myself while half a world away. Crazy! And then the message came. But the way he did it finally opened my eyes. That hadn’t been a man. He was acting in the most immature manner I could think of. It was like he was some teen kid of 14 experimenting still. It was such a slap in the face, that I knew it was sooooooooooo wrong, that nothing I had NOT done for him (and certainly not ALL the things I had done for him) deserved that. Suddenly I felt: I’m the adult, and he’s a kid, a boy… And I never wanted him back since that day. Yes, I missed him for about a week or so, in waves, not as much as I had feared. Of course it helped to hear info about how he had treated other ex-es the info some friends in Nicaragua gave me about how long he had been deceiving me with the new victim, and befriending some of the women he cheated me with and hear their tale too… I found out so much in those few first day, and at the same time was fully accepting that he was a spath… even when I had those bouts of missing him, it could never compete with the feeling that I’m a genuine, real person and I deserve better than a faking parasite.

The rage helps in bridging the period of missing him. I know it feels horrible to be filled with wrath and rage from the moment you get up until you go to bed, but it’s a sign that you are already rising as a phoenix again (the fire). It will ease off, slowly, sometimes very slowly. But it all does get better. I dealt with the rage by imagining him standing in my home and me flinging a whole set of imagined china at him. I used my anger and wrath to chase his image away, the detoxing from my addiction of him.

fantasy island

skylar and all
thank you for your comments – my computer died and I haven’t been able to get online to followup.
You have given many new perspectives that I have to think about, i hadn’t seen myself as a frog in boiling water before!
There was rage and anger and a lot of pain when I heard about the affair. But after a few months of being alone, and a few good nights together, I guess I fell into the easy trap of settling for a non monogamous relationship so I would not be alone all the time. And to be honest, our sex life has always been great, and that seemed to make it more acceptable.
I think you are probably right that there have been other women.
The lies now are more than just pity play. I cant quite decide whether he wants me to collude in his lies, or if he really believes them. He told a friend recently that he had been having an affair for 6 months and she was the love of his life and that they were living together, but he didn’t see the discrepancy that they were at my house at the time.

She kicked him out a few months ago and he cajoled, begged, wrote long emails declaring love and made up stories about total commitment until she took him back. One of the conditions was that they would live together. But this will not happen, he has just found himself a more comfortable bachelor pad furnished it with new electronic gadgets and it is on a long lease.
Maybe it is me on the fatasy island – a familar easy relationship without the ties, and to be frank, good sex on tap. I sometimes want to tell her the truth , that his family dont know of her existence, that he has never commited to her, about the sms messages at midnight when he was with her (that did freak me out). But then what?

Maybe it is time for a new perspective. I want to ignore your comments about abuse and getting away from him for my sanity, but they are lingering I dont want them to be true, because then what do I do?


fantasy island!
if you are so happy with the way things are what are you doing on LF?
He isnt the only one lying – you are lying to yourself, and his other girlfriend is probably lying to herself as well. Maybe he is the only one who accepts/knows that the whole situation is totally unreal
Of course he is using you. He is also using her – if you have to leave someone and then impose demands to resume the relationship then that is tantamount to blackmail. What sort of negative relationship is it if you have to leave someone to persuade them to commit to you? It will always be a sham
Get out now escape the fantasy archipelago and find some self respect

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