Obstacles and conflict inevitably get in the way of our happiness, especially when it comes to relationships. I developed this advice column to help Live Happy readers overcome these stumbling blocks. I look forward to hearing from more of you soon at AskStacy@livehappy.com.
How do you become genuinely happy for someone else who is doing well? I hate that I lack this quality. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, wondering if it’s jealousy, envy, frustration…. It’s definitely something I want to change. —Konnie
You have correctly figured out the emotional layers behind what you are feeling. The good news is that any feeling that is caused by our own internal issues is easiest to change. The emotional reaction you are having is likely caused by feelings of inadequacy, negative thinking or a need to shift your focus.
If your reactions are coming out of feelings of inadequacy, ask yourself what kind of judgments you may have internalized. Are you comparing yourself to others? Are your needs going unmet, or is your life filled with disappointment? Do you think that you have less than you deserve? If you have answered “yes” to any of these questions, work on the underlying issues and try to find some appreciation and gratitude for the good things in your life.
When you are experiencing negative thoughts about people who are doing well, take time to reframe and focus on positive ones instead. Are these people deserving of good things? Have they worked hard? Have they had their share of challenges already? Focus on the reasons you should be happy for them.
Perhaps you are too busy thinking about what other people have instead of investing time and energy in your own life? Ask yourself if you are feeling envious because the other person is doing well and you are not. You might want to begin to set goals to improve your life so that you, too, can be happy and fulfilled.
My wife and I are huge fans. We have been married for more than nine years, and I have lied to her about spending money on items that we don’t need. I have been selfish, and I hate where our marriage is right now. I want to fix our marriage, and any advice would be very much appreciated. —Jasen
Conflict over finances in a marriage is very common. Rarely is a couple on the same page about how much to save, spend, donate, etc. I would recommend that all couples work out agreements over basic financial decisions before they merge finances. My hunch is that you and your wife have not done that yet, and as a result, you have felt the need to lie to her about spending money on unnecessary items.
The good news is that you realize you made a mistake and want to improve yourself and your marriage. It is never too late to try to make changes and to heal the errors of your past.
Schedule a time to sit down with your wife. Start by telling her how much you love her and that you deeply regret some of the ways that you have behaved when it comes to finances. The best apologies not only include the official “I’m sorry,” but also involve taking responsibility for what you have done and making a commitment that this behavior will not continue.
Then discuss how you will move forward with your finances. You say you spend money on items that you don’t need, but maybe you want to have the freedom to do some of that. Many couples I know have a budget that allows them to spend a small amount frivolously and without permission.
I give you a lot of credit for trying to improve your behavior and your relationship. Hopefully, the two of you can move forward in a closer and more honest way.
My husband is not a communicator. He does talk with me, but he does not communicate his feelings.
He is a good, hard-working man, and he provides all the basics. He buys me gifts on my birthday and anniversary and if he travels for work, he brings me a souvenir from the airport. This may sound as if I am a bad person, but I don’t really care about these airport souvenirs. He also barbecues my favorite steak on Sunday nights. While this is very kind of him, I would much prefer the occasional “I love you” or kind word. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but do you have any advice on how I might get him to express his love for me? —Gloria
Your letter describes a common issue that a lot of couples face. It sounds like you and your husband have different ways of expressing your love and affection. If your definition of communicating requires verbal feedback, then I can see why you think he is not much of a communicator. That said, based on what you have written, your husband is communicating. His style is through giving gifts and cooking for you, instead of expressing how he feels with kind words and I love you’s.
I suggest you make a list of the ways he shows you he loves you and cares about you—using nonverbal communication. I believe you’ll see he is more loving and attentive than you realize. Then, in a quiet moment, talk with him about how much it would mean to you if he would begin to express verbally how he feels about you. Let him know that you appreciate the gestures he is already making but that a kind word or two would be incredibly meaningful.
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Read more: Ask Stacy: Expert Tips for a Happy Life
Stacy KaiserHow to Be a Grown Up: The Ten Secret Skills Everyone Needs to Know,Live Happy USA Today