His lips were pursed with a frown burrowed in his brow as he complained about his girlfriend. After letting off some steam, he still had a look of discontent on his face.

“Are you happy?” I asked my friend.

There was a long pause and he was not able to answer me.

Six-year-olds can tell you whether they are happy or not but as adults, we seem to have lost the ability to gauge our level of happiness.

Although my friend’s unhappiness was obvious to everyone looking in, he himself was oblivious. And I have learnt that you cannot tell someone how they are feeling or should be feeling, as they need to realise it for themselves.

Just months ago, one of my best friends sat in the car with me and asked me how my relationship was going. She dropped a big one on me: “Are you happy?”. I, too, took a long pause, and started making excuses for the boyfriend – without answering her question.

Then it struck me hard: I was not happy. It was then that I also realised that I had been making excuses for him, to justify continuing on in the unhappy relationship.

If someone asks you if you’re happy and you cannot immediately reply either ‘yes’ or ‘no’, the most likely scenario is that you are not.

The importance of this question hit me, as I began to connect the dots of how it related back to my relationship, and started looking at things differently.

Someone who really cares for you would care about your happiness, too. They would want you to be happy and they should want to make you happy. When I had previously told my boyfriend that I was not happy in the relationship, he simply told me that it was not his job to make me happy.

While that is true to a certain extent as we are each responsible for our own happiness, it became clear that my happiness was not even on his agenda.

I could suddenly see how this had been playing out in our relationship, and I realised that he would just continue taking and taking while I would be the one giving and giving in the relationship. It also became apparent that even in his “giving”, there was always an underlying expectation of getting something in return. It was more of a selfish type of love; a one-way street. This is never healthy in any relationship and I knew it would continue to get me down if we stayed together.

That got me thinking: What was it that made me unhappy? Most importantly, what was it that made me happy? Could I eventually find it in this relationship?

We are all searching for happiness in this world. But if we do not define what “happiness” is for ourselves, then our chances of finding it are diminished. 

So I decided to consciously stop making excuses for him and look at my relationship from a fresh perspective.

While bad things do happen in life, we should not let them define us. I had to discern whether his negative behaviour was an enduring trait or a phase that would pass. He was perpetually grouchy, irritable and negative. Whenever I shared good news with him, he found a way to somehow turn it negative. And by the end of each day, I was left drained of energy and terribly exhausted.

Truth be told, his negativity got to me, even in simple day-to-day conversations and activities. Day after day I endured, to the point I no longer looked forward to meeting him or receiving his phone calls and texts. All joy had been ripped out of me and the relationship had become tiresome. Everything else in my life was going well, so there should not be any reason to be unhappy, I told myself.

It was then that I realised he was the source of my unhappiness; his constant negativity was dragging me down with him. I also realised that all this negativity stemmed from the fact that he was unhappy with himself as a person because his life lacked meaning and direction. He was in between careers and he was not driven enough to even set any goals let alone achieve them.

Thus, I became a substitute to fill the void of what was lacking in his life and he began to build his entire world around me. Not long into the relationship he started to become critical of me and would often put me down. The relationship soon turned unhealthy and by the end, he was a shadow of himself.

The thing I learnt through this experience is that a person cannot expect to have a happy relationship if one is not happy with one’s self. Likewise, we are unable to make another person happy when we are unhappy with ourselves.

When we are so consumed by our own unhappiness, it is difficult to see past ourselves or have the capacity to be there for others. This is why we should make our own happiness and self-love a priority. Undeniably, creating and sustaining a happy and successful relationship takes hard work. But it needs to start with positivity, an open heart, and an open mind.

That said, the decision to leave him was not immediate and neither was it easy. We even went for a couple’s course to develop the relationship. I gave it a fair amount of time and hung on as long as I could. I fought really hard to make it work and I tried everything I could think of. I supported him and stood by him during a few rough patches he went through, and we faced them together. My mistake was allowing those tough times to justify his unhealthy behaviour and accepting it even after those storms passed, all the while making excuses for him. I was blinded for awhile and did not honestly see things the way they really were.

Ultimately, I know that it is nobody’s job to make me happy but my own. That is why I needed to make a decision for myself and choose me – my happiness – and not let someone else take that away from me. So I decided that I had to leave this negative relationship I was in, and seek my own happiness on my own terms. That was honestly one of the best decisions I have made for myself without any regret.

So am I happy now? Yes, I am. Without a doubt.