When we make someone happy, the same part in our brain is activated as it does when we do something for our own happiness. This is not philosophy but neuroscience. I’m not surprised though; the joy of giving far exceeds any other I’ve ever known. Charity begins at home, they say. A happy environment at home is comparable to heaven on earth. In my occupation, I get to meet many people from all walks of life. Often though I have observed a rather strange behavior among many couples. They rejoice in the company of people outside the four walls but are irritated with the ones at home. I have seen a tenuous frown appear even at the mention of their partner. They tell me they are tired of trying to please the other person and that they couldn’t be bothered anymore. This feeling — I couldn’t be bothered — is a definitive sign of downfall in most relationships. Earlier, if they made any attempt in bringing joy to the other person, now, they have thrown the baby out with the bathwater (after drinking most of it).
I admit it can be quite difficult to make certain people happy. There too, I have an observation: when you just can’t make the other person happy no matter what you do or how hard you try, chances are you are no longer on their play-field. Mentally, they may have given you the red card. They have decided not to source their happiness from you. If you speak to them asking what do they really expect from you and they are not being reasonable, you will never be able to make them happy, not for long anyway. In that case, if you have a choice, move on. And if you don’t have a choice — seek a peaceful refuge within.
A man got married to the woman of his dreams. He was head over heels for her and couldn’t believe his luck when she agreed to marry him. After their engagement and before the actual wedding, every night he thought about her. He had no doubts that theirs was going to be the most loving, functional and finest married life ever known to the mankind. His fiancée had a high opinion of herself. (When you believe you are better or superior than your partner — you can forget about happy marriage.) They got married with great fanfare. His wife loved eggs for breakfast. So, when they were away on their honeymoon, the husband made poached eggs for her in the morning.
“These aren’t done right,” she said scornfully.
The man felt bad that he couldn’t please his wife and made even greater effort the following morning.
“Oh, I can’t eat poached eggs everyday, y’know.” She refused to eat them today.
He made scrambled eggs the next morning.
“It’s okay but too fatty. Just boiled eggs with salt and pepper would have been better.”
The next morning, to give her a choice, he brought out two dishes: a plate of scrambled eggs and two boiled eggs. He was certain that today she would be happy.
“What’s this? You boiled the wrong egg,” she screamed.
You know where this marriage is headed. Should I tell you the easiest way to make the other person happy? No, it’s not flowers, things, gifts; they play a part but there is something even more important. The easiest way to make someone happy is to appreciate them. When you make the other person feel that you understand they are trying, that, you appreciate what they are doing for you and for the relationship, this right away boosts their self-esteem and morale. When you make an effort to appreciate, you directly gain from it as well. How? You actually start to see their efforts. Let’s face it, it is not an easy world out there. When you say, thank you for everything you are doing, or, you’ve cooked a tasty meal, or, I know you are working very hard, or, I can imagine how you must get so tired by the end of the day, and so on, each such utterance brings you closer, it strengthens the relationship, it fosters love and understanding.
Once, a woman, a master cook, was asked that her husband must love her food and what did he usually say when he savored the delicacies she cooked on a daily basis?
“He only speaks about food when something’s amiss or if he doesn’t like it,” she said. “So, when he’s quiet, I know he’s enjoying it.”
“Initially, I would ask him if he liked my cooking but it irked him so I stopped asking,” she added.
Sadly, this is not a joke. I’ve quoted a real incident. To the waiter we don’t know, we say smilingly how delicious the food is, we tip, we appreciate, but to the one who’s closer to you, every courtesy is withdrawn. See the disparity?
When you make it a point to appreciate, the newness never fades away. And when something remains new, you never get bored of it. And when you don’t get bored, you never take it for granted. And when you don’t take the other person for granted, your relationship can never wither away. Yes, never. It’ll continue to blossom and spread fragrance. Appreciation is gratitude in action.