No relationship is perfect, and brutal honesty isn’t always the best policy. Neither is pretending to be happy in a relationship that needs pruning, weeding, or a fresh new field! To grow and flourish, healthy relationships need to be tended with love and care.
If you’re pretending to be happy in your marriage or relationship, you’re not alone. You’d be surprised to hear what’s said behind closed doors of the prettiest homes in the poshest neighborhoods! You’d be shocked to learn what married couples say and do to each other when nobody is around — or what they don’t say or do.
A She Blossoms reader recently shared how she’s been feeling about her relationship. She hasn’t been truthful with herself or others for a long time. In fact, she’s been pretending to be happy in her relationship for almost ten years. Here’s her comment:
“I never thought I’d say this but I’m not happy in my Christian marriage,” she says on How to Be Happy With a Critical Husband. “My husband isn’t as critical. I am. I want him to be different, I want my life to be different. It started about 12 years ago, I started getting negative and critical about stuff in the world. Looking back I can see how it crept up on me and even though I’m a Christian woman I can’t help being irritated all the time. My husband gets the worst of it. He’s pretending to be happy in our relationship, I’m pretending to be happy in life but the truth is nobody is happy in our home.”
I’m sad that she’s been unhappy in her life for so long — but happy that she’s finally opening up about it! Even just saying “I’m pretending to be happy in my relationship” is a good start and a breath of fresh air. Admitting how you really feel about your marriage is a crucial first step in examining and rebuilding your life.
How to Stop Pretending to Be Happy in Your Relationship
Believe it or not, my tips for unhappy relationships are inspired by Leviticus 13 — which is all about skin diseases! This is the chapter where God told Moses and Aaron how to identify contagious skin diseases, quarantine the owners, and keep the whole Israelite community healthy and happy.
This might be the strangest blog post in my She Blossoms Through the Bible series. I’m writing an article for every chapter in every book of Scripture. Sometimes the life application tips are obvious (such as If You’re a Christian, Why Aren’t You Happy?, inspired by Exodus 33). Other times — like today — the connections are weird and fascinating.
1. Face your role in your own unhappiness
Have you read Leviticus 13? I once wished I was a priest or prophet in Old Testament times, especially after reading how Moses’ face shone with radiance after being with God. I changed my mind while reading Leviticus 1 (What God Wants From You Today). Now that I know how closely the Hebrew priests had to examine, monitor, and quarantine Israelites who had contagious and sometimes pus-filled skin diseases, I’m thrilled to live in Vancouver now and write my She Blossoms blog posts — even when I’m struggling to make Leviticus 13 applicable to modern life and relationships. But the truth is I quickly saw how practical the priests’ job was to the Israelites’ health, relationships and happiness. It was crucial for the priests to quickly identify contagious diseases and contain them before they spread.
How long will you keep pretending to be happy in your relationship? Compare it to a skin disease in Old Testament times: the longer you keep ignoring it, the more dangerous and life-threatening it gets. Your unhappiness isn’t just unhealthy and destructive for your emotional, spiritual, physical and professional growth. You directly affect others. Your words, thoughts, attitude and behavior matters. And you don’t want to keep pretending to be happy in your marriage, life, or other relationships! You want to be happy; God created you to life with purpose, joy, meaning and freedom. You want to stop being unhappy? Start by untangling your thoughts and emotions by writing them down.
2. Be honest about what you see, think, and feel
Being marked “unclean” in Old Testament times may have been shameful and humiliating for the Israelites. They may have avoided going to the priest when they suspected a skin disease. They may have lied about their actions, saying they didn’t touch other Israelites. They may have pretended to be happy in their bodies, homes, relationships, lives. Nobody likes being ostracized or outcast from the group. So, the priests must have learned how to say no without feeling guilty. “Can you please ignore this skin spot, boil, mark or infection? I can’t be unclean this week — my daughter’s bat mitzvah is on Thursday!” The priests had to be honest and forthright when they saw evidence of disease.
It’s time to tell the truth about how unhappy you are. Your relationship isn’t happy now, and you can’t keep pretending everything is fine. Whether it’s your relationship with your husband, mother, father, sister, brother, coworker, boss, or even your hairdresser — it’s time to be honest about how you feel. It can be as simple as telling the truth. “I’ve been pretending to be happy for a long time now. I didn’t want to face or tell you the truth because I didn’t want to hurt you. I love you, but I’m just not happy with the way things are. I want to a more fulfilling, meaningful, joyful life. Can we find ways to make this happen, for both of us?”
3. Work together to find happiness in your relationships
Leviticus 13 tells us that an unclean Israelite man returned to the priests after seven days. He went away to get healthy and not contaminate his friends, family, and community members. Then he returned to the priest for a second examination. If he was healed and clean, he and priest would make a restitution or sin offering as a symbol of purity. The man could then return to his family and friends, and live happily ever after. No need to pretend to be happy or clean — and no need to cut off all connection with his clan! Unless, of course, he remained unclean.
How will you work towards happy relationships? You can’t change your husband, mother, coworker, or child. The only person you have a hope of changing is yourself. And, truthfully, changing yourself is hard work. In fact it’s impossible to be truly, deeply transformed unless you lean into God, rely on the Holy Spirit, and develop a strong relationship with Jesus Christ. You can pretend to be happy in your relationships, you can build a strong marriage, and you can keep telling yourself what to think so you feel better. But if you truly, deeply want to change then you need to rely on God’s strength, power, love and grace.
Stop pretending to be happy in your relationships and life. Stop distracting yourself by eating comfort foods, binging on tv shows and movies, spending money, obsessing with your looks, drinking too much. Instead, decide how you want to spend your life. Who did God create you to be? Where are you going? What does Jesus offer? How can the Holy Spirit deepen your life and relationships?
Find out. And remember that how you spend your days is how you’ll spend your whole entire life. If you don’t stop pretending to be happy in your relationship today, you’ll find yourself living a life of unhappiness and pretense.
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives,” writes Annie Dillard in The Writing Life. “What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.”
If you don’t want to keep pretending to be happy in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, read How to Be Happy Alone After Your Relationship Ends.