The Happy Barometer

1400 words = 5 minutes

Have you ever wondered how it’s possible that we can reach a place where we threaten to kill ourselves if our partner leaves? Maybe you have been there too.

I have a little hypothesis about why we reach this pit and how to avoid it in future. I refer to it as the Happy Barometer Theory.

First imagine a gauge in your head, with measurements from 0 to 100. Anything under 40 is red, representing ‘unwell/unhappy’. Between 40 and 70 reads ‘on your way to wellness/happiness’ and 70 to 100 lights up in bright green as ‘well/healthy/happy’.

Next we need to determine our own base level of happiness and fulfillment as an individual, in order to recognize whether we are being affected positively or negatively by another. For now, imagine yourself with a base rate on the Happy Barometer that measures about 80points out of 100. You enjoy your own company; make the most of all that life has to offer without needing another to feel worthy. You invest time in all different aspects of your life like maintaining a healthy body, a clear mind, a vision for your career, financial stability and surround yourself with good friends.

So what happens is when we share our space and time with a partner one of three things will happen.

  1. Either their presence will have no affect on my 80
  2. Or their lovely energy will push me up a few points
  3. Alternatively being with them drains my 80points and pulls me down to a lower number on the scale causing me to feel more ‘unwell/unhappy’.

A new person with whom you fall head over heels, surges your base rate up to 100. Life is GOOD. Mostly that’s what happens in new relationships. The first few weeks we are together each partner is putting their best self forward; taking responsibility for the energy they bring and the honeymoon phase boosts both gauges up into the blissful 90’s. We are on a high, literally, our ‘Happy Barometer’ is off the charts.

Fast forward a few months or years. Honeymoon, charisma and infatuation fade and we are all back to our original base rate. Now is a good time to assess the reality of the relationship and how it reflects on my gauge.

  1. If being with this person neither contributes nor contaminates my wellness, my base rate remains at an 80.
  2. If my partner is as lovely and kind as I thought i.e. bringing out the best in me, then time together is a treat and my state of wellness moves closer to 100. This person is literally helping me reach my full potential (as close to the 100 mark as possible).
  3. If however the other person is not who I hoped they were i.e. they bring out the worst in me, time together is exhausting and my state of wellness drops down by 10/ 20/ 30 points. I feel unhappy in their company. In essence this person is detracting from my healthy state.

We all assume that at this point, one would have the wisdom and the courage to walk away if it’s not working out but interestingly enough, it rarely happens. The decision to stay or go depends largely on our perceived benefits of having a partner – worthiness/power/ status/ privilege/sexual pleasure/financial support. For those brave enough to walk away, they endure the sadness of breaking up to make themselves available for a more suitable match. They move on knowing they need to protect their own wellness/happiness and to disallow another from draining it. Unless..

Do the same exercise but begin with a base rate of 30. You are not happy to start. You hate your job, you are broke, life is not your friend and it’s just one blow after another. Your career is going nowhere, your friends are fighting with you and very little is going well in your life. And then you meet this amazing person. Wow. Your base rate shoots up to 80 just by having this one person in your life. This person is EVERYTHING you need. When you are together, you feel like one. This person completes you. Literally. Every single nerve ending oscillates with glee. Your flesh is alive; you can feel your heartbeat pulsating through your veins. Your breath shortens and you can hear nothing, only the thoughts of your own desire surging around your head. Scent seduces you. The rush lasts long after your lover leaves. You are smitten. They own your heart.

Months later the cracks start to show. You notice your partners’ carelessness and disrespectful behaviour but dismiss it because they were the reason for you feeling worthy and happy once. Your excuses for their bad behaviour become more inventive and your tolerance of the awful energy between you is ignored because you believe you cannot survive without them and you cling on to the fantasy of once was. You become very careful about what you say and do so as not to upset your partner in any way so that you will be treated with adoration again, like it used to be. Very slowly it is getting worse but you don’t notice how bad it’s become because of the ‘Boiled Frog Syndrome’. You are prepared to walk on eggshells because you believe you cannot bear to go back to 20. The fact that someone chooses to stay with you nudges you up to a 40. 40 is better than 20.

And then one day, your partner threatens to leave. And you know, if they leave, the grief and loss combined with the rejection will plummet you to a 0. Your life will feel like it’s not worth living. Every cell in your body burns. The tightness in your chest makes it difficult to breathe; with each inhalation you are gasping for air. Your head pounds, all you can hear is pain. You aren’t sure where the strength for your next breath is coming from. The emptiness in your belly leaves you full with black worthlessness. Nausea trickles down your body, like thick concrete, eventually setting in your chest. And all you can think is, “I can’t survive without you”.  Rock bottom doesn’t even describe how bad you feel.  For a moment you think threatening suicide will force them to stay. And sometimes that works. Sometimes it doesn’t. How did we get to this place?


If we are not very ‘happy’ with life (read as: not filled with our own sense of worthiness and fulfillment in life) then we seek to uplift our base rate through other people. When we do this we enter a relationship with a low score. At 30/40 it does not take much to lift our base rate. And because it is so low to begin with we will inevitably become dependent and desperate when we do find someone/anyone that makes us feel happy because we have so much more vested in them (from 30 to 80) and fear losing that person. In that scenario we do have a lot to lose. If we fall from an 80/90 all the way down to 30/40 that is one traumatic experience. Those kinds of falls leave people very hurt/angry/bitter/vengeful which induces a variety of malicious reactions.

And, if I partnered someone who base rate started higher, say at 80, my contribution to their life would be a maximum improvement 20points so their fall(when I left) would be much less than mine and he/she would be less affected when the relationship ends.


It is not because they loved me less, rather they loved themselves more to start.

Introspection and ‘knowing thyself’ are keys to quality relationships. A quote from Oprah I love to share, “Never live your life for a man before you find what makes you truly happy. There is nothing cute about baggage. Deal with your issues before pursuing a new relationship. You should never look for someone to COMPLETE you. A relationship consists of two WHOLE individuals. Look for someone complimentary…not supplementary”.

The trick to the happy barometer is working out where you begin. What is your base rate without a partner? Ironically, the moment you don’t need someone to make you happy, you are ‘ready’ for a relationship. When you are relationship ready, go about finding yourself a partner who is also happy without a relationship. From that entry point an interdependent, healthy, fulfilling and loving relationship will flourish without any need for anyone to threaten suicide. When two people enter a relationship based on a foundation of self worth, love ensues.  Two full Happy Barometers together = real, wholehearted, life-long love. 

p.s. You can now find me on Facebook/The RelationshipArchitect