When, after twenty years of marriage, Laura Munson’s husband told her “I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I ever did.“, she chose to not believe him. Not because it didn’t hurt or that she wasn’t taking it personally, but because this wasn’t about her — it was about unmet expectations.

In yet another touching Modern Love column (is there any other type?), Munson tells an enthralling story of marital and familial disquiet, but also manages to cut to the core of happiness: that the source is not to be found through external validation.

I’d finally managed to exile the voices in my head that told me my personal happiness was only as good as my outward success, rooted in things that were often outside my control. I’d seen the insanity of that equation and decided to take responsibility for my own happiness. And I mean all of it.

My husband hadn’t yet come to this understanding with himself. He had enjoyed many years of hard work, and its rewards had supported our family of four all along. But his new endeavor hadn’t been going so well, and his ability to be the breadwinner was in rapid decline. He’d been miserable about this, felt useless, was losing himself emotionally and letting himself go physically. And now he wanted out of our marriage; to be done with our family. […]

I saw what had been missing: pride. He’d lost pride in himself. Maybe that’s what happens when our egos take a hit in midlife and we realize we’re not as young and golden anymore.

When life’s knocked us around. And our childhood myths reveal themselves to be just that. The truth feels like the biggest sucker-punch of them all: it’s not a spouse or land or a job or money that brings us happiness. Those achievements, those relationships, can enhance our happiness, yes, but happiness has to start from within. Relying on any other equation can be lethal.

My husband had become lost in the myth.