A Little Happier: A Tough Happiness Lesson from Hollywood’s Judd Apatow.

Ever since I read Sick in the Head: Conversations about Life and Comedy, by Hollywood producer, writer, director, and actor Judd Apatow (This is 40, Knocked Up, Freaks and Geeks, Girls, etc.), I’ve been haunted by this story.

During the course of his interview with the legendary James L. Brooks, Judd Apatow mentions how tough it was for him when his parents split up in 1984, when he was 13. His mother moved out.

He says, “She had a bit of a mental break after the divorce. She claimed that she thought she was going to leave and come right back, and my dad immediately moved his girlfriend in. Right before she died, she told me, ‘I always thought I was going to come right back. I always thought it was going to be a couple of weeks.’”

This strikes me as a great happiness reminder: we have to be very careful not to assume that we can predict how other people will react, especially to big dramatic gestures. We may have to deal with consequences that we didn’t predict.

Have you ever made a big gesture — with unexpected consequences?


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  • sandy

    After 27 years of marriage I discovered 5 months ago my husband had been cheating on me. After some forced marriage counseling( on my part) and his nonremorseful attitude I asked him to move out(thinking we needed space to clear our heads)….and he has totally checked out and wants to proceed to divorce. I am aghast and more blindsided that I the betrayed was more willing to work to save the marriage then he was. We are no contact, and I am slowly realizing this is for the best……but not at all how I thought it would go. My quote that gets me through the day, “when someone walks away from you do not chase them”

    • gretchenrubin

      That is so rough. Hang in there.

  • Amanda Driscoll

    Gretchen, I love you and love love the podcast (I hit play as soon as I can each Weds morning), but this did not make me a little happier! It’s almost unbearably sad to think of someone taking a regret like this to their deathbed. Oof. 🙁