All I want is for you to be happy. All you want is for me to be happy. The only way for you to be happy is to make me feel happy, and the only way for me to be happy is to make you feel happy. It seems that my happiness and your happiness both hinge on being the instrument of each other’s happiness.
So, I pour myself into making you feel happy, and you do the same for me. The harder I work at the job, the less work you have to do, since the process of working toward your happiness increases my own happiness — which is, of course, your objective. My workload also shrinks in proportion to the effort you exert, for the same reason.
But every instrument reaches peak performance at a different time. One of our efforts is bound to outpace the other’s at some point. Eventually, you may put in so much work that the aim of my own work is fulfilled, and my labor is no longer necessary. From what, then, do I draw my happiness? Or maybe I’ll be the one who toils hard enough to make myself happy, leaving you similarly devoid of an end goal. In either case, one of us is left staring down an empty well.
Suppose I’m the one who outworks you. It’s easy for me to just stand there slack-jawed and hope that looking down my well for long enough will replenish its supply. But once my well is dry, the only way to refill it is to decrease your happiness so that I have something to work toward. And the only way to do that is to sabotage the labor that you perform in the service of my own happiness. But where will that leave you and your well?
On the one hand, we are in love, and I only want you to be happy — that much is certain. Otherwise, there would have been no need for me to begin my labor in the first place, and this problem would not exist to begin with.
On the other hand, instead of gathering and drinking all the water from my well in one fell swoop, I can set some of it aside in a cup. Since I still have this water to drink, you still have work left to do, and so you are happy. But I’ve poured a lot of water into a big cup, and I realize that I’m not thirsty enough to finish it alone. So I call your name, and you run from your well to mine to share it with me. We smile at each other as we drink and talk about our plans for the future. We figure it out before long — tomorrow we will make the trip to your well, where you will pour a cup just big enough to satisfy us both.