Is Marriage Good for Your Health? Maybe. Maybe Not.

The article “Why marriage can be good for your health” doesn’t even begin to tell the whole story.

TimesOnline recently published an article “Why marriage can be good for your health”. After reading the article, I believe the conclusions they reach and the research they cite may not tell the whole story.

The article looked at a 2006 study that found married people tend to have longer lives than people who are widowed, divorced/separated or have never been married. What’s most interesting to me about this statement is that there is also research that disputes this fact for women.

In 2010, the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research released a press release about a study they did which explicitly states “The downside of marriage for women: the greater a wife’s age gap from her husband, the lower her life expectancy.”

Safety is another reason the TimesOnline gives for marriage being good for your health.  I agree that being in a committed, monogamous relationship will decrease your chances of contracting a disease through intimate encounters, but there are plenty of people I work with who believed they were in a committed, monogamous relationship who find out their spouse has cheated on them.   Marriage in and of itself doesn’t guarantee a decreased chance of contracting a disease through intimate encounters.

Another aspect of the safety the article claims marriage provides is based on research by the United States Justice Department.  It turns out that married people are less likely to be victims of violent crime than single people.  This statement brings up a couple of questions for me.  What is the age-range of individuals looked at?  How do mental health and financial status play into this data?  It just seems incomplete.  Finally, there’s a subtle suggestion that people who are married don’t go out as much as people who are single.  Really?  This suggestion reminds me of the data that came out in the 80’s that stated most serious car accidents occur within 5 miles of home.  The reason for that is that most of us do most of our driving within a 5 mile radius of our home.  If you don’t go out, you don’t interact with society.  If you don’t interact with society then there’s less chance of you becoming a victim of a crime.  Are you willing to stay at home all the time instead of going out for a great meal, going dancing, or even out to an art opening?  I’m not and I’m married!

The last piece of this article that really frustrates me is the statement that marriage “improves mental health”.  Just being married cannot improve your mental health.  How many people do you know that are miserable in their marriage?  How many people have you heard of who have been abused by their spouse?  Do you really believe that they have great mental health?  Yeah, me neither.

This article really misses a two key points.  Frist, Marriage can only improve your health if it’s a healthy marriage.  A healthy marriage doesn’t just happen when you say “I do”.  A good marriage takes commitment that is renewed every day by both spouses. Second, despite the implications in the article being single and/or divorced doesn’t condemn you to a either a less healthy or shorter life. Life is what you choose to make of it.  If you choose to live well, you will.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are contemplating divorce. Should you stay, or should you go is a powerful question and I’m here to help you make a smart decision that will lead to your greatest happiness… whether you stay OR go. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.

5 Steps To Get Over Your Divorce

Get over divorce by taking these 5 steps.

Getting over your divorce can be much simpler than you’ve heard.

Divorce is a life-changing event, but it doesn’t have to stop you from living. Here are 5 straight-forward steps to help you quickly heal from your divorce.

1. Don’t let your divorce disable you.

Healing from divorce is a grieving process. Everyone’s grieving process is unique. Because of this uniqueness, people sometimes think that they are grieving when they are actually wallowing.

There’s a big difference between grieving and wallowing. The difference mostly has to do with what’s going on in your head.

If you want to get through your grief with minimal wallowing, you’ll want to think of your divorce as either a message to redirect your life or a growth challenge. Both of these ideas have the potential to give you hope and to keep you engaged in the future. That’s the key to prevent yourself from getting stuck; focus on the future and making your future better even if you don’t know exactly how to do that right now.

2. You are not a failure.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of believing that because your marriage ended in divorce that you’re a failure. (I fell deeply into this trap when I got divorced.)

But the truth is that your marriage was a failure – not you. Sure you played a part in your divorce, but your divorce doesn’t define you. You are still you regardless of your marital status. (And I’m betting that you’re a pretty wonderful person.)

3. Remember others have been through divorce too.

You need to remember that you’re not the only one to ever be divorced and your circumstances probably aren’t all that unique. It’s important you remember this because you can ask for help if you know someone else has been through what you’re going through.

So, get curious. Who do you know that’s successfully made it through their divorce? (No, it’s not that bitter friend who has sworn off men and has adopted her 10th cat.)

If you don’t know anyone personally who’s successfully healed from their divorce, search the web. There are lots of groups and individuals who provide specialized support for people going through divorce.

Once you find someone or some group, ask them for help. That way you don’t have to do it all on your own. You can use the wisdom of others to make your way through your divorce easier and faster.

4. Take the high road.

Taking the high road has to do not only with how you treat your ex, but also how you treat yourself and interact with the rest of the world.

Yes, it is incredibly easy to want to pay your ex back for all the pain as you go through the divorce process, but don’t. You’ll only regret your behavior over the long term. So, act from the strength of your highest self.

Taking the high road also means being good to yourself. Accept that getting through the grief of the end of your marriage may not happen overnight. Be patient with yourself.

Find joy (yes, it still exists) in the simple things that you still have. Maybe you can find joy in your kids or your pets or even in the beauty of the clouds. But find some joy every day. When you act from a more joyful place, the rest of the world will suddenly seem more joyful and it will be easier to interact with everyone else.

5. Get moving.

To get through your grief you need to take action. The actions don’t need to be big, grand, or immediately life changing. They can be simple things.

Here are some ideas of things you can do to get through your grief:

  • Schedule some time when you won’t be interrupted to just cry.
  • Spend 5 minutes being grateful for what you do have because it could always be worse.
  • Taking a walk to get a change of scenery.
  • Beat up a pillow to release some anger.

Do something every day to help you gently move through the grief of your divorce.

By following these 5 steps, you’ll be able to focus on healing from your divorce, prevent yourself from getting stuck in the pain, and get back to living a joy-filled life.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly adviceAnd, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation. 

You might also enjoy reading…

The 8 Keys To Trust In A Post-Divorce Relationship

 

If you’re looking for more help recovering from your divorce, read more articles about Healing After Divorce

How to Add Some Happiness to Your Holidays

Forget the pasted on smiles. Here’s a practical way to add real happiness to your holidays.

Unlike Grandma’s fudge recipe, the first holidays post-split aren’t usually a recipe for happiness. More often than not, you’re trying to paste a smile on your face during the day and facing long nights of extreme sadness. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be like this.

A few years ago, Martin Seligman released his book Authentic Happiness, and in it he explained the Equation for Lasting Happiness. (An equation really appeals to my geeky side, but don’t worry if math isn’t your thing. I promise this is an easy equation to understand.)

The equation looks like this: H = S + C + V
H is Lasting Happiness
S is Inherited Happiness Set Point
C is Conditions of Living
V is Voluntary Actions or Daily Choices You Make

What this equation means is that to experience more lasting happiness, you can try to improve your inherited happiness set point, your conditions of living, and the daily choices you make.

Let’s start with your inherited happiness set point, S. We all have one of these, and one set point isn’t better than another. Your set point is just your set point. According to Seligman, adjusting S isn’t so easy. Just like we can’t really adjust our genes, we can’t adjust our S higher to have more lasting happiness.

What about C, conditions of living? Obviously, when you’re going through divorce your conditions of living are different from those when you were married. If you’re like most people going through divorce, your conditions of living have changed for the worse. This is a hit to your happiness that often gets exacerbated during the holidays because of the intense emphasis on family during this time of the year. After all, it’s natural to want to look at all the differences between this year’s holidays and the traditions you enjoyed while you were married.

The interesting thing is that Seligman found that conditions of living for most people only have a 10% impact on their level of lasting happiness. This means that the conditions you’re living in may not be playing that big a role in the unhappiness you’re experiencing.

Well, if your conditions of living aren’t really what’s making you miserable and you can’t really change S, your inherited happiness set point, you’re left with V, your voluntary actions or daily choices you make, as being the major culprit in why you’re feeling especially miserable during the holidays.

(If I had read that last sentence during the holidays when I was getting divorced, I would have been pissed! Just in case that’s how you feel, please take a deep breath, and stick with me for just a bit more. I promise what I have to say isn’t as bad as you might be thinking.)

I want you to know that I don’t think you’re consciously making decisions every day to choose to be miserable. I just think you might have either forgotten how to choose to do things every day that bring you happiness, or you’ve simply forgotten what brings you happiness. (It’s natural to forget how to be happy when you’re caught up in the chaos of divorce.)

Let’s try to discover something that brings you joy right now. Think about your happiest childhood holiday memories. What made your childhood holidays so special? Was it a sense of anticipation? Was it all the delicious cookies and Grandma’s fudge? Was it playing with your new toys? Was it seeing your favorite cousin?

Now here’s the key question that will help you increase your happiness over the holidays right now despite your divorce. What can you do today to experience even a little of that joy you felt during the holidays when you were a kid? If you ask yourself this question every day and then do what you can do to recreate some of that joyfulness, you’ll be taking major strides toward adding happiness to your holidays.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
If you haven’t already, take the time to think about your happiest holiday memories from your childhood. What made those holidays so wonderful? Be as specific as you can in answering this question.

What can you do today to bring some of that holiday joy you had when you were a kid to today?  Granted, you might not be able to be a kid again, but you can still figure out ways to enjoy the holidays like you did then. Maybe you loved watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, then rent the movie and watch it today. Maybe you loved the fudge your Grandma made, then see if someone in the family has the recipe and make it yourself.

Ask yourself what makes you happy every day of the holiday season. Every day you have choices you can make about how much happiness you allow yourself. If during this holiday season you spend a bit more effort doing something every day that brings you joy, you’ll be sure to have merrier holidays.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re ready to take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

3 Essential Truths That Will Help You Find Life Balance, FINALLY!

Self-care is essential to life balance the way inhaling is essential to breathing.

I’m turning 50 in just a few days. Honestly, I’m excited about it. This has honestly been the best part of my life because I’ve finally found balance, and for me balance translates to happiness.

But finding it and learning how to hold on to it took me years to figure out. And, I wish it hadn’t. So, I’m going to tell you the 3 best life balancing truths I learned so that you can skip to the front of the line and enjoy more happiness, too.

1. Having balance doesn’t mean balancing everything at once. 
For most of my life I thought, just like almost everyone else, that balance meant balancing everything I was doing and getting it all done as perfectly as possible. While I was a child living at home, this was pretty easy to do. I just had to balance school, play and chores. Aren’t there times when you long for those days, too?

By the time I was a teenager, I had a part-time job and boyfriends to add to my very simple balancing act. As most teenagers idealistically do, I thought I had the whole life balance thing pretty well figured out. But, when I got married, finding life balance quickly became much more complicated. Suddenly, I had to reorient my life to balance my roles as a student and wife. It wasn’t easy.

This was when I began my intense struggle with finding balance. There were just so much to do, many of which I only grudgingly did because of my husband’s expectations.

Just like everyone who struggles with the demands of family and work, I decided prioritization would help me reclaim the balance I had before I said “I do.” I prioritized by putting the things that others needed from me high on the list, and put what I wanted and needed lower and lower on my to-do list, until it just fell off of the list completely.

2. You can’t find life balance by neglecting yourself.
Yet, like so many of us do, I survived (barely) with my warped sense of life balance for years. I made it through all the normal things in life—moving, deaths, births, work—but it was too much to try to balance just by doing (and doing and doing) without any real renewing.

Life balance is about your individual life. Life is about how you want to experience it, how you want to love the people important to you, and how you want to make the world just a bit better because you’ve lived. When you don’t pay attention to what’s important to you, then your life can crumble painfully away. That’s exactly what happened to me.

I got divorced and felt burned out. I had totally and completely misunderstood the idea of life balance and become a human “doing,” not much more than a soulless machine. Yet, this is exactly the crippling misunderstanding many of us have. We believe that life balance is about putting others first instead of ourselves. We forget that without taking care of ourselves, we reach the point where we have nothing left to give to anyone else.

Once I understood that, I struggled with how I could change. I tried putting my feelings first and decided I needed to become a human being, someone who pays attention to their feelings and going with the flow, instead of worrying about doing so much.

Despite spending almost a decade trying to find balance by being a human being, I got very little accomplished to help me reach my dreams. And more importantly, I wasn’t happy. My experiences taught me that life balance isn’t about living either as a human doing or a human being. Existing at either extreme for any length of time is exhausting and debilitating.

3. The best life balance is about doing and accomplishing what’s most important to you.
The goal is for you to enjoy yourself, whether or not you’re pleasing anyone else. It’s finding the sweet spot between being a human doing and a human being. The most amazing part is that the sweet spot moves; it moves to support the situation you’re in at the moment.

By balancing my life like this, I’ve been feeling a greater sense of freedom and accomplishment than I ever have before. There’s a balance in my life of work, service (not people pleasing), play and relaxation that makes sense and energizes me.

So, really, there are two wonderful things about turning 50. First, I’ve finally discovered the secret of life balance. And most importantly, I hope I’m making the world just a bit better, because now you know the secret of the best and most lasting life balance, too.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re ready to take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

This article originally appeared on YourTango.