Is your divorce dictating how you feel about your life? If so, read this to learn how to be happy with your life no matter what.
Are you one of those people who just knows how to be happy with your life, regardless of your circumstances? Or do your circumstances dictate the state of your happiness? If you’re divorced or are going through a divorce, does your happiness suddenly seem like a coveted but impossible commodity?
There are no right or wrong answers – only honest ones. It’s the honest ones, after all, that open the door to possibility, whether that be in the form of major improvement or a simple shift in perspective.
Using divorce as a pivotal discussion point is a meaningful way to examine the concept of happiness in the throes of chaos, disappointment, and loss. As a veritable 180 to the hope-filled expectations and joyful ambitions of married life, divorce is an eviscerating experience.
It turns your life inside out, making it all but unrecognizable for what can be a very long adjustment period.
It also messes with your sense of personal identity: You are used to living the role of a spouse, and suddenly that role has been taken away. Now “who” are you? And how does your life’s purpose change, if at all, because of this unexpected “identity crisis”?
Inevitably, everything “self-”related – self-esteem, self-worth, self-awareness, self-accountability – takes a beating. At the very least, it is put to a major test.
Even without divorce, we have all known married people at whom we marvel for their ability (and determination) to remain anchored in a core happiness. It’s not that they are impervious to challenges. It’s that they are unflappable in the face of them.
So what exactly are these happy-no-matter-what people doing that sets them apart from everyone else? What can they teach those who hold a finger up to the wind before deciding the direction of their feelings?
And how can these “traits of the happy” inspire you in your post-divorce journey?
Below are some tips for how to be happy with your life post-divorce, combining traits of happy people with actionable tips for rebuilding a life after divorce:
Focus on the big picture more than the minutiae.
This isn’t to take anything away from the importance of details. Without them, critical components of your divorced life would be a train wreck – from the divorce settlement itself to post-divorce essentials like co-parenting.
But divorce has a way of bringing out the worst in people, even en route to bringing out the best in them.
For example, a highly contentious divorce, especially if there are large assets involved, is fertile ground for competitiveness between spouses.
Before you stake your life on a detail that may not provide a worthwhile return on your investment, look at the big picture. How much stress could be avoided by learning how and when to compromise in order to give more breathing room to your future?
Forgiveness. It’s perhaps the most difficult part of marriage, and most certainly the most difficult part of divorce. You have to forgive your former or soon-to-be former spouse, and you have to forgive yourself.
And you have to own up to expectations that you couldn’t meet and perhaps shouldn’t have had.
The importance of forgiveness as a key to happiness is that you are choosing the kind of thoughts you will live with. Are you going to relive your grievances over and over, ruminating over perceived injustices and what you deserved but didn’t get?
In the context of how to be happy with your life, forgiveness combines humility with recognition of the “big picture” that awaits your life.
If you’re going to live a happy life, you’re going to be busy, busy, busy with making it sparkle. You simply don’t have time to nurture all that negativity.
Besides, grudges – even toward yourself – are very, very heavy. And forgiveness is the only way to lighten that load.
Embrace self-accountability as a critical step toward self-empowerment…and self-forgiveness.
You can’t change what you don’t own.
Sadly, if most spouses embraced that truth before and during marriage instead of after divorce, there might be fewer divorces.
Blame, after all, is so much easier.
Looking within to confess and examine how you contributed to the demise of your marriage takes incredible courage.
It also frees you up to change those qualities and behaviors that don’t serve your highest good and self-expression in a relationship.
Remember, if you hope to have another relationship one day, that new person will be dating you, not your ex.
Nothing is a bigger turn-off than sitting through a litany of negativity and blame for an ex.
And nothing is more attractive than a person who has owned their role in a former marriage. Doing one’s own “work” demonstrates discipline, desire, commitment, and preparedness.
Build a strong inner-circle.
Happy people know that life is about the relationships you make and how you support each other from within them.
You certainly don’t have to let go of established relationships after your divorce. But you may discover that, because of your divorce, not all your friendships were what they presented themselves as. And, sadly, some friends and family members may walk out of your life.
This is your opportunity to surround yourself with people who reflect your own commitment to personal growth.
Consult your personal value system. Make sure you are being the kind of person you want in your life and attracting the kind of people worthy of being in it.
Stay curious about life.
Curiosity. The very word sounds so childlike, unencumbered, playful, hopeful, open.
And that’s because it is.
Curiosity involves a certain amount of risk. You have to go out on a limb to discover and learn new things, never with a guarantee of what you’ll find.
But happy people are inherently curious because they know there is always an upside to the adventure.
Whether or not they get what they expected or even hoped for, they will always come away with a lesson. And lessons connect the dots of life in interesting, courage-building ways.
Constantly nurture a temperament of gratitude, and use it as a touchstone for (re)creating your life’s purpose.
Finally, if you really want to know how to be happy with your life – at any time, not just post-divorce – stay grateful. Remember what you have – life, talent, family, friends, work, a roof over your head – and use this to propel your life forward.
Your life’s purpose isn’t over or wasted just because your marriage has ended. It’s up to you to be in a constant state of reinvention as an extension of what you have already learned and accomplished.
In the final analysis, getting back to happy after divorce will be the result of steering your mindset in the direction of happiness…
…and giving life some time behind the wheel while you enjoy the view.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life and divorce coach. You can select a helpful report and join my newsletter list for weekly support in moving on from your divorce. Additionally, you can schedule a 30-minute private consultation to talk with me about how you can live a happy life post-divorce.
Looking for more information about how to live a happy and healthy life? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Building A Happy Life.
Understanding why infidelity is so common is just a first step to understanding more about
yourself and your responsibility to your marriage.
Couples stand at the altar (or under a flowered arch on a destination beach), exchanging rings and vows of fidelity. They can’t imagine not making it through thick and thin with one another — and only one another. And yet, enough of them end up cheating that one can’t help wondering why infidelity is so common.
Statistically speaking, infidelity is both “obvious” and “not so obvious.”
It’s no secret that its frequency is almost concernedly commonplace. For all the anguish it causes, we’re probably more surprised if a marriage survives without cheating than we are to learn that someone strayed.
For one, there is a broad spectrum of definitions for infidelity.
Some people think of it purely in terms of sex outside of marriage.
Others consider emotional closeness with sexual attraction outside of marriage as sufficient cause for a guilty verdict.
Then there is every form of tryst in between, as well as the presumption of heterosexuality in the relationships studied.
Also complicating reliable research and statistics regarding the presence and frequency of cheating is the way in which subjects are asked about potential infidelity.
Are the subjects questioned in person or via a written questionnaire? Are they alone when answering questions, or are their spouses present? Is infidelity strictly defined, or are the subjects left to interpret its criteria on their own?
It’s easy to extrapolate, then, that figuring out why infidelity is so common may likewise have some inherent ambiguity.
On the one hand — at least in the US and western cultures — monogamy is expected. It’s what couples sign up for, even if they subconsciously pray they won’t be tempted beyond the tenacity of their vows.
On the other hand, not everyone is convinced that monogamy is even natural, let alone possible or healthy.
Beyond the anthropological study of relationships throughout civilization, there are plenty of “happy” marriages that openly avail themselves of outside relationships.
From swingers to threesomes to “open marriages” and couples “with an understanding,” these outliers complicate any would-be irrefutable conclusions about infidelity.
But still the majority of people who enter into marriage do so with the expectation that both partners will remain faithful.
So, when one or both partners stray, there have to be some underlying motivations.
The benefit of understanding why infidelity is so common is that it can help you be more self-aware in your marriage.
It can also help you be aware of signs that your marriage may be unhappy and therefore vulnerable to an affair.
The challenge of that understanding, however, is that it can be easy to use the reasons for infidelity as excuses for infidelity. And cheating excuses will never help you heal if and when infidelity happens.
Let’s look at 8 of the primary reasons, according to Scientific American, that infidelity is so common:
Unresolved anger can fester into negative emotions like indifference and even a desire for retribution.
When communication between spouses isn’t healthy, it’s easy for anger to build up and seek “resolution” in any way that makes the angry person feel better.
Having an affair may not be an intentional way of resolving anger. But carrying around a lot of anger can make you forget your love for your spouse. And it can weaken your commitment to healthy conflict-resolution.
Having low self-esteem can carry over into problems in your marriage. It can make you doubt your worthiness of love and therefore your spouse’s genuineness in expressing love.
It can also make you jealous and suspicious. If everyone else is better than you, then surely your spouse must be cheating.
If you’re not careful, you could create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Likewise, you, too, could be vulnerable to an affair simply for want of the attention and validation that can boost your self-esteem.
Marriage, after all, can get boring as the years go on and responsibilities and stress increase. Attention from an admirer outside your marriage can be invigorating to your self-esteem.
Lack of love:
Being married but feeling unloved creates a very lonely existence. And that loneliness created by the void of love can make a wanting heart seek love elsewhere.
If either or both of you have a low commitment to your marriage, infidelity is a lot more likely. It’s like keeping the doors of your house unlocked in a high-crime neighborhood. You may not go looking for trouble, but trouble will be looking for you.
And your low commitment will make it a lot easier to make excuses for straying, especially if you don’t plan to remain in your marriage.
Need for variety:
As an explanation for why infidelity is so common, the need to “mix things up” probably isn’t one readily admitted.
And yet, for those people openly not sworn to monogamy, the need for variety is the most natural justification for being unfaithful.
Like lack of love, neglect creates loneliness and isolation within a marriage.
But neglect takes that lack of love to a level of deliberateness by completely ignoring the needs of the other person.
It is, essentially, an abandonment of the other.
While it’s unrealistic to expect “hot ‘n’ heavy” sex all the way through your marriage, sex is important.
There is a proven direct relationship between a vital sex life and a happy marriage. It’s not about adhering to a formula, but about finding a frequency and “style” that work for both of you.
If one of you is avoiding sex and physical affection all the time while the other is longing for it, your marriage is going to suffer.
Likewise, if the two of you aren’t in sync regarding the way you have sex, your marriage could be vulnerable to an affair.
For example, “The alcohol was to blame.” Or the two affair partners were on the same business trip and used that as an excuse to let their guard down.
Understanding why infidelity is so common is really just a first step to understanding more about yourself and your responsibility to your marriage.
The time to discuss the uncomfortable topic of infidelity isn’t after one of you has cheated and your marriage is at risk of not surviving.
It’s actually before you even get married (ideally).
It’s up to you and your partner to discuss and agree upon the definition of infidelity. What does it mean to each of you? And what is it going to mean to both of you as a married couple?
When you embark on your marriage with reasons to protect it, you won’t have to provide reasons for betraying it.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I work with individuals struggling with how to get over infidelity. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.