5 Things To Do When Being Happy Seems Almost Impossible Post-Divorce

Unhappy man holding a cup of coffee and wondering if being happy again is possible.

Getting divorced is a decidedly unhappy turn of events for most of us. Our dreams of happily ever after are gone and we aren’t sure what to replace them with or if it’s even possible to replace them. And forget about being happy… what does that even mean?

Well, as bleak as things may appear to be right now, I know it’s possible to be happy again post-divorce. I learned how to do it myself when I got divorced in 2002 and I’ve helped hundreds of people find happiness again too.

Before diving into what to do to increase your happiness post-divorce, let’s look at some science-based facts about happiness that will prove you can be happy again.

First, there is stuff that’s not in your control when it comes to happiness.

In a study of 1300 twins, the Minnesota Center for Twin & Family Research found that happiness is 50% genetic. There’s absolutely nothing that you can do about your genetics when it comes to being happy – at least not yet.

Other researchers published findings that 10% of happiness is based on environmental factors. These are things that we have no control over, like the weather, where we were born, who our parents are, the economic situation we were born into, etc. However, as we mature, we can begin to shift some of the environmental factors like our economic situation to better support our happiness.

And when you add the numbers up, they say that we can control at least 40% of our happiness. But when you’re struggling with divorce feeling in control of anything often doesn’t seem possible.

So let me share with you 5 things you can begin doing today to start you along the path to being happy again.

  1. Get your basic needs met.

    There’s a big difference between needs and wants. For many, this can be hard to distinguish when going through a divorce.

    Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a great way to understand what basic needs are and which you may need to make sure you’re meeting.

    From the most basic, the needs Maslow identified are
    a.Physical (air, water, food, shelter, sleep, clothing, reproduction),
    b.Safety (personal security, employment/resources, health, property),
    c.Love & Belonging (friendship, intimacy, family, sense of connection),
    d.Esteem (respect, self-esteem, status, recognition, strength, freedom),
    e.and Self-actualization (desire to become the most that one can be).

    For many who are struggling with divorce, most if not all of these needs are not being met. If that’s the case for you, start with the first of the needs above that isn’t being met and work on getting those met first.

    For example, let’s imagine that as a result of your divorce, you no longer have a place to live and you need to find a job. Your first need to meet is Physical and finding shelter. Once you have a place to live, then you can focus on meeting your Safety need and finding employment.

    It’s important to start at the beginning of the list to meet your needs. Doing so will help you to feel more relaxed and able to focus on the next needs on the list. In other words, you’ll be able to begin being happy as you feel more and more secure that your basic needs are met.

  1. Get comfortable with not being in control.

    Post-divorce life can be quite different from married life. While you were married, you probably had more control over the time you spent with your children and how and when you spent money. Divorce changes all of that. All of a sudden these parts of your life are dictated (at least in part) by the laws where you live.

    Now you have to worry about when it’s your scheduled time to be with your children.

    Now you have to deal with the division of assets and debts accrued during the marriage in addition to spousal and/or child support.

    But there are also other things you may not have control of when you divorce. For example, divorce severs more relationships than just your marriage and you’ll likely lose some friends too.

    In other words, divorce fundamentally changes your life. And many of these changes are simply not in your control. And rather than rail against them, the best you can do when it comes to fostering your happiness is to learn to let go and accept what you can’t control.
  1. Be present.

    Learning to be present can be a struggle for anyone. However, when you’re dealing with divorce it’s especially challenging because you’re grieving the end of your marriage (the past) and the hopes and dreams you had for the future as a spouse.

    And when you’re trying to make sense of the past and the future, it’s really hard to be present.

    However, there’s a simple question you can ask to help you become more present. That question is “What is right now?” Since this question is about the present, thinking about it and answering it will pull your attention to the present.
  1. Be grateful.

    One of the secrets that all happy people know about being genuinely happy is that gratitude changes everything. And, yes, it is possible to be grateful post-divorce. The trick is to begin being grateful for the “small” things.

    Some small things you might choose to be grateful for include: waking up this morning, having indoor plumbing, having running water, the sun rising, the sun setting, and seeing your child’s smile.

    When you allow yourself to see there is still good in the world despite your divorce, it becomes easier to be grateful. And being grateful has a sneaky and even magical way of transforming into being happy because you’re focusing on what’s good instead of what’s wrong.
  1. Set and pursue goals that align with your values and interests.

    When most people hear the word “goal” in this context, they think they’re being asked to set BIG goals. Setting big goals isn’t necessary when you’re working on being happy post-divorce. The point is to set any goal that will help you to feel more alive and vital during the process of achieving it.

    When you purposefully do things that are in alignment with who you are and that you enjoy, chances are good you’ll begin experiencing happiness.

It doesn’t matter the order you try these suggestions for being happy post-divorce. The important thing is that you try one. Look at it as an experiment. Do you notice yourself feeling even a smidge happier when you try it? If so, that’s great!

And if you don’t, there are still 4 other suggestions for you to try out. When you’re ready, come back to this list to try another tip and see how it works for you. The goal here is to find as many as possible that work for you so you can experience being happy more often.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life 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 to 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.

How To Forgive And Let Go After Divorce

Woman holding a torn piece of paper with the word forgive printed on it.

No matter how you look at it, divorce is painful. Your life (and the lives of your children) are changed forever. And for a time you must face challenge after challenge – a seemingly endless stream of them. Yet you know you must continue to move forward so you persevere and eventually ask yourself the question, “How can I forgive and let go of all the hurt?”

This question is important because it’s at the core of all the pain you’re experiencing over your divorce. It’s also one of the most difficult challenges of healing after divorce because divorce brings with it so many hurts, betrayals, and lost dreams.

So let me walk you through how I help my clients learn how to forgive and let go after divorce.

The first step is to truly understand what forgiveness is.

What is forgiveness?

Simply put, forgiveness is a conscious decision to release your feelings of resentment, hurt, anger, or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you.

What I like about this definition is that it’s all about you. It’s not about waiting for the person or people who harmed you to make amends.

There’s power in this. It means that letting go and moving on after your divorce is up to you. Sure there are probably circumstances that are dependent upon others, but your being able to forgive is completely within your control.

However, something being 100% in your control doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily easy to achieve. I’ll bet if you’re like most of the people I’ve spoken with over the last nearly 20 years, that you have some resistance to forgiving.

Why do so many struggle with it?

Being able to forgive and let go after divorce is often problematic because of mistaken beliefs. It’s fairly common to erroneously believe that forgiveness has to do with the other person or group. This belief completely removes an individual’s ability to move forward.

Waiting for someone else to make you feel better about your divorce is a recipe for staying stuck.

You stay stuck when you continue to replay the harm you experienced and the resultant resentment, hurt, anger, and desire for vengeance again and again. You’re holding on to it and in a way nurturing it so that your pain never has a chance to dissipate. Instead, it remains and often grows.

This way of coping with being harmed makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. Back in the days of living in caves, our ancestors needed to know who they could trust because their lives depended on it – literally.

However, today we don’t necessarily need to continually remind ourselves of the harm done to us.

The other reason so many struggle with forgiveness and letting go after divorce is that we mistakenly believe that to forgive means to forget and act as if the harm never happened.

So let’s revisit the definition of forgiveness from above and please pay close attention to what you’re reading…

…forgiveness is to consciously decide to release your feelings of resentment, hurt, anger, or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you.

Nowhere in this definition is there anything about forgetting or dismissing or even condoning. In fact, remembering the hurtful actions and learning how you can prevent or avoid or in some other way keep yourself from being hurt in the same way in the future is what you should be learning from the situation.

And I’ll bet that even with all of this discussion about what forgiveness is and why so many struggle with it that you might be thinking one of two things:

  1. I can’t forgive my ex.
  2. I can’t forgive myself for hurting my ex.

So let’s take a look at both of these thoughts.

I can’t forgive my ex.

If you’re struggling to forgive your ex for the end of your marriage, chances are that you’re blaming them for everything that’s happened. And you’re partially correct. They are to blame – for their part.

The uncomfortable truth is that you’re also culpable. You have some fault for the end of your marriage too.

It’s worth taking the time to look at how you contributed to your divorce. At a minimum, you are responsible for deciding to marry your ex. But, I’ll bet that if you let yourself really think about it, you’ll see that you played a little bit larger role than that.

I don’t say that to condemn you. I say it because I know it was true for me and it’s been true for each and every one of the hundreds of people I’ve worked with.

In my case, one of the ways I contributed to the end of my first marriage was the expectation that my husband would just know what I needed without my needing to tell him. It was easy to blame him for not caring about me. But the truth is that I didn’t tell him what I needed and how I wanted things to change.

And, yes, it did take me some time to be able to admit this to myself. Yet when I did, it was easy to forgive him because I knew that I wasn’t solely a victim of his actions. I was also a victim of mine.

This idea of being a victim of your actions brings us to the second struggle that so many people have with knowing how to forgive and let go after divorce.

I can’t forgive myself for hurting my ex.

If you’re struggling with forgiving yourself for hurting your ex with your decision to divorce, you’re not alone. Most people who initiate divorce blame themselves for the pain they caused.

I’ll bet making the decision to divorce was one of the most difficult decisions you’ve ever made. You probably weighed all kinds of considerations before finally deciding this was the best course for you and your family.

And it’s good that you still care for your ex and what they’re experiencing as a result. Yet, the truth is that you’re not responsible for how your former spouse feels (and you never were).

Another unfortunate fact is most people find forgiving someone else easier than forgiving themselves.

I believe there are 3 primary reasons for this:

  1. It’s easier to see how someone else has caused us harm (and it can be easier to feel like a victim) than it is to recognize how we may have caused ourselves or someone else harm.
  2. It can also be difficult to forgive ourselves because it takes effort and sometimes it can seem easier to wallow in guilt and regret.
  3. We can hold ourselves to a higher level and breadth of accountability than we do others.

Yet despite all the struggles that you may have with allowing yourself to forgive and let go after your divorce, it is possible to do. In fact, I believe you must do so before you can fully move on with your life.

Tips for reaching forgiveness

So far we’ve spent a lot of time talking about forgiveness and why it can be difficult to do. Let’s shift gears now and talk about some tips for how you might be able to finally forgive and let go.

To forgive someone else, you might try these tips:

  1. Get distance from the event


    For most of us, it’s nearly impossible to forgive someone while we’re feeling hurt.

    If you can give yourself a little time so you can look at the situation from different angles, you’ll find that your perspective of the event and its meaning can change. It’s this change in perspective that can often provide the space to forgive – or at least begin being willing to forgive.

  2. Be willing to do your part.


    The key to being able to forgive and let go is making the choice to do so. Choosing to let go of the anger, hurt, and resentment is necessary. And sometimes the easiest place to start is to decide to be able to make this choice.

  3. Work through your feelings.


    As inconvenient as they may be, you must acknowledge and work through your feelings about the hurt. A couple of ways you may choose to work through them are journaling and talking to a trusted friend, family member, or helping professional.  – journaling, talking

  4. Find the silver lining of the hurt.


    Yes, there really could be a silver lining to your divorce. It might allow you and your ex to be better parents. It might allow you to pursue passions you laid to the side when married your ex.

    By being willing to look for the opportunity to grow from your divorce and/or recognizing your relationship wasn’t what you thought it was, you’ll quickly be able to find your silver lining.

  5. Build your capacity to forgive.


    Start with forgiving smaller things first to build up your forgiveness capacity. Then you can progressively build up to forgiving your ex for the divorce and all of its repercussions.

  6. Acknowledge your forgiveness.


    Take the time to recognize that you’ve been able to forgive and let go of any portion or part of the hurt you carry because of your divorce. When you do, you’re celebrating yourself, your growth,  and taking a giant leap toward putting your divorce behind you.   

To forgive yourself, in addition to the tips above, the following can be helpful:

  1. Recognize if you’re holding yourself to a higher level of accountability than you do others.


    Have you heard of an inner critic? Most of us have met our inner critic even if we don’t know it by that name. It’s the negative, nagging, judgemental voice that keeps replaying our faults and shortcomings.

    Our inner critic is the part of us that unreasonably holds us to a higher level of accountability than others. Once you can separate the excessive condemnation from an appropriate level, it becomes easier to forgive yourself.

  2. Change your negative thoughts.


    We all have a negativity bias. We look for what’s wrong. And this can cause us to be hard on ourselves and makes it difficult to forgive and let go.

    When you catch yourself allowing negative thoughts to control how you feel about yourself, it’s time to change them. One of the most straightforward ways to do that is to ask yourself if the thought is based on fear or love. If it’s fear, then you can change it by looking for a loving, kind way to reframe the thought.

Learning how to forgive and let go after divorce will take time and effort. Yet the investment you make in doing so will enable you to move on with your life and be more fully you as you build a meaningful and love-filled life after divorce for yourself (and your kids).

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I help people just like you with healing after a divorce or breakup. 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.

Looking for more information about getting over the end of your marriage? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Healing After Divorce.

What To Expect When Your Cheating Is Exposed

Husband walking in on his cheating wife.

There comes a time in every affair when truth can no longer hide between the sheets. It may come out right away. It may come out after months or even years. But, once your cheating is exposed, your life will never be the same. 

So fasten your seatbelt. 

The revelation of infidelity can happen in a number of ways:

If you’re married and cheating, you may have your duplicitous life neatly and conveniently compartmentalized. As long as you can keep your stories straight and your tracks covered, you can keep everyone in your fantasy bubble happy. 

Until, of course, you leave a slipper on the staircase and your carriage turns into a pumpkin before curfew. 

Or until your spouse starts adding up your one-off nights of working late. 

Or your affair partner gets fed up with the double-standard of being alone when you’re with your family. 

Or you get tired of keeping up the charade and feel the sudden moral urge to confess. 

How your cheating is exposed is less important than the exposure itself…because exposure means decision-time.

Everyone involved — even the affair partner — has decisions to make. 

Are you going to end the affair and work on your marriage? Are you going to get a divorce and start a new life with your affair partner? Are you going to break off both relationships and live on your own? 

What can you count on in the aftermath of being outed for your affair?

There is no definitive script for the post-cheating-discovery drama that plays out. But you can count on several unpleasantries, especially in the early days, weeks, and months following the affair’s exposure. 

One thing’s for sure: The sh*t is going to hit the fan.

Even if your spouse becomes reclusive and avoidant in the wake of pain and anger, you’re going to feel the repercussions of your betrayal. 

And your “logical” compartmentalization — you know, that thing that convinced you you could keep this double-life going — is going to implode. 

Here is a short-list of what to expect when your cheating is exposed:

  • You and your spouse will be polarized emotionally.

    Your spouse will be fuming from your betrayal — angry, devastated, hurting, confused, self-doubting, demanding details.

    Your emotions will be equally complex and may even parallel some of your spouse’s emotions.

    But you are likely to feel overwhelming contrition, shame, embarrassment, and self-loathing, even if you’re hurting and confused.

    If your affair was long and emotionally involved, you may have a separate set of emotions surrounding your affair partner — responsibility, guilt, anger, sadness, longing.

    If you and your betrayed spouse plan to work on saving your marriage, you’ll have to make peace with this polarity, especially in the beginning.

  • Your spouse will be flooded with negative emotions, which may come out as unpredictable rage and fury.


    Hell hath no fury like a [spouse] scorned.”

    Whether your betrayed spouse is female or male, the anger from betrayal is deep and consuming.

    One way to add to that scorn and fury is to get defensive with a bunch of cheating excuses.

    Just. Don’t.
  • Your spouse may not be the only one who knows about and is affected by your infidelity.

    Depending on how your cheating is exposed, there may be others in your family and/or social circles who know about your infidelity.

    And, if your betrayed spouse acts out in a moment of rage, you may find yourself in a social media fishbowl. Now you’re not only trying to save your marriage, you’re trying to save face everywhere you go.

    Who knows? Does everyone know? Does everyone hate me? Can I show my face anywhere?

  • You may care for your affair partner, but don’t expect your spouse to.


    Advice for getting past infidelity is almost always focused on the married couple, with little or no regard for the affair partner.

    This “other person” is often objectified and treated as a disposal for blame and the unfettered ugly side of anger. Easy to “just give up,” with no concern for their feelings.

    But you may have developed deep feelings for this person, especially if the affair began as an emotional connection and/or lasted a long time. You may even think of your affair relationship as another committed relationship.

    The understandable requisite that you completely end the affair in order to work on your marriage may be more complicated than that.

    For you, at least.

    Your spouse, however, won’t share your concern for this other human being.

    Again, the emotional polarity….
  • It’s going to be a long time before your spouse trusts you again. With anything.

    Just plan on it.

    And don’t add insult to injury by making your spouse lay it out for you or defend the lack of trust.

    You’re going to have to earn it back.

    And not just a few times when you think the effort is worth making.

    You will now need to earn trust on your spouse’s terms.

    And that may include surrender in some very uncomfortable ways — passwords, cell phone-monitoring, curfews, and, of course, zero contact with your affair partner.

  • You’re going to face a firing squad of very uncomfortable questions. And your spouse is going to expect you to answer them.


    As with the lack of trust, you should brace yourself for the barrage of questions about your affair.

    Your spouse’s reality has been shattered in one revelation. Nothing makes sense.

    And your spouse desperately needs something to make sense.

    They will flounder under the weight of self-doubt, wondering why your transgression wasn’t obvious. How could I have not known? How can I ever trust again?

    In an effort to put the pieces of sanity back together and decide how to move forward, your spouse is going to ask. A lot.

    And, while you’re going to have to humbly, compassionately, contritely answer, you’re also going to have to exercise prudence.

    Some answers may be too explicit to achieve any end but more harm.

    And some answers may actually be necessary, despite the shame and discomfort you feel when delivering them.

    Seeking qualified professional help during this time can remove some of that “burden of prudence” and give you both a safe place to heal.

  • Even if you want to save your marriage, you may not believe you can endure the punishment.


    Affairs aren’t the scarlet letter of miserable marriages only. They happen in happy marriages, as well.

    And those marriages that have (however ironic it sounds) a strong foundation of love and respect tend to fare better after an affair.

    But, depending on the nature and length of the affair, you may believe the cost of repairing your marriage is just too steep.

    You may, for example, doubt that your spouse will ever forgive you, let alone trust and desire you again. And no one can live with a prognosis of perpetual monitoring, blame, and reminding.

    If your spouse expresses the desire and commitment to work on your marriage and that’s what you also want, know that the journey ahead is going to be long. It’s also going to be painfully, exhaustively, inconveniently reflective.

Infidelity changes everyone in its path – the betrayed, the betrayer, the affair partner, children, family, friends.

When cheating is exposed, the veil is lifted – on a lot more than just the infidelity.

Ironically, the exposure lays bare the very issues that made your marriage vulnerable to an affair in the first place.

It also reveals, with alarming clarity, the fragililty of the reasoning behind choices made to avoid them.

Perhaps your affair was a wake-up call to the supplications of a marriage you want to save.

Perhaps it was a sabotaging of a marriage you subconsciously want to end.

Whatever your motive for cheating, know that its exposure will be a turning point in a lot of lives.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I work with individuals struggling with how to get over resentment after an affair. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. Schedule an introductory private coaching session if you’d like to take the first step toward working with me.

Looking for more information about the repercussions of cheating? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Surviving Infidelity.

How To Fix A Miserable Marriage

Man sitting with his head in his hands wondering how to fix his miserable marriage.

You take your vows anticipating the good, the hopeful, the uncomfortable-but-not-insurmountable conflicts. What you don’t anticipate is struggling to figure out how to fix a miserable marriage. 

And yet, sometimes it’s a slippery slope from happy to just-a-shift-in-priorities to growing apart to unhappy…to miserable.

Would you even know the 12 signs of a bad marriage without reading about them or learning about them in therapy?

Granted, there is an infinite spectrum of subjectively interpreted happiness and unhappiness. And what’s happy/unhappy for one person/couple may not be so for another.

But, if you’re going to learn how to fix a miserable marriage, you need to first recognize the signs of issues you want to “fix.”

Do you know what’s making you miserable? 

Have you and your spouse stopped talking? Do you fight all the time? Or have you stopped fighting altogether?

Has sex become a thing of the past or even something withheld as retribution or an expression of contempt?

Has one of you had sexual indiscretion or begun to push the limits of an emotional affair?

Is there verbal, emotional, or even physical abuse? 

(As always, if you or someone in your home is a victim of domestic violence, please seek help and safety immediately. Here is the link to The National Domestic Violence Hotline.)

If you’re asking how to fix a miserable marriage, you may already have taken the first critical step: deciding that you want to fix your marriage.

Why is that such a big deal? 

Because, by the time you think of your marriage as “miserable,” the thought of getting out of it may seem like the easier option. It may even seem like the better option.

So ask yourself: 

Are you unhappy in part because you’re at a loss for how to repair something you love that is broken?

Or are you unhappy because your marriage has reached the stage of criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling?

Being able to admit that you and your spouse have let your marriage erode is a noble admission. 

And reaching out for help to bring it back to life is actually a humble, hopeful, courageous beginning.

Here, then, are the most important things to know about how to fix a miserable marriage:

  • Stop doing damage.


    There is absolutely no way you can heal a life-threatening wound if you’re busy creating more wounds.

    Stop. Doing. Damage.

    You should both feel the nudge of the “angel on your shoulder” telling you to pull back, stop, bite your tongue.

    There will be times when this kind of surrender will feel sacrificial and one-sided.

    There will be times when you will fail because you won’t even recognize that you’re doing more harm. (But remember, that’s largely how you got here in the first place.)

    Start focusing your energy on looking for your spouse’s responses. Pay attention to the facial expressions, body language, disconnect, even tears in response to your words and actions.

    The information you need to heal the wounds in your relationship, believe it or not, is always right in front of you.

  • Abandon the need to always be right.


    Always having to be right is exhausting. It’s exhausting for the other person, and it’s even exhausting for The Perfect One.

    Very little of what makes relationships work is based on “right or wrong.”

    You can definitely make right or wrong choices in the moment. But sometimes, if the need of the moment calls for you to agree that the sky is green and grass is blue, so be it.

    If you use social media apps like Facebook, you’re probably familiar with the ability to “pin” a post on your page. The purpose is to keep an important post always at the top, regardless of what you may post after it.

    Use this analogy as a visual for your marriage.

    Pretend the value of your marriage and spouse is an important Facebook post. Pin it at the top of your page so it’s always the first thing you consider before you “post” anything else.

    And give yourself a break from needing to be right. Chances are you’re not always right.

    And, unless a life hinges on being right, giving someone else the honors is such a refreshing grace.

  • Get professional help now.


    Don’t wait to bring in the experts.

    There are knowledgeable, experienced, compassionate therapists who spend their lives teaching couples how to fix a miserable marriage.

    They can help you develop healthy communication skills while helping you diffuse the accumulated anger and hurt in a safe way.

    And if your spouse won’t go to couples counseling with you, you can still get the help you need to make sure your side of the street is clean by working with a therapist or coach individually. The beautiful thing about this is that once your behavior changes it becomes easier for your spouse’s behavior to change.

  • Do a personal inventory of your discontent/misery.

    Each of you should do a personal inventory of what your discontent looks like.

    Does one of you feel unloved because of the infrequency of sex?

    Does the other feel unloved because of the lack of help that would build the desire for sex?

    Is there too much stress in your lives?

    Do you suffer from any medical condition that contributes to your marital dissatisfaction?

    Do you feel unheard, unappreciated, unacknowledged, disrespected, unloved?

  • Do a collective inventory of your discontent/misery.


    Besides your personal inventories, there will be the inventory of how you relate as a couple.

    What are you doing to support your marriage? What are you not doing that would help to make it better?

    Did date nights go by the wayside when children came onboard?

    Did you stop talking about the little things because they stopped seeming important?

    Have you lost respect for one another?

    Have you stopped spending time together?

    Have you stopped dreaming about your future as a couple/family?

  • Do an honest inventory of how your unhappy marriage is affecting your children.


    Remember that you aren’t the only ones affected by a miserable marriage.

    If you have children, you have built-in barometers of the discontent.

    Be mindful of the ways your children express their unhappiness and fears.

    Are their grades slipping in school?

    Are they acting out?

    Are they retreating and closing off communication?

    Are they asking unusual questions that imply insecurities about your family?

    Listen to your children with full engagement. And let the love that leads you when listening to them inspire you to listen to your spouse with love too.

  • Spend time remembering and talking about the good parts of your history.


    If you’re wanting to know how to improve a miserable marriage, you must be holding onto the good memories of your relationship.

    This is wonderful!

    Acknowledging what was and is good about your relationship isn’t a denial of what needs to be fixed.

    It’s simply a way to nurture a languishing entity back to life with memories of how you once took great care of it.

    If you can do that, then you’re telling yourselves you have something worth fighting for.

  • Find reasons, times, and ways to infuse kindness, compassion, respect, and love into your communication.


    When you’re miserable, affection is usually the farthest thing from your mind.

    While it’s unrealistic to expect a full resurgence of a happy sex life anytime soon, affection doesn’t have to remain absent.

    You would be amazed what a gentle touch – on your wife’s back, on your husband’s hand – can instill in both of you.

    To come full circle from the first point of “doing no more harm,” finding moments to infuse goodness comes in those “pauses.”

    When you bite your tongue on being snippy or sarcastic, you create a moment, however fleeting, to change course.

    If the Magic Ratio in a healthy relationship is five positive actions for every negative action, how much work do you have to do?

  • Be willing and prepared to forgive…


    yourself, your spouse, the little things, the big things, the harm done, the missed opportunities. Forgive. And don’t forget what it took to get here.

Learning how to fix a miserable marriage when you want to save it is a lot like taking an intensive course in Relationships 101. It’s a return to fundamentals, but with murky water under the bridge.

As long as you still have respect and the memory of love coursing through your relationship, there is hope.

Just remember to pin your marriage at the top of your page.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a life and divorce coach. I help people, just like you, who are struggling with an unhappy or even miserable marriage. For immediate help, you can download your FREE copy of “Contemplating Divorce? Here’s What You Need To Know.” And if you’re interested in working with me personally, you can book an introductory 30-minute private coaching session with me.

Looking for more ideas for what to do about your unhappy marriage? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Unhappy Marriage.

10 Benefits Of Self-Awareness When Navigating Divorce

Woman giving herself a hug in gratitude for her self-awareness as she navigates divorce.

The benefits of self-awareness may seem out of reach by the time you’re navigating a divorce. But there may be no better time to do some soul-searching and work in the self-awareness department.

“Self-awareness,” “self-help,” “self-esteem,” “self-just-about-anything” – it’s all about self-focus, self-evolution, self-accountability, self-fulfillment.

And they are all convenient, if not self-righteous, buzzwords for our times.

But one of those trendy words blankets all the others and bridges one’s internal standards to one’s thoughts, words, and actions. 

Self-awareness, as the key component of emotional intelligence, is foundational to everything involving the self, its expression, and its role in relationships.

It asks the fundamental questions:

  • How do I see myself? 
  • How do others see me?
  • What do I feel — physically, emotionally — in “x” circumstance? How do I respond or react?
  • Am I in alignment with my own values?
  • What do I need to change in order to be in alignment with my own standards?
  • Can I emotionally detach from myself in order to see and evaluate myself objectively?

It may be a no-brainer to see how self-awareness can improve any relationship (even with yourself) or experience. 

But what about now as you’re going through a divorce? How can the benefits of self-awareness help you through this painful, challenging, life-altering time?

Believe it or not, the same benefits that make leaders and relationships more successful are the same benefits that can make your divorce go more smoothly.

Here are 10 benefits of self-awareness you’ll want in your briefcase when you’re navigating divorce.

  1. Self-awareness keeps you connected to your values and standards of conduct.


    So much is on the line when you’re going through a divorce. YOu have far more to think about than “getting even” or “getting everything.”

    You have to think beyond today and into the future, not just for yourself, but for you children.

    And you have to choose at every step whether to stay in integrity or lead with your negative emotions toward your soon-to-be-ex.

    Self-awareness is what will keep you in alignment when you’re confused or tempted to step even a little out of bounds.

  2. Self-awareness keeps you in the present.


    One of the greatest benefits of self-awareness is its focus on the “perfect present.” And focusing on the present — this moment, this space, this breath — is the heart of mindfulness.

    Why is that important when you’re trying to negotiate for your future?

    For one thing, self-awareness in the form of mindfulness can keep you from launching into the past.

    Trial lawyers, of course, love nothing more than a drawn-out, he-said-she-said, win-lose battle. But is that what you want? (BTW, the divorce attorneys I know would much prefer to settle divorce cases through mediation.)

    Knowing that the tone of your divorce can set the tone for your (and your children’s) future, wouldn’t it be better to focus on the here-and-now?

  3. Self-awareness helps you communicate more clearly.


    By staying in touch with your personal standards, you are better able to articulate your thoughts, wishes, proposals, and expectations.

    Because you have clarity on the inside, you can present yourself with clarity on the outside.

    And that makes you more convincing and more likely to influence final decisions.

  4. Self-awareness helps you make better decisions.


    Simply put, conviction and clarity combine to streamline your decision-making.

    When you know yourself and stay true to your values, you inevitably make decisions that reflect your integrity.

    And you are willing and able to accept any consequences related to them.

  5. Self-awareness helps you control your emotions.


    Self-awareness isn’t about not having emotions or expressing them. It’s about the ability to recognize them and choose to put them aside while you observe yourself objectively.

    One way self-awareness does this is to take you out of the “why?” and into the “what?”

    Instead of “Why are they trying to hurt me?” you shift to “What did I feel when they said that? What did I notice in the way of my tone and body language and in theirs? What choices do I have in how I respond? What is the bigger picture in terms of outcome? And what can I do to help create that?

  6. Self-awareness helps you read others’ emotions.


    Self-awareness is a key component of empathy. And it’s empathy that allows you to read others’ emotions and respond in an appropriate – and compassionate – way.

    Keep in mind that, while divorce severs your legal ties to your spouse, it doesn’t make your history together disappear. Both of you (and your children) will have feelings to wrestle with.

    The ability to recognize emotions, even in their subtlety, can give you the disarming ability to respond in the interest of a mutual benefit.

    It can also help you understand and protect your children during a very confusing and unsettling time.

  7. Self-awareness makes you a better listener.


    Ironically, if you and your spouse had worked on your listening skills while married, you might not be where you are today. This is the painful truth for most couples going through divorce.

    So why does listening matter now? And how does self-awareness help?

    The list of benefits of good listening skills is endless. But some are especially relevant to navigating divorce.

    First, if you have children, listening will go beyond beneficial to essential.

    Your ability to tap into their emotions by “reading” them intuitively will help you listen…and hear…with accuracy, empathy, and prudence.

    Second, if you and your spouse are doing your best to stay out of court by using mediation, listening will be crucial to your cooperative effort. You will be working to create the best, interest-based outcome for all involved.

    As odd as it sounds, having a good divorce means you will need to tap into one of the most important skills for having a good marriage.

  8. Self-awareness takes you out of victim mode.


    One of the most important benefits of self-awareness is its offspring of self-accountability.

    Only a person who is willing to look within and self-examine, at the risk of discovering their own dark side, can be responsible.

    It’s this zenith of self-awareness that allows you to own your life – past, present, and future.

    Once you are fully willing to own your contribution to your marriage, including its failure, you step out of victim mode.

    Suddenly everyone and everything loses power over you. You now control you. You can learn from your mistakes.

    And you can make the changes necessary to be and have what you want going forward.

  9. Self-awareness reduces stress.


    Staying grounded in your values and integrity is remarkably empowering. And feeling empowered is an amazing stress-reducer!

  10. Self-awareness makes you happier.


    When you’re contemplating all the ways that self-awareness can help you, you may be surprised when it dawns on you that self-awareness just flat-out makes you happier.

    And don’t you think that going through a divorce as a happy person bears a lot more promise than the alternative?

There is no endpoint for working on yourself to better your life. And sometimes that means recognizing the need when you’re in the middle of a difficult, self-exposing experience.

Whether you’re on the threshold of marriage or the threshold of divorce, the benefits of self-awareness will be gifts you give to yourself.

Take the time to work on improving your self-awareness now. And watch it benefit every aspect of your life going forward.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation for support in increasing your self-awareness so you can become more you in every facet of your life.

You can learn more about gaining and benefitting from self-awareness in How To Be More Self-Aware.

13 Steps For Getting Back To Happy After Divorce

Woman sitting cross-legged on ground smiling because she's found her way to getting back to happy after divorce.

Watching your marriage come to an end, even if you knew it had to happen, can be a surreal experience. Divorce, like marriage, is so much more than a piece of paper. It flashes a summary of vanquished hopes and dreams before your eyes. And the inevitable grief for what should have been can leave you wondering if getting back to happy is even possible.

Happiness as a state of being is something easily taken for granted. We speak of it casually and often with entitled expectation.

Americans are, after all, guaranteed at least the right to pursue it. Constitutionally speaking, anyway.

But happiness as a general state of subjective well-being isn’t necessarily a direct derivative of life circumstances.

Sure, experiences like divorce, death, poverty, and loss can stir up negative emotions — sadness, anger, regret, fear.

And yet, even the negativity can’t sustain itself for those who cognitively perceive their lives in a context of happiness.

In this regard, happiness is bigger than just a basic emotion. It’s grounded in detectable brain activity and can be cultivated through life choices.

Divorce, then, doesn’t have to mark the end of your happiness. Depending on how you choose to perceive the experiences (and lessons) of marriage and divorce, you may see more beginning than ending.

Getting back to happy after divorce won’t happen overnight. Grief, after all, is a healthy response to the loss of relationships and expectations that matter.

But you do have more control over the process than simply waiting for a wave of bliss to come rolling in.

Here are 13 steps for getting back to happy after divorce:

  1. Work on developing or strengthening your self-awareness.

    Emotional intelligence, and specifically self-awareness, elevates and enriches every life experience.

    And making it a priority will help you with all the following steps.


  2. Do a fearless inventory of your marriage and your specific contribution to both its successes and failures.

    Regardless of what was the final straw in your marriage, you played a role in the dynamic that “didn’t work.”

    Get real. Be honest. Own your side of the street.

    Only then will you be able to move forward with confidence that you can, in fact, experience lasting love in the future.

    And only then can you experience the lightness of self-forgiveness…and work to forgive your ex.


  3. Seek out a therapist and/or life coach who will travel this journey with you.

    Getting back to happy after the disruption of divorce is a process. A long one. And you’re not expected to ”just know” how to accomplish that.

    How wonderful that there are people who have devoted their lives to helping others find their way through the messiness of life!

    Give yourself this gift of support and guidance. You’ll find your way back to happy a lot more quickly.


  4. Build your support system with prudence and care…but start building it right away.

    You need and deserve to surround yourself with people who are willing to go into the trenches with you and who lift you up with understanding and support.

    Some of these new comrades will become friends for life. Choose them wisely.


  5. Become the most awesome parent you can become.

    If you have children, they are going to need a lot of help to adapt to their new lives. Use this time to focus on them and your relationship with them.

    Create new traditions and rituals. Be emotionally present. Listen to them and hear their needs and wants. 

    They, too, need help getting back to happy.

    (And if you need some extra inspiration for your new coparenting role, you’ll find plenty in these coparenting blogs.)


  6. Take really good care of yourself.

    Instead of falling into the trap of self-medicating and wallowing in self-destructive habits, love on yourself as you would your best friend.

    Prepare healthful meals, exercise, stick to a sleep schedule. (I know, divorce can make it difficult to do these things. Read this if you need help with getting better sleep. And this if you are struggling to eat enough.)

    And remember that self-care starts with the messages you tell yourself.

    Be kind.


  7. Take up an old hobby and learn a new one.

    It’s inevitable in marriage that some of what used to define you and your passions gets buried by the needs of the whole.

    Well, it’s time to go excavating.

    Get creative, practice a favorite instrument, take a risk and join a group like Toastmasters.

    It’s time to stimulate and nurture your mind with positivity and growth.


  8. Expect to lose some friends and choose to bless them as they depart from your life.

    Divorce severs more relationships than just your marriage. It’s to be expected. And it’s OK.

    There will always be people who served your life (as you did theirs) while you were married, but who can’t relate the same now.

    Be grateful for the time you spent together and wish them well, even if only in your heart, as they go on their way.

    You are in a season of change. Some things will fall away in anticipation of what awaits you.


  9. Saturate your mindset with gratitude.

    Gratitude changes everything for the better. It’s also a beautiful, expansive way to be assured that everything is going to be OK.


  10.  Make service to others an ongoing part of your life.

    There really is no joy that compares to that of helping another life – as long as you’re not depleting yourself to do so.

    The beauty of helping others is that you can do so in little ways to you that make a big difference to those receiving it.

    While you are busy blessing the lives of others, your own life will teem with happiness. Goodwill feeds on itself that way.


  11. Take pleasure in little things.

    You will most likely experience a major lifestyle shift after your divorce.

    Instead of pining for past grandeurs and conveniences, create your own shift by tuning into all the small joys you may have missed until now.

    Frame your kids’ artwork, savor a Friday night dinner on TV trays, make up your own lyrics to your kids’ favorite song.

    You’ll be amazed at how “possible” everything seems when you pay attention to the perfection in small things.


  12.  Forgive.

    Nothing relieves emotional weight like forgiveness. Nothing.

    Forgiveness isn’t about living in denial or being a pushover.

    It’s about ripping up the contract that says you have to carry the heavy burden of a grudge for the rest of your life. Forgiveness is all about you taking care of you.


  13.  Laugh.

    In the eye of the big, bad storm there is stillness and peace. And the shortest distance to it is through laughter.

    Laughter is like natural helium. It lifts you, lightens you, brightens you.

    And it’s wonderfully contagious!

You may have noticed by now that finding your way back to happy after divorce isn’t complicated.

It may not always feel easy, but it’s not complicated.


What it asks of you is you — the authentic, intuitive, self-aware person whose happiness just needs a little dusting off.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation to ask your questions about getting back to happy after 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.

Why Cheating Excuses Will Never Help You Heal

Woman sitting next to her angry husband crying.

Infidelity always has its reasons, usually layers and layers deep within the cheater and the marriage itself. But the reasons that make a person or relationship vulnerable to infidelity are never justifications for straying from a commitment. When it comes to cheating, excuses only do more damage.

Sometimes excuses are shared with an affair partner to elicit pity or alliance against a spouse. My wife has no interest in sex. My husband doesn’t understand me. I can’t share my feelings with my spouse. We haven’t lived like husband and wife in years.

And sometimes the rationalizations are used to fend off the flood of painful consequences rushing in after a spouse finds out about the betrayal.

No matter what the excuse is, it is always a deflection of power and responsibility. 

And, no matter how we as humans err, it’s only through raw self-examination and self-accountability that healing can begin.

If you are the one in the hot seat, you may wonder why your “reasons” that feel so sound actually come up short.

Here’s a look at some of the most common cheating excuses and why they will never help you, your spouse, or your marriage heal from your cheating.

  • They let themself go.

    It happens to both sexes. Work, overeating, too much alcohol, not enough exercise, natural aging, slowing metabolisms, taking your spouse’s attraction for granted.

    Women, of course, are the only ones who can claim the cumulative effects of pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing.

    Either spouse can lose physical attraction to the other. And yes, there can be underlying messages of disregarding self-care and self-presentation.

    But the expectation for maintaining a fit, attractive, “sexy” appearance still falls more on women than men.

    And using the excuse of losing physical attraction to your spouse or partner speaks to deeper problems than the one you’re blaming.

    First of all, have you taken a long, realistic look in the mirror? Research has shown time and again that there are differences in how men and women view their appearance. Women are more self-critical of their appearance. Men, on the other hand, are usually more self-approving or indifferent when they look in the mirror.

    Women are held to a higher standard of beauty and fitness. And men who seek younger, sleeker models contribute to its perpetuation.

    If you are the husband, is it possible that your wife has struggled to lose postpartum weight? Or that she is exhausted from caring for children? Or that she gets no time to herself?

    Or that she longs for the affirmation of your love for her?

    Or that she has been more accepting of your appearance than you have been of hers?

    Or that your expectations are unrealistic?

    Listing your spouse’s physical appearance in your cheating excuses won’t shine the light on how your spouse let themself go.

    Instead, it will shine the light on how you let your relationship go.

  • They never want to have sex, and I have needs.

    Inequality in sexual desire (and even fulfillment) may be a driving force toward cheating. It’s no secret that men often want more frequent and adventurous sex than women do.

    But sex is about so much more than getting hot-and-heavy between the sheets. It’s about how you feel about yourself and how you and your spouse communicate, before, during, and after sex.

    Are you doing your part to stoke the fire in your relationship? To keep the element of surprise alive? To be compassionately responsive to the emotional components of your marriage? To strengthen the connection between emotional intimacy and physical intimacy?

    If sexual “need” is one of your cheating excuses, are you really just seeking sexual diversity and/or an escape from boredom?

    If so, you will never take responsibility for or heal from your transgression, as you will always be focused on your own wants.

  • We grew apart years ago.

    And here’s how short-lived that excuse is: Whose responsibility is it to maintain the closeness in your marriage?

    If your relationship has been that distant for that long, you’ve had options that don’t involve a complete lapse in integrity.

    You could have gone to couple’s therapy and worked on the unrealistic expectations in your marriage.

    You could have, if you had truly tried your best to save your marriage, chosen to end it.

    But crying about feeling distant from your spouse and therefore justifying an affair implies avoidance and the desire for an easy way out (without getting out).

    A relationship, especially a marriage, doesn’t work when spouses lose track of one another.

    It’s also not the responsibility of someone outside your marriage to fill the void that you helped create within your marriage.

  • It just happened.

    First of all, nothing “just happens.” You may feel vulnerable and tempted in a specific situation. But there is always choice involved in cheating, whether the rendezvous lasts for a night or a year.

    One of Dr. Phil’s go-to accountability questions has always been, “At what point in your thinking did you decide, ‘Yeah, this is a good idea’?”

    You may naturally retort with, “I never ‘decided’ anything.” But, at some point in your temptation, your better self and your shadow self battled it out behind the scenes.

    And it was still “you” that did what had to be done, decided what had to be decided, in order to let the infidelity happen. You really are the one who decided, “Yeah, this is a good idea.”

    Why does this matter in the realm of cheating excuses that don’t help you heal yourself or your relationship?

    When you refuse to take accountability, you essentially say, “I’m powerless over xyz, and I never know when it might come after me again. If I had no choice then, I will have no choice when it happens again.”

    You can’t change anything you don’t own. So own up. Take back the power you embezzled with your shadow self.

  • I had too much to drink and wasn’t thinking.

    It doesn’t take many steps to undo this flawed excuse. This, too, falls under the category of “it just happened” and “I had no control.”

    You don’t have to drink. You don’t have to drink too much. And you don’t have to make choices that you know set you up for consequential behavior.

    Alcohol doesn’t choose you, you choose alcohol.

    And it’s worth asking yourself, “Did I allow myself to drink too much so I didn’t have to fight my inhibitions or think about the consequences?”

    If your intention is to heal from your transgression, you need to learn to say no to what doesn’t serve that effort.

    And that just might start with an honest look at your alcohol use.

  • They seduced me.

    Affairs take two, obviously. But, if your cheating excuses always place blame on someone or something else, you’ll never learn or express true remorse. (Incidentally, your remorse is the first step to repairing your marriage.)

    You also will never regain control of your life or earn your way back into your spouse’s trust. Assuming you and your spouse want to work through this.

    “The other woman” (or man) may be an easy target for blame and hatred. But, if that “other person” is so powerful and so irresistible that you honestly had no choice but to cheat, you’re in trouble.

    There will always be others just like this seducer everywhere you turn.

    Would you buy this excuse from your spouse if the roles were reversed?

  • Well, you cheated.

    Never, ever, ever in the history of trying to heal from the betrayal of infidelity has retribution cheating made things better. Never.

These excuses do nothing to answer the question of why people cheat, no matter how thoroughly it is researched. And the quest for answers isn’t likely to be laid to rest anytime soon. 

Anger, neglect, lack of love, lack of sex, lack of attraction – these are timeless conditions of the human experience. 

But, if you’re married and cheating, what does need to be laid to rest are those cheating excuses that will only push you further away from reconciliation and healing.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I work with individuals struggling with how to get over resentment after an affair. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’d like to take the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

Looking for more information about the repercussions of cheating? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Surviving Infidelity.

Do You Know The 12 Signs Of A Bad Marriage?

Unhappy couple sitting on a couch contemplating the signs of a bad marriage.

It’s never just one thing. And it’s rarely obvious until it’s too late – or at least until a lot of damage has been done. The signs of a bad marriage aren’t loners. They inevitably run in numbers, overlapping and bleeding into each other, making it difficult to distinguish “normal” from “bad.”

When you start questioning your marriage (as all spouses do at some point), you won’t always be afforded the luxury of clear-cut definitions: This means good. This means not-so-good. This means bad. And this means divorce.

After all, there is always a certain amount of “settling into” marriage. 

Romance isn’t hot and heavy on a debilitating, non-stop basis. You can actually think without the mind-numbing fog of infatuation.

And who doesn’t experience some boredom, fatigue, and irritation in any long-term relationship?

It’s no wonder, really, that couples often don’t realize their marriage is in trouble until they’re trying to save it. It’s like having flashbacks to eating fast food and being a couch potato while you’re in the middle of a heart attack.

But, if you can remain aware of the signs of a bad marriage, you can avoid a lot of that pain.

Recognizing where your marriage registers on a scale from euphoria to euthanasia isn’t a definitive, formulaic process. 

Have we just gotten lazy in our marriage? Am I unhappy in my marriage or unhappy within myself? Is our marriage unhealthy or completely toxic? 

What exactly constitutes “bad”?

And can our marriage be saved?

If you subscribe to the adage that nothing stands still, even relationships, then recognizing the direction in which your marriage is headed becomes easier.

Marriage isn’t a status quo, no-news-is-good-news operation. You’re either moving deeper into love and intimacy or further away from them.

So, with all the ways that your marriage can be imperfect, how do you recognize the signs of a bad marriage?

Here is a list of the 12 “biggies” when it comes to recognizing a bad marriage.

  1. There is little to no sex.


    Sex is never the issue…until it becomes the issue.

    It’s natural for the frequency and duration of sex to decline after the early stages of marriage.

    Life, children, jobs, stress, fatigue, health, satisfaction with other forms of intimacy – they all influence your sex life.

    But, when there is no or very little sex because of disinterest, anger, repulsion, retribution, etc., there’s a problem.

    Sex is that one thing that most distinguishes a platonic relationship from an intimate relationship.

    And the absence of sex in a marriage can lead to other problems and signs of a bad marriage.

  2. You fight constantly.


    If every encounter with your spouse is plagued by quick tempers and the rehashing of unresolved issues, you can bet something bigger is going on.

    Fighting in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. Done in a healthy way, fighting can actually be a means for a relationship to grow and become stronger.

    The question is: Do you resolve your disagreements in a respectful way and move forward? Or do you cling to old stuff as fodder for automated reactions when fighting?

  3. You never fight.

    The absence of fighting can signal a distancing in your marriage.

    It literally delivers the message that one or both of you have stopped caring or don’t believe you have anything worth fighting for.

  4. You go out of your way to avoid one another.


    Intimacy isn’t just about sex. It’s about spending time together — and how you spend that time.

    Think back to your dating days when you couldn’t get enough time with one another.

    While time alone is healthy for any relationship, the deliberate avoidance of a partner is a big clue that there is trouble in paradise.

  5. Your health is suffering for no medical reason.


    What does a bad marriage have to do with a paper cut?

    Everything, actually.

    Living in an unhealthy marriage affects more than just your happiness. It also negatively affects your health.

    From the slowing of wound healing to heightened cardiac risk factors, an unhealthy marriage can make for an unhealthy body.

  6. One or both of you start fantasizing about life without the other.


    Fantasizing or daydreaming provides a temporary escape from the stress of real life.

    If those daydreams don’t include your spouse as one of the two main characters, your marriage could be on a slippery slope.

  7. One or both of you is reaching out to someone outside your marriage for emotional connection.


    Having close friends outside your marriage isn’t the issue.

    Turning to someone other than your spouse for emotional connection that belongs in your marriage is.

    One of the more subtle signs of a bad marriage is making someone else – even “just a friend” – your go-to confidante.

    Ask yourself, “Whom do I want to talk to first when something exciting (or upsetting) happens?”

    If it’s not your spouse, it’s time to examine why.

  8. One or both of you are involved in an affair, whether emotional or sexual.


    Infidelity is survivable in a marriage. But that survival comes with a hefty price tag that many are willing to pay because they are hoping to build a more fulfilling marriage.

    You both have to be willing to put your marriage (even more than the affair) under a microscope.

    Affairs are, in the most hurtful, violating way, messengers of unexamined truths.

    Yes, the cheating spouse is responsible for choosing infidelity as a “solution” to unmet needs.

    But both partners carry responsibility for the marriage and how it arrived at such a vulnerable place.

  9. One of you is very controlling.


    Control goes hand-in-hand with submission and codependency.

    If one spouse is trying to control what the other does, where the other goes, how the other speaks, etc….red flag.

    Inequality within a relationship is one of the top reasons for relationship failure.

    And it needs to be taken seriously. Control in one area insidiously becomes control in others – from social connections to jobs, money, and even sex.

  10. There is addiction.


    Addiction isn’t limited to substance abuse. It can involve gambling, sex, pornography, and even control.

    If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction, please reach out for help immediately. Don’t try to do this alone.

  11. There is abuse.

    As with addiction, abuse – physical, mental, emotional, sexual, financial – warrants intervention.

    If you or anyone in your home is being abused, please get help immediately.

  12. Your communication has nosedived into criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling.


    The work of John Gottman has had such a profound influence in the area of marriage and relationships.

    Perhaps his biggest contribution to the field of marriage/couples’ therapy has been The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

    While this statistically spot-on predictor of marriage survivability isn’t biblical in nature, it does have biblical impact.

    If your marriage is at the point where your communication is reeking with criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling, it’s in trouble.

    Big trouble.

    Of all the signs of a bad marriage, these four are the real death blow. They signal little to no hope because all respect for the other person has been eroded.

If this list makes you uncomfortable, it should.

If it makes you take a hard look at your marriage, it should.

When you acknowledge that nothing stands still but is always in motion, you can approach your marriage in a new way.

One simple question can help keep you both accountable and your marriage on track:

Will this choice – of thought, word, or action – draw us closer to intimacy…or make us drift a little further apart?

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a life and divorce coach. I help people, just like you, who are struggling with an unhappy or even miserable marriage. For immediate help, you can download your FREE copy of “Contemplating Divorce? Here’s What You Need To Know.” And if you want to learn more about working with me personally, you can book an introductory 30-minute private coaching session with me.

Looking for more ideas for what to do about your unhappy marriage? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Unhappy Marriage.

How Divorce Can Actually Help You Gain Self-Awareness

Woman standing confidently in knowing that she's gained self-awareness from her divorce.

Divorce – for all the devastation, grief, anger, shame, and financial loss that fold into its wake – can be a powerful catalyst for growth. It can even help you gain self-awareness when everything you recognize about your life has disappeared. 

Rarely, if ever, do we grow when things are easy. We all know that. But we also all secretly hope there’s a loophole to that hard truth. 

Ironically, more often than not it’s the unexpected events that give you the opportunity to increase self-awareness.

But why? How?

Self-awareness is as simple as it sounds and as challenging as it pretends not to be.

What? All I have to do is “be aware” of what I’m feeling? What I’m thinking? What my values and personality are? Why I think/feel/speak/behave/react the way I do? 

Who doesn’t know those things about him/herself?

Well…possibly you.

What makes self-awareness not as easy as it looks – and an ongoing practice, not a destination – is the fearless self-exploration it asks of you.

And it’s precisely when you don’t want to look at yourself that self-awareness holds up the mirror…and adds a magnifying glass.

When life doesn’t go as expected or something happens that throws you off course, you have no choice but to respond. Even not responding is responding.

Unexpected events force you into unfamiliar territory. They elicit thoughts and feelings that may surprise you.

They also force you to make decisions from a different thought process.

And, in the course of thinking and feeling new things, you discover new things, primarily about yourself.

To gain self-awareness, you must ask yourself who are you.
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Wow! I’ve never reacted that way before. I’m surprised by how emotional I am right now. I wonder why I was so quick to get angry.

I like the way that felt. I don’t like the way that felt. I feel calm and peaceful. My heart is racing and I feel irritable. I feel in control. I feel defensive.

On the topic of knowing yourself and others, Mary Tyler Moore once said: 

Sometimes you have to get to know someone really well to realize you’re really strangers.

In the early aftermath of divorce, that little fortune cookie of wisdom may seem to have your ex written all over it.

However, if you are determined that your divorce won’t be in vain, you will recognize that “someone” as yourself.

And therein will be your first step toward gaining self-awareness post-divorce.

But what does it mean to actually “gain” self-awareness? Aren’t you either “aware” or “unaware”?

The reason we speak of self-awareness as a practice and not a destination is that it’s fluid. It’s not stagnant, all-or-nothing, or unchanging.

Emotional self-awareness, for example, may start with the recognition of feelings. You’re aware that you “feel” something – in your body, in your mind, in your spirit.

An infant will cry as a response to the feeling of hunger, but does not have the cognition to identify it.

A toddler may throw a tantrum in response to being denied a desired object. But, again, he does not have the awareness or communication skills to identify the thoughts and feelings fueling his fit. He just “feels” the absence of gratification.

You may think those limitations evolve out of a person with age.

But think again.

If you are starting your post-divorce life, you can surely point to conversations in which you swore your ex had no self-awareness whatsoever. No ability to walk in someone else’s shoes. No empathy. No accountability for the expression of anger. No ability to even go deeper in the explanation of anger.

Nada. Zilch. Just one or two layers deep, then “close the window to the soul.”

But now you’re on your own (at least for now). And at some point you will realize that others care less about what your ex said or did than about your response to it.

Actually, since we’re being honest and aware here…what others really care about is how you step up and take accountability.


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After all, you were half of your marriage. You contributed to the dynamic and the establishment (and following) of rules – spoken and unspoken.

You expressed or didn’t express your thoughts and feelings.

You contributed to arguments, hurts, silent treatment, white lies, withheld affection, blame, and everything else that slowly erodes relationships.

You were only human, of course. 

But so was your ex.

Perhaps you acted out your thoughts and feelings so you didn’t have to take responsibility for them or face them head-on.

Perhaps you stayed in your marriage longer than you should have, but only now understand why.

Perhaps you and your ex never or no longer shared core values essential to holding a marriage together. And suddenly your personal values are rising to the surface. 

You “feel” them, “hear” them, “experience” them in unexpected moments of choice. But you had never given them a voice…or a name.

Now, however, you’re paying attention to those conscience-tugging moments. You’re giving them names and assigning weight to them.

And, in doing so, you notice that your perceptions of other people deepen and have greater acuity. 

You communicate with more authenticity. 

You are able to listen with your heart and ask deepening questions that draw honest self-evaluation out of others.

You begin taking responsibility for shaping the outcomes you want by shaping your own behavior.

This is both how you gain self-awareness and how you live with self-awareness.

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Yes, that’s just another way of saying that self-awareness inspires itself as an ongoing practice. The more you act with self-awareness, the more you work to deepen it.

Accountability becomes the stronghold of your character. 

Having the willingness to look with scrutiny at your own contributions to the failure of your marriage takes courage. Tons of courage. It’s so much easier to simply throw your ex under the why-we-got-divorced bus.

You can’t change what you don’t own. Simply put, if you don’t gain self-awareness as a result of your divorce, you will inevitably carry that limitation into all your relationships going forward.

Divorce certainly isn’t the path you set out to walk when you’re planning your walk down the aisle. But here you are.

The pearl that waits for you is the unforeseen ability to gain self-awareness. 

And that self-awareness can open your life to greater peace and more authentic, intimate relationships.

You just have to be willing to get your hands dirty and do some shucking.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation for support in increasing your self-awareness so you can become more you in every facet of your life.

You can learn more about gaining and benefitting from self-awareness in How To Be More Self-Aware.

How To Live A Happy Life Post-Divorce

Woman with her arms crossed waiting expectantly for the answer to how to live a happy life post-divorce.

Sometimes freedom is a scary thing. It comes with benefits, but it also comes with responsibilities that only you can fulfill. Divorce can be like that – liberating (especially if you wanted the divorce), but also surprisingly limiting. Learning how to live a happy life post-divorce involves balancing your newly acquired independence with the weight of extra responsibility and unforeseen emotions.

Happiness is a broad concept to funnel into a one-size-fits-all definition. Everyone wants it. Our Constitution has engraved the pursuit of it into the inalienable rights of our citizens. And everyone has an innate sense of what happiness is…and isn’t.

A study on happiness has shown that three things are the core elements of happiness: the quality of close relationships, a fulfilling job or hobby, and serving others.

When the closest relationship in your life has just gone “poof,” it’s natural to wonder how to live a happy life. 

The very definition of who you are may still be entangled with your roles as a spouse and parent. But now you’re not a spouse. And your role as a parent will be, at the very least, “restructured.”

But finding joy in life after the great divide is possible. And, believe it or not, it can be richer than you ever thought possible.

Happiness is, in many ways, about balance. And so, after a divorce, you will have to achieve balance between what you draw into your life and what you allow to fall away.

Here are some tips for how to live a happy life post-divorce. Notice the balance between letting go and drawing in.

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  • Remember why you got divorced.

    You may or may not have wanted your divorce. But here you are.

    You didn’t marry with the expectation of ending up apart. You knew there would be difficult times and plenty of mundane daily-life stuff to put a gray tone on your wedding day bliss. But you said “I do” with the intention to see it all through.

    And yet, life happens. Deep-seeded truths surface. Spouses’ humanness surfaces.

    No matter what led to your parting – a shocking betrayal, an accumulation of countless “little things” – divorce is a reckoning of lessons yet to be learned.

    Remember that as you go forward, and welcome the revelation of life’s lessons along the way.
  • Decide that anger will not guide your life.

    Anger is a natural emotion, so denying it is never the answer. (We can all point to people in our lives who insist, “I’m not angry,” while their faces redden and smoke escapes from their ears.)

    But giving the steering wheel to anger as you try to navigate life after divorce will only lead to a crash course in “How To Ruin Your Life.”

    Seek professional help, if necessary, to get to the truth – and gifts – of anger while learning how to defuse its control in your life.

  • Embrace your grief work as a bridge to a new and amazing life.

    Picture a perfectly rolled ball of yarn, unraveling effortlessly as a knitter stitches away.

    Now picture that same ball of yarn after a catnipped kittycat gets hold of it.

    Yeah, grief is kind of like that. Non-linear, unpredictable, tangled up, and knotted in places.

    When you understand what grief is trying to achieve, there is less cause for fear. In many ways, however unpredictable, disorderly, and uncomfortable, it is your conduit to inner liberation, healing, and happiness.

  • Find “your people.”

    Remember that study about happiness? One of the three primay elements for how to live a happy life is having healthy close relationships.

    Divorce giveth, divorce taketh away. And that applies to friendships (and even some family ties), too.

    Learn to bless departing friends on their way as they live their own journeys and you live yours. Be grateful for time spent and lessons learned while you journeyed together.

    And then move on to the exploration and welcoming of newfound friends and sources of support.

  • Rediscover the heart of you.

    It’s only natural that you lose some of your individuality and sacrifice many of your personal goals and joys in the immersion of marriage.

    Now is the time to revisit what has been dormant.

    Why did you let it go? Do you have unfinished business with favorite hobbies and talents? What have you always wanted to learn, try, create? What unique gifts can be re-explored for their contribution to your new life and relationships that await you?

  • Make your health, fitness, and well-being a top priority.

    Mangia bene, vive bene. The Italians (no surprise here) know the vitality that comes from food and connecting around it.

    Eat well, live well. Grace yourself with the self-care reflected in healthful eating, exercise, and proper sleep.

  • Embark on a new “self-help” phase to enrich and empower your life.

    Call it what you will: self-help, talk-therapy, divorce coaching, O Network, TED Talks.

    Self-enrichment isn’t a one-hour-a-week-in-a-therapist’s-office pursuit. It’s a mindset of accepting that you don’t, in fact, “know everything,” and welcoming wisdom and insight from trusted sources.

  • Sing it loud, sing it clear, “Let it go, let it go…!”

    Truly…let it go. Hold onto the good memories, the lessons, the gratitude, and, of course, your children.

    But let the negative stuff go. No balloon can soar with all that baggage weighing it down.
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Knowing how to live a happy life post-divorce starts with believing happiness exists post-divorce.

The next step is believing it exists – and is waiting – for you.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation to ask me your questions about how to 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.