5 Signs Of An Emotionally Unhealthy Marriage

Couple sitting apart on couch turned away from each other, husband with crossed arms, wife leaning on hand on arm of couch.5 Signs of an Emotionally Unhealthy Marriage.png

When it comes to recognizing an emotionally unhealthy marriage, the distinction is two-fold and requires significant self-awareness.

We all crave easy answers. It’s only natural. Put the writing on the wall. Administer a blood test. Take an X-ray. Let us see the problem so we can fix it. But emotions don’t lend themselves to such obviousness. And neither does an emotionally unhealthy marriage. While you may recognize specific signs as “not so good for the marriage,” you still may not see their emotional impact.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you undoubtedly recognize a lot of overlap in discussions of “not good” marriages. Words like unhappy, unhealthy, bad, toxic show up, often with common symptoms.

But hopefully you also take note of the distinctions that can be critical in helping you determine your next steps. Do you stay and work on your marriage? Is it safe to stay in your marriage? Is the marriage unhappy, or are you unhappy? Are you dealing with common issues that you can resolve if you commit to learning new communication skills?

When it comes to recognizing an emotionally unhealthy marriage, the distinction is two-fold: 

First, you need to recognize when a marriage is unhealthy. The dynamics that tether you and your spouse may not be conducive to a happy, healthy marriage, let alone to its longevity.

Second, you have to be willing to examine the emotional impact of your marriage and its dynamics. What is happening to the emotional component of your own life? To your spouse’s life? To your children’s lives? To the energy of the marriage itself?

Dealing with emotions is always challenging, largely because they’re not visible. Nor are they objectively quantifiable or even verifiable. They simply are. 

The key to accessing, analyzing, and accepting your emotions is self-awareness. But developing emotional self-awareness is difficult for some people to attain.

If you and your spouse are at different points on the self-awareness spectrum, you may not recognize an emotionally unhealthy marriage at the same time.

That doesn’t mean, however, that positive changes can’t be made as negative signs and behaviors are recognized.

Here are 5 signs of an emotionally unhealthy marriage:

  1. Unrealistic expectations.

    One of the great joys of getting married is planning a life vision that is unique to the two of you. You throw all your hopes and dreams onto the same table and somehow meld them into an exponentially greater destiny.

    The trouble begins when one or both of you silently and unilaterally create expectations for the other.

    I want to have a hot-looking wife even when our kids are grown. I want him to make a lot of money so we can have a nice lifestyle. I think she should have more ambition. I think he should be more sophisticated.

    Having unrealistic, let alone unspoken, expectations only leads to resentment on the part of the one with the expectations.

    And it can lead to confusion and diminished self-esteem on the part of the one who’s not living up to them.
  1. Losing yourself and your self-esteem.

    The line between “becoming one” and enmeshment may seem like a fine one. But it’s a line nonetheless.

    The danger in having a starry-eyed vision of your “couple oneness” is that it can cause you to lose sight of your own “oneness.”

    The happiest marriages – composed of happy people – are built on the stability of two individuals.

    Yes, you want to have common values and compatible goals. But it’s important to maintain your individual strengths and interests. Without them, your self-esteem will suffer. And a low self-esteem can lead to a long list of problems.
  1. Onset of depression.

    Depression can have an onset due to negative life circumstances like a dysfunctional childhood or an emotionally unhealthy marriage.

    If the spouse with depression came into the marriage already suffering with the mood disorder, the marriage will be at risk.

    Just as it is difficult to live with depression, it is also difficult to live with someone who has it. Everything is affected – decision-making, social interest, sex drive, physical health, energy level, enthusiasm for the future.

    However, if the depression arises as a result of dynamics in the marriage, there’s a good chance the cause is rooted in control dynamics.

    When one spouse seeks to control the other, the person in the one-down position is vulnerable to developing depression.
  1. Control issues.

    When one spouse seeks to control the other, the means and damage are pervasive.

    Control is the ultimate statement of a lack of trust. I don’t trust you with other people. I don’t trust you with money. I don’t trust you to make your own decisions. I don’t trust you to do anything right.

    The person being controlled eventually feels crippled, if not by direct control, then by crazy-making gaslighting.
  1. Criticism.

    Criticism is one of the four death blows to marriage. And for good reason.

    On the surface it doesn’t sound very different from complaining. Both are rooted in not liking something.

    But the difference between criticism and complaining is this:

    Complaints are natural occurrences. They focus on a specific incident and its effects. You did abc, and it affected me ‘this’ way. I really need xyz….

    Criticism, on the other hand, goes straight to the essence of the person. You always do abc, and you never do xyz. You make me feel (fill in the blank with a litany of negatives).

    Hearing your spouse complain or “call you out” on something may be tough to swallow. But knowing that the focus is on your behavior and not you allows you to make a choice…and, if warranted, an apology.

    Hearing criticism, however, feels like a character assassination. It’s a statement of disapproval that cuts to the core of who you are. Nothing you do is right because you’re not right.

    Eventually, criticism leads to defensiveness. If it grows into contempt, the counter is usually stonewalling. And all four are a death sentence to a marriage.

Anything that doesn’t uplift and strengthen a marriage has the potential to contribute to its demise.

And obviously anything that is damaging to a marriage will have emotional effects on those involved.

Safeguarding against an emotionally unhealthy marriage requires an awareness and understanding of emotions. Not always an easy task, especially for those who are careful to dodge any discussion of feelings.

However, if you can start with your emotions and work outward, you may find you save a lot of heartache…and make a lot of progress.

How To Develop Self-Awareness

Woman in blue shirt, holding a cup of coffee, while staring contently out the window. How to develop self-awareness.

If you are motivated to make improvements in the quality of your life and relationships,

take the time to learn how to develop self-awareness.

Few qualities are as important to success and happiness in life as self-awareness. Money, beauty, talent, IQ, relationships — all desirable and worthy pursuits. But, if you don’t learn how to develop self-awareness, they will ultimately prove to be meaningless.

As the key component to emotional intelligence, self-awareness, in very simple terms, refers to how clearly you see yourself. 

How in-tune are you with your thoughts, feelings, values, passions, behaviors? And are these qualities in alignment with each other?

How do others view you? And is there alignment between how you see you and how others see you?

The benefits of self-awareness — and the consequences of its lack — infiltrate every domain of life, from work to love to solitude.

(Read here to learn the advantages of self-awareness in the workplace.)

So, if you are motivated to make improvements in the quality of your life and relationships, take the time to learn how to develop self-awareness.

Or, if you are already a devotee of self-awareness, continue the work of improving the self-awareness you already have.

It takes only a spark to ignite a life-changing journey into heightened awareness of yourself and the world around you. 

Perhaps that spark is a fleeting moment of intense joy while you’re out in nature. 

Perhaps you are surprised by the depth of your emotions when someone does something unexpectedly kind for you. 

Or perhaps you are surprised by the depth of your emotions — and your resulting choice of behavior — when something doesn’t go your way.

Whatever moment or experience triggers your self-curiosity, use that as your starting point for learning how to develop self-awareness.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Decide to become aware.

    Every worthwhile journey begins with a choice. Even an impromptu decision to do something different has its origin in a momentary choice.

    If you’re reading this article, surely there is a reason.

  • Pause in the moment.

    Regardless of the emotion – joy, surprise, gratitude, anger, sadness – pause when it arises. Allow it to “sit on your palate” for a while. Study it in the context of the moment and your surroundings.

    What do your tears of gratitude tell you about what you truly value? What does your joy tell you about what inspires you? What does your anger tell you about your deep-seeded fears?

    Learning how to develop self-awareness is largely a process of willingness to be present to the moment. It is the greatest education you will ever receive.

  • Risk seeing yourself objectively.

    Viewing yourself with objectivity may sound impossible. You are, after all, you.

    However, knowing your strengths and weaknesses is at the heart of self-awareness. And the only way to know them is to examine them with objectivity.

    Ambivalence toward an objective self-view may be rooted in a belief that you will become self-critical. But self-awareness isn’t about evaluation or judgment. It’s about seeing “what is” so you can choose “what can be.”

    Here are some examples of objective observations:
    I cry when I’m afraid.
    I make excuses for not wanting to talk to certain employees.
    I worry about xyz before I have information to justify the worry.
    I am more productive in the morning/nighttime.
    I make a lot of mistakes when I feel rushed.
    I get excited about doing nice things for others when I have first taken good care of myself.

  • Re-read what you write and let it “sit” before sending.

    We all know what it’s like to open an email that feels scathing, heartless, and intentionally hurtful.

    Social media is another prime example of people speaking without thinking (or pausing), then hitting “send” without a second thought.

    Impulse control is an emotional intelligence competency that reflects an ability to think before acting. It is a mitigating factor in situations involving anger, aggression, and hostility. And it is essential to effective problem solving.

    Whether you are writing a letter, a text message, or social media post, pause first.

    If your expressed thoughts are in response to or could create conflict – and especially if they could do harm – pause.

    One of the most important components of learning how to develop self-awareness is learning when and how to put things on the back burner.

    Put an email into draft mode. Revisit it several days later when you aren’t steeped in the emotion of the moment. Read your words objectively, as if you are on the receiving end.

    Then edit and pause again.

    You would be amazed at how much you learn about yourself simply by being your own audience.

  • Journal.

    Write, write, write.

    Self-awareness isn’t about judgment. It’s about collecting information about yourself, processing that information, accepting that information, and making informed choices.

    Whether you “dump” to your computer or an old-school journal, writing exposes what so often struggles to get out. And, once it’s out, there can be clarity.

    Need help knowing what to write about? Try these inspiring journal prompts for self-awareness and growth.

  • Ask others for feedback.

    Asking others to share how they see you takes courage. And sharing how you see someone else takes courage.

    But then, self-awareness is a journey of courage.

    We don’t live in this world in isolation. We influence and are influenced by others.

    While it’s easy to welcome adulation from others, sometimes it’s the constructive comments that hold the seeds of greatest growth.

    Great leaders understand the benefits of asking for feedback, and they are willingly vulnerable to it.

The beauty, if not the irony, of self-awareness is that, once you have it, you naturally want to improve it. It becomes a positive feedback loop in and of itself. More awareness leads to more awareness.

And more awareness leads to a richer, happier, more deeply connected life.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation if you’d like support in becoming a more self-aware person so you can more easily navigate your life post-divorce.

You can learn more about becoming and benefitting from being a self-aware person in How To Be More Self-Aware.

How To Be Happy With Your Life Post-Divorce

Smiling woman in denim jacket looking upward with arms outstretched in front of blue background How to be happy with your lief post-divorce

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?

  • Learn to forgive and let go.

    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.

8 Reasons Why Infidelity Is So Common

Two gold wedding bands lying upon each other upon printed wedding vows. Eight reasonswhy infidelity is so common.

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.

What makes infidelity “not so obvious” comes down to a couple of problematic components of the research process.

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:

  1. Anger:

    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.

  2. Self-esteem:

    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.

  3. 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.

  4. Low commitment:

    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.

  5. 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.

  6. Neglect:

    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.

  7. Sexual desire:

    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.

  8. Situation/circumstance:

    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.

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

6 Benefits Of Self-Awareness Post-Divorce

Reflection of Man in tidepools at the ocean with clouds

The benefits of self-awareness weave throughout every aspect of life. They draw people together, forge mutually beneficial communication, engender empathy and compassion between people, and lay the foundation for self-accountability. They also step up to provide healing and a well-lit path toward happiness when life throws a curveball like divorce.

What is self-awareness and why does it matter?

We’re all familiar with the intelligence quotient (IQ) – that statistical number that represents a person’s reasoning and problem-solving abilities compared to others.

But there is another form of intelligence to which researchers have shifted their focus in recent decades.

Emotional intelligence (EI) goes beyond logic and rational thinking and into, as the name implies, emotions.

What makes a person score high in EI isn’t his/her emotions themselves, but the person’s ability to recognize, understand, and manage them.

It also refers to the ability to recognize emotions in others and to use all this information to better manage self-behavior and relationships.

Emotional intelligence is divided into five key components:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills

Self-awareness is listed first for good reason. Because the benefits of self-awareness flow through all the other components, it is essentially the cornerstone of EI.

If you are high in self-awareness, you not only recognize your own emotions, but can put words to them and understand their consequences.

It’s pretty powerful stuff.

And, more and more, research is showing that self-awareness is the most important quality in a leader.

What does self-awareness have to do with divorce?

Despite how inapplicable self-awareness may seem when your marriage is falling apart, it can actually be your saving grace.

Whether or not you want(ed) your divorce, you are now facing life alone. Your identity becomes extricated from the conjoined identity you shared with your spouse. You have to make decisions on behalf of your own life and, if you have children, their lives, as well.

You also have to do all this while feeling angry, sad, embarrassed, fearful, disappointed, confused, and stressed.

Those who are high in self-awareness navigate divorce better than those who are not.

They “hold it together” better because they recognize their feelings for what they are. And they use this awareness as the basis for self-regulation, especially if and when the divorce process gets heated.

They also make better choices at a time when every move seems to involve a critical choice. And they are more capable of working toward a mutually beneficial outcome in multiple areas, including coparenting.

But what about after the divorce? Does self-awareness make much difference then?

More than you could imagine.

Here are 6 benefits of self-awareness post-divorce:

  1. You’ll recover from divorce more quickly than someone who isn’t self-aware.

    One of the first signs that healing is happening after a divorce is your ability to stand firm in your own identity.

    You’re no longer a wife or husband. You no longer compromise who you are and what you want in order to lead with a “we” identity.

    Just as importantly, your strong sense-of-self reminds you daily who it is that you can count on: yourself.

  2. You know your strengths and weaknesses and aren’t afraid to ask for help.

    The same self-awareness that makes someone a great leader also helps a person who has gone through a divorce.

    Great leaders know what they’re good at and what they’re not good at. They use their strengths where appropriate, and they have enough awareness of their weaknesses to work on improving them.

    They’re also not above asking for help and new ideas for turning their weaknesses into strengths.

    At a time when going out on your own can be frightening and diminishing to your lifestyle, you have a choice. You can take the stiff-upper-lip approach and try to do everything yourself. Or you can embrace humility as a way to learn and grow.

    Self-awareness makes you fearless in reaching out for help and support. The benefit, beyond getting the help you need, is that you inevitably build a circle of friendship and support that may last a lifetime.

  3. You are motivated to persevere.

    Rarely in life is there a louder call to perseverance than after divorce.

    It’s easy to feel weighed down by hopelessness and lack of purpose. But, if you are steeped in self-awareness, you will remain grounded in your goals – even the day-to-day, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other ones.

    Your values will remind you that your life vision is worth fighting for, even if you have to navigate through the detour of divorce.

  4. You have the strength and integrity to examine your own behaviors in your marriage.

    It’s not the part of life-after-divorce you look forward to. However, at some point, you’re going to have to write the story you want to tell going forward.

    Are you going to be the perpetual victim? Or are you going to be the person who is courageous enough to take responsibility for contributions to the failure of your marriage?

    Will you be the person who tells the outside world how terrible your ex-spouse was? Or will you be the person who can focus on and share the lessons you have learned about yourself?

    Self-awareness gives you the ability to do this self-examination. It makes you hungry for self-accountability by reminding you that you can’t change what you don’t first own.

    It also reminds you that this is an essential step toward finding authentic love in the future.

  5. You treat unexpected events as a way to increase self-awareness.

    One of the most surprising benefits of self-awareness is how it shifts your view of the unexpected. As you grow in self-awareness, you increasingly lean into your willingness to learn and less into your fear.

    And, as you learn from overcoming obstacles and facing the unexpected with a positive attitude, you grow in self-awareness.

    You expect the best from the unexpected. And the cycle of growth continues.

  6. You remain curious.

    Curiosity is that lovely, creative, open mindset that says, “I don’t know everything. I haven’t seen or learned everything there is to see and learn. And I’m not afraid to see the world with fresh eyes, even if doing so means unraveling beliefs I’ve always had.”

We talk about self-awareness a lot here. It’s just that important.

Thankfully, the benefits of self-awareness don’t have an expiration date. And they don’t limit themselves to the easy times in life.

It’s never too late to develop self-awareness, and it’s never too late to benefit from it.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation if you’d like support in becoming a more self-aware person so you can more easily navigate your life post-divorce.

You can learn more about becoming and benefiting from being a self-aware person in How To Be More Self-Aware.

10 Happy-Life, Motivational Quotes To Help You Move On After Divorce

A positive, happy-life motivational quote: Positive attitude will make your dreams come true.

Every now and then, when you’re down in the trenches of ugly emotions, a good dose of happy-life, motivational quotes is in order. Sure, it can seem a little sappy. But there’s good reason these positive musings still make the rounds.

So, if you’re facing the long road ahead after a divorce, take a little encouragement from these wordsmiths.

Here are 10 happy-life, motivational quotes to help you move on with a positive outlook after divorce:

  1. It always gets worse before it can get better. But it will get better. Like everything else, and like our past struggles, at some point we win, but before that win, there’s always that loss that spurs us on.

    – Dolores Huerta

    What a beautiful, pensive place to start. A reality check coupled with an assurance of hope.

    Surely the intensity of pain, grief, and adjustment can be managed when there is light beckoning you to the other side of loss.

    You can, of course, focus on the loss. Or you can focus on the hope and use the energy of the loss to propel you forward.

  2. It’s never too late to become what you might have been.

    – George Eliot

    If you are like so many people who come to the end of their marriages, you may wonder who you are.

    What happened to the person who used to love to do xyz, who used to have fantastic dreams and ambitions?

    Did you lose yourself to the roles of marriage? Sacrifice yourself little by little until you were numb to the longings of your vibrant spirit?

    Eliot has it right. And what a hopeful message, regardless of your age. It’s never too late to become what you might have been!

    Need a little more convincing? Check out these celebrities whose lives actually got better after their divorces.

  3. Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.

    – Marilyn Monroe

    Not all marriages that end in divorce are “terrible.” And not all couples who divorce are enemies.

    Sometimes there are good people who simply weren’t able to be what they needed to be in marriage. Timing, emotional immaturity, unresolved childhood issues – there are countless possibilities.

    But isn’t it an inspiring thought that something even better is about to “fall together” out of the brokenness of what was already good?

  4. When we truly care for ourselves, it becomes possible to care about other people. The more alert and sensitive we are to our own needs, the more loving and generous we can be towards others.

    – Eda LeShan

    One of the 10 actionable tips for rebuilding a life after divorce for yourself is to get out of your own story and help build someone else’s.

    But you first have to know the experience of self-compassion and self-care. When you are able to savor the benefits of responding to your own needs, you can recognize and lovingly respond to the needs of others.

  5. When we do something we like, we are not only happy. We are also very strong!

    – Rossana Condoleo

    Yes! Yes, you are allowed to live a happy life!

    Motivational quotes are just a way of reinforcing what you inherently know. In this case, the encouragement is to return to doing things you love.

    You may have given up hobbies and personal interests during your marriage, but now you get to revisit them.

    Give yourself permission to do things you like, and watch your happiness – and strength – grow.

  6. Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.

    – Joseph Campbell

    It’s there. It really is. That wellspring of pure, untarnished joy that has always held itself in a safe place, waiting for you to find it again.

    Pain is inevitable after a divorce. But joy? That is your Holy Grail of healing.

    Dig deep. Find it. Don’t be afraid of it. And let it burn out the pain.

  7. Moving on is a process; moving forward is a choice. There’s a slight difference between the two. Moving on is letting things happen; moving forward is making things happen.

    – author unknown

    Perhaps this title stops short. After all, happy-life, motivational quotes are intended to inspire action.

    So, are you ready to move forward with your life?

  8. And so rock bottom became the foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

    – J.K. Rowling

    You hear it all the time about people struggling to turn their lives around – from addiction, divorce, loss. Someone will say, “He hasn’t hit rock bottom yet. Once he does, things will change.”

    The thing about rock bottom is that it gives you a ground from which to spring yourself upward.

    In Rowling’s case, it became a solid foundation upon which she rebuilt her life. And nothing could undermine it because she started at the bottom.

  9. You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep spring from coming.

    – Pablo Neruda

    Try as you may to stay in your despair, spring is going to come. You will have to face the terrible magnificence of spring’s glory.

    In other words, life is going to invite you back. And it’s going to send flowers to sweeten the deal.

    Just say yes….

    And finally, because humor is so important to healing, we’ll let Bette Davis have the final honors….

  10. I’d marry again if I found a man who had $15 million and would agree to sign over half of it to me before the marriage and guarantee he’d be dead in a year.

    – Bette Davis

Returning to a place of joy and anticipation for the future doesn’t happen overnight. It’s incremental, often slow, but always a process of remaining open to positive possibilities.

Putting yourself in front of sources of encouragement – like these happy-life, motivational quotes – is an empowering discipline.

Continue to feed your heart and mind with positivity, and you will soon be looking back and saying, “My life got better after divorce.”

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.

How To Get Over An Emotional Affair At Work

Woman leaning her head on a window at work wondering how to get over her emotional affair.

Emotional affairs are relationships you have with people who aren’t your partner. What sets an emotional affair apart from a friendship is the relationship that forms becomes more important than your marriage. Frequently, you invest more time and energy into the emotional affair.  Emotional affairs at work can be as simple as flirting with someone or being friends with someone you’re attracted to. But they can get much more complicated—and destructive.

Emotional affairs typically start because one person wants something the other person has. This can be love, attention, or sex. This can happen because they don’t feel like their partner is giving them what they need in the relationship. They want something more fulfilling than what they’re getting from their spouse or significant other.

Emotional affairs are challenging to detect because they don’t have many hallmarks of traditional cheating. Emotional affairs usually aren’t secretive or deceptive. The person having an emotional affair is honest and open about the relationship. 

It’s also possible for emotional affairs to start when one person is unhappy in their relationship.  They don’t know how to fix it, so instead of working on the issues within their primary relationship, they look for fulfillment elsewhere. In many cases, this leads to people having multiple simultaneous relationships with different people at once: one romantic relationship and one emotional affair (or several).

When an emotional affair develops into a physical affair, it can become tough to stop. Both people feel like they’re getting something from each other that neither is getting from their primary partners—which makes sense.

How Common Are Emotional Affairs At Work?

Emotional affairs at work are more common than you might think. While the most common affair is still physical, emotional affairs can be just as devastating and more difficult to detect.

According to hrf, nearly half of all Americans have had an emotional affair at some point in their lives. And while many people think that these affairs are always about sex, that’s not necessarily true. In fact, research has shown that 70% of people who had an emotional affair didn’t even realize it until after it was over.

These reasons vary: sometimes, they’re motivated by loneliness or feelings of inadequacy. Other times they’re simply a case of bad judgment. But whatever the cause, they’re not always easy to recover from.

How To Tell If You Are Having An Emotional Affair

If you are having an emotional affair, you may feel attracted to someone other than your spouse or partner. You may experience excitement and anticipation when you think of spending time with them. Perhaps your mood improves when you’re thinking about them.

Other signs of an emotional affair include increased secrecy, increased time spent apart from your spouse or partner, and extra attention paid to how others perceive your relationship with this person.

Emotional affairs can be just as damaging as physical ones, so it is important to pay attention to the signs that one is occurring to end it before it does any damage.

How To End Emotional Affairs At Work

Most emotional affairs start at work and most of those end at work. But for some people, ending an emotional affair with a coworker is difficult because the relationship has been going on for so long. The best way to break off an emotional affair with a coworker is to be direct and honest about what you’re feeling and why it’s time for the relationship to end.

The first step in ending your emotional affair with a coworker is acknowledging it’s happening. If you’ve been spending more time than usual talking to this person, or if they’ve made themselves seem more important than they really are, you may be already involved in an emotional affair with them. Look out for signs like:

  • A sudden increase in the amount of time you spend together outside of work hours;
  • Constant communication through text messages or social media;
  • Going out of your way to make sure that you run into each other at events; and

There is a growing sense of attachment between two people who didn’t want anything more than friendship but suddenly felt differently about each other now that they’ve become closer.

How To Get Over An Emotional Affair At Work

If you’re in the middle of an emotional affair at work, it’s important to remember that you aren’t alone. In fact, one out of five employees has had an emotional affair. And it doesn’t matter if you work in a small company or a large corporation—the workplace is full of people capable of having these kinds of relationships.

But while they can be hard to break off, they can also seriously impact your personal life and career. Here are some tips on how to get over an emotional affair at work:

  • Take time off from work. If possible, take some time off from the office so that you can focus on your personal life without being distracted by work concerns. This will help you get back into a routine and allow you to think through what happened between yourself and your coworker.
  • Talk with your friends about what happened. You may not want to tell anyone about what happened at first because it will feel embarrassing or even shameful for some reason—but talking about it with someone else will help clear away some of those feelings so that they don’t distract you from moving forward with your life at home or work!
  • Understand why you fell for this person. Was it because they were charismatic? Did they promise you something? This can help you identify the root of your feelings to avoid falling into a similar situation.
  • Focus on your career goals and take advantage of opportunities at work that will help make them happen—this will give you something else to focus on besides your emotions during this time, as well as help make sure that nothing like this happens again!

Divorce, emotional bereavement, and breakups all provoke painful and sometimes debilitating negative emotional experiences. The same is true of an affair with a co-worker. 

We know of no magical “cure” for the anguish of finding oneself in an emotional affair at work. However, there are some useful guidelines that may accelerate the healing process for those who have been there. The first is to realize that the pain does eventually subside.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I work with individuals struggling with how to get over emotional affairs. 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 working through the repercussions of cheating? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Surviving Infidelity.

How To Prevent An Unhealthy Marriage

Couple pausing in their bike ride along a beach to hold hands.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So said Ben Franklin to his fellow fire-threatened Philadelphians in 1736. Fast forward almost three centuries to your marriage today, and the merit of this proverb is still about fire prevention. Want to know how to prevent an unhappy marriage? Learn how to create a healthy one.

Prevention, at its most basic level, is about awareness. You can’t stop something from happening unless you know what to look for.

Not only do you need to know what you want to stop in its tracks. You need to know what you want to pass through.

Simply put, your ‘no’ needs to be balanced by a ‘yes.’

But first…

When is a marriage unhealthy? Is “unhealthy” really that definable, or does it exist on a spectrum of relevance?

A little of both, actually.

There are, for example, several signs that are undeniably unhealthy.

We frequently talk about John Gottman’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling – because they are so accurately predictive of a marriage’s demise. 

By the time these relationship destroyers are playing a leading role in your life, your marriage has passed through unhealthy to toxic.

And is, at least statistically, most likely doomed.

But what about that spectrum of relevance? Surely marriage doesn’t go from happy to doomed without warning.

The events, stresses, and triggers of life – and, more importantly, your responses to them – are all hints along the way. 

They are also invitations to pay attention and make adjustments to stay on course.

In this way, the very stressors that challenge your marriage are opportunities to learn how to prevent an unhealthy marriage.

Every relationship passes through stages. Even a new job has a honeymoon phase, followed by a get-down-to-business phase. 

But how often does the start-up hype become a disillusionment to the work ahead? And how often does the expectation for start-up perfection create negativity, disappointment, contention, and even resignation down the line?

Marriage is really no different in that regard.

More than any other helpful, must-do tip, it’s self-awareness that can improve your relationship the most.

Knowing yourself means recognizing, acknowledging, naming, and accepting your own thoughts, feelings, sensations, needs, and desires – before they become behaviors.

After all, you can’t prevent, let alone change, something you don’t recognize or acknowledge. 

It’s the hiding behind a veil of unawareness that leads to blame, lack of self-accountability, and ultimately a life of victimhood and resentment.

As you read the following list of signs of an unhealthy marriage, think about the ones you didn’t see coming.

  • Sex has gone by the wayside and/or is no longer a satisfying, connecting experience.
  • You and your spouse don’t talk about anything outside of work, kids, bills, and home management.
  • You and your spouse bicker and fight all the time – or don’t fight at all.
  • Your physical health is suffering.
  • You stop taking care of yourself.
  • You have stopped dreaming and looking forward to things – individually and as a couple.
  • You start fantasizing about life without your spouse, possibly even with someone else.
  • You don’t make time for one another and don’t prioritize your marriage as an entity.
  • You and your spouse criticize more than you praise and validate.
  • You don’t listen and/or don’t feel heard.
  • Your kids are acting out and/or are doing poorly in school.
  • You and/or your spouse start drinking more or finding other means of escape.
  • You intentionally avoid communication, especially about the relationship itself.

As tragic as it all sounds, every one of these symptoms can (and usually does) creep up on unassuming spouses.

And it’s so easy to enter that slippery slope!

Want to fix an unhealthy marriage and get that loving feeling back? Your best bet is to focus on how to prevent an unhealthy marriage in the first place.

Here are some “ounces of prevention” to help you prevent an unhealthy marriage:

  • Talk about the likely (and potentially unforeseen) challenges of marriage before your wedding and throughout your marriage.
  • Embrace a positive, even grateful attitude about sources of self- and relationship-improvement: therapy, coaching, classes, retreats, support/activity groups.
  • Remember to nurture your individuality and unique interests and talents. Carving out time for “just you” will not only feed your soul, it will fuel your spouse’s attraction and longing for you.
  • Make healthy communication your top and constant priority. And commit to learning new and more effective communication skills on an ongoing basis.
  • Replace criticism with a complaint to shift the focus from blame to a feeling and need that you own. “When you ignored me at the party, I felt lonely and unimportant” will inspire a far different response than “You always abandon me when we go out!”
  • Make your marriage a “non-negotiable” in your life. Put date nights and other occasions for togetherness on your calendar as a stronghold for your routine, and plan everything else around them.
  • If your faith is important to you, nurture it and turn to it, both individually and collectively, as a source of strength and guidance for your relationship.
  • Turn “sacrifice” (not self-martyrdom) into a fun adventure. What can I do today that will surprise and benefit my spouse, even if it inconveniences me?
  • Take divorce off the table.
  • Show physical affection, and not just in the bedroom. Touch when you talk. Hold hands in public. Add a few seconds to your welcome-home hug and kiss. Pat one another on the tush or place your hand on one another’s back as you pass by.
  • Make time for sex, even if you have to schedule it. If the idea of planning for sex seems unromantic, use that awkwardness as motivation to create a romantic, fun, playful experience.
  • Play together. Play as a couple, play as a family. And keep “play” ahead of winning.
  • Travel together. Even if you travel as a family, create getaways for just you and your spouse.
  • Say “I love you” several times a day.
  • Say “I’m sorry,” “please forgive me,” and “I forgive you” with humility and sincerity…and without reservation.

Chances are you didn’t take your vows thinking about how to prevent an unhealthy marriage.

You thought about all the proactive, loving things you would do to bring about your vision for a happy marriage and life.

And that…that…is your ounce of prevention.

6 Reasons A Self-Aware Person Will Recover From Divorce More Easily

Confident and self-aware woman sitting on the couch.

Divorce. The Great Divide. The non-delicate demolition. The emotionally eviscerating excavation of your white-picket-fence dreams. It’s a fault-cracking (and usually fault-finding) shake-up to anyone going through it. And yet, some people seem to recover more easily than others. What, if anything, does being a self-aware person have to do with how you rise from the ashes?

A lot, actually. And that’s what we’re going to explore here.

Healing after divorce is different for everyone.

Sure, there are recognizable, even predictable similarities – grief, anger, disappointment, feelings of failure, and changes in lifestyle.

But every divorce, just like every marriage, is a melding (even in the throes of rending) of different personalities, histories, and experiences.

Men and women, for example, experience the short- and long-term effects of divorce differently. The effects of divorce on men are more transient, while the effects (especially financial) on women tend to be chronic.

Family histories can also have a profound effect on how individual spouses perceive, and therefore heal from, divorce.

Gender and family history, however, are factors outside your control. When something as monumental as divorce takes over your life, you need sources of empowerment and factors you can control.

And (yes, you probably saw this coming) the only person you can control…is yourself.

If you are ever going to access your superpowers within, you need to know the superhero staring back at you in the mirror.

And that starts with self-awareness – that Holy Grail of fearless self-knowledge, self-acceptance, self-accountability, and authentic progress.

But how does that apply to divorce and its aftermath?

If you are a self-aware person, here are 6 reasons that you will recover from divorce more easily than someone who isn’t:

  1. You have an identity, a sense-of-self, that is not grounded in being a spouse.

    The magic of marriage lies, in part, in the merging of two independent lives into a new “entity” and life vision.

    The risk of marriage lies in the same.

    How easy it is to lose your sense-of-self to the enthusiasm for a life “as one.”

    The danger, however, is that you forget who you are.

    You also forget that the union to which you are committed can’t survive if you both collapse in on one another.

    No one said this better than the poet Kahlil Gibran: “But let there be spaces in your togetherness / And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.”

    A self-aware person would read this chapter on marriage and think, “Well, of course!”

    The non-self-aware person would wonder how the marriage could survive.

    Whether you come to your marriage with high self-awareness or have only recently embarked on it, you hold the key to healing from your divorce.

    Your spouse fell in love with you – not a diluted, half-cloned version of himself or herself.

    And, as you move forward to create a new life from the lessons of the old, reclaiming and reinventing you will be essential…and exciting!

  2. You are more likely to reach out for help and support than someone who is not self-aware.

    If you were experiencing signs of a heart attack, how long would you wait before calling 911?

    The self-aware person knows how to read the signs, whether they be physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, etc.

    There is no heroism (and no reward) in “waiting it out” instead of seeking help.

    You know divorce is going to be hard – on you, your ex, your kids, your families, your friends, your job.

    Being proactive in seeking help makes you smart, not weak.

    It takes you out of victimhood and shows you – and the world – that you have the business of life to get down to. And by golly, it’s gonna take a village to get it done!

    Besides, when you open yourself to receiving, you complete the cycle of giving. Someday you may have what someone else needs to heal. And you will hope for their openness to receiving it.

  3. You feel less threatened and insecure when transitioning from marriage to divorce because you know the qualities you can count on.

    Only a self-aware person can do a fearless self-assessment of both strengths and weaknesses.

    I am incredibly resourceful, especially when the odds are against me. I know I’ll get through no matter what.

    I’ve never been good with financial stuff. I guess I’m going to have to find some trustworthy people who are and seek their guidance.

    I may never be able to make the money my ex does, but I am creative and open to ideas and possibilities.

    Your self-assessment isn’t a list of pros and cons. It’s a “preparation list” that reminds you of all your inherent strengths.

    And that includes the strength of character to know where you need to grow…and that you are up for the challenge.

  4. You are less likely to have high attachment anxiety that would make you seek reattachment to an ex and/or unhealthy relationship.

    Attachment is simply the ability to make emotional bonds with other people. It develops during childhood between a child and primary caregiver and can affect every relationship in the child’s life, present, and future.

    There are many reasons that attachment can have a negative influence on future relationships. Not meeting a child’s needs. Being inconsistent in parenting. Not having or teaching boundaries. Neglect. Abuse. Criticism.

    The accrued “wrongs” of parenting can be the foundation for insecurities and lack of self-worth/self-esteem as a child matures and enters relationships.

    Even if you had a dysfunctional childhood, your choice to develop self-awareness is your ticket to freedom from re-entering that negative cycle.

    Does that mean you won’t ever long for your ex or marriage or wish you weren’t getting divorced? Of course not.

    But it does mean that you can maintain healthy boundaries, look at your current circumstances with objectivity, and make wise choices to protect your future.

  5. Your health benefits.

    If being in high-quality relationships is like a morning shot of wheatgrass to your health, then it stands to reason that relationship losses can have negative effects on health.

    If you are a self-aware person, however, you will naturally keep yourself in check.

    Yes, you may experience changes in your diet/sleep/exercise/stress/moods. But, compared to a non-self-aware person, you will recognize where you are making unhealthy choices that you can change.

    Are you drinking more alcohol to numb the pain?

    Self-awareness will tap you on the shoulder and make you look at where you are and where you could end up if you don’t change.

    Have you stopped going to yoga classes because of exhaustion, lack of available time, and lost interest in being around people?

    Self-awareness will remind you that you still have options to reaping the benefits of exercise: yoga videos, walking your dog, dancing with your kids.

    Being a self-aware person keeps you in tune with your body and accountable for its well-being.

  6. You have what it takes to find love again and to create a healthy, lasting relationship.

    As a self-aware person, you aren’t afraid to look at your own flaws and contributions to the loss of your marriage.

    You also aren’t too proud to embark on the process of self-improvement. You know that your power to create or improve a relationship begins with you.

    This is the same commitment to self-awareness that you should expect of any future partner…and will inevitably attract.

Imagine yourself as a magnet walking through your life. Everything that is authentic to you…everything that reverberates with who you are, what you feel/need/desire and has to give…comes out of hiding and connects to you.

It defines you, informs you, protects you, and heals you.

It is you. Unashamed. Unafraid.

Suddenly you are collected, “whole.” “All-one.” Standing in your own truth…

…and standing up for your own truth.

Self-awareness did that.

You did that.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation if you’d like support in becoming a more self-aware person so you can more easily navigate your life post-divorce.

You can learn more about becoming and benefitting from being a self-aware person in How To Be More Self-Aware.

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.