I don’t have studies to back up what I’m about to say but, I’m going to say it anyway. I do a lot of reading and research about divorce and why people divorce. The number one complaint I hear from women about why they chose divorce is, inevitably, “I was no longer happy.” Their marriage wasn’t making them happy, their husband wasn’t making them happy, the way they viewed that moment in time in their lives didn’t make them feel happy.
The running theme is, for some reason, women expect their happiness to come from without, not within. When they settle into marriage and the daily humdrum of raising children, making a living and holding a marriage together women become disenchanted because it turns out, marriage isn’t a fairytale and no one will live “happily” ever after.
According to Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology, “Happiness is at least 50% genetic. Positive psychologists tend to acknowledge a much weaker version of the happiness set-point view and often point out that even if genetics determines about half of our happiness, the rest is caused by factors that we can control to some extent; our circumstances (about 10%) and our intentional activities, such as the way we choose to think about things (about 40%).”
Let’s break that down, genetics is 50% responsible for how happy a person feels. Circumstance is 10% responsible and how one chooses to think about their circumstance is 40% responsible. It isn’t my intent to diminish anyone’s feelings BUT unless you are married to an abuser, alcoholic or slacker it is possible that these women aren’t happy because of genetics or the way they choose to think about their circumstance and, not as a result of a bad marriage.
As my grandmother used to say, women who divorce because they are no longer happy could be “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” Getting rid of the thing that could bring them the most happiness by divorcing, in pursuit of some skewed idea of what it means to be happy or, what happiness actually is.
How to Find Happiness in Marriage If You’re a Woman
Happiness is a state of mind, not of circumstance. If you want a happy marriage, you have to make it a happy marriage. Happiness doesn’t magically occur when he stops working 50 hours a week and spends more time with you and the children. It won’t magically occur when the children are grown or there is enough money to cover all the bills. It won’t be found in regular date nights or, snuggling on the couch every night watching romantic comedies.
Your life, inside your marriage, is now, today, dealing with what comes your way and how you choose to think about what it takes to get you through the day. Happiness comes from determining to feel good about whatever life dishes out on any given day. It’s about attitude.
If a woman is blessed with a loving husband who works hard to provide and children who work hard at driving her crazy she is going to find happiness in those blessings because she chooses to view them as such. To be happy one has to allow that 40% positive attitude to hold more authority than the 10% negative attitude about her situation.
Get over thinking someone owes you happiness. Or, that some outside force can “make” you happy. Husbands and children can impact how happy you feel but, ultimately you are responsible for your own happiness. If the drudgery of working, being a wife and mothering is sapping your energy and ability to feel happy it is your job to introduce activities into your life that balance those obligations with activities you enjoy.
Most women become unhappy in marriage because they lose their identity to the marriage and they put their needs second to the needs of their husband and children. That is a rule book written by women and it is full of rules that need to be broken. One way to do that, to stir the pot and not fall victim to the antiquated idea that your needs aren’t important is to simply, get out and do things you like to do.
Your children, marriage, husband, and home will not fall apart if you spend a few hours at an art class or, go to the gym daily to work out and keep your body and mind in shape. Women who are happily married have a life outside the marriage, husband, and children.
I have a friend who takes a yearly, weeklong vacation away from her role as wife and Mom. She also maintains a popular blog about women’s issues and writes daily. That is her life and passion, something she does for herself that in no way is related to her role as someone’s wife and mother. Do something, on a daily basis that brings you a sense of joy, is an escape from the whining children and constantly working husband. If you do, you will have a deeper appreciation for your own sense of autonomy AND the daily drudgery that is marriage and raising a family.
Be your authentic self. Did you go into marriage with a set of rules about the kind of wife and mother you want to be? Are the rules realistic? Can you eat off the floors, are the beds made daily, your children dressed and spat shined? Do you have a routine you follow from the moment your feet hit the floor in the morning until your head hits the pillow at night?
That image you have in your mind about the perfect wife and mother may play a role in unhappiness you feel. Why not give yourself a break and be yourself, not who you think you should be for your children and husband but, yourself. If that means not making the beds daily, so be it. If it means sitting your children in front of cartoons in the morning while you journal or meditate, go for it.
Let go of the need to keep up with your own false image of who a good wife and mother is and allow your own personality to drive the kind of wife and mother you are. Your husband and your children will benefit by getting to know the real you. You will benefit by being able to relax and let go of some silly preconceived notion and living your own reality.
Adjusting your attitude, taking responsibility for your own happiness and living authentically may lead to things like, a husband who comes home early from work because he enjoys the company of a wife who is upbeat and happy.
A lot of research has been done on attraction and it all points to the fact that people are attracted to others who are friendly, happy and self-confident. If you have a full life, interests of your own and don’t need anyone or any institution to “make” you happy, guess what, you will be happy. You don’t need to leave your marriage to find happiness, you only need to make a few adjustments.
And, those adjustments will promote and change in the way your husband and children react to and engage with you. It’s a simple way of taking away the need to divorce because you are, “no longer happy.”
Disclaimer: This article does not apply to women living in abusive marriages where they are in danger of physical harm or death.