I’ve been thinking about happiness a LOT lately and wondering how to write about it because I don’t feel like I’ve got it remotely figured out. I started to do a little research today by reviewing some Gretchen Rubin podcasts but I’m not getting anywhere, not feeling some sudden blob of confidence that I know what I’m talking about. When it comes to being happy I’m about as naive as a first grader. It befuddles and confounds me.
But, when it comes to happiness there are three things that I do know for sure.
1. I’m happy.
2. I’ve been happy in the past.
3. I’ve been unhappy in the past.
One way I’ve been trying to figure out this happiness stuff is by examining the unhappy years. I truly was unhappy for years and years.
I was unhappy because I lived with a very manipulative man who negated my opinions and squashed my self-confidence. I didn’t know this for a long, long time because he was THAT good. He won every argument, trumped every difference of opinion and it left me feeling stupid, incompetent and unimportant. On screen this doesn’t look very severe, but living under this oppression year after year has turned me into a tearful, skittish woman. My first instinct is still to assume that I’m in the wrong, that it (whatever ‘it’ happens to be) is my fault.
I was unhappy because I was lonely. My ex was up and leaving for work at 5:30 am and home anywhere between 6:00-7:00 in the evening. He would come home and greet me, open the mail and then shut himself away, either in our room watching TV or in the living room in front of the Playstation.
I was unhappy because my main role in life, being a mommy, was changing and my kids didn’t need me so much anymore. They had their pals, girlfriends, jobs, cars, homework I didn’t understand. Very little that needed my attention. Gone were the days when they ran to me with boo boo’s and to tell on each other. No more cutting crusts off sandwiches and waffles into tiny squares. I was losing my identity and had no confidence that I could possibly be useful for anything.
I was unhappy because I wasn’t in love with my husband, and never had been, and knew I was missing out on something wonderful. I always told myself that it didn’t really matter, that feelings of romantic love wain and the important thing was that we care about each other and respect each other. But I will tell you with all the conviction I have inside of me… being IN LOVE matters. I had my reasons for getting married, but none of them were because of love. That’s a whole other story, but for now, let’s just say that I did my best. I carried on and honored my commitment for a very long time, despite my feelings.
But now there is so much to be happy about. I’m with a man who not only asks me what my opinion is but actually get’s annoyed when I don’t offer it up. It’s not his goal for me to submit and say, “I’m sorry. You were right.” Our arguments actually carry on much longer than the ones between my ex and me, because he isn’t satisfied with me throwing up my hands and admitting defeat.
And then there’s the news of the century…I’m in love! I never knew this feeling before, never looked at someone and felt my whole heart melt into a big glowing mess. I’ve had experience at practical love, at the day-to-day choices you make for someone you’re committed to. I’ve put others first and served and sacrificed, but I have never, EVER, felt this kind of emotional love before. I. Am. Happy.
I’m still working through the mommy stuff, still stumbling through some kind of funky transition. My daughter found this really weird bug in the ground when she was a toddler that was in mid-metamorphosis and completely unrecognizable. Couldn’t tell what it used to be and had no idea what it was going to turn out to be. It was just a weird, rather formless THING. I feel a lot like that bug when it comes to being a mom. I think my therapist has her work cut out for her.
For all that I don’t understand about happiness, one thing I do now believe with 100% conviction is that IT MATTERS. I spent 18 years thinking that my happiness didn’t matter, that commitment was more important than my feelings. What I now believe is that I should’ve kicked and screamed and carried on till I woke the neighbors fighting for my happiness.
I have so much to learn.
It’s as if I wrote this.
I’m glad you can relate.
After my long term of 36 years ended abruptly with my husband leaving me, I was so devastated and hurt beyond belief, I was utterly crushed. But after a few months and reading the book “Runaway Husbands” by Dr. Vicki Stark, I was able to analyze my entire relationship with my husband and knew for sure I married the wrong man, gave up too much of myself for him and wasn’t as happy as I thought I was.
When we had met, both my husband and I were very young, me age 22 and him 21 while we were stationed in the Navy in Hawaii. We moved in to an apartment together but he then got orders on his submarine that he was transferring to Charleston SC. When I cried, he said “what do you want, me to marry you?” That… yes that was the signal I missed and wished I had run away then, but didn’t . Regret is the hardest part of life yet feel I have to put it aside in order to move on. It’s hard though because only 4 months after he left me, I found out through my brother in NY that I had been adopted and never told, blind-sighted again.
It’s been 3 1/2 years now since he left me, and only 1 year now since our divorce yet I am still not any happier. The past year has been even more difficult for me, with 2 retinal detachments in my left eye and poor vision now. Crying and sleeping has helped much either, feeling like two movies called “Drag Me To Hell” and “My Life in Ruins”. I even bought an evil eye ring thinking I am cursed of sorts because I cannot seem to stand up again.
All I can do is hope that one day… I can be happy again.
Deborah, your story hurts my heart and you have every right to still feel pain. Life is messy and no one gets through clean and shiny. (((Hugs))) to you, sister. Happiness is real. Keep looking for it and don’t give up.
What is your opinion on older children handling the divorce? Would it have been better when they were little? I am totally sticking with my marriage because of my young daughter. There is nothing damaging about my relationship with my husband, but there is also nothing good. We argue quite a bit because we don’t understand one another. We don’t enjoy each other and we don’t like to do the same things. We are not friends. However.. staying married allows me to be a stay at home mom to my daughter during these very young years. That is so valuable to me that I don’t mind putting my happiness on the back burner. But am I ultimately doing a disservice to my daughter by splitting up in the end? Just looking for feedback…
That’s a tricky one and something I also contemplated for years. I ultimately chose to stay with my husband for my children’s sake, and while that’s not a popular opinion, there was nothing terribly wrong with my marriage. My husband wasn’t abusive, we didn’t fight incessantly, there was no alcohol or drug abuse or cheating. I feel like I gave them a good childhood. The one thing I wonder is what I have taught my children about love and happiness, because I pushed my own desires aside for so long. I would never want them to do that. My children were 18, 18 and 13 when we finally separated. I would never suggest that you stay in an marriage filled with angst just for the sake of the kids, but I will say that if you are unhappy you need to kick and scream for what you desire. That is one thing I would go back and change. Instead of being unhappy for the sake of the kids, I should’ve done everything I could to both be happy AND married to the father of my children. Does that make sense? I hope it gives you something to think about. Every situation is so different.
After 18 years of marriage, a 17 and 16 year old, I am starting my divorce proceedings now. My teens have mixed feelings and of course, he is alienating them from me. I have to be ready for everything. This is just the beginning.
I am doing the same. 18 years in a marriage that I wasnt happy in. My kids are 18 and 14 and I’m worried about them. How did the kids cope? How did you find yourself again and become happy?