If you’re in the throes of a divorce or have recently divorced, your world is understandably topsy-turvy. Up is down, and down is what you are all the time. And you’re probably wondering when your happy life will begin (assuming it ever will).
Confusion and worry are your familiar (and constant) companions. What do I do? What do I not do? Should I…? What if I…? Am I going to make it financially? Will the kids be OK? Am I ever going to feel better? Will I ever have love in my life again?
Validating the normalcy of this emotional chaos is an important part of accepting your new reality. It’s not a license to stay in this state forever. But it is an essential step toward letting go and not clinging to a reality that simply no longer is.
Validating these uncomfortable, even unfamiliar feelings is also a way of standing in faith that your happy life will begin. Your life is in transition, so a lot of feelings are going to come up as you’re forced out of your comfort zone.
You can either fight the process or embrace it. In the end, your happiness will come down to this choice.
Your time of struggle and wondering when your happy life will begin is also a good time to reflect on what happiness means to you.
Whether or not you chose your divorce or even participated in the decision, “happiness” was obviously an issue.
When you walked down the aisle, you and your now-ex had a concept of what happiness looked like. But somehow, for whatever reason, that changed.
Perhaps you expected life to “go as planned,” and it didn’t. Perhaps you and your spouse expected the other to stay the same, and at least one of you didn’t.
So now, in the early post-divorce days, you’re craving happiness. You hunger for contentment — to simply smile and laugh again, to feel connected, to have a sense of normalcy.
The critical thing to remember about happiness, especially after a divorce, is that you are responsible for defining it…and creating it.
It’s not something that everyone else gets while it eludes you. Those periods of feeling out-of-touch with your happiness are really times of growth. Lonely, awkward, painful, out-of-your-comfort-zone times of growth. And growing pains come with the territory.
One of the light-bulb moments in healing from divorce comes when you assign meaning to your (chosen or unchosen) aloneness.
Marriage requires that you create a “third party” – the marriage itself. You have your individual thoughts, feelings, needs, yearnings, and dreams. But you contribute them to the definition of who you are as a couple.
The risk is that it becomes easy to lean into the marriage and one another so much that individuals forget how to stand alone. And if you recognize yourself in that scenario, you know how quietly and unknowingly you can lose your own sense of happiness.
And now, thanks to a divorce, you can’t remember if you left your happiness with your spouse or buried on page 20 of your divorce decree.
This is the danger of leaning so much into the union. You can forget to stand alone so that, when your world is pulled away from you by divorce, you are still standing.
It may sound too simple to say, but it’s true….
Your happy life will begin when you decide it will begin. How your life changes is entirely up to you.
There are ways to know if you are moving forward or staying stuck. You will feel the movement or the resistance. But having the awareness beforehand can ensure you are able to choose progress.
For example, if you are obsessed with your ex and his/her life, you are choosing to stay stuck. It’s natural to be curious — even angry and jealous. But it’s a sign of great self-discipline and self-love to shift your focus away from your ex and onto yourself.
Resist the urge to scour your ex’s Facebook page for signs of his/her happiness. Don’t stalk your ex’s home, work, and favorite places.
Intentionally resisting the urge and replacing it with something proactively self-fulfilling will propel you forward into your own happiness.
You’ll literally feel the “tugging of wills” as you choose the right thing. But you’ll also feel the growth, release, and personal satisfaction when you choose what can be over what was.
It’s very easy to get stuck in a pattern of waiting to feel better before taking action. You can conquer the world when you’re happy/healthy/rich/popular/loved, etc. Anyone can.
Unfortunately, that habit wouldn’t make the list of Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
The truth is that action precedes emotions – at least when it comes to the emotions you seek. So if you’re wondering when your happy life will begin, your answer lies in the actions you choose to take to be happy.
Two principles from Covey’s list that surely must have been written just for you are the following:
- Be proactive.
- Begin with the end in mind.
Perhaps you forgot your dreams in your marriage. Or perhaps you just cast them to the wind when life took its own course. But now it’s time to dream again – to have an end in mind, a vision to inspire your choices.
And being proactive can be as simple as starting. Simply start. Today. Now. This moment.
Today you forced yourself to try a new coffee shop so you wouldn’t risk running into your ex? Awesome! Stepping away from the past allowed you to step into new possibilities.
Tonight before bed you’re going to research local classes in a subject you have always loved? Now you’re on a roll!
Tomorrow you’re meeting with someone you met at your new coffee shop who said he has some connections for your business? Life is already looking up!
And next week you’re joining a Meetup group for a volunteer project in your community? Now you’re stepping outside yourself to help someone else have a happy life.
By taking action – moment by moment, one foot in front of the other – you tell your Higher Power that you are ready to receive. You’re done asking when your happy life will begin…because you’re in the process of living it.
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