When you’re in the midst of it, divorce and happiness seem mutually exclusive. As though you’re not only divorcing your spouse, but also splitting from your ability to ever smile again.
This post gives hope that happiness can follow on the heels of divorce. That sometimes losing what we thought we wanted can sometimes be exactly what we need.
Proof Divorce Can Make You Happier
The decision to end a marriage inevitably comes bundled up with worry and anxiety. It’s only human to find yourself wondering whether you’re making a mistake; whether this decision will continue to have negative repercussions – particularly with regards to your mental health – long after the divorce has been finalised.
As familiar as such concerns will be to anyone that has been through or is considering a divorce, though, a recent study conducted by UK-based Quickie Divorce has revealed that they’re often unfounded.
We polled 100 former customers whose divorces had been finalised more than two years ago. We asked them, simply, how happy they now felt and whether they regretted their divorce. Their responses were, we’re pleased to report, overwhelmingly positive.
Of the 100 people we polled, 83 informed us that they were much happier and that they believed that their decision to end their marriage was the right one. Of the remaining 17 respondents, only two informed us that they regretted their decision to end their marriage with the remaining 15 stating that, whilst they believed that they did not regret their divorces, they had found it difficult to adjust to their new lives. All but four of these respondents also informed us, however, that they still felt optimistic for the future and that they believed that they had found it difficult to adapt because they had not established a solid support network following the end of their marriages.
A large number of respondents – 37 to be precise – also reported that they were now in new long-term relationships. In addition, 22 of these individuals stated that they had learnt lessons from their marriages that had benefited their new relationships. In particular, they felt that they were now better at compromising and were more considerate of their partner’s needs.
One of the most common concerns amongst parents that are considering a divorce is that it will have both a significant and adverse effect on the children of the marriage but, of the 73 respondents who had children, only two informed us that they believed that their children had struggled following their divorce. The remaining 71 reported that they felt that their children had benefited from both their and their spouse’s determination to remain civil and create co-parenting plans that were robust enough to meet the needs of both parties and their children.
Ultimately, the pertinent findings of this study are that the vast majority of respondents felt much happier following their divorce, that divorce does not necessarily harm any children involved and that establishing a strong support network during a divorce – as well as maintaining it following the marriage having legally ended – is vital for the emotional wellbeing of those involved.
More important, though, is the fact that this study shows that the worries that so often accompany the decision to end a marriage are often baseless. Indeed, when we asked respondents what advice they would give to anyone that is considering a divorce, their guidance could, without exception, be summarised with one simple statement: trust your judgement.
Jay Williams works for Quickie Divorce, one of the largest providers of uncontested divorce solutions in the United Kingdom.
“I can’t imagine being happy with any else but her,” the message in my inbox said. The “her” in question was his ex-wife, who had recently initiated an unwanted divorce. “Do you really believe that it is possible to ever be happy with a new person?”
I asked my journal that same question after my divorce, afraid to voice the query aloud as though that would give my concerns more power. Even while I felt disgust at the realization that I had been sleeping with a stranger, I still fought the connection I had forged with him over sixteen years.
I tried to imagine myself with another man – a generic, faceless one – and I would be instantly snapped back to an image of my ex as though industrial strength bungee cords still tied us together. I thought of how comfortable I was with him and I searched the men in my periphery questioning if I could ever be so vulnerable with any of them. I reflected back on the intensity of the love that I had felt for my ex and I wondered if I would ever experience that again.
I couldn’t imagine ever being happy again with anyone else.
Here are five truths to consider if you find yourself wondering if you can be happy in a new relationship:
Your happiness is anchored in you.
When you’re with someone for an extended time, the boundaries can begin to blur. Something that makes them happy, makes you happy. And it’s easy to begin to believe that your happiness is dependent upon them.
Yet it’s not and it never was.
True happiness and satisfaction in life comes from living within your own beliefs and values. It is found in living a purpose-driven life where you know who you are and what you have to give. It is in a sense of curiosity and playfulness. And, yes, it is in the relationships you form with others.
Here’s the important part – the root of happiness and the ability to create it is not found in another person or when your external circumstances change. It is in you. Always has been. Always will be.
Believing it only existed with your ex holds you back. Believing that you can find it in someone new leads you astray. Finding containment within will never let you down.
Your marriage wasn’t perfect.
And it may not have even been good.
I know. Tough pill to swallow. I choked on that one myself for a couple years. But once I accepted it, everything else started to fall into place.
You see, I thought I had a good marriage. A great marriage, even. We never fought. We had great intimacy. We had common goals and values (or so I was led to believe). Much of the responsibility for that illusion lies on his shoulders – he needed for me to believe that things were good so that my suspicions would not be altered. And some of the responsibility falls on me. I needed to believe that the marriage was great because I was too afraid to entertain the alternative.
By allowing myself to see the reality of the relationship, it helped to let it go and by recognizing its imperfections, it also aided my belief that I could be in a happy relationship again.
I used to believe that I had a great first marriage. Now, I believe that its ending was proof that it wasn’t great. And I’m okay with that. I can now look back and smile at the good moments while at the same time accepting that not all was good behind the scenes.
And I’ve taken those hard-won lessons from that relationship and put them to good use in my life now. I’m beyond happy in my current marriage and happier still that it isn’t perfect.
Different can be better.
After an unwanted divorce, all you feel is the loss and all you know is what you had. There’s a tendency to smooth over the rough edges and idealize the person who left. The sense of deprivation causes a panicked grasping, an almost-obsessive need to try to hold on to whatever you can of your former partner. Every ounce of your being is focused on the void you feel and you naturally seek to want to stuff your ex back into that space to fill that hole.
Sometimes this manifests through repeated attempts to win the ex back or a more subtle yet persistent pining for the one who left. Other times it shows up by trying to sift through the single scene looking for a doppelgänger to replace what was lost.
You miss what you know and you don’t know what you haven’t had.
The grooves you followed in your old relationship will be rough at first, as you trip and stutter over the worn patterns with a new partner. But soon, you’ll find your own music.
The strengths of your ex may not be mirrored in the new partner. Yet they carry their own gifts and you may find they bring out new ones in you.
You won’t relive your early twenties with them, broke and optimistic. Yet you will share more experience and wisdom and the confidence that comes with them.
Happiness in the new relationship is found in recognizing what makes it unique, not in trying to make it a carbon copy.
Rather than see this as a burden, view it as an opportunity. A chance to start again, to start better.
Fear restricts; hope frees.
Fear weaves a web more intricate than any spider. Fear holds you back stronger than any restraints. Fear narrows your vision more than any blinders. And when you’re wondering if you’ll ever be happy with another person again, you’re listening to fear.
I connected with Dave Scott on Twitter (@davecscott) a while back when he responded to a Tweet I sent about trying to overcome my fears of going down hills in order to try skiing for the first time. Dave’s enthusiasm for skiing was contagious and helped me have fun on the slopes (even while I was petrified). We’ve stayed in touch and have discovered that our messages are often complimentary. Here’s a piece from Dave for you –
9 Things You Must Give Up To Be Happy
Americans love their politics. I’m no exception.
I love political election seasons. I love watching the ridiculousness of presidential campaigns, the craziness of our countries delegate process, and I enjoy watching highlights of various political races from around the country.
And it’s important. Politics, I mean. It’s important because who we elect impacts the future of how our municipalities govern its citizens.
But politicians and our political process won’t make you happy. I am constantly surprised at how many people I know feel that government should help them by creating a false state of happiness.
Our nation’s political system was never derived from the need to satisfy someone lack of a fulfilling lifestyle.
And in this tumultuous season of presidential elections, I’m learning about the things I need to give up in order to be happy. (politics included)
So I created a list of 9 things that will make your life a lot easier, when you give up on them. These are things we typically cling to, concepts we feel should serve us because we embrace them. It’s time to let these things go and ultimately be stress free.
No one likes a Cliff Clavin. (give up always being right)
I hate being wrong. When it happens, I feel foolish. I can’t stand the notion of not being right, and having this result impact my credibility. I’m sure you can relate. Often times we’ll even sacrifice relationships by attacking others just be right when it’s clear as crystal that we’re dead wrong. The feeling of always having to be right often times comes from pride and a sense of ego. To truly be happy, you need to give this up. Instead of having your coworkers label you as a ‘Cliff Clavin’ (which is not a compliment) set aside your pride and be willing to be wrong. (Cliff was always right, and never wrong) The outcome of this act is joy in the humility of the moment.
Surrender. (give up your need for control)
In order to find happiness, you’re going to need to relinquish control of everything that was never in your control in the first place. It’s called surrender. Surrender is the act of giving up the need to control everything around you. To find joy in your circumstance, you need to learn how to give up controlling life and controlling people. It’s hard, I know. I tend to be a control freak with certain things, and choosing to allow others to freely work or live is difficult. Letting go of life, and trusting God with things is proving to be my biggest challenge. But when I do, I learn to freely live. When surrender happens, and when I choose to trust through surrender, I learn the valuable lesson of what it means to live intentionally. Psalm 118:8 says “It is better to take refuge in the Lord, than to trust in humans.” Learn to live without restriction and without control through the action of surrender.
Give up on blame.
Quick story; I used to work with a person who’s only goal in our meetings was finding blame. This person was rarely about finding solutions, and more about who we can burn at the stake. It was stressful to work with them. Our team dreaded meetings with this person because their only goal was to find fault. (our team even began avoiding including them in decisions) In the book Difficult Conversations, the author says “blame inhibits our ability to learn what’s really causing the problem and to do anything meaningful to correct it. Blame is about judging and looks backward.”
Finding blame in a situation is not helpful. The goal should always be to find contribution. Contribution is about understanding and looks forward. If you have someone on your team, or in your life, who’s only aspiration is to tattoo someone because of some sort of failing, then maybe it’s time to get rid of them, or at very least keep them at arm’s length. There are a lot of gray areas in life, and life isn’t always black or white. That said, it’s not always 100% someone’s fault for every situation. Give up finding fault and blame, seek something more productive.
Give up living a defeated lifestyle.
This is one I’ve struggled with until very recently. It’s one of the most dangerous mindsets to live in. Many people I meet struggle with a self-defeating attitude. And they’re only hurting themselves because of their negative, polluted mentality. The trick is to not let yourself believe everything your mind is telling you. We have so much more hope than what’s in our minds, and what’s on this earth. Our minds are incredible tools that are capable of awesome things like feats of ingenuity and amazing acts of inspiration. But our minds can also be our worst weapon against anything that’s good, righteous, and praiseworthy. Focus on these things, and avoid an ethos that robs you of being better than the sum of your thoughts.
“Some of the happiest people in the world, go home smelling to high heaven at the end of each day.” – Morgan Freeman, Bruce Almighty.
Impoverished kids without shoes in Guatemala have the right to complain. Children in the Middle East that live in fear because of the constant threat of violent attacks from terrorist groups, have the right to complain. Those who are homeless, poor, or disabled, definitely have the right to complain.
The fact that you don’t get your McDonald’s happy meal in three and a half minutes is nothing to lose sleep over. The fact that your little Tommy or Tammy isn’t getting enough playing time on their hockey team, or soccer squad, doesn’t give you the right to lament about it. Nor do you have the right to criticize your boss or coworker for not choosing your idea over theirs. I hate labels, and I’m cautious of labeling perpetual complainers as narcissistic, but there’s truth to it. Most perpetual complainers are selfish and utterly miserable inside. Nobody can make you unhappy, and no circumstance can force you into a state of misery unless you let it. Give up your constant need to complain, and instead spend your energy on learning how to be grateful.
Stop trying to impress others.
“I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.” ― Abraham Lincoln
Don’t try to work to impress others. You’ll undoubtedly fail because you’re going to miss someone’s expectations, somewhere along the line. Stop trying to be something that you’re not just to make others like you, and ultimately impress them. The moment you stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not, and the moment you take off all your masks, is the moment you’ll be able to accept and embrace the real you.
Give up on your fears.
Fear is just an illusion, it doesn’t really exist. Fear isn’t even an emotion; rather it’s a false sense of being created in our minds. Fear is meant as a tool to be used by the devil himself to render us weak and useless. In the book, Outwitting the Devil, by Napoleon Hill, the author has a direct one on one conversation with the devil himself. In it, Hill uncovers that the devil’s two most powerful weapons to weaken and destroy humanity is fear and addiction. Fear because of the aforementioned, and addiction because it weakens the mind of independent thought. Give up on fear. And a fearless, independent thinker can accomplish awesome things.
Give up on the past.
Recently I made a trip to Palm Beach Florida, with my wife. While there we met an awesome couple from New Jersey named Karen and George. They were enjoying life after a year of terrible tragedy. George was hit by a truck while crossing the street, and flipped over the vehicle that struck him. He could’ve been paralyzed, or even killed. The worst thing that happened to George: A snapped Achilles tendon and some skin grafts to help heal the ankle wound. Talking with them both was extremely inspiring. Despite their crappy accident, and the hassles they endured, they chose to give up on the past and are look forward to the future.
Giving up on the past is a hard task, especially when the past looks so much better than the present, while the future appears incredibly frightening. But you need to let it go. The past is a distant memory that will never change your current situation or help you overcome adversity that lie ahead. Learn from it, but seek to live in the moment you’re in now, and plan for the future. Stop punishing yourself with the what-if’s of the past and instead embrace the instant that you’re living in now, and be present in everything you do, while enjoying life.
Give up on stuff.
This can be hard to grasp so let me explain.
If you have a garage or spare bedroom (or multiple spare bedrooms) resembling an episode from the hit television show Hoarders, I think it’s safe to say you have attachment issues. Being attached to stuff, to material possessions, means you’re trying to fill some sort of void in your life that’s most likely the result of an unmet need, or wound from your past.
When my family and I moved to Fargo from the suburbs of Minneapolis and St. Paul, less than a year ago, we got rid of a ton of stuff. (and we’re definitely not hoarders, so for us to get rid of a bunch was even more impressive) We got rid of stuff because we were downsizing into a two bedroom apartment, for a temporary period of time. In this moving experience, I realized that this life isn’t about me or stuff. It’s about people and relationships. It should be about connecting with others to share the good news, rather than what new toy I picked up on Craigslist.
I know too many people that have tons of stuff, like hunting gear, cars, jets-skis, houses, knick-knacks, and entire buildings of crap, that live a shallow existence. I can never seem to have a deep and meaningful conversation with them because their life is made up of inanimate objects rather than the ability to encourage others through something of substance.
There’s nothing wrong with having nice things, and living with the wealth of things, but the minute you choose things over people, equals a life of emptiness and void. The moment you detach yourself from these same things, you allow yourself to live at peace and in freedom. Free from the confines of possessions that tie you down.
What are some things you’ve given up to be happy? What’s been a driver of joy in your life?
Dave Scott is blogger, writer, and marketer currently living in Fargo, North Dakota. Dave grew up in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area and is a father, husband, son, and lover of technology. Dave’s not an expert or a guru. He just thinks you’re awesome and want you to know that, too, by writing about topics that inspire and encourage others.