She told a heartbreaking tale: Of a marriage long desired, of children finally born, and of it all unraveling after. Her marriage now finds itself in a house with two middle school age children and a spouse she barely considers a confidante. Intimacy of any kind deserted them more than a decade ago. And these words she spoke after finally meeting with the divorce lawyer to look at her options and dividing time with her children became real: “My happiness can wait. I will have time to be happy. I need to make the best of it as it is right now.”
The thought of changing her children’s lives forever is an insurmountable obstacle in her mind. It is a common barrier for parents and their own happiness the first and surest sacrifice.
My story was similar. I held this belief several years before finding the courage to put a foot forward to face a different future. I was confident that I could tolerate a loveless marriage for the sake of my children. I believed a two-parent household was easily better than one. I thought “good moms” did not get divorced.
As my health began to decline, as my mood began to move deeper into depression, and as my affect was generally agitated – my body was telling me a different story. My best friend, my mother and those closest to me were noticing the decline and encouraging me to be courageous. I had tried everything: counseling, prayer, medication, visiting an intuitive. You name it and I had tried it for the sake of either forcing my marriage to work or somehow finding happiness despite its deteriorating status.
What I most wish I had known in the hardest and saddest days leading up to the divorce filing was that my happiness did matter. I wish I had know then what I know now – that my children would thrive more than I could imagine with a happy, energy-filled mom. That my children would benefit from my temper not being as quick and my toes not always balancing on the proverbial eggshells. That my daughters would also grow stronger as some of the unrealistic parenting expectations I held faded with the reality of a “perfect family” disappearing.
Last month, I led the “Joy Journey” session in our firm’s Transition Series. In this session, we looked at how to focus an on intention toward happiness and tools to lead a joy-filled life. All of these I have worked hard at mastering since my divorce days in 2011.
The easiest of these tools to use on my hardest days are finding one thing to be grateful for and reflecting on a singular moment in the day that brought happiness, contentment, or gratitude.
No matter where you are, these simple tools can be used anywhere, anytime, without spending a cent. Whether you are considering divorce, moving through one, or years out of your marriage, these small actions will start a joy journey and I hope it is yours.