Happiness requires the ultimate sacrifice:
To give up one’s unhappiness.
The U.S. Constitution doesn’t guarantee happiness,
only the pursuit of it. You have to catch up with it yourself.
For those in challenging marriages or relationships, the holiday stress freeway is paved with unfulfilled New Year’s resolutions. Here’s a simple 1/1 pledge that may help bring a trying relationship to a needed conclusion:
Resolve to be a bit less unhappy.
Not more happy. Too much heavy lifting.
Less unhappy. Just a little.
Lucky for us, modern life is the pursuit of happiness. But what’s happiness? It’s a whimsy, a “know it when I feel it”, wisp. So focus on the negative definition. What it’s not.
Happiness is not being unhappy.
If I jab you with a pin, when you grab it away, you feel happy, not because grabbing it is a “happy” event, but because getting rid of the jabbing is.
Get it? Try solving relationship struggles by eliminating smaller stuff that makes you unhappy. No, I don’t mean that sofa. I mean the truly tough stuff — in your head.
Here are four mental jabbing pins that let unhappy relationships persist. They offer ways to get a bit less unhappy. They require no money, lawyers or anything – just your mind:
1. Don’t expect war.
If a Martian studied divorce or a breakup through our media, they’d think it was war. Two people, ripping each other apart. Do you live in such dread of that situation that you stay put?
Grab that pin away. True, some couples go to war, but many don’t. And most warring couples regret it. Old fights feel silly after breaking up. They’re ancient history. Do your homework — you’ll find break ups without rancor. Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin talk publicly about their “conscious uncoupling,” their amicable split and co-parenting. Some couples even hold divorce parties, celebrating their time together, letting everyone know that it’s all good.
A mellow split may not be easy, but it’s always possible. Even if your partner goes to war, you don’t have to. And you may be surprised how your calm rubs off. It’s often contagious.
2. You’re already prepared.
Even if you’re just beginning to consider life beyond your unhappy relationship, you probably recoil from all that needs to get done. It’s endless! From the sublime — who lives where? — to the ridiculous — that’s MY juicer! Plus lawyers, finances, children, schedules, the laundry.
Another pin to grab.
You’re already carrying a heavy load. It’s dreadful to contemplate taking on more. So don’t. Managing a million responsibilities is your life now. (And mine. And everybody’s. Maybe except billionaires.) You’re already a professional juggler. You’ll be the same post-divorce or breakup. There’ll be a transition where you swap some juggling balls. But you’ll still be the same maxed out human. Maybe that’s not fun, but it’s not worse. And if you were going to crumple up and blow away, you’d have done so long ago.
Also, post-breakup there’ll be one huge new factor — your unhappy relationship will be over. That’s not a pin, that’s a javelin.
3. No one judges.
Does the idea that people will judge you if you divorce make you anxious? Pin, remove thyself.
Almost no one cares about divorce anymore. Everyone’s too stressed and distracted and they’re all surrounded by divorced people. Big yawn.
Even better (worse?), you’re a yawn. We all have the delusion: that people give a darn about us. Or even think about us. Yes, a tiny group do. The others, well, they like us, but… seriously, we rarely cross their minds. They won’t care if you divorce. (They may not even notice.)
4. Forgiveness = liberation.
Humans have a huge capacity for obsessing over the wrongs done to us — a particularly sharp pin. You’ve been legitimately wronged. Perhaps horribly. But good news: The cliche is true: Time heals. It’s the ongoing bad relationship that’s making you miserable, not old slights.
When you break up you’ll forgive almost everything. Yes, you will. It won’t even take long. Some old grudge may still naw, but even that’ll fade. You’ll be in a new life, with all that brings, not mired in bleak backwards-looking ruminations. Ask divorced friends: Still pissed? They’re not. Some feel silly they ever felt vindictive.
Why wait? Start now. Because you can. Forgive grievances. Even the worst ones. Jabbing pin, gone.
Relationship experts offer endless ways to try to achieve happiness. But try aiming lower. Get rid of some small, manageable unhappinesses in your heart and head.
Then maybe you’ll be ready to deal with the big one.
Steve Kane is the author of F*** It. Get A Divorce: The Guide for Optimists, and the founder and CEO of GetHappy.Life.