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Be Happy?

There is an interesting discussion on TED.com right now about divorce vs. staying married for the kids. Lydia, who launched it, lays out many of the typical outcomes for the children involved. I suspect you've seen all of them in other families.

Adesh offers a very popular viewpoint these days:

Marry to be happy, divorce to be happy.

You should be happy no matter what.

Being happy gives you all the strength to look after your child well.

The problem is, he's wrong. The statistics show yours odds of being happy and strong are actually better sticking with the marriage.

But not if the marriage is like the one Carolyn describes: abuse, depression, stress-induced illness, everyone walking on eggshells, kids harming themselves to relieve the anxiety.

Scot opens his comment as I would:

I feel like there's a false dilemma here. In other words, I think the two choices you're presenting (break up and be miserable, or stay together and be miserable) are not the only two options.

This is, in fact, why I write this blog. Once I started believing that staying together with the man I loved (and could trust to be kind to me and our son) would make me miserable, I spent all my time gathering evidence to prove I was right and plotting my escape.

Then he died while I was at work one day, and I discovered 95% of what was making me miserable had nothing to do with him, because it was all still a problem with him gone. My misery had all been based on my expectation that he should rescue me from it, so I would not need to do the hard work of fixing it myself. Once he was dead, I did the hard work.

As I lifted each giant beam off my overburdened self, I thought about what life with him would be like with that gone, and I missed him fiercely. One of the hardest was when I threw off the commute that took up so much of my time. I found my new office so near the one where he had worked that we could have walked to lunch together on sunny days. Because of where the old one was, we argued over who would pick up the dry cleaning and prescriptions or renew the car registrations.

I had been so sure he was being the unreasonable one. Walking to lunch together! With no babysitter money. And getting home early even after running those errands myself. I denied us both all of that.

Without those arguments and resentment, I imagine the landscaping and decorating of our new home, which finally got done after he died, would have seemed a lot less of an ordeal, too.

And what if I had figured out back then that I could learn to dance even if he did not want to take lessons with me? I had no idea how many other people were looking for dance partners with no relationship strings attached. Blaming him for my inaction on that dream got in the way of all our other weekend fun.

Be happy? It's pretty much an inside job, unless you live in an environment where you fear being beaten or killed. It's something you must do for yourself. Ending your relationship with the person you expected would do it for you won't make it any easier.

Comments

Patty, I just want to thank you again for sharing your story. Every time I read about your experience, it reminds me to keep asking myself the right questions about the real solutions to problems.

Thanks, Rosemary!

Patty, thank you for sharing your story again and reminding me that being happy is pretty much an inside job. I need to be reminded of this from time to time. I appreciate you taking the time to do so for me!

You make it all worthwhile, Lilian!

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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