I’m not here to profess some grand happiness formula for marriage, seeing as I’ve only experienced this one life, with this one man, over a short eight years. Nor will I pretend to know all of the intricate, deeply seeded reasons for your own unhappiness. Happiness is wildly inconsistent and subjective.
But I do know a thing or two about chronic unhappiness. The way it simmers under the surface of our lives, building up pressure, and how each heavy sigh is like an emotional relief valve. I know how easy it is to dip into the shadowy parts of a marriage and then mistake it for all of the darkness in my life, even the parts that belong to me.
In talking with my married girlfriends and analyzing the relationships around me (including the one in my house), there does seem to be some consistent habits among the chronically unhappy. See if you recognize yourself in any of these:
1. You’re trying to get back old feelings.
The beginning of a relationship gives us such a high, such a warmth, and it’ll linger for years — through fights and changes and settling down. Blame it on the dopamine surge coursing through our love-struck brains,or chalk it up to hindsight nostalgia and a well-edited memory. Regardless, most of us have reminisced about a specific season in our lives, typically that new-love phase, and said, “But can’t we just get back to that place?”
Oh honey, that’s sweet, but no. No you will never go back to that place, no matter the effort and pleading. That warmth was never meant to last. It was a fleeting, temporary (hormone-driven) season, as they all are. If your motivation is to recapture something beind you, then you’ll never fully move forward. And there’s good stuff ahead, too.
2. You have unrealistic expectations.
Most of our Happily Ever After expectations are shattered within a year or two but what about the high expectations we have for our husbands? The things they should do and say and think, and how we expect them to be at any given time. Don’t get me wrong; some expectations are good and appropriate — they keep us accountable and striving for growth. But what about the expectations that our husbands are consistently falling short of? We think things like, “He should be more romantic,” and “If he loved me, he would want to help with the laundry,” and, to varying degrees, “He should do and think exactly as I do and do it how I want it done, the minute I want it done.” How many of our expectations are a wee bit unreasonable? And have we even voiced them out loud or do we expect them to just know?
At some point in a marriage, we have to evaluate our expectations and recognize when they’re making us chronically disappointed. We have to define what absolutely cannot be tolerated, clearly communicate that, and then accept our husbands for who they are right now, not who we think they should be.
While we’re at it, what about the expectations we place on ourselves as wives? The “shoulds,” the comparisons, the imaginary ideals — all sure-fire happiness stealers. So much of our chronic unhappiness starts and exists within our minds, fueled by our thoughts, with nothing tangible to show for it.