When you are over forty and find yourself in an unhappy marriage your stress level increases constantly. You know you feel crummy but you may not realize the toll all that deep unhappiness takes on your health and well being.
I know because I stayed in my marriage ten years too long. It is not as though I was just hanging around wishing and hoping for something to change between my husband and me.
I did everything I knew. I worked on myself because I knew the only person I had control over was me. I could not ask or expect him to change.
I also knew if I changed then he had no choice about changing, at the very least, in how he related to me. Realize this is someone who was disturbed by all my changes and one day proudly announced to me that he didn’t like change and doe his best not to make any changes.
Well, during those last ten years of our marriage I not only worked on myself but I also invited him to step out of the box. Nothing I consciously did worked. However the Universe guided me – and him.
One day he was driving my car. Understand I am addicted to learning – everything! That day my Car University lesson was John Gary’s tape (back then we had cassettes players not CDs) Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. Very much to my surprise he started making statements that clearly showed he had listened to the recording.
I was shocked – and delighted. I became so hopeful that I managed to get both of us into couples counseling. Unfortunately he saw that program as way to make me wrong and him right.
Back in those days he thought I was responsible for his happiness and he blamed all his unhappiness on me. Not that I did much better in that area. I knew I alone was responsible for my happiness but I still felt I needed outside validation from him (when it came from others it just didn’t matter) that told me how great I was – just because I exist and not because of anything I do.
See the problem? He could not give me what I thought I needed. Nor could I give him what he wanted. Frankly both of us spent those last ten years in sheer misery.
The stress of such unhappiness landed me in the hospital needing surgery to prevent a hemorrhage situation. To my horror I saw a photograph of myself and realized that I had gained 30 pounds. I got fat! Me, a health fanatic!
Stress does that to you—makes all your hormones crazy.
I could explain all the wellbeing issues but really all that matters is when you live in an unhappy situation you slowly kill yourself. Consider this your wake-up call to action.
Act now. The longer you put it off the steeper the climb back to happiness.
Many women over forty find themselves stuck (their often blind choice, of course) in unhappy marriages. They feel unskilled and unable to join the workforce to support themselves so even though they live in the emotional pain of a dead marriage, they do not leave. In fact they do not do anything to rock the boat.
Not all women get themselves in such stuck situations even though they too find themselves in unhappy marriages. Why?
You always have the opportunity to view your world through different eyes. Change your perspective and talk with other people to get clarity on how you yourself feel and what action is appropriate for you.
I know some people who do things together but their marriage exists in name only. Basically they live in the same house and maybe go out to a movie or dinner but that is the extent of their relationship—even though they hold fast to their marriage certificate.
When people stay together long after the feelings of love apparently dissipated you know they both benefit somehow. So long as neither one takes advantage of the other or hurts them in any way, that system seems to work for many women.
It seems to work. But does it really? OR is there an unrecognized under-current of stress?
Stress operating out of awareness does so much damage – especially to women’s health. That fact goes largely unnoticed because most research is done on men. So it becomes paramount for women living in less than happy circumstances, to take an inventory of their true feelings regarding their current life style.
In particular, pay attention to your degree of happiness, how fulfilled you feel as a person as well as how complete you feel as someone who contributes to society. Really, take an honest look at yourself and how you feel about every aspect of it.
Once you complete your self-survey ask yourself if you can look at any problem areas from a different perspective. You see, you can change your life and your world in two ways: first you can make a physical move out of the house to a new place OR you can change how you look at the current situation.
Look without a need to blame anyone for anything, In fact, remember that forgiving is all about for giving love to those you used to think hurt you.
No matter what situation you find yourself in right now, you can choose to see the painful parts of it. You can also choose to see all the pieces that work well and support you. With the latter your stress levels will plummet moving you away from stress before it makes you ill or injured.
You can crate your dream life easier than you think. This method will lead you to Your Very Excellent Life.
In my previous article, “Reduce Stress By Knowing Your Life’s Direction And How To Measure Your Progress,” I explained the process of finding exactly where you are in every area of your life. Remember making your life assessment in these areas: physical health, emotional health, relationships, money matters, spirituality, fun and recreation, self image, living in the now?
Go back to that assessment now. You easily see the gap between where you are (on a scale of 1-10) vs. living Your Very Excellent Life with a 10 in all areas. Now you get to move forward toward that end goal truly living in happiness by creating your dream life.
Before you feel too overwhelmed to proceed thinking there is just no way to move from where you are no to where you want to be, the gaps being too wide to overcome without doing way too much work, take a deep breath and continue reading.
Feel more relaxed now? Great.
Now choose one (note I said just one) area of your life to improve. Got it? You can choose one with a high number or you can choose one with a low number. Your decision.
Okay. Now that you know which area to change first look at that present number rating (on that 1-10 scale). Now determine what single activity you can do, starting right now, that will raise your rating number by just 1-1.5 points.
You see change happens incrementally. When you make one little change you stick to it far more easily than you ever would if you tried to leap up by 2, 3, 4 or even more points at a time.
You can do anything if it fits into your life right? And if you can do it without stressing out, without exhausting yourself and without frustrating yourself because the task appears too difficult for you.
What do I mean?
Let’s say you want to begin to get healthier by taking care of your body. Right now you rate your physical health at a 6. You choose to eliminate eating bedtime snacks for one month.
Each night when you find yourself doing whatever activity would cause you to grab something to munch on before bed you make a conscious choice to live in the now, in the present moment and distract yourself with an activity that occupies your mind and allows you to forget about eating something you do not really need.
Repeat that behavior every night for 28 days. Each day you succeed you will increase your motivation to continue that new behavior. And you will do it without causing yourself pain or feelings of deprivation.
Re-evaluate your rating for your physical health at that time—after establishing your bedtime behavior. You will notice your health gain of at least 1 point. Now you will find yourself at a level 7 or even higher.
I know you can do it if you really want to. You know it too. So what are you waiting for?
Begin it now!
As a forty-something woman, divorced or in an unhappy marriage, you likely feel stress in many areas of your life. You can choose to break free from that stress.
Yes. I am talking about choices here. You may not think you have a choice about how your life goes. If that is how you think then realize you see yourself as and live your life as a victim.
The Universe never makes victims. It makes people who choose to think others hold power over them. Impossible. Your power lies within you.
Nothing outside of you can steal your power. You may fool yourself into thinking they took your power. Again, that would be how you perpetuate your victimhood.
If you find yourself in an unhappy marriage ask yourself why you stay there. You must be getting some benefits to live in unhappiness. But seriously, do the benefits outweigh the price you pay – the deficits in your emotional and physical health and well being?
In every moment you either grow or you deteriorate. If you feel stress you speed up the deterioration process. I suspect you already know that truth or you would not be reading this article right now.
So what can you do to make the life changes you know you want to make?
First step into your new decision to be free. Of the many middle-aged women I know who went through a divorce, even those who suffered tremendous loss, every single one of them agrees it was the best decision they ever made. Taking that step eventually led to releasing tons of weight off their shoulders.
That freed up energy contributed to their physical and emotional recovery pretty quickly. I am not saying there is no pain in divorce or separation. However I suggest that the pain of ending something that no longer works is far less than the fear of the unhappy marriage ending or the fear and anger of closing the door on what was supposed to be forever love.
I speak from personal and professional experience here. After 31 years of marriage one day I woke up and told myself I could not stand the pain any more. Both my husband and I had been unhappy for at least ten years. We tried counseling. I did many self improvement courses knowing as I changed he would have to change in relation to me.
That morning I told him we needed to get a divorce. We had not really stopped loving each other but we had gone our separate ways and trying to make something work that had ended years ago caused stress for both of us.
We agreed that a divorce would best serve us – both of us. Yes, it did hurt and yes both of us are so much happier for having gone through the pain because we went through it and finished it.
Decide what you want and follow through. It is the lingering and not knowing that builds stress inside you. Stop being emotionally lazy and go through the steps you need to take so you can come out the other end of the path to happiness instead of limbo.
Many women today find themselves in unhappy marriages. Surprisingly they do not know what to do about it.
Many of these women grew up in a time when the man provided the income and they stayed home to run the house. While running a home requires infinitely many managerial and other specialized skills, most of those women think they have no marketable skills to offer an employer. After all baking cookies or cleaning the bathroom would not be much of a job in a corporate office!
Given that limited self-image they see no way to take care of themselves if they leave the marriage. So they stay in very unhappy situations, feeling stuck with no alternative.
The stress of living with what they see as no hope for a different future takes its toll. Many of them suffer from depression as well as physical maladies.
Yet there is something they can do. Commiserating with other women in the same situation is not the optimal solution.
People with too much time on their hands tend to fall into and stay stuck paying all their attention to themselves. They focus on all that is wrong and missing from their lives.
Here is the catch 22, whatever you focus on expands. So when you constantly remind yourself of how unhappy you are, how lonely and maybe even how useless and unfulfilled you feel, all those sensations become magnified and more intense.
What can you do to stop feeling so awful all the time – other than leave the unhappy situation? Think about it. You spend your time thinking about you and how bad you feel.
Sure, you may be taking care of your spouse and his needs and maybe you are caring for an aging parent. Maybe you help your kids or friend with whatever they need. However, no matter what you do for others, you feel gypped and probably resentful—if you are truthful with yourself.
When is it your time to be the center of your life? When is it your turn to do what you want to do each day?
Doing what you want to for yourself is not selfish. Asking others to do what you want them to do for your benefit alone is selfish.
Taking care of you is paramount. Look at it this way…
What if something happens to you? What if you get seriously hurt or ill and can no longer take care of the world? What happens to everybody else?
What happens is they take care of themselves. So why can’t they take care of themselves now, today?