Jean complained about being unhappy in her second marriage of three years…
…and while there was an element of truth to this, it was only a piece of the puzzle to her unhappiness.
On closer examination, Jean talked about being unhappy with several aspects of her life (she “hated” her job, had put on weight and was uncomfortable with her body, her teenage daughter had abruptly left home and was causing the family significant stress, she felt lost spiritually…).
“I guess my marriage is OK…my husband is kind and caring most of the time, but I’m just not happy. Shouldn’t my marriage make me happy?” she asked at a recent marriage/relationship enhancement workshop.
Jean married her second husband with the expectation that the relationship and subsequent marriage would lift her out of the funk she’d been feeling for quite some time. And she did feel better initially– her mood was elevated and she had more energy and motivation to engage more fully in life. She believed this was proof that she had ended up with “Mr. Right.”
But after the initial excitement and rush of new love waned (which it does in all relationships), Jean began feeling like her old self: Somewhat depressed, unhappy with significant parts of her life—feeling stuck and anxious about making the changes that might help lift her out of the rut she’d been struggling with. Now she wondered if she had ended up with “Mr. Wrong.”
Marriage Help: What is the “cause” of my unhappiness?
It’s human nature to look for explanations, the “reasons” why something has happened to us or why we’re feeling a certain way. This process helps you to make sense of the world and yourself.
So if you’re dissatisfied with your life, it’s natural to look for what might be feeding your unhappiness. And if your marriage/relationship feels like it is falling short of your relationship ideals or you and your spouse/partner are going through a rough period, it’s logical to conclude that you’ve found the “reason” for your unhappiness.
But before jumping to the conclusion that your marriage/relationship is the cause of your overall life-dissatisfaction, it can be helpful to take stock of your entire life (work/career, friends, family, hobbies & creative passions, spirituality, physical health/well-being) to determine the factor(s) that may be contributing to your funk.
In another words, don’t look at your marriage/relationship in isolation from the rest of your life.
Is Jean unhappily married, with the wrong man? Or is she unhappy and married, pinning her recurring malaise on her marriage?
The more Jean looked at the big picture of her life, her perspective about her marriage started to shift. She began to realize that while there was room for improvement in her marriage (like there is in most marriages/relationships), her relationship wasn’t a dark cloud blocking her happiness.
Jean’s story highlights an interesting dilemma that couples should be aware of: The quality of your life outside of your marriage/relationship and how you feel about yourself (feelings of self-worth) will impact and color your perception of your spouse/partner and your relationship. It just might be a little unfair (and unrealistic) to expect your marriage to make you happy when you are dissatisfied with large chunks of your life.
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Dr. Rich Nicastro