The other day I got a text from a friend, she wanted me to help her figure out why she feels unhappy.
This is the question she sent me:
How do you determine if your unhappiness is because of marriage/spouse, symptom of current illness or chemical imbalance?
After I wrote her a long response, I decided that this is a great question for a blog post.
Why Am I Unhappy?
As you know, happiness comes from within. Circumstances and people can affect our happiness levels, but generally happiness is based in a mindset. For some midlife women, happiness seems impossible to achieve. We have all the things we think we want (or need) and yet, we are unhappy.
Have You Put Your Happiness On A To Do List?
Somehow, we put personal happiness on a future to do list. It goes something like this: When the kids are grown, when I lose 20 pounds, when my spouse stops drinking, when……and when… and when….
Now it’s your turn, fill in the blank “I will be happy when__________________.
Most likely the thing that you put in the blank has to do with relationships or personal goals. The problem with relationships controlling our happiness is that there is another person involved. We all know that trying to control other people is a losing game.
If your happiness is attached to a personal goal, then you are less likely to feel happy. Focusing on a future goal is one way to delay dealing with your unhappiness. It is a constantly moving finish line; you are never sure when you finish the marathon to find happiness. You spend hours daydreaming about happiness, but you feel stuck at the start line.
Three Things That Can Make You Unhappy
My friends’ question was a good one. She hit on the three things that are most likely to make you feel unhappy as a midlife woman.
- Relationships- particularly marriage and committed partnerships
- Illness-chronic diseases and managing their impact on your life
- Brian Biochemistry- the need to supplement your mental health baseline with supporting medication prescribed by a doctor.
Start With A Doctor If You Are Unhappy
If you are in pain or struggle with a chronic disease, go to your doctor. I know it sounds basic, but here is your reminder that you need to find a way to make your pain stop. Because finding relief from pain and fatigue is foundational for your happiness.
Something as simple as back pain can turn me into an emotional crab cake for days. If you are in continual pain, go see a doctor. If your doctor cannot help you, find another doctor. You are worth the effort, time, and money it takes to find a good doctor who can help you with your physical body.
Address Mental Health Issues If You Are Unhappy
If you have unresolved mental health issues, please go see a doctor/psychiatrist. Brain biochemistry is best handled by a psychiatrist who has experience in mental health. There is no shame in needing help in balancing your body chemistry.
Let’s Do A Deep Dive On Personal Unhappiness
When we are unhappy, all we want is to be happy again. So, we spend time thinking about earlier days when we felt more joy and hope. The truth is that happiness can be conditional. Circumstances and personal beliefs about a good life help us define our happiness. Each woman has a unique set of needs that can make her feel happy. If she feels her needs are not being met, unhappiness is the result.
Unhappiness Can Be Complicated
I believe that happiness is first found in ourselves. And when we live a life that feels fake, we will struggle with being unhappy. Knowing ourselves is the only way to design a happy life. Sometimes it can take hard emotional work to identify our core needs.
For me, one of my core needs is to have a spouse that is supportive of my goals and dreams. I would be unhappy if I had a spouse that was indifferent to my ambition and hopes. In a former marriage, I had a spouse who offered me “micro support”. Just enough to make me believe he was supportive, but not enough to help me pursue my dreams. That dynamic left me feeling exhausted, frustrated, and lonely.
If you haven’t binge watched “The Sopranos” yet, grab some snacks and settle in for monuemental spousal unhappiness. Tony and Carmela have a unhealthy relationship dynamic that has existed for years, until Carmela decides she can’t stand it anymore. FYI- language and intense emotions in this scene.
Can I Fix My Unhappiness?
There is no simple solution for finding happiness when you are surrounded by challenging circumstances. Realizing that you are worthy of experiencing happiness is the first step. If you don’t feel that you deserve happiness, you allow unhappiness to determine your life.
When happiness is being handed out, women are often last in line. We put everyone else before us, as we have been culturally trained to do, and then feel angry with how our life has turned out. Try to get in touch with your feelings around being unhappy. Being truthful about your negative feelings helps you create happiness.
- Angry that you are unable to control your spouse’s behavior?
- Sad that you have let your dreams die?
- Defeated by the endless cycle of ignoring/denying your feelings?
- Hopeless that you will ever feel happy?
You are not alone. There are many women who feel like you do.
The Three Questions To Identify Your Unhappiness
Here are the three questions I sent back to my friend to help her identify why she is unhappy.
- If I had a physical symptom/chronic disease, but little marital distress, how would I feel?
- Taking meds for my mental health, assuming I can tolerate the side effects, could I cope better with my marital distress?
- If I left the marriage and pursued my idea of happiness, would I feel it in my body? Would there be relief from leaving a stressful, no-change situation?
Your Partner Can Affect Your Happiness
Happiness is directly influenced by your intimate relationships. Yes, are responsible for our own happiness, but living in a negative home environment can defeat the most positive mindset.
We are wired for connection and intimacy, built on a foundation of trust. Truthfully, when we live with spouses that deny their unhealthy behavior, it erodes our happiness. If we can work with our spouse to identify and change our destructive behaviors, there is a high likelihood that happiness can be restored. Both partners need to be fully committed to honesty and receiving uncomfortable feedback as the destructive patterns are revealed and then changed.
You Are Worthy Of Happiness
Identifying your core needs is critical for a healthy and happy partnership. Believing that you are worthy of having your core needs met is vital. And don’t forget, sharing them with your partner is an act of self-care and vulnerability!
You are worthy of happiness and a life that is fulfilling.
Drop me a comment here or head over to my IG @midlifeismagical and send me a DM. It is my wish to create content that helps you create a life you love.