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The Sneaky Reason You're Unknowingly Sabotaging Your Second Marriage
One night, while sitting across the table in a nice restaurant, Barry reached over to hold my hands. His thumbs caressed mine as we chatted while waiting for our food.
My cup was running over with happiness as usual. Our Saturday had been packed with fun things: puttering in our garden, checking out bathtubs for our future renovation and shopping at our favorite Italian market for our upcoming dinner party.
“Are you happy?” I asked him, to me it was a rhetorical question, however his answer shocked me to my core.
“Yes, I’m happy, but…”
I could barely breathe. Not the “but” word.
When I’m teaching workshops on couple’s communication, we talk about the dangers of the word “but”.
Whenever you use the word “but” after a statement, you invalidate what you just said.
“I love you, but…” No one ever wants to hear that, nothing good is coming down that pipeline.
“I’m sorry, but…” You know instantly that they’re not really sorry and the blame game is starting.
“I don’t mean to be an ass, but…” A troll commenting on a Facebook comment I made…and then he proceeded to be an ass.
I didn’t know how to be happy for the first 50 years of my life. Sure, there were days of happiness, I wasn’t terribly unhappy all the time, but I never learned how to be happy.
I waited for external events to bring me happiness.
Turning 50 became the catalyst to change my life. I’d been divorced for 10 years and I wanted to feel happy.
I started a blog called Each Day is a Jewel where I recorded daily gratitudes and the little things that made me happy. The other day I found it languishing on the Internet, I have no idea how to reclaim it or log in to it, but it was fun to read the beginnings of the change of my life.
Once I learned how to be happy, to truly bring happiness into my life every day, my entire life changed for the better.
I was more successful at work; I made more money and best of all I attracted Barry, the man of my dreams into my life.
These days I wake up happy each morning beside my husband and fall asleep in his arms, happier than I have ever been in my life. Our days are filled with laughter, connection and love, and I express my happiness to Barry every day. Sometimes he seems to squirm a bit at my over-the-top expressions of love and joy.
So, when Barry said he was happy, but…I feared the worst. A million thoughts flashed through my mind from “how could he not be happy” to “what in the world I am going to do?”
My beloved wasn’t happy.
If jumping to conclusions were an aerobic activity I would be in extremely good shape!
“But…” he said, “I feel happier than I think I deserve to be.”
Ohhhh. The Happiness Quota Paradox.
As children we were taught not count our chickens before they hatched. We were told not to get our hopes up, and if it’s too good to be true, then it’s not.
As adults, we’ve gone through divorce and experienced great unhappiness in our romantic relationships. We have internalized these limiting beliefs and begin to think deep down that we’re not entitled to unlimited joy and happiness, that it’s not even possible.
Barry said, “I feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
Our fear is that we are somehow going to lose it all. If we are too happy, it must be too good to be true.
Somewhere along the line we subconsciously decide how much happiness we’re allowed and when we exceed that quota, we get uncomfortable, squirmy almost.
Sometimes I get these same jitters. A negative thought will pop into my mind. Something like “you’re too goofy” or “you’re not good enough for Barry.”
There are times when I have jumped on this bandwagon and ridden it far down the road to that dark place where I am in tears because I think Barry is going to leave me.
Ridiculous as this sounds, our subconscious is only trying to protect us from getting hurt again.
Without even knowing it, we have set an upper limit to our happiness and when we exceed that limit…
SCHREECH! We slam on the brakes in an attempt to reduce the amount of carnage that is inevitably going to hit us.
The crazy thing is, just as you are beginning to enjoy the fruits of connection and happiness together, one or the other of you subconsciously sabotages the situation in an effort to minimize the potential for loss and hurt.
More than likely things were ticking along just fine, everyone was happy until someone got upset or offended. Just like that, out of the blue, a squabble erupted and your relationship spiraled back to a lower level of happiness, a comfort zone where you are less likely to get hurt if things go wrong.
The sad thing is that we are subconsciously limiting our chances to experience the full, unlimited expression of love and happiness that is possible for us in our new relationship.
This is especially true if you both are coming into your remarriage from divorce. You each bring your own threshold of what is an acceptable and attainable level of happiness. Like Barry and I, your upper quota limits are probably different as well, which skews the balance even more.
The first thing to do is take a step back and notice when fights or squabbles erupt.
What was going on just before?
Once you identify this destructive pattern by recognizing that you each have a happiness quota limit, you can talk about it authentically and honestly.
Exposing this sneaky sabotaging monster to the light of day gives you power to eliminate it from your lives completely. You can even name the monster, so that if one of you sees it rearing its ugly head you can call it out in a spirit of love and humor.
Second marriages are a really marvelous re-do. It’s your second chance at happiness and the potential is unlimited once you banish the ghosts of your limiting beliefs.
We believe that second (or third) marriages can be filled with love and happiness!
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Barry and J'Anne ♥
Transformational Marriage Mentors