Take Charge of Your Own Happiness Your chances of being happy are better when you're married, but what is happiness? BY DR. SCOTT HALTZMAN & THERESA FOY DIGERONIMO
Know what makes you happy.
Abraham Lincoln once said, "People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."
To this a rather simplistic view of human emotion, I can hear women all over America saying, "That’s easy for a man to say." But happily married women instinctively know that Honest Abe’s words are true, and apply it to their lives everyday. Despite the difficulties you face juggling the often inequitable workload of being a wife and perhaps mother or career professional (or both), you can choose to be happy and, by doing so, infect your husband with happiness too.
What Exactly Is Happiness
In America, we see happiness as an inalienable right, on the same ground as life and liberty, guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence. But a more careful reading of that brilliant and subtle document says we have the right to pursue happiness—ah, not quite the same thing as the right to be happy. So let’s put more focus on how to pursue that thing called happiness.
Let’s first define what it is we’re in pursuit of. I think we can agree that happiness is a positive emotional state that exists in varying degrees: contentment at its lowest end and euphoria at its highest.
Yeah, this is good for a textbook definition, but still it’s too vague to help us go out and get a piece of it. After all, happiness is abstract, not something we can hold in our hands saying, "This. This is happiness" (except of course if that something is a 3-karat diamond ring—that could be an exception).
Complicating out attempt to define happiness is the fact that this positive emotional state is produced by different things in different people. One person, for example, may find happiness at the ballet, while another finds it at a baseball game. One may find happiness in a man who is protective and attentive; another may find happiness only in a man who gives her independence and space.
For this reason, neither I nor all the happily married women in the world can tell you, "If you have this one thing, you’ll have a happy marriage." But in this chapter I will share with you secrets of women who have learned to take charge of their own happiness and have achieved this wonderful state of marital bliss. You can too.
1. Fully understand what marital happiness is not so that you can stop wasting time and effort on unrealistic expectations.
2. Define what marital happiness is to you and your husband.
3. Make a conscious plan to attain that happiness today.
REMEMBER THIS Your Chances of Being Happy Are Higher If You’re Married
Only 34 percent of adults in this country say they’re very happy, according to the latest Pew Research Center survey. Half say they are pretty happy. But the numbers improve for married people! Among married people, 43 percent say they are very happy, beating out the 24 percent of unmarrieds who say the same. These numbers hold up for men as well as for women, and for the old as well as the young.
What Is Happiness For You?
Knowing what happiness is not is a good start in securing your place as a happily married woman. I hope it helps, but I do realize that it’s bad form to describe something by what it’s not. If I told you that a hammer is not a screwdriver, it still wouldn’t really tell you what you need to know about a hammer. So the question remains: What is happiness?
You’d think that as a psychiatrist with over twenty years of clinical experience I’d have the definition by now—but I don’t. My years of talking to women (and being married to one) have taught me that there is no one thing that makes women happy. And I’ll bet your husband has no real grasp of what makes you happy either, but if you identify exactly what it is and tell him directly, he’ll soon catch on.
This article has been excerpted from "The Secrets of Happily Married Women: How to Get More Out of Your Relationship by Doing Less" by Dr. Scott Haltzman and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo. The book tells stories from real women who are happy in their relationships. These women know how to get more out of their partners by doing less, not trying so hard to make men perfect, not dragging them to couples therapy, and not expecting them to think or behave like women. You can purchase "The Secrets of Happily Married Women: How to Get More Out of Your Relationship by Doing Less" (click here) at Amazon.com.