After divorce, are you making this happiness mistake? Let me explain.

A while ago, I was laid off from a 9-5 job and I started to panic. As I started to assemble a resume and apply for new jobs, a voice in the back of my head kept chiming in: “I will be happy again once I am in a new job. Once I get that first pay check, I know I’ll smile and feel better about everything.”

Do you see the dangerous pattern going on here?

 
 

You’ve probably done something like this, too: Relying on external factors to make you happy after a decades-long marriage.

This can sabotage your ability to move on and recover from divorce. Discovering happiness is not easy. In fact, it’s a life-long quest. But we will go nowhere if we are dependent on outside factors to shape how we move on from divorce after 50.

Once X Happens, Only Then Will I Be or Feel Y…

At some point in our lives we’ve all done this. And, as we learn to heal and move the hell on from this divorce, we may still fall into what I call the “X-Y Trap.”

We say to ourselves that it will take a certain external situation – what I call the X – in order for us to achieve an internal state – what I call the Y. While this occurs in everyday situations, the X-Y Trap loves to linger during the divorce process. Do any of these sound familiar?

“Once the papers are signed, then I will be happy.”

“I’ll be happy again when I find a new partner to be with. Somebody who will be so much better than my ex-spouse.”

“When I move out of this house with all its memories and ghosts, I’ll be happy.”

“As soon as I quit feeling so overwhelmed, then I can work on being happy.”

So, how do we avoid falling into the X-Y Trap? And, if we are already ensnared, how can we get out of it? 

Making Internal Changes After a Divorce After 50

Only by changing what goes on internally can we start finding happiness.

It’s simple, but not easy.

We must start by looking inward and relying on ourselves to be happy, even after ending a decades-long marriage. No amount of money or outside validation or relationship status will do it for us. We must consciously choose to be grateful and choose happiness, even when we feel overwhelmed and like we are a complete mess.

We must do this even when we feel as though we are alone or betrayed, or feel bad or impatient, or feel like we will never get through the divorce and emerge on the other side, stronger and more confident than from where we started. Those feelings all derive from outside influence that we choose to react towards in a way that does not help us.

We must choose internally to embrace the fact we are now becoming independent – not only financially and now having the ability to live on our terms – but independent in relying on ourselves to be happy. This is something no outside forces should determine for us.

An Exercise to Discover Your Internal Happiness

It may have been years – if ever – that we have looked within ourselves to find a happiness that does not rely on external factors. It may seem overwhelming and impossible, especially when we are stressed-out and grieving. But it does not have to be. Take a look at the easy exercise below, with examples to get you started.

Step 1: Name the things you have relied on to be happy. Some of my own examples are below if you need to get started.

Example: A certain number in my bank account will make me happy. Being in a relationship with a man who treats me right will make me happy.

Step 2: Flip the script. Acknowledge how external ideas may have painted an illusion for you. Then turn that idea inwards – making yourself responsible. Take a look at my own examples!

Example: No relationship in the world is going to make me happy if I do not love myself and treat myself right. From now on, I am going to focus on myself and work on myself. I need to start putting myself first – speaking up for myself, taking better care of myself, and finding joy in being alone. I choose to enjoy this new journey of loving myself – the greatest love story a person can have.

Step 3: Whenever you are triggered and thinking that you need something external to make you happy, do this exercise.

Do it often. And the more you practice finding internal happiness, the more your life becomes filled with gratitude, and not needing to rely on some outside factor you cannot control to make you happy. You are strong enough to find that within yourself.

What external things have you depended on to make you happy? How do you take responsibility for your own happiness after divorce at 50? Please join the conversation on Facebook.

Martha BodyfeltMartha Bodyfelt is a divorce coach, whose website “Surviving Your Split” helps readers navigate their divorce with less stress and drama, so they can move on with their lives. For your Free Divorce Warrior Survival Kit, stop by Surviving Your Split or drop Martha a line at martha@survivingyoursplit.com. You can also visit her on Facebook.

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