What do you do when your spouse isn’t enough?
One night a few of years ago I lay awake in bed, restless. Our daughter was about 8 months old, and I was on summer break from work, which meant I was home with her during the day every day. My feet ached, my back was sore, and I felt so hollow inside. I remember thinking to myself, I have what so many women keep hoping for-a husband who loves me, a beautiful child-why don’t I feel happy right now?
I thought maybe I needed to get out the house more, that he needed to take me out more often. We tried that, but I still couldn’t shake the feeling of dissatisfaction with my life. I would go on Facebook and see people I had gone to school with traveling, going on vacation, getting promotions, getting advanced degrees, and then look at my life and wonder why I wasn’t doing anything great like them. I would look at my own life and in comparison I felt like mine was very mediocre.
My unhappiness started to spill over into my marriage. My mood started to become very depressed at times and it made my husband feel like he had to tiptoe around me because he didn’t know what would set me off.
If any of this sounds familiar to you, know that you’re not alone. So many women struggle with feelings of unhappiness after their first baby. So many women continue to struggle with it even after several babies, and here’s why:
Getting married and having kids doesn’t bring fulfillment-it only EXPOSES your state of fulfillment. So if you find yourself feeling unfulfilled NOW, chances are you were already living an unfulfilled life THEN-you just didn’t realize it.
So what’s at the root of that feeling you have deep down inside? Why aren’t you happy?
1. You saw marriage as the cure for your issues.
I came across a quote today on Twitter that said “Getting married won’t make your baggage disappear, it’ll make it more visible. Sit down and unpack your baggage.”
So many of us are living in a state of avoidance. We’re avoiding dealing with our baggage-those deep-rooted issues that we’re so desperate to hide from people. Were you abused as a child? Did you grow up an orphan, or abandoned by one of your parents? Are you insecure about your looks or have an addiction?
Getting married CANNOT cure you of these things. You know what will? Facing them head-on. Go to therapy, join a support group, find people who can help you overcome whatever it is you’re dealing with. Until you get REAL help, and start working towards SOLUTIONS, you will be stuck. Nothing can make you happy if you’re broken inside.
2. You haven’t gone after your big dream or goal.
As women, especially as mothers, it’s so easy to put ourselves on the backburner for the sake of our husbands or kids. It’s so easy to use them as an excuse for not chasing our dreams and getting our goals accomplished.
I know this because this is exactly what I was doing. I had a dream in my mind that was so big that it scared me. I didn’t know how to make it happen. It didn’t seem practical or logical, so I sat on it. And the longer I let it sit in my mind without taking action, the more dissatisfied I became with my current circumstances. I felt angry and resentful with myself and I would take it out on my husband as if it was he was keeping me from living out my potential.
No matter how long you’ve been married, or how many kids you have, if you have a vision for yourself that makes you excited and that you’re passionate about, YOU CAN STILL MAKE IT HAPPEN. It’s simply a matter of making a plan of steps to accomplish it.
How can you teach your children to go after their dreams if you’re still sitting on yours? How can you teach them to be happy if you aren’t happy yourself?
3. You got married before you were settled in your identity.
Some of us got married very young. It wasn’t until I hit my 30s that I finally started to feel like I had clarity about who I was and the type of person I wanted to be. It was only then that I had a clear picture of the place I wanted to occupy in this world and what I wanted to contribute to it.
Brain scientists say that our prefrontal cortex isn’t fully developed until about 25 years old. For some people it happens sooner, and for others it happens later. This is the part of the brain that’s in charge of planning complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision making, and controlling your social behavior. In other words, it’s where you decide who you are.
If you got married before you were settled into who you are, before you had a chance to decide your personal values and the principles you want to live by, you may find yourself in an identity crisis once you’ve reached your 30s or 40s.
Maybe you were raised in a church culture that was very legalistic, and you’ve lived your life by rules other people made for you because you were afraid of God’s wrath or going to hell. Maybe you’ve been living according to norms ingrained in you by your culture because it’s what everyone is expecting of you and you don’t want to disappoint them.
Whatever it is, you will never be happy living a life that other people want you to live. You’ll never be happy in the box someone else has created for you. God created us with a free will. He himself doesn’t force anything on us. And you know what? He’s not as restrictive as our Christian culture has made him out to be.
Take a good long look at yourself. Do you have deep-rooted issues that you need to stop running from? Are you sitting on a dream that you’ve been too afraid to chase? Have you closed yourself in a box and live your life trying to live up to the expectations of other people?
If you’ve answered yes to any of these 3 questions, then you are living an unfulfilled life. And you can’t be a great wife and mom if you’re not happy, healthy, and whole. Take time to do some soul-searching. When you’re done reading this, get a piece of paper, or a journal, and write down what those issues are. Start making some phone calls to find a therapist or support group. Write down your big dream, and start working backwards step by step to make a plan on how to make it a reality. Ask yourself, what would make ME proud of me?
Happiness starts inside you as you come to love yourself for the person you are right now. Your happiness is found in the gap between who you are right now and the person you want to be. As that gap closes and you become someone you are proud of, you’ll find your happiness increasing. The way you view yourself will start to spill over into your external world-your marriage, your relationship with your kids, and your career, and you’ll find yourself happy and whole.
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