Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Unhappiness Gap

It seems that James J. Gross, in the Maryland Divorce Legal Crier, has an almost limitless supply of relevant, analytical and often encouraging comments about family relationships. Last week, he published the following suggestions that can be useful for people facing divorce or for people wanting to avoid a divorce.

"A recent study concludes that a happiness gap between spouses is a harbinger of divorce. It goes further to state that the odds of divorce increase if the wife is unhappier than the husband, because women file more divorces than men. Here are my two best tips for managing unhappiness, in marriage or divorce.

"1. Make a Grateful List. It is easy to look at the glass half full. It is human nature to always want more than we have. And your brain will keep pumping out negative thoughts as long as you dwell on what you don’t have instead of what you do have. An antidote for this is to write down all the things in your life that you are grateful for. Read this list out loud every morning.

"2. Keep a Good Things Notebook. Get a small spiral notebook. At the end of each day, write down all the good things that happened to you that day. Someone smiled at you or complimented your outfit. Keep it simple and short. Try to find at least five things a day."

I heard similar suggestions from a life coach in Texas several years ago, but I like trying out these ideas in the context of a marriage. Actually, they are probably not a magic shield that can protect you from divorce if you wait to try them out when there are serious relationship issues. If adopted and used regularly and early on, they can probably provide a lot of preventive benefit.

On the other hand, if you find yourself facing a divorce or deciding to pursue a divorce, following these suggestions should help ease your pain and assist in your emotional transition to single person. While it would obviously be helpful to the "leavee" (the one being left), a focus on the positive could certainly benefit the "leaver" (the one deciding to leave the relationship)as well. If nothing else, the emphasis on the "good" aspects of the situation should help avoid the often depressing situation of sitting around thinking about how bad the situation is.

There's not much work involved in following the suggestions. Please give them a try and then let us know if it helped.

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