This is a question that plagues he thoughts of many divorced men for a long, long time. There is so little joy and happiness after a painful divorce many come to believe that happiness is an illusion and spiral into bitterness. Other go in search of happiness with a fervour that can only be described as manic as they clutch at anything that brings a fleeting sense of happiness, joy, or pleasure at the very least – only to find it slip away all too quickly.
So does happiness really exist? We all felt it when we got married surely – not that it ended well – but for a time we knew that for at least for a time we were happy. We remember childhood happiness as well, and happiness of friendship. We know the happy feelings when we get a present, or receive a compliment, or buy something we really wanted. Happiness does exist, but I believe we often describe such happiness with the wrong words. All of these things give us happiness for a moment in time, but they fade over time leaving us less joyful than before. Some might call this pleasure which brings to mind a more fleeting experience while happiness is something people want as a state of mind.
So what does this all have to do with men after divorce and the search for meaning?
I was reading an excellent article titles There is More to Life Than Being Happy which caught my attention the other day. It ties in very closely to the advice I give in my own ebook on Recovery for Men After Divorce but from a different perspective somewhat which I would like to explore.
The article stipulates that the endless pursuit of fleeting happiness is detrimental to a long term sense of self satisfaction in life. It insinuates at least that modern living has given us all the tools we need to engage in pleasurable pursuits, but has left many of us devoid of a purpose in life, and that purpose and meaning is what we derive real lasting contentment from. From the researchers of happiness and meaning cited by the article author:
“the researchers found that a meaningful life and happy life overlap in certain ways, but are ultimately very different. Leading a happy life, the psychologists found, is associated with being a “taker” while leading a meaningful life corresponds with being a “giver.”
Happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish life, in which things go well, needs and desire are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided,” the authors write.
So we two issues here – the definition of happiness and meaning. I want to explore this in relation to this blog which is how to get over the pain of divorce and it is quite tied together.
This I would argue the article really means as pleasure and pleasurable activities and things. They are tied to meeting the needs and wants we have as individuals, not the needs or wants of a group. They also seem to be defined as things that bring us pleasure from ‘taking’ things. Buying things, being given things and so forth. In marriage we can end up being takers in this regard. We love the attention of our wife and kids. We like the home we create, and the things we buy and use together. We like the security that marriage and a home seem to bring and the position it places us in society – that of a married man, a breadwinner, a member of our society with some social standing as a partner and often a parent. Whether you recognise this or have not really thought about it – these are things that can bring pleasure and happiness that are tied to the self – our ego.
Meaning and purpose are a different beast. They refer to people with a sense of meaning in their lives as being ‘givers’. Those who sacrifice, who worry, who give and see the point in such sacrifice are the ones who find a greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in their lives. As a married man this was a part of our sense of self as well. Men often sacrifice their time, their money, and their own pleasure for their wife and their family. This is something some do willingly, while other might resent somewhat – but it is a massive part of our psyche. The sacrifices men make in marriage bring pleasure when they are praised of course, but it also brings a sense of purpose to build a family even if nothing else in life has a sense of purpose.
The Destruction of Both
Divorce destroys both of these things. The loss of purpose however is obviously the most worrying for men. Without the centre of family life many men are devoid of a meaningful day to day existence. They try to fill this gaping hole with pleasures such as alcohol, drugs, sex, entertainment, even violence for some. Nothing fills this gaping hole unless they find a new sense of meaning. Religion does it for some, work can also fill that gap for many, but unless they are truly believers on those things they are a shadow of the meaning they gained from family.
This journey to finding a meaning in life and a new sense of your own self in the universe is the crux of my men after divorce ebook on the psychological front – but backed up by practical tips to help you edge towards this loftier goal. If you are suffering after divorce perhaps this strikes a chord with you – if so, please comment and lets start a conversation about happiness, divorce and meaning.