The Happiness Connection  

Welcome marital change

I love people watching. Recently, I was at a family wedding and had the perfect opportunity to indulge in a little human observation.

I hadn’t seen much of this branch of the family for many years, because they are spread over two continents, neither of which is North America.

The last time our entire families were together, the parents of the bride were married; now they are divorced. I suspect that their post-marriage relationship has had some challenges, but they have created a rapport that is low on tension and hostility.

The wedding was beautiful. I loved catching up with people I hadn’t seen in a very long time.

As the evening progressed, tables were moved to create a dance floor. It was wonderful to see guests of all ages enjoying this activity together.

At one-point, the father of the bride and his new partner danced a jive. As you might imagine, people stopped dancing to watch. Many women, including myself, looked on enviously. There is a shortage of men who know how to lead their partner in structured dance steps.

I noticed his ex watching the dancing spectacle and I suspect she was wishing he had learned to dance while he was married to her. She may well have seen the man she wanted all those years ago, finally manifested when he wasn’t hers any more.

Sadly, it was the end of their relationship that caused him to consciously make changes in his life. If they had stayed together, it is less likely that would have happened. It can take a major incident to inspire you to change if you aren’t consciously aware of the effect it has on your life.

The father of the bride learned to dance because his marital status changed, not because he was driven to be a dancer. He wasn’t consciously wanting to learn to jive, but he went out with a woman who had a dance studio, so learning to dance made sense.

Too often couples get comfortable with their relationships and assume that once they find a way to peacefully live together, the work is done. That is far from the truth. Every day holds the possibility for unexpected occurrences that cause you, your partner, and your relationship to change.

Marriages that go the distance tend to be the ones that expect change and aren’t scared of it when it arrives. They know they can find a way to deal with whatever life throws at them.

The first time I saw my father-in-law hold my mother-in-law’s hand was when she had cancer. It seemed so sad that it took her illness to spur him into publicly displaying his affection for her.

I doubt my father-in-law had thought much about hand holding, he simply followed the example his parents had set for him. It wasn’t until he was faced with the fragility of life that physical contact became important.

I used to sigh when I saw him display affection for his subsequent partner. Beryl would have loved him to be more like that, but he changed because of her illness and death. If she had lived to a ripe old age, it is likely he would never have held her hand.

No one stays the same throughout their lives. Everyone changes, but you can choose how you approach and react to it.

You can welcome it into your life as an opportunity to grow, or you can try to avoid it until circumstances thrust it upon you.

Having it spring out at you when you least expect it can take its toll and gives you very little opportunity to prepare yourself or take any level of control over the situation.

I recommend that you familiarize yourself with change. Step out of your comfort zone every day, until the unexpected feels familiar. Knowing that you can deal with whatever new situation comes your way is empowering.

Perhaps a marriage could have been saved if the participants had approached change as something good and practised stepping out of their comfort zones together. Like the old saying tells us, sometimes a change is as good as a rest.

Maybe my in-laws would have enjoyed more physical contact if they hadn’t settled for the way it had always been rather than rocking the boat. Who’s to say?

I recommend that you examine your attitude toward change. It is going to happen, so decide whether you want to turn away from it for as long as possible or accept and embrace it.

If you choose the latter, start by seeking out new experiences and opportunities.

Rather than waiting for the inevitable appearance of change to materialize in your life and upset your marital balance, welcome it in on a regular basis. Look at it as an opportunity to strengthen your bond and keep life interesting.


Avoid energy vampires

My writing spot for this week is very different from the peace I enjoyed in St. James’ Park last week.

I am in a totally different part of London, sitting in a noisy, bustling coffee shop, lamenting the fact that they don’t have filter coffee.

Coffee shops are one of my favourite places to write and I am in good company. J.K. Rowling created her Harry Potter masterpiece in coffee shops in Scotland.

I think it is the energy they contain that makes them such a good environment for writers. Regardless of whether it is the morning rush or an afternoon lull, their energy is electric.

According to dictionary.com, energy of this type is defined as the strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity.

Energy within you can be positively or negatively charged.

You may not give your personal energy a lot of thought, but it is important to be aware of if you want to create a life and relationships that you love. You can do this by consciously checking in with how you feel, several times a day.

Your energy comes from a variety of sources including your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. The healthier your lifestyle the more likely you are to have good energy. Having good social connections and personal relationships will also contribute to the quality of your energy.

These things are all within your control. You choose how you want to feel. If you are suffering from lack of energy, go for a walk in nature, improve your diet, exercise more, or nurture your relationships.

Unfortunately, you are not an island. When you interact with others, you are susceptible to absorbing their energy.

Energy transfers between people who are in close proximity.

Have you ever walked into a room and immediately felt uneasy? This is energy at work. You can feel the collective feelings of the people within.

Surround yourself with dissatisfied co-workers and you will soon feel dissatisfied.

Spend the evening with complaining friends and your life will quickly look much less satisfying. Talk to your cousin who is depressed and before long you will feel drained.

As a person who suffers from depression, I am not suggesting you should cut these people out of your life, but have some strategies to help you avoid being drained.

Boost your energy

Before you spend time with people who carry negative energy, make sure you are in prime energetic condition. Go for a walk, meditate, or watch a feel-good movie.

Overwhelm their energy with yours

By ensuring you are feeling positive, you can spread your vibe to them instead of simply absorbing theirs. If you are aware of what is happening, you can consciously work toward making this happen.

Limit the amount of time you spend around people with negative energy.

Look for signs that you are beginning to feel less energized, and take that as an indication that it is time for you to leave. If it is a family member, little and often may be better than occasionally spending a great deal of time together.

Take reinforcements with you

If you are meeting someone who has a tendency to be negative, including a colleague or friend who radiates positive energy can combine with yours to make the experience less draining. This is a variation on the overwhelming their energy with yours theme.

Know when to cut ties

If you have family members who bear a strong energetic similarity to Eeyore, you may not want to cut them out of your life, but friends who you dread spending time with, or work colleagues that leave you frustrated and low may not be the best choice of people to spend time with.

Working with people you love to be around is one of the biggest bonuses of any job, and it may be time to rethink your work situation.

Not all friends will be in your life forever and though it is a tough thing to do, making the decision to spend less or no time with people who are constantly complaining or criticizing may be the kindest thing you can do for yourself.

Cleanse your energy

When you finish your time around low energy people, consciously take time to cleanse the negative by doing something you know helps you regain your healthy levels.

Become more mindful of your energy. Check in with it regularly throughout the day. If it is lagging, do something to lift it. Don’t wait until you hit rock bottom.

his is what tends to happen when you are unconscious of your energy and how it is affected by others.

We all know someone who attracts people the minute they walk into a room. They may be a stranger, but you feel pulled to be in their physical space. This is usually because the energy they carry is extremely positive.

Humans don’t want to feel low, or depressed. If you can raise your vibration by being in the company of someone who carries a vibrant aura, you are likely to find a reason to approach them.

These people attract others who want a piece of their energy, because they know they will feel better when they leave their presence than they did when they first arrived.

Everyone has the right to choose what they want their energy charge to be like, but it is equally important to remember that your energy can be affected by the energy you come into contact with.

Choose to carry positive energy as much as possible and then find other people with the same vibration. Not only will you boost your own energy, you will help them increase theirs.

The type of energy you exude is largely within your control. You can choose whether to glow with positivity, or be like Charlie Brown’s friend Pig Pen and carry a cloud of negativity with you.

Like most things in life, you may not be able to choose your circumstances, but you can choose how to view them and how to respond.

Have a Plan B

As I write this, I am sitting on a bench in St. James’s Park in London, enjoying one of the most intense heat waves on record in Britain.

I’m enjoying it because I am in the shade relishing the early evening breeze.

In Kelowna, 30 degree temperatures aren’t unusual or extreme, but in the U.K. it is something of a rarity. Newspaper headlines talk about heat related deaths and how to prevent them.

If I hadn’t lived here for the best part of 20 years, I might be rolling my eyes at the absurdity of it all. The opposite weather extreme is also a problem here. A skiff of snow causes the entire country to come to a skidding halt.

Britain isn’t prepared for extreme temperatures, or unusual weather conditions. Few places have air conditioning and even fewer keep snow shovels on hand.

The elderly and physically weak die every time extreme temperatures occur.

When I lived here, I bought a fan for every bedroom the first time I heard a forecast for warmer than normal temperatures. I need cool air to sleep and more importantly, I wanted my young children to sleep well.

Most parents will understand the importance of having well-rested offspring.

Not everyone adopts the same philosophy I did. Some waited until the hot weather arrived, and cooling fans were like gold dust. As soon as the crisis was over, thoughts of fans vanished from their thoughts until the next time the temperatures soared.

The British heat wave mirrors the way many people cope with unexpected situations in their lives. Some people are prepared, while others wait until the event occurs before they give it any thought.

A sudden job loss, death of a loved one, or unexpected end of a romantic relationship can leave you reeling. One day you feel happy and stable, and the next you feel battered and bruised believing you have hit rock bottom.

Is there any way to minimize or prepare yourself for an unexpected, negative event? I believe there is.

  • Don’t rely on other people to make you happy or to be your foundation. Enjoy all the people in your life, but don’t give your personal power to another person.

If you expect someone else to make you happy, you will be waving goodbye to both them and your happiness if they leave for whatever reason. Make sure you continue to have your own friends, hobbies, and goals.

  • Stay in the loop of every area of your life. Don’t leave the finances, family responsibilities, or home maintenance to your partner.

You don’t have to physically pay the bills, but know what needs to be paid and how much money is coming into your bank. Make sure you could jump in and maintain family life and schedules if you needed to. Enjoy your partner’s cooking, but make sure you know how to prepare basic meals.

  • Have a Plan B. I’m not suggesting that you put a divorce plan together when you are happily married, but consider how you would survive if you were no longer with your spouse for whatever reason.

This might involve keeping up to date with your chosen career. You may not want work to be your major focus, but working one day a week, or being on call to help at peak seasons or to cover for others, puts you in a good position to return to work if the need or desire arises.

There are people who will read this and think this attitude means you don’t believe your marriage will last, or that you aren’t a romantic. Let me assure you this is not the case.

Knowing that you are prepared and capable of carrying on if you should find yourself divorced or widowed will empower you by reducing your fear. Think of it as carrying a bottle of water with you on a walk. You’ve got it, but you don’t have to drink it if you don’t want to.

Perhaps this topic is in my mind because my father is in the hospital waiting for a serious operation. At 90, chances are good that he won’t survive it. My mother is faced with the possibility of being on her own after almost 65 years of marriage.

She will have support to help her, but it made me think about how prepared I would be if I suddenly found myself living alone. Am I ready, or will I be like Londoners in a snowstorm or heat wave?

I think it is easier for people of my generation and younger as we have worked and generally share responsibilities with our spouses.

I can remember the first meeting with my husband’s financial adviser when we got married. I wanted to know why everything was being put into my husband’s name and not mine or jointly. Contrary to his belief, I was not planning on ending the marriage. I was staying mindful of the fact that unfortunate things can happen.

Believing you will be with your partner forever does not mean you should be unprepared for disaster.

I believe the foundation to living a happy life comes with personal power knowing you can survive whatever life throws at you.

The strongest relationships are formed by those who choose to be together rather than believing they have no choice but to be together.

Are you ready for the next proverbial heat wave or snow storm in your life?

You don’t need to invest in a snow plough, but a shovel tucked into your garage might make all the difference when the unforeseen happens.


Marriage polishes you

Are you the same person you were when you got married?

The answer to that may depend on which anniversary you are celebrating this year. If you are a newly wed, you may not have had time to change in a significant way, but if you have been together for several decades, the answer is bound to be yes.

If you aren’t in a long-term relationship, ask yourself if you are a different person to the one who left school?

Change happens so gradually, you may not notice it until you stop to compare the past you with the present one.

My husband and I have always found it easy to travel and spend time together, but sharing household responsibilities has been consistently difficult. This was partially due to cultural differences, but our personalities and values played a big part too.

My earliest memory of my husband in relation to housework is from a time shortly after we were married. We were preparing to host an open house/party to celebrate our wedding with family and friends in England.

I’m not a lover of house work, so it frequently takes an event such as house guests to get me motivated to deep clean.

I started my married life by moving into my husband’s existing home, which had been a bachelor pad for a few years, so it needed a thorough scrub. His parents offered to come over and help us spruce things up.

On the appointed day, we spread out and began work. About 45 minutes into the operation, as I was cleaning the outside of the sliding glass doors, I noticed someone lying on the couch inside. It was my husband, taking “a break.”

I had finally met someone who hated house work as much as I did. However, we were drastically different when it came to self-discipline. Perhaps you can see why we clashed on the domestic front for so long.

Recently, we found it necessary to deep clean our home in preparation for a house guest. On the second day as we were nearing the finish line, it suddenly hit me that I had just spent two very harmonious days with my husband, cleaning the house.

I didn’t even have to prod or encourage him to get back to work after we stopped for lunch. We had worked together as equal team-mates.

If you had told me 10 years ago that we would invest more than 10 hours over two days doing a deep clean together without a cross word, or annoyed feeling, I would have laughed at your fantasy.

I knew we had both changed since our early years together, but I didn’t appreciate just how much until I stopped to compare the past with the present.

Life doesn’t stand still, and regardless of whether you seek out change or wait until the ground crumbles beneath you to move, you will alter and adjust over time.

If you don’t believe you have changed, pause, and think about your goals, values, and personal interactions now and compare your answers to the ones you would have given when you were younger.

Think about some of the questionable decisions you’ve made. Would you make the same choices today?

You will never stop changing. Being adaptable to an altering environment is one of the reasons humans have survived to this point. As your circumstances shift, so will you.

Put this knowledge to your advantage in your relationships. Don’t expect the person you marry to be the same person you celebrate your golden anniversary with. Remember, you won’t be the same person either.

People who marry someone with a regular day job can be thrown when they suddenly find themselves with an entrepreneur. Perhaps you chose to spend your life with an athlete who has slowly turned into a couch potato.

Become aware and observant about change in your life. Don’t wait until you can’t recognize the person lying next to you to acknowledge its existence.

You and your partner are both works in progress. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the process of change will end. Who you are today is not who you will be tomorrow.

The key to navigating change when you are with another person is not to change in the same ways or to discouraging change from happening. The secret is to find a way to accept every version of yourself and your spouse as it presents itself.

Don’t mourn the disappearance of the man or woman you married, embrace the person you are with today, and look forward to the new version that will be in your future.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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