Mind & Soul > Happiness > How to Find Happiness in an Unhappy Marriage – Tips From a Chaperone

How to Find Happiness in an Unhappy Marriage – Tips From a Chaperone

happiness tips when you're married

Louise Brooks, who Cora chaperoned in New York City. If it wasn’t for Louise, Cora would never have met Joseph.

These tips for being happy when you can’t leave your spouse are inspired by a woman who was married to a gay man for over 30 years.

Cora felt she couldn’t leave her husband because people would talk. This was back in the 1920’s, during Prohibition, underground jazz groups (speakeasys), and corsets.

Oh – and this was also in a book called The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty. I loved this book, and will recommend it to my book club (Deep Cove Bookworms!) at our next meeting. Which is on Wednesday.

Sometimes I learn more from novels than nonfiction “how to be happy” self-help books. This is one of those times.

Cora’s life illustrates how we can be happy and free even when we feel constrained.

3 Tips for Being Happy When You’re Not Happily Married

Be creative

Cora lived with her gay husband for 20 years before she found true love – and she moved her lover in with her and her husband! I won’t describe the plot of The Chaperone because this isn’t a book review. Suffice to say Cora found a way to live with her husband and her lover in the same house. Cora’s kids never learned their father was gay – nor did they know that their dad’s “best friend” was his lover.

This arrangement wasn’t ideal. However, Cora, her husband Alan, Cora’s lover Joseph, and Alan’s lover Raymond got to spend time together regularly (but not as a foursome – this isn’t erotica). The four of them were emotionally intimate, and were closer than family members.

Do you feel stuck in an unhappy marriage? I’m not saying you should move your lover in; I’m encouraging you to be creative about finding happiness within your marriage. If you’d rather leave, then leave. But if you feel you have to stay, then find ways to be happy in your unhappiness.

Take a big picture perspective about your marriage

“Under her hands, under the layers of Raymond’s fine suit and shirtwaist, were the same freckled shoulders she had seen that awful day she thought her life was over – and when she was sure this decent, beloved man was her enemy. She was grateful life could be long.”

That’s one of my favourite moments in The Chaperone, because it was about how much Cora grew and learned in her marriage and life. She was bitter and miserable after she walked in on Alan and Raymond in bed together – and she was unhappy in her marriage for 20 years. Not miserable because he was a good husband in every way except physically, but lonely because they weren’t sexually intimate.

After she moved Joseph (and his seven year old daughter) in with her and Alan, she realized how much she liked Raymond. She learned that love, affection, connection, and support isn’t just reserved for happy marriages. She learned that gay men could be loving, decent, kind, and generous.

It took over two decades for Cora to realize that sometimes problems solve themselves – if you’re courageous enough to take healthy risks. Can you take a healthy risk that will help you find happiness in an unhappy relationship?

If you’re not sure if your marriage is unhappy, read Is Your Marriage Normal? 5 Signs You’re Expecting Too Much.

Learn to negotiate

Cora brought Joseph and his daughter from NYC (where they met and fell in love) to Wichita, Kansas (where Cora lived with her husband). Why did Alan agree? Because Cora had the upper hand, because Alan “owed her”, and because she wanted to be happy in her own home.

How are you at negotiating? If you’re a woman, you may not be comfortable with it. This is unfortunate, because negotiation skills are crucial at work, home, with your kids, when you’re buying a new car, and when you’re trying to figure out how to find happiness in an unhappy marriage.

If you’re bad at negotiating, read A Woman’s Guide to Successful Negotiating. It’s excellent.

Final happiness tip:

Let’s see if the Miracle Question can help you find happiness in your unhappy marriage – or at least help you take a big-picture perspective of your life.

Here it is: “If, while you were sleeping, a miracle took place overnight….what would your life look like? Who would be in it? How would you feel and act? Where would you spend your days, evenings, weekends?”

Take a few minutes, and really think about your answers. You CAN shape your life the way you want it, and you CAN be happy even if you don’t leave your marriage.

For more ways to find happiness in an unhappy marriage, read 10 Tips for Improving a Bad Relationship.

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