Once upon a time, I did what good Southern girls are supposed to do: I got married young and created the appearance of the perfect white-picket-fence life.

We bought a three-bedroom “starter home,” got a dog and a cat, and began to plan for children.  When the children came, I turned my career upside-down, joined the PTA, and otherwise morphed myself into the “perfect” mom, only to realize that I was actually miserable.

He worked a nights and I worked 9 to 5. I bought things as an attempt to make myself happy.  He complained.  I complained. He lost 200 pounds and spent his mornings at the gym with his best friend, a perky blonde aerobics instructor. I eventually lost all the “baby” weight and reduced my body fat down to unhealthy proportions.  I sacrificed and did what was expected of me.

And sex?  Surely you jest.  Sex was a rarity those final years, and in the last year, it was completely absent from the menu.

My marriage was on life support and attempting to keep up the perfection was exhausting. We began living basically separate lives, all the while appearing to be ok from the outside. No matter what I did, nothing seemed to be good enough for him. I was trying to create a picture- perfect life so that I could one day be happy. He believed that if I would change, he would be happy.  

Eventually, we went to marriage counseling and one day, he stood up in the middle of the session and said he was DONE and told the therapist that “SHE (meaning me) isn’t getting fixed.”

It was time to turn off the relationship respirator. After 17 ½ years of living behind the white picket fence, I opened the gate, walked through it, and we divorced. Seven years later, I know that the blame for the death of our marriage was not completely mine, but it wasn’t completely his, either.

I want to tell you the biggest lesson that came out of my marriage, and I’m not going to sugar-coat it.

Darling, you are responsible for your own happiness.  And the only person that you can change is yourself.

To be honest, I blazed a very non-traditional way of discovering what I really wanted out of life: I unleashed my sexuality in ways I had never imagined. I dated. I went to therapy. I explored my edges. I defined what made me feel sexy and beautiful.  I unleashed my gypsy soul and discovered what lit up my soul through travel.  I broke the mold of a 9-to-5 job and made a good living as a self-employed entrepreneur.  I realized that the labels that I had taken as badges didn’t define who I was. I worked with a coach.

Sometimes, I made baby steps towards delight. Sometimes, I jumped off the cliff into a river of what I knew was right for me.

And yes, sometimes I made mistakes and wrong turns along the way.

I embraced the fact that I was responsible for my own happiness.

That gratitude was a practice worth adopting. I learned that combining self-discipline and self-kindness would nurture my body and soul. And that sometimes, a life we planned gets derailed in order to put us on path to a life we were meant to live.

Because today, I can honestly tell you that while my life may not be perfect, I love it.

I’m in a committed relationship to a man I love and adore. I know that he loves me as no other man ever has.  Want to know how I know that? He accepts me for exactly who I am, warts (the occasional snoring) and all.

And if you were to look at my life with an outside-in view, you would observe that I’ve come full circle to living a white picket fence life again. I work from home yet keep my working hours to when he’s at work.  I do laundry and shopping. I bake from scratch and dive into cooking with passion. When he comes home after work, I greet him at the door with a smile (and sometimes a cocktail).

And I wake up giddy to begin each day with a partner I love and work that thrills and fulfills me.

Once upon a time, I thought my fairy tale was over. Only to discover that the fairy tale was really just beginning.  That my mid-life years would be the beginning of true love – of not only the man of my dreams, but a profound love for myself.

Darling, the truth is that you are never too old to discover your happily ever after.

I’m happy living behind a white picket fence. Now, I’m smart enough to know that you just have to leave the gate open.

If you are unhappy in your relationship, it’s up to you to make changes. You are responsible for your happy. You are responsible for defining how you want your life to look. YOU are responsible for communicating to your partner what you want.

If you are in the depths of unhappiness, then you, my darling, may need a little help to dig out.   Make your Inner Sex Kitten Roar may be just your ticket. Hire a coach. Get therapy.  Now is not the time to be a martyr, now is the time to get help.

Let someone hold up the mirror to the beauty of your soul so that you can allow yourself to shine.

Invest in yourself.

I believe from the depths of my soul that if you love someone, then making positive changes to yourself is way to begin to re-ignite passion. Think of it as a dance, that for every step or two you take, your partner can’t help but follow.

I believe that within every woman is a vibrant, passionate, and sexy being just dying to burst forth into the world.  And if you’ve lost that spark inside, now is the time to get some help so that she can learn to shine.

Once upon a time…to Happily Ever After. What steps can you take to take responsibility for your happiness?

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