Q. I am no longer in love with my husband. We’ve had counseling. That made it clearer to me that I need to leave. Our adult children tell me I’m committing a sin. Please give me some advice on how to go about my plan without feeling so guilty.
A. According to Susan Pearce, a licensed social worker who writes about divorce, people often feel that as long as children of any age are involved, the marriage must remain intact. This is simply not true. People have a right to live their lives without interference from adult children.
Don’t let other people’s religious teachings keep you in an unhealthy marriage. Some people stay in unfulfilling relationships because they believe in the undisputed sanctity of the marriage vow. According to Donald Walsh in the book, “Conversations with God: An Uncommon Dialogue,” marriage was never meant to be about binding people together. Instead it should be about joining two individuals together. Even though everyone would like to believe that marriage is for a lifetime, no one can predict the changes that will take place in each individual.
Most mental health professionals, including myself, believe that divorce should be avoided if there is a way to restore the marriage. However, in some situations, the marriage issues cannot be resolved and divorce is the best alternative for everyone.
If you are romantically involved with someone else, you need to break those ties for a time. People who jump into another relationship as soon as one is over are often disappointed when the same issues arise.
If you are certain that you want a divorce, your next step should be to make a plan. How and when are you going to leave? Will you discuss it with him in advance? Do you feel safe if you do have the discussion? It would be helpful to engage a mental health professional to help you through this rough period.
Q. I’ve been in a relationship with a woman for two years, but in the last few months she seems to have lost interest. Often she doesn’t want to see me on weekends. I love her, but I’m miserable. What can I do to keep her?
A. Good relationships do not make us miserable. A good partnership certainly has rough patches, but the good times far outweigh the bad.
According to Juliana Breines, writing for “Psychology Today,” some people mistake addiction for love. When someone feels intense passion for another, seeing or thinking about one’s love object activates the same regions of the brain that cocaine does. Additionally, the pleasure neurotransmitter, dopamine, is released which only accelerates the “love high.” Your desire to keep an unhealthy relationship alive is activated by brain function, not love.
Many people fall in love only to feel broken when the relationship ends. Now is the time to work on self-compassion. Instead of allowing yourself to become victimized by self-pity, begin physically, mentally, and emotionally taking care of you.
Don’t fall for “mind tricks,” which may tell you to keep contacting her. People have a tendency to experience cognitive dissonance, which is a way to justify our behaviors when we are considering an action that is shameful, dangerous or self-destructive. Acknowledge that your relationship is over. Don’t make excuses to call or contact her or give her more time. Move on.
Research studies indicate that people who are ending relationships do better emotionally when they create a plan for change. Keep yourself busy with self-improvement. When you have a desire to call or text her, create a back-up plan.
It’s important for you to reconnect with friends and family. Dedicate more of your time to your own life decisions. Most everyone has been where you are. It does get better over time.
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Nancy Ryburn holds a doctorate degree in psychology from Yeshiva University in New York City. She currently teaches psychology at Southeast Arkansas College. If you have questions, e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. They will not be answered personally, but could appear in a future column. There will be no identifying information and all e-mails remain confidential.