I grew up reading the "Dear Abby" column every morning in the Detroit Free Press. What elementary-aged kid reads Ann Landers? It became part of my morning routine throughout high-school. I even wrote a letter to Ann Landers myself once, but I think my parents took it out of the mailbox and threw it away (Isn't tampering with the U.S. Mail a felony?).
Some things never change. I still read the column when I happen to find a newspaper in my hands (as opposed to when I read my news online, which is more typical these days). There was a column that appeared last week that hit a nerve. I hear this same version of events at least weekly, and have written about it before.
Here's the jist of it:
I am a 40-something-year-old woman, about to celebrate around 20 years of marriage. I'm miserably unhappy, I've never truly loved my husband the way I should and I have remained married because I am "supposed" to. He is a wonderful father and husband, he has a great job, we get along just fine and we are good friends. But there is absolutely no passion in our relationship and there never was. I married him because it "was time." He feels more like a brother than a husband. I don't want to hurt him and I don't want to hurt my kids. I feel so trapped!
How do you respond to this? On the one hand, you hate that you feel stuck. On the other hand, you made a promise and to break it now and impact so many lives seems so incredibly selfish.
But is it? I loved the response that Jeanne Phillips (aka Dear Abby) provided. She said, "Let me get this straight -- you married your husband under false pretenses and have lied to him for 20 years. Both of you have my sympathy. The best advice I can offer is to think long and hard about what you have right now and what you 'might' have in the future. Believe me, there are no guarantees. If you really cannot love your husband the way he should be loved -- and counseling won't help -- then let him go. He deserves better."
He does deserve better. He does deserve an opportunity to be loved and to feel loved by someone who truly loves him as more than a brother. As hurtful and as painful as it is -- to both you and to him -- sticking around for another 40 years isn't going to help anyone.
That being said, I've seen many people think the grass is going to be greener on the other side, only to find themselves landing on a chunk of dead grass. I've seen others who have landed on an oasis and are so thankful for the chaos that they went through during the divorce. Truly, there are no guarantees. No one can predict the future and tell anyone precisely what they should do.
I'm curious: What about you? Were you happier after you left your husband or wife? Do you regret it? Did you find the love and passion you were seeking? Did he or she do better and find someone who loves him/her as more than a brother/sister? Is there anything you would do differently if you had the chance to do it all again?