Q: My husband and I are in limbo. He had an affair, we went to counseling, nothing seemed to change, and I still feel like I can’t trust him anymore. He keeps telling me I have “one foot out the door,” which he feels is an excuse for me to treat him poorly and not do the work of this marriage.
Lately he has said, “Just go ahead and divorce me. What are you waiting for?” But I feel like it was he who chose to check out of this marriage and break our commitment. Being the one to initiate the divorce is bringing up all kinds of guilt in me, and the fear that I would look like the bad guy, which I don’t think he deserves. I didn’t leave him; he left me. I feel stuck.
A: If you would be better off divorced, then the idea of who “deserves” to appear a certain way in the process is sort of beside the point, right?
You are only as stuck as you want to be. When you say, “Nothing seemed to change,” I don’t know if that means he still has problematic behavior, his desire to repair the damage isn’t genuine, your hurt over the infidelity still hasn’t lessened, or the underlying problems of your marriage still remain unaddressed. But being in a marriage stalemate need not mean a life stalemate, and having uncomfortable feelings about the process — though understandable — shouldn’t be allowed to paralyze you. That would only let you sabotage yourself further. So, if your marriage still has a shot, take it. If it’s time to end it, give yourself the gift of moving forward. You deserve it. Individual therapy could be a helpful support in reminding you of that.
Q: I lost a lifelong friend in a car accident two months ago and it has made me rethink my entire life’s path. I am 34, stuck in a field that I don’t like (though I have a lot of student debt for it) with terrible hours, never able to do the traveling I like, never spending enough time with my friends, never able to prioritize dating or meeting anyone. I feel like this is a wake-up call and I want to chuck everything. My family says I’m just grieving and will feel differently in a bit, and should not make any big changes.
A: First, I’m truly sorry for the loss of your friend. It’s true that chucking everything could end up leaving you worse off than before, but this wake-up call is important to heed nonetheless. Grieving is not “just” grieving — and it can help us reevaluate our lives in meaningful ways. There’s a sweet spot between throwing away your career versus remaining on autopilot in an unsatisfying situation that will leave you with regrets. The key is accepting that it will take time, research and effort to carve out a new path, and making a commitment to doing so. From taking classes to developing a side gig to becoming an independent contractor, from making a lateral move to changing offices, there is an escape path for you. Being mindful in your planning will help bring to life the changes you want.