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QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
Relationships Department

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other SelfhelpMagazine.com staff.

Question

I am 32 years old and I've been with the same man for 17 years, 11 of them married; there are no children. I feel as though I have never had the opportunity to discover who I am; I am feeling a huge void in my life. Though I can experiment a bit while married, sometimes I crave total freedom to find about and "test" me. My husband is a good man; he treats me well and provides well for us. Would it be unreasonable to leave a stable and secure relationship to "find myself?"

Answer

Your situation is common to many people who have made marriage commitments as childhood sweethearts. The teenager makes a decision for us and the adult is stuck with it. In our complex world, a world filled with possibilities, it is difficult for two people to grow at the same pace and in the same direction from the time they are teenagers to the time they are in their 30s. Frequently they grow in different directions or one grows while the other stays still.

With that said, let's take a look at your situation. When you say that you want to find yourself, that you have a experimented a bit, and your husband is a good man, I get the sense that much of your desire to be free involves dating and experimenting with other men. There is a lot more to self-discovery than romance. Too frequently people try to fill the void in their life through extra-marital affairs, romance, and sexuality. This form of activity is not the substance of life anymore than dessert is the substance of a meal. Your statement that your husband "provides well for us" and the fact that you have no children, suggests that you might be bored with your life. What interests do you have, how productive are you with your time, what have you learned recently?

Perhaps before you leave your marriage, you should consider other ways to discover who you are and what you want out of life. Perhaps increasing your knowledge through reading and attending classes, discovering and developing skills, investigating career opportunities, participating in your community, increasing your self-awareness through psychotherapy and self-awareness seminars. Exploring these types of activities does not require that you leave a marriage. Discovering your human potential does not require that you leave a marriage. (If your husband finds these activities threatening, and is not supportive, then you have another issue to examine.)

Once you have learned more about yourself as a person, have developed an exciting and interesting life for yourself, then you can revisit your relationship. If you are expecting a relationship, whether your husband or someone else, to fulfill your life then you are asking too much from it. Marriage enhances ones life, but you must have a life for it to enhance. It isn't meant to be life itself.

04/25/98

Dr. Edward A. Dreyfus is a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage, Family, Child Therapist, and Sex Therapist. Dr. Dreyfus has been providing psychological services in the Los Angeles-Santa Monica area for over 30 years. He offers individual psychotherapy to adolescents and adults, divorce mediation, couples counseling, group therapy, and career and vocational counseling and assessment.His book, Someone Right For You, is available in the Amazing Bookstore Catalog.

Dr. Dreyfus can be reached at: (310) 208-5700.

 

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