Ask Deepak: What to Do When Your Marriage Is in Trouble
By Deepak Chopra
March 31, 2010
Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: I married my husband 17 years ago, and although I never felt chemistry/in love with him, as a single mom, I thought it was "the right thing to do" in order to give my daughter a family. Now, at the age of 46, with my daughter away at college and my son close on her heels, I feel as though my world is closing in on me and I can't stand it! I feel as though all I have left is a lukewarm marriage—it's not so bad that I must leave, but also not so good that I feel like I have done well with my life or that I am enjoying it. I feel as though I settled, and settled miserably. I have not been happy with the marriage ever, but I am a happy person, and I wanted to keep it together because it was the right thing to do for my children to keep their life stable.
Now that the children are leaving and I'm halfway to dead, I just don't know if I can do it anymore. I don't know if it's just a midlife crisis or if I really am not being true to myself by staying safe in the marriage that never was a love match. Many cultures don't consider love with marriage, and I've tried to rationalize that over the years, but it really feels as though this frustration has taken on a life of its own now, and I don't know how to get back to being complacent or even if I should!
Help me to know if this is just a menopausal phase or an out crying of my soul. I feel the pulls of menopause (hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings) and also the fear of being an older woman—alone! I just feel so incredibly lost—like I never have before in my life. Please help me! Thank you.
— Vicky C., Vacaville, California
When people bring up a problem, one sort stands out. Whatever the issue, whatever the conflict, the person in trouble already knows what to do. They are merely asking for permission to do it. You fall into that category.
How do I know? Nobody asks loaded questions like "Should I go back to being complacent?" unless they already know the answer. In your view, what would make a marriage bad enough to leave it—having your husband set you on fire?
There's a touching aspect to your situation, which is that you value duty—doing the right thing—over happiness. That's very old-fashioned, and in its way noble. But you've wound up with a devil's bargain in this marriage, and one has to wonder why your husband wanted a wife who didn't love him. I think it's obvious that the two of you don't communicate on any level of intimacy or emotional honesty. So getting out of the marriage may be the most honest thing you've done in many years. I applaud you for waking up and smelling the coffee.