I have been married for about 19 years to a man named "John." I have 2 children and family has always been very important to me. Well, over the years, John has been manipulative and selfish. Coming from the background I did, I couldn't really recognize what was happening. I have always been depressed on and off over the years during my marriage, but was always kind of led to believe there was something wrong with me. "I just wasn't thinking straight." I always accepted that I was the problem and gave and gave to my husband to always make sure his environment was providing him contentment and pleasure. My feelings never seemed to matter. I always kept them on the back burner and John helped me to do that. Anyhow, the past five years or so -- through self-growth, counseling, and people who have come and gone in my life -- I finally realized all I have missed out on. All the self-sacrifice I made, never being loved as I should be, etc. In my heart I really want to leave this marriage and continue to discover who I am. John has tried to change some and he has, but it hasn't changed the way I feel. I can't love him and the intimacy is gone, although I don't think it was ever there. It was just another "thing" I did to please him. I want to experience love as it was meant to be, but I'm dragging my feet. I still feel responsible for him and his feelings. I'm scared to walk out the door and the guilt is eating me up. Depression is at an all-time high, and I often would rather die myself than hurt other people. I don't know what to do, or if I can ever gain the strength to follow my heart's desire. I fear this is not going to end well. What if I'm wrong, and I have been the crazy one? Any insight would mean so much to me.
Kathryn, Denver, CO
If you still feel responsible for your husband and his feelings, then both of you are still keeping the pattern alive. It always takes both people to continue a particular outcome. Human nature being what it is, it isn't likely that your husband -- the person in the relationship who is receiving the benefit of the other person's "self-sacrifice" -- will take steps to actively change. What would be the payoff for that, since he's getting his needs met? And the one who is doing the "self-sacrifice" is actually getting something out of the arrangement, too. Perhaps you are just so used to feeling bad that staying in this relationship allows you to continue to feel "normal." (Miserable, but normal.) You should remember that no matter where you go, there you are. That means that unless you understand (and I'm sure you're in the process of understanding) that you are responsible for the life you've created for yourself (it really is absolutely true that your beliefs ARE your reality) you'll recreate it again and again. You'll simply replace this husband with someone else who can stimulate your unconscious patterns. Unless -- you face yourself squarely, take full ownership of your own role (no matter how we try, we simply don't have the power to take responsibility for anyone else's choices, behaviors, feelings, thoughts, etc., and it's actually very controlling of us when we try to do that) and make courageous new choices. That courageous new choice might start out being that you let go completely of thinking anyone else holds the key to your experience of love. What if you completely made yourself happy right this moment? What if you were so concerned (yes, we women are told that focusing on ourselves is "selfish," but it isn't. That's a lie.) about your own joy that you simply began to spill joy over onto everyone around you, without you needing to be in control of that? What if you could trust that the wisest part of yourself really knows what she's doing? What if you fully understood that depression usually has at its core a conflicting belief -- a desire that isn't being met? It's another way you re-abandon yourself. We women are notorious for shutting ourselves down with depression when we believe we can't have what we want. Well, nobody else is in charge of whether or not you can have what you want. Perception is everything. You are capable of being blissfully happy in the midst of the life you've already created, and then, as you are blissful, your life becomes even more a reflection of that. And you might even attract people who are capable of joining you in that bliss. That means you'll have to let go of needing to control your husband's (or anyone's) reality. It's scary to let go. Are you ready?