He's Nice But It's Not Enough

Q: I've been married for 40 years to a very nice and decent man, but I am not in love with him and haven't been for years. I care deeply for him but I just can't see spending the rest of my life in a relationship because I feel sorry for him. How do I move forward without guilt and regret? -- Peggy, 60

Dr. Susan: No one can promise you that you will be able to "move on" without guilt and regret. Guilt and sometimes regret are normal responses to walking away and leaving a life partner in the dust. Before I write another word, though, I want to say, and repeat and repeat, that once you're married for a long time, the original feeling of being "in love" evolves into something different. And that this "something" can be wonderful: safe, comfortable, a secure base from which to experience the challenges of life together.

The gradual diminishing of hot passion doesn't mean you no longer care for your spouse. If you do care deeply for him, as you've said, then give him a chance to meet your needs. Sit him down and tell him you are frustrated, bored, and ready to make changes in your life. If he won't join you in making the effort, and you can't figure out a way to liven up your life without walking out on this decent man, then you may have to give him notice that you're leaving. Don't stay because you feel sorry for him, but consider staying and taking on the challenge of making a better life together.

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