Q: I spent 20 years and had three children with my high school sweetheart. He left me and the girls three years ago. But I am still in love with him. All he said is that it's not my fault, I deserve better and he is just not happy. I was devoted to him and loved him unconditionally. I truly envisioned growing old with him. He since has been in other relationships. He sure knows how to pick them. One chick even beat him up because she was jealous. He comes from a VERY jagged family background. He recently admitted that he knows he's needed help for a long time. I have known for years he suffered from depression but that he ran from it either by secluding himself or drinking his troubles away. He is very narcissistic, so for him to admit he has a problem is huge. Now all I want to hear from him is that he does not love me or want to be with me and that he is never coming back, but he won't do that. I am sad, empty, alone and hurting inside because I know I'm not being fair to myself. I also know that behind the depression is the man I fell in love with. Any advice because I am lost. . . . -- Diane, 39
Dr. Susan: Although your long-time mate won't say "never," that's what he means. His actions are all you have to go by. You would like to be a family again, but he clearly doesn't value that concept the way you do. Between his narcissism, his untreated depression and alcoholism, and baggage from his background, it's a wonder you stayed together as long as you did. After three years apart, it's time for you to pick up the pieces of your life and move on. So he's finally admitting he has a problem. But has he begun taking steps toward getting help? Get some counseling yourself. You'll have to be in touch with him because of the children, but any other contact is destined to keep you on the hook emotionally, playing the same old dysfunctional games. You will remain lost until you start looking for yourself outside this destructive relationship.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.