Dear Shree, I’ve been miserable in my marriage almost since we got married, which was four years ago. We went to a few boring pre-marriage counseling sessions, where the counselor asked us why we wanted to get married and my first gut instinct was “I don’t know,” but because I was put on the spot, I said it was because I loved him, which I did and still do. He is truly my best friend and I love and care for him deeply. However, for at least a year now I have been confused about how I feel about the marriage. I want to be free and unattached and I often wonder if I’m with the right person and what it would be like without him in my life. I feel deep in my heart that this marriage isn’t going to stick. But I don’t want to hurt him because he is a good man, and if I wanted to leave him it would destroy him and I don’t want to be responsible for that. I have also cheated, but he doesn’t know and I could never ever tell him as it would break his heart. I’m confused, and sad, and don’t want to hurt this man that loves me unconditionally.
-Mallika Sen, Kolkata
You are pretty sure that you’re unhappy in your marriage and want out. What you are confused about is how to go about getting out without hurting your husband, and I’m afraid that probably isn’t possible. Breakups hurt; divorces are gut wrenching. Your husband it going to be shattered at some level, and you will, too. Maybe, you can try some therapy again — this time on your own. You need a professional to help you with your feelings of guilt and shame associated with ending your marriage. This is a decision that, as painful as it will be, you need to be as confident as possible in. Once you feel more confident in your reasons for breaking your marriage, you’ll be in a much better position to plan what you want next. It’s not selfish to want your personal happiness. Guilt is not a good enough reason to stay in a marriage that you’re unhappy in.
Dear Shree, I’m a man in my 40s and I’ve been in a relationship with my partner for the past eight months. She and I have great chemistry and the sex is awesome. The issue is that I’m very much a loner and, in contrast, her lifestyle involves a lot of family and friends. I’m courteous, but I’m not looking forward to meeting her family or friends at all times. I’m not anti-but I prefer to spend most of our time one-on-one. As the relationship progresses, I’ll be in a position where I have to potentially attend weddings, funerals, parties, and dinners. I also like to spend time on my own so I can feel rejuvenated. Am I too set in my ways?
-Srihari Cheri, Trivandrum
Have you talked to your lover about her lifestyle, about her expectations of a partner, and about a long-term relationship? Maybe her lifestyle doesn’t include as much socializing as you think it does, or maybe she’s perfectly fine — happy, even — attending some family and friend events solo. But, yes, if you’re in a long-term relationship with someone who has family and friends (which is pretty much everyone) and is even a little bit social, you will be expected to meet said loved ones and will probably be expected to show up at events, like weddings and the occasional get-together. But the frequency of this is really up for discussion and negotiation that you can periodically have. Talk to your partner and meet her family and friends to see how much of them you can wholistically give yourself of to, give this relationship a shot, and see if you can find a compromise that works for you both. But it would definitely be premature to move on now before you even see what compromises might be asked of you and what benefits can be gained.
Dear Shree, I’m getting married in December and have been planning the wedding for over a year, so the date has been set for a long time actually. My brother — my only sibling — got engaged last weekend. I love him and his fiancée, but I was very upset when I found out today that they are planning to get married a mere six weeks before I do. Why couldn’t they get married earlier, so that there is more turn-around time? What if all of my out-of-state family comes to his wedding and then can’t make it to mine? I invited them first! My mom is on the sickly side and is already worried about one child getting married, so now I’m anxious about her having to deal with two weddings back-to-back. I think if I confront my brother and fiancée, it will turn into a sibling rivalry match. I already asked my parents to mention how stressful it will be for them. Should I just suck it up?
-Bharati Senapati, Indore
You need to take some deep breaths. As long as you still get to marry the man you love and the people who mean the most to you are present to witness it, there’s no way your brother getting married six weeks before you is going to ‘ruin your wedding.’ While I can understand how another family wedding so close to your own may add extra stress, you’re blowing it out of proportion and losing sight of the big picture. You’re also making your brother’s engagement about you. It’s not about you. It’s about him and his fiancée. Your wedding is going to be perfect because you are going to marry the person you love and the people who mean the most will be there to see it. If you’re having anxiety about how supportive you can be to your brother in the midst of making the final arrangements for your own wedding, then tell him that. Instead of rebuking him for “ruining your wedding,” tell him that you’re super excited for him, but you hope he and his fiancée will understand if you aren’t as available to help with their planning as you might be if you weren’t planning your own wedding. And if you’re worried about how your sickly mother will fare with two back-to-back weddings, I think her involvement and responsibilities in her son’s wedding planning will be different than her involvement and responsibilities in her daughter’s. Just cool it. Everything that needs to get done will get done with a lot less hassle and drama if you stay rational and sane.