I’ve recently come to terms with the fact that I don’t want to be in my marriage anymore. One reason is that I’m going through a period of intense awakening — I’m connecting more deeply to my emotions and my body while also healing from childhood trauma.

Part of that work for me means exploring different types of relationships and deciding for myself what is or isn’t healthy and life-giving. Essentially, I’m trying to find my “Fuck Yes.” As a result, for the past two years I’ve been learning about and have decided that I want to explore ethical non-monogamy. My wife is monogamous through and through, and though I initially wanted to explore this with her, I now realize that I probably just want to divorce.

The other issue is that I’m really having trouble understanding what different types of love should feel like. For instance, outside of intense infatuation, how do I differentiate the love I would feel for a life partner versus what I would feel for a lifelong friend? And is it even important to differentiate those things? My wife has this idea of what it means to be in love with someone that doesn’t really seem to match my life experience. Or at least the way she describes feeling in love doesn’t match what I feel right now.

I say all this to ask: is it enough for me to just name that I don’t want to be in the marriage and I trust that as I continue to go to counseling and do my own work, that eventually the reasons might become clearer to me somewhere down the road? Or, do I need to sit in this relationship until I’m able to logically explain what has changed, why it’s changed, and why I think a different lifestyle is healthier for me?


Do I Have To Let It Linger?


Dear Linger,

Well, it sounds like you’re really going through it and have made some decisions about where you’d like to explore next. However, it also seems like you’re left with the lingering question many people ask themselves when ending a (especially a long-term) relationship: How much and to whom do I need to justify my decision?

The simple fact is, if the other person doesn’t want to end the relationship, you’re probably never going to convince them that it’s a great idea to do so. Similarly, ending a long-term, committed relationship is never going to feel easy or clear cut. So, if you’re waiting for either of those things to happen, find a comfortable seat.

It’s my belief that people strive to justify their reasons for leaving in an attempt to make both themselves and their partners feel better. If only she could see your reasons, she’d gladly hold the door open for you, waving as you walk away. If you decipher a reason that’s “good enough,” everyone would see that you’re not hurting anyone, you’re just “doing the right thing.” Sadly for us all, break-ups are a painful mess and oftentimes even long after we’ve made the decision to end things we may still be wondering if it was the right call (yes, even when it definitely was).

Do YOU feel justified in your decision to leave? If not, what’s left for you to figure out for yourself to feel (at least, mostly) sure that you want to make this choice? (Hint: Many people who leave monogamous relationships to pursue non-monogamy struggle with feeling like this is a valid choice, many times due to internalized messaging about monogamy, sexual purity, and culture standards).

In how much discomfort do you need to sit in order to have felt like you’ve “paid your dues”? Sometimes working through a rough patch in a committed relationship requires us to tolerate the discomfort of change and the unknown in which case, yes, doing the work to sit still is part of it all. But other times, holding yourself captive in your own relationship is a form of self-flagellation that is typically connected to shame, fears, or self-doubts.

Finally, love itself is gelatinous and I wonder if anyone’s subjective experience of it truly matches anyone else’s. But, at the very least, those definitions do need to gel in order to keep the love alive.

Yana Tallon-Hicks is a relationship therapist, sex educator, and writer living in the Pioneer Valley. You can find her work and her professional contact information on her website, yanatallonhicks.com.