Ask Natalie

DEAR NATALIE: I’m really depressed. My marriage is crumbling after only four years and my husband wants out. We didn’t have kids, so I guess that’s good in a way. He can make a clean break. But all I seem to do is cry. The vows we took, the words we said,   does true love even exist anymore? I’m totally heartbroken and feeling as though we live in a loveless world. Do you think there really can be lasting love in the society we have created? --LOVE LOST

DEAR LOVE LOST: I’m so sorry that your marriage is ending. It is completely normal to cry. You are grieving over the death of your marriage and that is a powerful thing. Allow yourself this time to grieve and don’t worry whether it makes sense or not. As an eternal optimist, I believe there are chapters and seasons of life that ebb and flow. Recognize that this too shall pass, but it may take a long time. There may be days when you feel there is no love in the world. Feel whatever it is you need to feel, but don’t let these thoughts control you. Acknowledge them, let them wash over you and then allow yourself to think outside of them. Can love last? Absolutely. Does it last every time with everyone? No. But that’s OK. Try to examine your relationship and what you learned from it. What did you learn from each other? Take these lessons and apply them whenever you are ready to dip your toes in the dating pool again. It sounds as though you wanted to work on the relationship and he did not. But you can take this opportunity to work on yourself with a therapist. Find out what you need from a relationship, what you are able to give and how you can express your needs in healthy, productive ways. Sometimes an outsider’s perspective can show us things in ways we didn’t see before. Be alone for a bit. Date yourself. Recognize that love exists all around us, in many forms, in many ways. But it takes effort. It takes a deep understanding of self. It takes sacrifice, patience and tenacity. Like all good things, however, it is worth the work and risk of getting hurt again. You felt so deeply, which is why you are feeling so sad. How lucky you are to know that you can love at such a depth! Next time, I hope your partner is on the same page so that you can find a deeper, more passionate love together. I believe that you will.

DEAR NATALIE: I recently caught my girlfriend emailing her ex-boyfriend. (He broke it off with her a few years back). She claims that she was merely “catching up” after they ran into each other recently. But when I asked if I could read the email, she became defensive. What’s the harm? If she had nothing to hide, why is she acting so shady? --EX-EMAIL

DEAR EX-EMAIL: I can see this situation very clearly from both sides. On the one hand, I completely understand why you are feeling threatened. He broke up with her, which may make you wonder if she still carries a torch for him. If she is emailing him, could it have been a love letter of sorts? Maybe, maybe not. The bottom line is: Do you trust her? Has she ever given you a reason to think she has been unfaithful to you? Maybe she needed closure and wanted to write him a letter that explained her perspective on their break-up. Maybe she wanted to gloat about how happy she is in her current relationship. We don’t know, but if I were you, I would sit down with her and calmly explain that you are worried about the state of your relationship. It may be hard to feel that vulnerable, but you need to keep the lines of communication open. Do not accuse her of anything. Be rational. She did tell you, after all, that she had run into him. If she was up to not good, chances are she wouldn’t have even mentioned her run-in. I can also understand this from her perspective. It really could be an innocent email and she may have been taken aback that you wanted to read it. The fact that you wrote that you “caught her” implies that you think she was doing something wrong. You aren’t going to get anywhere with this approach, so I suggest you reach out to her in a way that is less aggressive. What is there to be jealous about, anyway? It was just an email. At the end of the day, she is with you and chooses to be with you. I bet if anything is going on, it will reveal itself one way or another. In the meantime, continue to work toward a healthy relationship together.

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Networking can come naturally for some and not so naturally for others. But don’t let your shyness deter you from meeting new people. Have a friend introduce you to break the ice, or make it a goal to have just one meaningful interaction at an event so that you don’t feel overwhelmed.

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email, nbencivenga@post-gazette.com; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Follow her on Twitter at @NBSeen and on Instagram @NatalieBenci

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)

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