DEAR ABBY: This is in response to "Had It in Hartford" (Oct. 6), who has been unhappily married to her husband for 20 years. She said she married him for all the wrong reasons and "has never loved him the way a woman should love a man."
After I had been married for seven years, I went to my pastor concerned that the grass on the other side was looking greener than mine. As we spoke, I began to realize the extent of the investment I had put into my marriage and that I didn't want to start over again on a new one.
My mom always told me, "Marriage is not easy. You will always have to work on it. There will be times when you won't feel that you like him or love him." I have been married for 36 years now. Do I notice handsome men, or appreciate a man who treats me kindly? Of course. I'm not blind or dead.
Love isn't just a feeling, but a choice and a commitment. I'm committed to my husband not because I'm "supposed" to be, but because I choose to be. It seems to me that "Had It" never made that choice or worked toward it, but expected it to just happen eventually.
She has a foundation of trust and friendship that helps a marriage through the rough times. Many marriages that end in divorce rely on sexual attraction and passion to carry them instead of friendship.
We're told that marriage is 50-50. That's not true. It's 100-100. I'm responsible for my 100 percent, and my spouse is responsible for his.
"Had It" should take another look at what she's about to lose and tally up the costs to her family. Is she really trapped? Or has she just been unwilling to choose to love? -- BARBARA IN MOUNT VERNON, WASH.
DEAR BARBARA: Thank you for writing. I advised "Had It" to think long and hard before leaving her husband, but that if she truly cannot love him the way he deserves, she should move on. My readers' comments:
DEAR ABBY: "Had It" doesn't feel love toward her husband because she spends her time and energy ruminating about a "mistake" she thinks she made 20 years ago. She says he is doing everything right and they get along fine. If she tried something positive, like reminding herself about the qualities she likes about him, and doing things she knows make him happy instead of fantasizing about other men, she might find the love she craves in her marriage.
Loving feelings come from loving behavior, not the other way around. The sooner she realizes this, the sooner she'll see that what she really wants is right there at home with her family. And it has been there all along. -- DR. PEGGY B.
DEAR ABBY: I have this message for "Had It": I felt like you and acted on my feelings. Don't do it! Wait until your kids are older. As much as you want a more intimate relationship, you cannot begin to imagine the impact straying will have on your kids.
I deeply regret what I did and I wish someone would have told me what I'm telling you. Pull yourself together. Think about your children, extended family and friends. You are connected to others through your husband, and once you pull your marriage apart, everything else falls away, too. -- REGRETTING IT IN NEW YORK
DEAR ABBY: "Had It" is probably suffering from a case of the seven-year itch. For some reason, people cycle in seven-year increments. Some of them change jobs or homes, others have affairs or change spouses. She should work through it with a counselor.
There is a lot to be said for being married to your best friend. A wise therapist advised me to compliment my husband at least once a day. ("If you act happy, pretty soon it won't be an act.") This was after my first bout with the "itch" and it has been working ever since, 29 years! -- LOVING AND LAUGHING WITH MY BEST FRIEND