I’m terrified that leaving my husband will mean I finally have no excuse for why I’m not living the bold, experience-rich life I’ve always dreamed of. Signed, Playing it Safe Dear Sugar, I am a messed up woman.

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I’m bored with him and I’m afraid I will get more bored as time goes on.

I’m also afraid that there really is no one better out there for me, that I should be grateful for what I have, and that anyone I would be seriously interested in would be unlikely to be interested in me in the same way (seems to be the case, judging from experience). Signed, Claustrophobic *** Dear Sugar, I’m a woman living in limbo. You see, I’ve been contemplating leaving my long-term relationship of ten years but I am in total paralysis.

My fear is that, as usual, if I say something, we seem better for a time, and the cycle continues. Do I stay and rub myself out until maybe I am the person I was always expected to be? I never had a good example of a marriage until I was already married, in my in-laws, and we do not look like them. How long do you try before you admit you will never be that person? All of my friends seem to be getting married and I feel as though I should be considering marriage too.

I accept the responsibility for making such a mess of my life. However, the thought of marrying my boyfriend makes me feel panicky and claustrophobic.

All the same, the growing sense of desperation and loneliness kept rising. We had a whirlwind affair that introduced me to a passion and sensuality that I hadn’t even known existed. In the interest of making a fully informed decision and honoring him, we’ve been trying to patch things up for the last year and a half.

Long story short, after close to eight years of being completely faithful to my husband, I met Mr. I eventually told my husband about the affair and I also told him that I didn’t know if I could remain married—not so I could run off with the new guy, mind you, because I always thought of him as merely a catalyst rather than someone I wanted to actually be with—because the affair had triggered an awakening within me. We tried couples counseling and had a trial separation (neither was very helpful).

I converted to fundamental Christianity and married the man. He knows all my scars, but as a Christian he doesn’t understand mental illness at all. He says if I just try harder, he knows I can get better. Nothing changed, and I feel myself reaching the breaking point again. We finally bought our first house, and most days I sit around it weeping.

I no longer have any urge to kill myself, and can recognize my own warning signs, but I do need a break. I have thought of leaving so many times, but I don’t want to hurt him.

In response to the mounting pressures of our relationship, I began to numb myself to the niggling sense that something was wrong.

I immersed myself in anything and everything that would mean I didn’t have to face up to not being happy in my relationship—ranging from alcohol to spiritual retreats to drowning my sorrows in work.

These are all things I was giving up when I said, “I do.” But it’s only hitting me now. I want to leave but I’m also terrified of hurting my husband, who has been so good to me and who I consider my best friend.