Recently I have been suffering from moderate depression and what might be characterized by a mid-life crisis. I’m just feeling like the life I’ve built no longer seems to fit my needs, that some of my core beliefs have been challenged and I am now going through the process of evaluation. I am not satisfied with my career progress or lack thereof. I am not satisfied with my marriage and in general just am not happy with life. I know that I am the one in control of my personal happiness so I have been searching for ways to improve myself, my attitude, and my awareness of what I need. However this quest has lead to some confusion and the question of appropriate boundaries of marriage.

I’m finding myself drawn to explore my religious beliefs, my philosophical beliefs, my emotional needs. My husband is not interested in sharing in this exploration. We have never been emotionally intimate and over the past few years have simply grown to be different people. At this point I am totally confused about what I want or need, so I am not ready to disrupt my family to pursue the unknown. However, I really want to engage in self exploration and interact with people on a deeper level. My question for you is, Is it OK to seek emotional intimacy outside your marriage. I know physical intimacy outside of marriage is unacceptable but what about fulling your emotional needs to with others who are more interested sharing and exploring what makes them tick.

A: As you know, it’s not at all unusual for people in their 40s to re-evaluate their lives. It’s a time for recommitting to our life-course or considering changes and whether we are willing to take the risks that such changes involve. For most of us, any change we consider will have impact on people around us. The potential consequences of our choices are part of the equation.

Every marriage has its “contract” about what is and isn’t okay; what behavior is kept only inside the circle of the marriage and what isn’t. To unilaterally change the terms is a violation of that contract and a betrayal of trust.

Many married couples have vastly different interests, different friends, and different religious and philosophical beliefs. They see those differences as what makes their marriage interesting and rich. Married people can agree to support each other in seeking certain kinds of intimacy elsewhere. Explicit or tacit but clear agreement is the key to the stability of the marriage. It’s secrets and lies that shatter the foundation of the relationship and emotionally wounds the other person.

You are asking the wrong person about what is acceptable for your marriage. You need to be asking your husband. My hope is that you and your husband will take some time at this point in your lives to really talk about how to pursue getting both of your needs met while still sustaining a long marriage. You have already shared a major part of your adult lives together. My bias is that it’s worth it to at least make the effort to see if you can make it work for the long haul.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie