Dear Neil:  My husband and I have been together for 19 years.  The last ten have been horrible.  I was sad, dysfunctional and felt lost, unloved and unworthy.  Now my husband has had enough, has lost his passion for me, met someone else (three weeks ago) and is instigating separation proceedings.  I have done some incredible soul searching recently, and can honestly say that I love myself for the first time.  I’m in love with my husband and want to be with him emotionally and physically (this has been lacking for years), and provide him with love, happiness and security.  I have told him this, but he has said it is too late.  What can I do to show him that I will never revert back to my old ways?  He reads your column every week.  Please could you help me?

Desperate in Wellington, New Zealand

Dear Desperate:  What you can do is to have a very honest talk with him about what your role was in creating and maintaining the distance between the two of you, what you will do differently in the future if he gives you the chance, and what safeguards and agreements you would recommend if things go poorly again.  You can give him the opportunity of glimpsing a believable, level-headed different future with you, with an agreement in place about what the two of you will do if things don’t go as planned.

If he says he’ll give this a chance, stay true to your word.  If he says your proposal does not interest him, there is likely nothing you can do, because a healthy relationship requires his heart, spirit and willful presence.

Dear Neil:  My fiancée and I are in sharp dispute over whether we should become parents.  We have two questions for you and are hoping you can help us resolve this issue.  What are the pluses, the benefits that come from parenting together, and what are the minuses—the drawbacks or the problems?

Dreaming in California

Dear Dreaming:  I will attempt to answer your two questions, but rather than trying to give an exhaustive list, I will offer a beginning, and then I would like to invite readers to respond to the questions as well.

What are some of the problems that typically occur for a couple when they become parents?  First, children can be exhausting, and newborns often mean a lack of sleep—sometimes for an extended period of time.  There is also the psychological pressure that being responsible for children forces upon you, because you cease to be driven solely by your own needs, interests or desires.  There’s the issue of time and energy.  Juggling work, child care, meals and chores with romance can be tricky—and some couples allow the romance to drop—which can easily distance them from each other.

What are some of the good things that typically come from becoming parents?  There’s a sense of teamwork; a shared identity as a family.  There’s the satisfaction of doing a great job as a Mom or a Dad, assisting your children to be self-confident, assertive and polite, and giving them the tools to succeed in life.  There’s the role model you give kids about loyalty, perseverance, family closeness, affection, how to love, how to value others and how to value themselves. There’s the encouragement and support that parents give to children that is vital in the wholesome development of healthy self-esteem—even when they make mistakes or when they fail.

Readers, would you care to add to these answers?

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