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Can You Mend a Broken Heart?

Dr. Pepper Schwartz answers your questions about healing heartache.

Here is the transcript from the Nov. 22 online chat with AARP's sex and relationship ambassador, Dr. Pepper Schwartz.


Dr. Pepper Schwartz: Hi, everyone, I'm delighted to see you here. I'm Dr. Pepper Schwartz, professor of sociology at the University of Washington. I teach and do research on sexuality and intimate relationships. I am also the ambassador here for love, sex and relationships. I am looking forward to answering your questions.

See also: How to Forgive — and Why You Should

Question from Peggy: I dated a man for almost three years. We broke up amicably but now he's married and has a new baby. He keeps calling me and talking as if we were still dating. Is he playing mind games? I feel like I'm being used. What do I tell him?

Pepper Schwartz: Peggy, it's good to hear from you. But yes, he is playing mind games and no, he should not be doing this. Having a baby can be stressful for both the new mother and the father and I think he's probably reaching out to you because he's off balance in his own relationship. But this is no time for him to "use you." In fact, it's very unkind and you should tell him so. Perhaps, sometime in the future you can be friends again, but it's inappropriate for you to be his support system now.

Comment from Vince: Not so much a question but a plea for advice/help, I guess. I'm gay. My soul mate of 31 years died on July 30, 2009, at the age of 78. He was everything to me. I continue to be devastated and I am in a downward spiral that I can't seem to stop. I was John's full-time caregiver for 3.5 years before he died. Consequently, I couldn't work since he had no one else in this world to take care of him. We lived on what little savings we had after we lost mostly everything in the stock market crash in recent years and John's Social Security. That went away when he died. My unemployment has run out and I am living on what's left of the savings. I never hear from any of my family except for maybe a Xmas card at best. I have little or no friends. I have been so depressed since John died that suicide looks like a real option for me if I can't find work or get some sort of "identity" going.

PS: I am so sorry, Vince, to hear of your situation. I know how draining it is to be the total caregiver and how small your world can become, but you need to save yourself now. The way to do it is to go to a social service agency and get some help. They may be able to go over your finances with you, give you some job counseling, and even find some financial support for you while you get re-established. Even more important, they can get you into a discussion group with men who are in the same situation you are, and other people, to whom you will feel both a good bond and understanding. The most important thing is to get out of your place and get with other people because you need to talk and you need to remember there's a bigger life out there. I am not underestimating how dire your situation is, but I can assure you that other people have been where you are and by meeting new people and getting new support they can restart a new life.

Question from Trisha: Good afternoon, Dr. Is that your real name?

PS: Yes and no, my brother named me Pepper when I was 14 and, because other people had my other name, then I made it legal when I was 21. Of course, who knew it would be Dr. Pepper?

Question from Susan: We haven't split yet physically — we still sleep in the same bed — but we are not speaking. If I have to ask him a question he screams at me to get out. He sits in the bedroom all day. Won't let me cook, he just goes to fast food. He says he hates me, but when I offer to leave he doesn't want that either. He smokes an ounce of pot weekly and has for years. He insisted I retire from my job, sell my house, now what? I have no job, no money, two dogs I just don't know what to do. I am brokenhearted! I thought this was forever.

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