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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.


PS: I am so sorry to hear, Susan, that this man is being abusive toward you. You need to get a counselor and you can get some free help from the family services in your city or state to see what rights you have in this relationship so that you can get out and figure out a new life. Staying with him is a dead end. He is immobilized and he wants to do that to you too. You'd be surprised that you still have skills and there's a lot in your life that you have learned that you could apply elsewhere. It's hard to do all the things I'm telling you to do when you're brokenhearted, because it takes all the energy away that you need. But if you have any friends at all, and family that you can rely on, ask them for support in this period of transition. But definitely go see family services. They can not only offer you psychological support but they give you legal support as well. The fact that he doesn't want you to leave means that he's getting something out of this situation. And maybe it's just your powerlessness that he likes. But it seems to me that this is a downhill choice for you and you need to figure out how to get out.

Comment from d: Met my wife 11 years ago. We've been married for six. We were trying to have kids earlier in the year and then all of a sudden in June she says she no longer wants kids, nor finds me attractive. She filed papers two weeks ago. My heart physically hurts. I am moving across the country and know in a year I may feel better ... but now ...?

PS: Hi, D., The end of a relationship is always painful if you have any heart at all. It's impossible not to grieve. It's too bad when a relationship ends because all the dreams end with it, but it sounds like you are going to begin a new life very soon. My advice, for the present, is to get yourself as busy as you can be. Join a club. Take on a sport or do more of the sports you like. Figure out things to do at night, like night classes. Or call your friends and say "I need to keep busy now, help me." Do a run around those low slow times when all you have is to think about what hurts. Basically, you have to cheer yourself up each and every way you can. And you can do this.

Question from P.G.: Divorced twice; lonely. Why do I keep choosing the wrong men?

PS: Well, that's a great question to ask, P.G. And that's the first step to figuring out what's undermining your happiness. The first thing I would do is talk to my good friends and think out loud with them if there is a pattern of guys that I've been choosing, and there probably is, and your friends can give you straight talk about how they see it. Now, they may have done this before, but this time you have to listen. So, for example, if you've been going after guys that are not kind, not flexible, not employed, you're not their type — you have to go to the opposite side of the continuum. If you've only been interested in guys that are hard to get, go after guys who are more interested than you are. Look for somebody who's been married a long time and their partner left them. Look for somebody who believes in loyalty and being with a partner forever.

Finally, look to yourself. Ask your friends what they would change about you if they could and tell them to be honest. Because, not all of the problem is with the other guy. We are always part of the problem. And we need to figure out which part that is and then work on it.

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