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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.


Question from C-line: Divorced husband of 32 years and thought I was done with men. Met someone 60 days post divorce and I think I'm in love. Could it be rebound?

PS: Hi, C-line. I think this is a great question and a lot of people will be interested in this answer because it's a common issue. The answer is, yes it could be, but no it doesn't have to be. Life sometimes delivers the right person right away and I wish we all could experience that. But of course, it could also be that you're lonely, that you miss emotional and sexual contact and that this person provides so much of what you need that you're not looking deeper at all the things you really need to see. So, my recommendation is enjoy it, but take it slow, and don't make any commitments. Don't move in. Don't get engaged. Just enjoy each other and get to know each other better. It's only time that will tell you what you really have.

Question from Rock and a Hard Place: My parents shouldn't be together anymore. They constantly bicker and sleep in separate rooms, sometime houses. But they both refuse to budge because of the money it costs to get divorced. And I guess there are the combined retirement accounts. How can I get these two people I love so much to go their separate ways? I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place.

PS: Hello, Rock and a Hard Place. That's a good question. You know? We're never too old to get some counseling. And just because they've been married for so long, doesn't mean they couldn't use a third person to give some feedback and advice. And they won't go out to see someone, maybe you could bring someone from family services into their home to talk to them. Sometimes, people get very thin-skinned in the latter years of their long marriages and they can get pretty nasty with one another — even if they had a good marriage up until now. I have actually heard stories where parents had to be separated for their own safety. So, you have to assess the situation and see what degree of anger and abusive language is going on and decide whether it's escalating or just staying at the same place.

It's also possible that maybe you could get one or both of them out of the house more. They might not be so nasty to one another if they had other things to do. Maybe they could go to a community center where they have crafts, exercise and continuing education. I think you can do something here and I think it may become increasingly necessary to do something, so if you start to help the situation now, perhaps you can avoid something even worse between them in the future.

Question from Susan: How do you know when it's really over? Relationship for 13 years and I've been sleeping on the couch for the last three. We've been in couples counseling for two years. How do you know the right thing to do, to stay or go? When does trying to make it work become insanity?

PS: OK, Susan, I think you are on the cusp of insanity. I'm using that word loosely, of course, but it sounds like enough time has passed ... so if this thing were to turn around, it would have done so. Sleeping on the couch for three years is way far down the road of a deteriorated relationship.

By the way, why is it that you're the person on the couch? You should at least switch on and off.

I'm thinking that you're boxed into a corner and you need to get out of this situation. It looks like you've tried very hard. But if things start going in the same loop and there's no change or progress, and it's an unkind situation, then you need to stop being in that loop and go in a new direction. I think, from the small amount of info you've given me, the least you should be doing is listening to a counselor on this and my guess is they're gonna tell you it's enough already.

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