Dear Dr. Love: I come from a very traditional family where marriages last forever. Except, it seems, mine. After four years of marriage, my wife and I have decided to separate. I feel like I've disappointed everybody. -- Failed Male
Dr. Love wants to say that broken marriages are so common these days, it's a bit heartening to hear that some families have a strong track record of lasting love.
Of course, that's little solace to you and your wife at the moment. Going through a painful separation is tough enough and pressures from family members only add insult to amorous injury.
At the same time, however, Dr. Love believes that you shouldn't give up. You might still be able to work things out and -- please don't gasp when I say this -- your family, rather than cause you pain, can probably become a source of help and inspiration.
First off, you and your wife should take a deep breath -- and forgive yourselves. Nothing is perfect in life. No job. No person. And no relationship. If the marriage simply will not work, commend yourselves for having the wisdom and strength to recognize that and remember that, no matter what you decide, there's no pleasing everybody.
"The decision to get married is a personal choice made by a man and a woman. Likewise the decision to separate is a personal choice made by a man and a woman," said Stephen Koscherak, a clinical psychologist at the Condrell Center in Orchard Park. "Although family members may be disappointed with your decision, they cannot know how it feels to be in your position."
But let's say you and your wife want to give it the old college try. Area psychologists who spoke to Dr. Love said broken marriages can be glued back together.
"If they really want to try and make it work," said Susan Davis, a Buffalo psychologist, "there are things they can do, like therapy or talk to clergy."
Or even talk to some of your family members. Your relatives may look as if they have wonderful, Capra-esque marriages. But Dr. Love bets that they've gone through their share of pain and suffering and can offer you tips on how to resolve some issues. Helpful advice might also come from friends who are married.
Lastly, talk to marriage counselors about so-called super-vows. In a typical super-vow, a couple makes a non-legally binding commitment to work together for six months to save their marriage.
"When we first learn to walk we fall down," said Amy Beth Taublieb, an Amherst psychologist, "but eventually we learn to walk."
As Derek (of the Dominoes) once sang: "Why does love got to be so strange?" Dr. Love knows the answer to this and many other imponderable questions. Write: Dr. Love, Lifestyles Department, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.