Dear Annie: I am a 67-year-old male. I married for the first time when I was 34. All my friends had gotten married, and my wife-to-be was studying to be a doctor, and I knew that would make people look up to me. I came from a well-to-do family but had not achieved anything on my own. Also, I did not believe I could support a family, so it seemed the perfect match. Our marriage lasted 25 years, not because I was happy but because I just was too timid to leave. We raised three children together, and I stayed at home while my wife worked. I was miserable because I felt like I had never really grown up and led my own life. I wanted to leave but did not want to when the children were young. At least that was my excuse. When the youngest was 13, I started acting out with anger, yelling at the children and my wife. I just raised such a fuss all the time that my wife finally asked me to leave.
I met a young, pretty woman online, and one thing led to another. She ended up moving to my state, and we were married soon afterward. She brought her 7-year-old daughter with her. I knew in my heart that I did not want to be married again, and I absolutely knew that I did not want to be burdened with a child, but I did not have the courage to say no. I did try, but her tears stopped me cold. Now, five years later, she is the main breadwinner and is very successful in her work. I am a stay-at-home father who feels like a loser who has never grown up. Same old story.
My wife is not a bad person, and my first wife was not either. They are both fine people, but I never really loved either of them because I do not love myself. To commit in a relationship, one needs to know who they are and what they want out of life. I never have. I still have dreams of leaving my present family and embarking on a solo hiking trip on the Appalachian Trail or getting a job helping others, but I now feel like I am too old to do anything different with my life.
My wife does not have a clue that I am as discontent as I am. No one except my closet friend knows how I feel. I cannot imagine having the gumption to actually leave, and I do not want to hurt my wife and daughter, so I just suffer in silence. I keep hoping that I can find the courage to live my own life but am feeling like it is too late for me. What should I do? — Suffering in Silence.
Dear Suffering in Silence: It sounds like you are dealing with depression. I am sorry you are suffering but proud of you for writing this letter to break your silence. The first step to end your suffering is to go through it. You need to seek professional help from a therapist who can help you see why you repeat this cycle of unhappiness.
From the outside, raising three wonderful children, and now a fourth, sounds like a huge accomplishment. But you can have all the accomplishments in the world and not see them or appreciate them. To feel accomplished, you have to feel that you deserve to be happy. With low self-esteem, you don't feel you deserve happiness, and you instead self-sabotage or walk around miserable.
Find a good therapist, and heal yourself day by day. Hopefully, you will start to feel more confident in yourself and see all that you have accomplished in life.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book - featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette - is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]