Polly asked: “I’m engaged to be married to a wonderful man, who cares for me and has a lucrative business. My parents are thrilled, my sister seems jealous, and our wedding is planned for this summer, right after I graduate with my Master’s degree. So why am I writing you? I’ve never expressed this to anyone, including my best friends, but I feel like my life is being run by everyone else, like I’m living a life I don’t really want. I love my fiancé, but I’m not in love with him. I feel like I’m about to marry my best friend, which everyone says is a good thing, but for a while now I’ve had no physical attraction to him. I find myself attracted to other men, but I would never cheat on him. And while I should feel an immense sense of accomplishment for graduating, I’m actually feeling empty. My career choice was encouraged for its reliable payday, but what I really want to do is sing. I love singing, my friends all encourage me to chase that dream, but my family and fiancé discouraged it because of the risk involved. While everyone else is happy for me, I feel lost. What do you think I should do?”
Liz says: We feel lost when we get little to no guidance from our loved ones, or when we get so much advice that their voices overwhelm our own. It sounds like you may have been raised to be a people pleaser, that syndrome in which you feel guilty for setting up boundaries and telling people ‘no’, and the desire to be liked/loved/accepted by everyone keeps you from thinking and living for yourself. Not considering everyone else’s opinions all the time and setting up healthy boundaries doesn’t make you a selfish person. It makes you a healthier, happier person.
I’m hesitant to tell you what you “should do”, as it seems like you’ve been hearing enough from others how you should live your life, so here’s what I will say: listen to your own voice for a change. What do your instincts tell you? What does your heart tell you, and does that conflict with your rational mind? What are your worst-case scenarios, and are you strong enough to survive them?
Some wisdom to keep in mind: The biggest regret the elderly and dying have is “Not having had the courage to live the life I really wanted to live”. Many people look back and realize they let others influence their life decisions too often, to their own detriment. To be able to look back without regrets, because “having tried and failed is better than never trying at all”, is something most of us yearn for. If you decide a possible career in singing is important to you and you explain this to your fiancé but he still discourages you, coupled with the fact that you’re not physically attracted to him (or in love with him) anymore, well…in my humble but educated opinion, marrying him is a divorce waiting to happen. Your mate should support your passions and dreams (unless of course your passions and dreams are illegal/immoral/delusional/etc). But I’m only affirming what your instincts are already telling you.
Part of being a healthy, autonomous adult is standing on your own two feet. The people who love you won’t shun you or make you feel small for following your heart.
I wish you the best in whatever you decide!