QUESTION: When I was 21, I converted to a new religion and married my husband. I converted by my own choice, and married mostly because I was pregnant. The religion I converted to is kind of known for its rigidity and all-encompassing “structure”. Over the years, my faith has gone up and down, but mostly it’s been mediocre. More recently, as I reach into my mid-30s, I feel this faith, and especially the strict community I’m surrounded by, are just plain wrong and I do not believe as they believe. We have two children who’ve been raised in the faith and according to my husband’s cultural norms. My husband and I split up for over two years, a few years back, and we chose to get back together for the sake of our children. I can say with certainty that I do not love my husband. I feel his views of women, family structure, and gender roles are skewed, and he is solid in his views. I am in a deep depression and find it hard to function. I am like a robot, and I am still dressing and acting the part in regards to religion. I feel like I die a little each day. I haven’t shown my hair or arms in public since I was 21, and my daughter hasn’t since she was five. She’s 11 now. I would just walk away, but I’ve now become a stay-at-home mom and have no assets of my own. I’m in college now with the goal of getting gainful employment after graduation. Do I stick this out and continue to be miserable but secure that I have a roof over our heads (kids and I), or do I run for my life and risk poverty and a big backlash from my husband and religious community?

ANSWER: It is with a heavy heart that I read this and its description of the pain that you live in. The question you ask is one we all face in our lives: do we choose safety or being alive. Sometimes these two things can coexist; many times it is a choice we have to make. Of course, having children complicates the matter infinitely, since their well-being is our first consideration.

Questions such as this can only be answered by you. Before you make a decision either way, examine what has brought you to a point where you are in a deep depression and feel like you are dying every day. Being in a loveless marriage is one thing; to have your life force leaking on a daily level is another. To your point, what do you want and how much are you ready to sacrifice for it?

Let the answer come to you, one day at a time. No need to stress yourself with visions of homelessness or a lifetime of lovelessness. Keep at your studies and establish your independent identity. Regardless of whether you decide to stay or start a new life, you still need to find yourself. Commit to yourself at every waking moment. Before you change or not change your present life, change your relationship to your Self. Strengthen that relationship and listen to its voice. It will never steer you wrong.