Q. I married the first time because it was the right thing to do — pregnant at 19, and he is a great person.
But I realized years in that I wasn’t in love, so we divorced after 12 years and three beautiful kids.
My current partner is also great, has proposed ... but I can’t help but feel the same way I did before — when I wanted to call it quits. I don’t know what’s wrong or what I lack. I feel I lack a spark, but don’t know if it worth throwing away a safe relationship.
— Quitting Time
A. Safe is great, but it’s not enough. If you want to call it quits, don’t say yes to marriage.
If anything, let your current partner go so they can move on to someone who might be excited about them. You don’t have to cling to the thing that feels responsible or right on paper.
If you’d said you love this current partner, I might have advised you to stick it out, seek counseling, and think about how spark might be restored, etc. But you said nothing about what you’d miss if they went away. You do not mention the strength of the initial attraction. Again, all you said was that you’re ready to end it. I sense guilt, but no real fear of the loss.
You say you’re confused about what this relationship lacks. That makes me think of our recent letter about how to define spark, and the truth is, all of these feelings are difficult to explain. Spark does fade over time for a lot of great couples, but there’s still a feeling of connection — of love — that can become more important. That doesn’t seem to be part of your experience right now.
If this partner is serious about you, it’s time to tell them you’re in a very different place.
“I don’t know what’s wrong or what I lack.” Please get a therapist, letter writer, and talk these things over. As one of the options, you could focus for the next 10 years on raising your children, not dating. But, do you work outside the home? If not, you need to address that, pronto. If you are planning on a man paying your way — with whom you have no “spark” — that’s not a good plan. JIVEDIVA
Be fair and end it. No “friends” afterward — not a good idea. It is much harder to get out of a marriage than it is to not do it at all! I would rather be alone than be with someone I have no spark with. STEPH10
Marrying him just because he is safe and it’s easier than being on your own is not fair to your partner or your kids, when the marriage ends in divorce it will affect them as well. He deserves to be with somebody who loves him and wants to build a life with him. You have already started walking out on the relationship, keep going. Be single for a while, learn how to support yourself and figure out who you are and what you want before jumping into another relationship. SOMEWHEREINMA
If you love your partner — which is a big IF since you don’t say anything about that — then go dancing on date nights, instead of dinner. Do something fun, not something ordinary. How you find that spark is up to you and your partner. There is no standard recipe for this. CUPPAJOESEATTLE
If you jumped right back into the dating pool as soon as your divorce, maybe you need to take some time to just figure out who you are. Being married with children at 19 doesn’t allow for a lot of space to figure out what you want out of life. SURFERROSA
Be alone for a while and enjoy your kids because before you know it ... THEKIDSRALLRIGHT
Send your own relationship and dating questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.