When to Tell What
Dear Dr. Tracy,
I am a 34 year old woman who would like your thoughts on my situation.
My life situation at the current time is one of major transition. I am in school, graduating in October. I am going through an (extremely amiable) divorce from a transgendered man; we are best friends and housemates (for legal and financial reasons). We have been talking about this decision for about a year, and have finally started the paperwork process. I survived a sexual assault 13 months ago and have been working with a wonderful therapist to deal with all of the above. In general, I feel cautiously optimistic about my future; just the same, I've been through a great deal of trauma, including losing a job, during the last 15 months and I'm well aware that there is still some way to go.
I don't know what has changed about me, but I suddenly seem to be attracting the interest of single men, and I've met a few that I liked. I have been extremely reluctant to consider even going out on a casual date with anyone due to my own situation. So, to that end, I've been friendly, but not overly approachable. I do feel that some day I would like to try a committed relationship again, one that has a better chance of success than my marriage did, but I am certainly in no rush.
My question to you regards the day when I will eventually be brave or ready enough to venture out on a date. I'm wondering what your thoughts are about how to speak about the things that have happened to me--specifically, the circumstances of my marriage and divorce and the assault--in a way that's tactful and yet honest. These things have changed my life in deep ways and I don't see how I can just avoid bringing them up as is advised so often in dating. You seem to me to advocate honesty and an upfront approach more than most, so I would like to know what you think.
Surviving and strong
Dear Surviving and Strong,
It’s important to get back into the dating world, but gradually. You can start with just a little date - say coffee or lunch. Begin dating as friends. Play tennis with someone interesting. Make a daytime date that is time-limited. That way you are keeping expectations low. Then move on to going out in the evening when you feel comfortable with it.
Make sure you can trust someone before you start telling them every trauma you’ve suffered in your life. Don’t rush to tell the ways you’ve been damaged - you’ll only scare men away. Instead show your optimistic, well-balanced self. Go out, have fun, let a man experience how great it is to spend time with you.
I know there are things you feel are important to tell someone new in your life, but timing is everything. Wait until you’ve been dating a while. Don’t go into a lot of details about your divorce or ex-husband in the beginning of a relationship. Simply say, “We found we were not really compatible, but we’re still best of friends.” Show that you are an adult and that you’re not carrying around a lot of baggage, anger or hatred toward your ex.
If you paint your ex as a bad guy, the new men you meet will wonder what was wrong with you that you chose such a loser. If you say you were married to a transgendered man, your date may wonder if you had any hand in his feminine feelings, no matter how ridiculous you know that is. If you talk about losing your job or your sexual assault, a man will wonder if you’re too wounded to be a good partner. So start by showing you can be a valuable asset to his life.
Then when you’ve been dating for a while, say three to six months, tell a little at a time if it seems appropriate and the other person can handle it. Watch his face and body language when you first begin telling anything negative that has happened to you. If he shows signs of discomfort, don’t tell any more.
In the beginning of the relationship, try to only show your strong points. Getting a man to fall in love with you and want to commit to you and eventually to marry you is a sales job. Treat it like a job interview. Only show your strength. Then when he’s seen how terrific you are, when he knows the real you and who you are today, it’s okay to start telling about the past.
In general, trauma should be dealt with in a therapist's office. Someone you’re dating should not be treated like your therapist, and some things are best kept to yourself until the person loves you so much you can tell everything and anything and their love won’t be shaken.
Falling Back In Love
Dear Dr. Tracy,
My husband has fallen out of love with me. He says that when he looks at me, it's just like looking at a friend or a roommate. He says he tries to feel emotions for me and they just aren't there. We both agree that it has nothing to do with physical attraction or sexual compatibility. Instead, other parts of our relationship are and have been lacking (all boils down to the lack of communication over the years).
We are about to start counseling in hopes of putting it all back together. But, I'm just wondering at this point....is it even possible to fall back in love with someone that you once loved? I'm wondering if the psychiatry of the human being makes this possible?
Yes, it is possible to fall back in love with someone. It doesn’t just happen, though, it takes planning and work.
When women come to me about husbands who have fallen out of love, the first question I ask is, “Well, what do you do to keep your husband in love?” This is usually followed by a stunned silence and a shrug. The answer to my question is almost always “nothing.” So my next question is, “What did you used to do to make him feel loved and in love?” Then the answers start to flow.
It’s important for you and your husband to get back to the time when he did feel in love. Bring out your wedding pictures or the pictures of the two of you on vacation when you were in love and happy together. Find the triggers that will make you feel in love again.
If you felt in love camping, go camping again. Reset the scene. Listen to the music you listened to when you were in love. Eat the same foods. Take yourself back and remember how you acted then.
Since most men are strongly visual, think about how you looked then, or more importantly, how you looked at him. Did you smile at him often? Did you flirt with him? Did you seduce him with your eyes or your body? Did you touch more? Did you kiss more? Did you say, “I love you?” and compliment him more? Did you make him feel loved?
Plan romantic times together and spend time just being together. Make love in a romantic setting instead of the same old place. Spice up your sex life. Rent erotic films. Visit a sex store together. Go on the internet and order some new sex toys.
Men love women who make them feel good about themselves. Concentrate on making your husband feel loved, and that will be the first step towards him falling back in love with you.
Be sure that when he looks at you, he doesn’t always see worry and concern on your face. When he was first attracted to you, you probably had a more carefree attitude. If you can’t recreate that attitude, then simply look at him with an “I have a secret lover,” look on your face. Women with secret lovers always look more enticing.
Remember, every relationship has times when the partners are more intimate, more romantic, and more in love. If your relationship is stuck in a down period, it’s time to do something to get back to where you were when he was in love with you.
Pregnant and Confused
Dear Dr. Tracy,
I am a 27 year old female who has never been married. I never thought I
would be in this situation but here it goes. Eight months ago I met
someone who I thought was my prince charming. He sent me flowers,
treated me like a princess, and was almost everything I had always hoped
for. Well 2 months ago I found out I was pregnant from him. Nothing
changed, if anything he was even more attentive.
Well now that I'm
pregnant I'm beginning to find out things about him that I guess I never
noticed before. For one, he works at a restaurant and on certain days he
only works 2-3 hrs.a night. I work a full time job and pay my own bills.
I thought that money wasn't important but I was wrong. He needs to be
asked to do things instead of just taking matters into his own hands. He
never does the laundry or cleans the house. I am going on 3 months
pregnant and have been very tired so it upsets me that I have to come
home to a dirty house. He doesn't have a car so he uses mine all day
while I'm at work to do god knows what.
This is the least of my problems. I have had a close friend for the past
5 years who I'll call John. John lives in a different state and we met
while I was visiting there with some friends. We have kept in touch
these last 5 years and I have always had strong feelings for him, we
talk almost every day via email and instant messaging. He is very
financially secure, he has his own house and pays his own way for
everything. He purchases my plane ticket at least twice a year and we
spend these great weeks together (we do sleep together). I told him I
was pregnant. He was upset that I didn't tell him as soon as I found
out. Well here's the problem. John called me and we talked about
everything like we always have. He wants me to come live with him. He
told me that he wanted to support me and if I wanted to work he would
help me find a job and support my decisions. He wants to help me raise
my child and says that he would be there for me no matter what. I do
believe him because he's always been there for me.
I don't know what to do. I don't want to leave the baby's father out of
his child's life but I can't live with him much less stand being around
him anymore. I know he loves me, but I don't love him. The truth is I'm
in love with John, but I thought the distance was an issue, which it
won't be anymore. I hope you can answer me soon because I'm scheduled to
be on a plane in February and don't know if I'd be making the right
decision. Although in my heart I know I would. Please give me your
advice on this. I haven't seen anything in your library about my
problem. I would really appreciate it.
Pregnant and Confused
Dear Pregnant and Confused,
You’re pregnant and naturally you would hope to be in love with the father of your child. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. However, your Prince Charming is turning into a frog right in front of you.
When it was just you, and no baby, it was easy to love a man who treats you like a princess and brings flowers. However, once a baby is on the way, it’s natural for you to change your values. Instead of a few flowers, you now want someone you can depend on to help you with your pregnancy and in raising your child. You don't want to come home to a dirty house and a man who has only worked a couple of hours; a man who can be a good provider is starting to look much more lovable.
A woman who's expecting a baby is ready to nest. She will always choose a man who can provide a safe and secure nest for her and her baby. It’s anthropological. Even back in the cave man days, the woman had a baby and the man went out and hunted for food. Women were naturally attracted to the best hunters.
You may or may not be truly in love with John. Only time will tell. You are, however, going to need more and more help as your pregnancy progresses, so you might as well be with a man who is going to take care of you.
That doesn’t mean you are abandoning your child’s father forever. It just means that you are doing what you need to do right now for yourself and your baby.