Dr. Tracy's Advice Column

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Dear Readers,

Please know that I have read all of your letters, and wish I could answer every one.  As I mentioned previously, my husband has cancer.  We have been away from home for the past two months seeking treatments, so I haven't been able to post columns as regularly as before.  However, I will be posting more often now.  Because the columns haven't been as regular, I will be continuing our special rates for private email questions and counseling for those with urgent needs.

Thank you for your continued support and your loyalty.  I have been touched by your thoughtful emails.

Dr. Tracy


3/30/08

Silent Messages
Sneaky Computer Porn
Haunted by the Past



Silent Messages

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I have had a girlfriend for about 6 months. We live in different countries that are on opposite sides of the world. We knew each other as youngsters but did not begin our relationship until she moved away. About 4 months ago, I saw a photo of her and another man on her website. In the picture, they looked a bit more than friends. I sent my girlfriend an e-mail asking her about the photo. She hasnít responded since then. I donít have her phone number so I canít call her. Iím sure my e-mails are getting through. I am ready to move on but I feel that I owe my girlfriend an opportunity to at least tell me if she wants to end our relationship. I have waited two months. How much longer should I wait for a response? Thank you.

Sincerely,

Waiting for Response

Dear Waiting,

Many people, perhaps most, don't want to tell someone when they're no longer interested, at least not in words. And there are a lot of people who don't want to hear the message, even if it is said directly. Because people are often bad communicators, they don't say what they mean, so it's important to begin to listen to the silent messages that are often louder than actual words.

Face it. Your girlfriend is no longer your girlfriend. She has a new man in her life and doesn't want to go through the emotional trauma of telling you about it. She is avoiding you, and really, you have to listen to what she isn't saying. She's not saying "I hate you, get out of my life." She's saying, "I have someone new and I don't want to face you or tell you about it."

Certainly having a picture on her website with someone else is a strong enough message, and you already know they're more than just friends. Actually, you've knows for the past four months since you first saw the picture of the two of them together. Then you waited two months to write her, and now you're waited two more months for an answer. You're wasting your valuable life yearning for someone who isn't there for you. In your heart, you know it's over; you just don't want to let go.

Give it a rest. Most relationships don't work out, especially long distance relationships, and this one isn't going to be "the one" for you. From my point of view, you've had a six month imaginary relationship with someone who lives half-way around the world, and for most of that time, she's been with someone else.

Two months is long enough to wait for a response to an email. Actually it's way too long. The time has come to write off this relationship, say goodbye to the girlfriend you thought you had, and move on. Saying goodbye isn't easy. The best thing for you to do is stop thinking about her, stop fantasizing about her, stop wishing and hoping to hear from her. Put away anything that reminds you of her and begin looking for a new girlfriend.

How much of a girlfriend could she have been if you didn't even have her home phone number? In a real relationship, you are able to contact each other by phone and not just by email. You don't owe her anything in the way of waiting for an explanation, but you do owe yourself a new girlfriend.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy



Sneaky Computer Porn

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I need some advice, and definitely some perspective on a relationship problem. I am very much in love with a kind and wonderful man and am getting married next month. We are both 30.

About three weeks ago I borrowed his computer, and found that he had been looking at a significant number of pornographic websites. This is not a big deal for me, I know it is normal, and every past boyfriend I've had has admitted to looking at porn.

However, my fiance has told me any time this has come up in the past that he doesn't like porn, and that he finds it degrading to women and distorts mens' view of 'real sex.'

So of course I asked him about these sites and he flat out denied it -- and promptly deleted all his internet history and cookies. I tried to make it safe for him to tell me by assuring him I think it is normal, but he continued to angrily and vehemently deny he ever looks at it or likes it.

So I let it drop, and then this weekend I noticed him in our home office looking at pornographic sites on the computer. I checked his internet history (which is sneaky, I feel bad about doing it) and he had indeed been cruising various porn sites while I was just in the other room. I let a day go by and then asked him about it-- trying to be really gentle about it and non-accusatory- and he completely lied about it, and got very very angry at me for bringing it up again. I told him that I clearly know he was, and it is no big deal, but he will not admit it.

Please give me some perspective on this. I am really worried because we are getting married really soon. I completely trust him not to cheat on me or abuse me, but I am really hurt by his lying over this. What do you suggest I do to put my mind at ease? I don't think there is any way he will ever tell me the truth about this, and I really don't want it to come between us.

Thank you for your help!

Dear Bride to be,

This is a serious problem -- not because your future husband is looking at porn, but because he insists on lying to you about it. It's perfectly okay and no big deal if a man or woman likes to look at porn. Looking at porn together can even be fun for couples to share. But when a man insists on lying about whether he looks or not and gets angry at you for asking, you have to wonder if he's going to lie about other things as well.

You could try looking at porn yourself and letting him know that you're "into" the same thing he is. Of course, at this point, he may just balk at anything you do that even reminds him of his lies. He probably feels guilty about lying to you and that's one reason for his anger. So even looking at porn together could set him off and there could easily be another round of denials and anger.

If you know he's looking at porn while you're in the other room, you could quietly tippy-toe in and catch him in the act. That would prevent him from denying it, but it could also make him even angrier.

In a healthy relationship, it's important to be able to discuss something you may disagree on, rather than feeling so intimidated by the possibility that your partner will get angry that you overlook the problem or just shut up about it, even when you feel strongly about it. You surely don't want to go through life with a man who controls you by getting angry. Or do you?

Apparently, there is no way you can put your mind at ease about this issue without risking his anger and letting this come between you. If you are really committed to marriage in a month no matter what, then you have to forget about it and stop snooping. However, you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of his denying things and then getting angry with you to get you to back down. If the answer is "Yes, I want to marry him no matter what," then accept him for who and what he is and stop insisting that he fess up.

If, on the other hand, you say, "Hell, no, I don't want to marry a man who lies to me and then gets angry when I ask him about it," insist on going to pre-marital counseling immediately.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy



Haunted by the Past

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I'm 27, never been married, and involved with a beautiful man who just may be "the one." The issue at hand revolves around our very different backgrounds. He was raised in a wealthy, laid-back small-town-type liberal community in the rolling hills of Oregon, and went on to attend a very liberal private college, then Stanford for a doctorate. I, on the other hand, was born in Detroit to a very blue-collar, conservative family. Parents were divorced in my infancy, and we moved around a lot. There were years of financial struggle, compounded with emotional and sexual abuse, with sporadic physical abuse thrown in for good measure. I drifted through my teens and twenties, smoking too much pot and running from my past. I'm just now graduating college with my Bachelor's degree this April.

My education has revolved around Psychology, and due to years of therapy and self-analysis, I feel I've come very far in "growing into myself" both as a woman and a human being. One thing I can't seem to get past, though, is the "unfairness of it all." Ridiculous, right? But when he speaks of his high school years or the fancy private college (my terms, not his) he went to, I get this surge of envy and frustration. He had this gentle, privileged life, while I've done nothing but struggle. I tell myself I ought to be grateful that a man like him would even be interested in someone like me, but it still hurts. And yes, that thought right there shows there is more going on than this "opposite sides of the tracks" background issue. It is just something that pops up more and more lately, and I fear that if it continues, it will push him away.

Any thoughts?

Dear Hurt,

Your hurt is yours, not his, and has nothing to do with your present relationship. It's time for you to realize that the past is the past and you can't change it. The very best thing you can do is to keep the past from ruining your present.

So you've struggled, so you've had a hard time, so you haven't been privileged like he has. That's a fact of life and there's nothing you can do to change it. It's no more his fault that he had a golden childhood and life than it is your fault that your life was dingy gray not gold.

Forgive yourself for being envious of his easy path and forgive those who made your path so hard. Then tell yourself you won't let those who hurt you continue to ruin your life by letting those hurts affect your relationship. Congratulate yourself for having gotten a college degree and for finding such a great guy to be with. Instead of worrying about his coming from "the other side of the tracks," appreciate the fact that he can bring a different viewpoint to your life.

Let him show you that life isn't always grim. Give up your envy and frustration. They're not in your best interest and won't make you happy. If you want to be happy, stop punishing him for not suffering like you have. Would you really want him to suffer? Of course not. Do you really think life is meant to be fair? Surely not.

Some people are born to royalty and others to street people. That's just a fact of life. Life isn't fair, but don't let the unfairness make you miserable. Accept that life is just like that and move on.

Instead of worrying about your past and his and how they're so different, concentrate on the present. Make every day as wonderful as you can and enjoy this time without rancor. If he speaks about his fancy college and his gentle privileged life, so what? He's just as entitled to his past as you are to yours.

Don't push him away with your insecurities, envy and frustration. Instead love him for showing you that life can be lovely and gentle. You don't have to be grateful that a man like him finds you attractive. Realize that it's all the things that you went through in your past that made you the person he is attracted to. Without your past, you wouldn't be who you are. Be proud of yourself for overcoming a difficult past and allow yourself to move on to a happier future. Replace your negative thoughts with positive ones and you will be happier and easier to love.

When you start having the uncomfortable thoughts about his smooth sailing through life, remind yourself that nobody gets through life without pain. He just hasn't had his yet.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy



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(Featured art from cover of Letting Go, by Zev Wanderer and Tracy Cabot, published by "Bitan" Publishers, Tel-Aviv, Israel)
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