"Ask Dr. Tracy"

1/10/99 Advice Column

Fear Of Valentine's Day,
How Much Togetherness is Too Much,
Barely A Virgin

Dear Dr. Tracy,

Please help. I have been dating a guy for about a month now. He is wonderful and very sensitive (a huge change from the men I usually date). I can tell you right now that he likes me a lot more than I like him. It's not that I don't feel that there is a potential, I just need more time to get used to the idea of being treated so well and with such respect. I have a problem with Valentine's day though. He's already started talking about it. He gave me an x-mas gift after two dates, so who knows what he is thinking! I don't know what to do...I don't want to snuff out any future we may have by being uninterested or too careful. But, I don't want to lead him on either. He already speaks of having children, and I'm only 20! He is very into me, and I can't be mean... Please help!

Dear Worried,

Valentine's Day is a problem for everyone. So don't think you're alone. Couples who have just met wonder if they should send a card, if they should sign it "love" and whether it should be a lovey-dovey card or a funny one.

Funny is always easiest and safest (unless you've been together a long time, in which case, skip funny and go straight for lovey dovey); just be sure it's not an insulting funny card. And you should never sign "love" unless you mean it.

The biggest problem people have at Valentine's Day is giving too much too soon. Valentine's Day may be the perfect time to say "I care" (or to sign "love" for the first time -- if you mean it). But it's also the time to resist putting a price tag on your relationship by spending too much.

Remember, you can't buy love, and spending a lot sometimes gives the wrong message -- one that says "I'm desperate." So the first rule of Valentine's Day is to get a nice card, and a modest and thoughtful gift -- but don't overspend. The most obviously safe Valentine's Day gifts are flowers (not too fancy) and candy. The best gift, if you feel there's potential here, is an inexpensive but personally meaningful gift -- a book by his favorite author or an accessory for his car that you know he'd love. Or you could cook him a wonderful dinner with candlelight.

Whatever you do, don't put yourself in the position of having to top whatever gift he gives you. Instead, do exactly what you feel like doing as long as it's not too much. As long as you're feeling ambivalent and not ready to rush into love, keep things going forward slowly, no matter how much he rushes you.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I've been dating this girl I meet over the internet for 3 years now. We just recently married.(In june) Everything was fine until yesterday. One of my cousins asked if just him and I can go out. My wife say's it doesn't make sense for him to just want to go with me by myself. She thinks that he wants to set me up with someone, when I know my cousin will never do. We got in this big argument yesterday over it. I didn't even said I was going. I just said I'll think about it. Anyways, she starting getting violent(might I add, this isn't the first time.. she say's she'll stop doing that, but haasn't). She was swinging and really trying to hurt me.. I don't know what to do. I really love her with all my heart and it hurts me so much that she would get so mad and react this way. She thinks that if we are married that we have to go everywhere together.. Is that true? I don't know what's what anymore. Please help me....

Dear Hurt,

Every couple has to find their own level of togetherness, but when you're newlyweds (the first year) most couples want to be together as much as possible. Eventually though, couples find that they do have different interests and that they are different people and don't like all the same things all the time.

That's just fine, but you have to work it out one step at a time. An important part of being a couple is to learn to consult each other before making plans either for yourself or for the two of you together. Consulting before you make plans, not after, is the way to keep the peace.

It's actually good for a couple to spend time apart once in a while. The time they spend apart pursuing their own interests makes them more interesting and give them some new things to talk about to their mates.

One way to solve the problem is by seeing your friends during the day at lunchtime or when your wife is seeing some of her friends. That takes a little coordination with your schedules but will make having separate friends easier.

In general, though, you shouldn't be going out to bars or partying at night with your cousin without your wife. You haven't been married long enough and she needs time to feel more secure before she feels comfortable having you go out alone. Why can't your cousin get a date and then the four of you go out together?

As for her violence, that needs to be addressed separately. She has to learn to deal with her emotions without hitting. She's trying to let you know that she was hurt, but she's not doing it right. I recommend that the two of you go for couples therapy and learn how to work out problems without getting violent. Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I've spent all night reading through your site, and you've got a lot of interesting, well-done points. I agreed with about everything you said, which is surprising for me. Anyway, you do a fabulous job here.

My problem: I'm twenty, a virgin, have a new boyfriend who is much more experienced than I. While I am not fearful of doing the actual act, per se, I am rather fearful of the emotional aspect of doing the deed for the first time.

I used to become very attached to guys in high school (like my last ex) and such, but since they didn't feel attached to me (or worse, to the same degree that I did to them), things were miserable for me. I am naturally reluctant to go through that agony again, and so far I don't think I have become like that with my current relationship. I'm enjoying how things are going.

However: I have heard (on programs like Loveline, etc) that women, due to chemicals/hormones/etc, become MUCH more attached than men do after sex. Men apparently don't have this problem at all. This worries me, as I really don't want to go through that sort of obsessive onesidedness again, only multiplied...plus there's the factors you determined about the whole act of losing virginity, the "nice girl" syndrome of "I must love him forever." Due to this guy's past history (many girlfriends, enough to give a virgin pause before doing the deed), I am pretty leery of becoming attached/falling in love with him too fast without it being equal, and I'm worried that sex will do that to me. If I could enjoy things as a fling, the way that men apparently can, I would not be as worried, but, well... Is this actually true?

Does this have long-term potential? I'm not sure. His past history does give me reason to be cautious. He's been seeing somebody else casually for awhile now before meeting me - for now I can handle it, and am giving it a bit of time or so to see if I'm bothered by this as our involvement deepens or he dumps her before getting really involved. Which is another fear of mine: that I'll get all jealous and possessive after doing the deed and becoming a person that I don't want to be.

But after reading your "in love" signs, that sure sounds like my boyfriend, he's done them all...he just got tested for HIV without my even having to say anything! We've been fooling around for weeks, him doing whatever he can to pleasure me, and he's been understanding about the V status, asking what I'd like and why I'm leery. I answered disease and pregnancy (his answer was "Quite reasonable"), which is true, but frankly, I feel terrible saying that another fear is that "I don't wanna get too attached to you if we do it!" Or demanding that he dump the other girl before we do to prevent my getting jealous and psycho- I'm not even sure if that's something I can do or if that's fair to do at this early stage of things with us. I'd rather it be his decision to dump her if things go well enough with us. But really, what else can I do? I can't _not_ have sex with him forever either. I don't want to do that, and that's not fair to him.

If I were thinking more logically, I'd hold off on doing the deed for months and months, or so I hear from others. But when I read your saying not to have sex until you can't live without it/stop yourself...well, that day is coming up _fast_, and after the test results come in (hopefully negative) next week...well, I'll have some decision making to do.

Answers and advice would be really appreciated...when you're back doing columns again, of course, but if you could do this one ASAP, that would also be appreciated.

Thanks for reading, I guess you can sign me - Emotionally Fearful Virgin

Dear Fearful,

Don't have sex until you're absolutely sure you are ready and that this is the guy you want to always remember as your first, no matter what. You see, there's no assurance whatsoever that you'll be spending the rest of your life with this guy, just because you have sex with him. And you always remember your first.

Consider, do you trust him? Would he be the kind of lover you want to have that special first experience with? Would you be able to survive if you had sex with him and then he didn't stick around?

Would your emotions be more susceptible to love if you're having sex with him? You bet! No question. There's nothing that makes a woman feel more in love than sex. And nothing makes a woman more filled with jealousy and rage than the thought of the man who just made wonderful love to her doing the same with someone else. So if you're worried now and you haven't even done it, yes, you'll be a lot more worried afterwards.

Don't let yourself be fooled by some vague longterm potential. Make sure you want to before you do the deed. There's nothing wrong with waiting, and of course, once you go ahead, it's an irreversible step.

When you're ready, make sure your conditions are met. That he's not sleeping around and that you're going to be in peace with the decision no matter what happens afterward.

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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