Dr. Tracy's Advice Column

Cartoon Kiss

1/20/2002

Married Men Make the Best Lovers?
Erasing His Old Memories
Toxic Parents



Married Men Make the Best Lovers?

Dear Dr. Tracy,

Hi--I am writing to you to hopefully get some help. I am 28 years old. Divorced this year and I am the mother of 2 wonderful children. I have recently fallin in love with a great guy that I work with. I see him M-F at work, and he comes to my house every evening to visit me. My kids absolutly are crazy about him and he is wonderful with them.

He and I have been out of town for weekend getaways together, and we have so much fun together. My parents have met him and they really like him. So many people that knew me when I was with my X can't not believe how happy I seem when the see me with my new man as compared to my X. My sister-in-law says I look so happy and I really am myself when I am around him. I have some financial trouble everyonce in while being a single mom of two and trying to keep the house and all the bills and especially here at the holiday. My guy offers to give me $$ all the time and will when I will let him. I have a hard time taking $ from him becuase I don't want him to feel like he has to give me $$. We have been seeing each other for about 7-8 months now. I met him right after I got divorced. About 2-3 months ago, he said that he loved me. I told him that I was falling in love with him to. Our feeling with each other are mutual. We both love each other and want to be together.

There is only one problem...I am sure you have heard this before...he is married. He tells me he does not love his wife and he is only there because they have a 1year old. And i would never ask him to leave because of that. It hurts me because my kids love him and he can't be around when they want him to all the time. When I was married I never really cared for sex. I have never been with someone like this guy that makes me feel so special and so pretty. I think about it everyday now. We make love several times a week and I just can't seem to get enough of him. We we kiss it is awesome. He has told me that he has not "kissed" his wife/had him tongue in her mouth in 2 years. He says he does not love her.

I have tried to breeak it off several times but he always gets me back. He says he wants to be with me he just don't know if he can't take that big step. I am stuck because I don't know what to do. I love this guy and I want to be with him, and he says he loves me. HELP! Thank you for your time in listening to my story...I hope you have advice for me.

STUCK!!

Dear Stuck,

You are experiencing the reasons for the old saying, "married men make the best lovers." They are romantic, they bring you gifts and money, and they know how to say all the right things. Since he's never around that much, you're always glad to see him. Your time together is stolen and precious, so you spend it doing fun things like "getaways" instead of disciplining kids or fixing a broken toilet.

Sure, he tells you he that he loves you and doesn't love his wife; that he's only with her because of their child. Don't you understand they all say that? And every woman like yourself deludes herself by thinking, "well, I know, but in this case it's true."

Staying in this relationship only hurts yourself and his wife. You'll be alone on holidays and he'll be sleeping in her bed at night no matter what he says to you about how much he doesn't love her. Sure, he gives you money and great sex, but at what cost?

Having him in your life is keeping you from finding someone who is really available for a trusting, loving relationship. You'll never be able to trust him. He probably won't leave his wife. Why should he? He has everything he wants right now without the trouble of leaving his marriage.

You, on the other hand, are setting yourself up for lots of pain. You'll always be wanting more from him and not getting it. You'll be alone when emergencies come up and at those times when you really need someone by your side. Your children will learn that it's okay to give half-way in a relationship and then go home to another family.

Don't be a fool. Tell this man you are going to stop seeing him and mean it. Then do it, even if it means you have to find another job just to get away from him. Tell him that you aren't going to spend the best years of your life waiting for some man to leave his wife for you.

The sad truth is that even if he did leave his wife and marry you, you'd never know when he'd decide to leave you for someone else. He's already proven himself to be a cheat and undoubtedly a liar by cheating on his present wife. Do you think he'd change his stripes if you were his wife? For how long -- maybe a year? Typically, men like him are hooked on the excitement of sneaking, of love snatched in dangerous moments, and of getting away with something. They have no interest in a normal, faithful relationship.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy



Erasing His Old Memories

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I realize you've addressed this problem more than once in the past, but from what I can tell, mine has a bit of a twist. So hopefully you can deal with it one more time?

I'm 46, a newlywed (my first marriage, my husband's second--he's 39) and am in the process of moving into my husband's house, a temporary measure until we relocate and establish a new home of our own.

My husband is a pack rat and has kept literally everything of sentimental value from his past, including old high school scrapbooks, etc. This includes old photos and love letters from high school sweethearts on up to cards from the woman he was dating before we met. As far as the high school stuff goes, I have no problem with his hanging onto keepsakes from those years; such memories are young and sweet and very long ago, and we all have them. They're fun to pull out and reminisce over, even with your spouse. I've kept a few of my own, for that matter. They have nothing to do with my feelings for him, and I know his have no bearing on his feelings for me. All of those items more or less sit gathering mold in the basement.

As for the more current items, he's asked me--on his own initiative--to please toss anything I find regarding his ex-wife and last girlfriend, both of which were difficult and unhappy relationships for him that he broke off. Again, I'm not at all bothered by the idea of an ex-wife or old girlfriends (regardless of who broke up with whom), nor by the fact that he hasn't thrown them out. He had a past before he met me, and I had one before I met him. And I realize it's a "guy thing" to dump cards and photos from exes in a pile and forget about them till the next century, when he finally decides to clean out the spare room...

BUT...on my husband's wall in the den are also framed, hand-enscribed lyrics from a love song (taken from a movie popular about 20 years ago), and on the wall in his living room are lyrics from a well-known 70's song about friendship. Both were created by a girl he fell hard for in his sophomore year in college and who, after stringing him along for awhile, rejected him. I know that my husband was crushed by this, so much so that his grades plummeted and he left college for a time, later transferring to another school. I gently asked him about it and he made light of the situation, but I've got a few years on me, not to mention the chutzpah to ask his mother for details, and I know he was deeply in love with her and devastated by her failure to return his feelings. It's clear that this young lady treated him callously and irresponsibly from the start. I accidentally came across the Dear John letter she saw fit to write in his yearbook for all the world to see (!) and saw the photo he still keeps there--a very pretty girl with a very large ego, who was "confused" and wanted to be "just friends". I also learned that she got married a year later and had the insensitivity to invite him to her wedding, knowing full well how her rejection had affected him.

Yet, among all the family photos and doodads, these continue to hang on his walls--pardon me--OUR walls, and I think I'm a fairly reasonable person, but it's driving me crazy. It also hurts. My husband teasingly accused me of being "insecure" when I asked him about it. He claims to have no feelings left for her, says I'm "prettier than she is" (which I consider irrelevant, I am who I am), that it wasn't a big deal, I'm reading too much into things, and he is grateful she was "wise enough to recognize that we had our differences". The keepsakes are there, he claims, because he "hasn't found anything to replace them with yet". Which makes no sense, especially since we took a hell of a lot of pictures on our honeymoon, and I gave him a framed photo of our favorite vintage car for his birthday 8 months ago.

So why do those answers seem too convenient and too pat, not to mention illogical? Am I wrong to feel put out by the fact that the man who promised to keep me only unto him still has sappy, insincere platitudes done in bad calligraphy by a girl who in my opinion was full of crap, on display in our home 20 years after the fact? Especially now that we're married, I feel it's inappropriate, borderline disrespectful, and has no place in our lives. I don't feel I have the right to ask him to throw them out (although I dearly wish he would, for his own sake and mine--I can't imagine holding on to stuff from someone who'd treated me that way, let alone giving it two places of honor in my home!) And it's not like he wouldn't take them down if I asked him to. I'm even willing to bide my time until we move into our new place, to see whether he pitches them of his own accord. Regardless, there seems to be more to this than to the other memorabilia. Or am I overreacting?

I hate the way I feel, and I love my husband very much. I know he has a sentimental side, and I'm the first to acknowledge that I've been the recipient of that benefit many a time. I also know he loves me. But where does a hopefully rational spouse draw the line? Do I have the right to ask him to take them down? Better yet, to throw them out? How can I deal with this in a way that will allow me to be true to myself without seeming like a controlling, jealous harpy?

Dear Pack Rat Lover,

You think of yourself as being the "rational spouse," but you've really gone off the deep end over-reacting to your husband's college relationship and his memorabilia from it.

First of all, you are over-analyzing that old college relationship. Your obssession with it is showing when you call his old girlfriend "callous" and "irresponsible" and "insensitive." Lighten up. It was ancient history. She was was very young, she made mistakes, and the relationship didn't work out. Would you rather it had?

Sure, it affected your husband. When someone has a major love in their life, that love still exists somewhere in their thoughts, and all the things he felt for her make him the man he is today that loves you.

Logically, you may be right that it's a bit inappropriate to display those old lyrics so prominently on walls which now belong to both of you. But you can't apply logic to something that's purely sentimental. And there's certainly no logic in working yourself up into a righteous anger over the silly things.

Your husband's memories are his sacred past and you really shouldn't be trying to erase them. Pack rats find comfort in the things that remind them of their past and have trouble getting rid of those things because that would mean saying good-bye to their memories.

You've got a great guy, but don't expect him to do the tossing of his memorabilia. To him, throwing away his ex-girlfriend's lyrics would be unsentimental and cruel. It's even possible that those lyrics have begun to represent romance and love to him in general and are no longer specifically tied to her. But there's no reason you should suffer with them if they really bother you.

So instead of trying to get him to throw them out, find a place for them where they won't bother you. Buy him a really nice box as a "memory box." Help him put all his important and annoying romantic trophies away in the beautiful box you've bought him. Then put the box in the back of a closet or somewhere where he can know it's safe but it's out of your sight.

Replace the bothersome lyrics, when they go into the box, with your own beautiful thoughts. Find a poem that reminds you of your love for each other and have it printed out by an artist and framed. Make it equally sentimental (and keep your thoughts to yourself about the sappy insincere platitudes his old girlfriend wrote). Present it as a replacement for the ex-girlfriend's lyrics.

Make sure that there's room in the memory box for the Dear John letter in his yearbook, so you can forget about it. Then - please -- stop suffering over what happened to him twenty years ago.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy



Toxic Parents

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am an engaged 26 years old waiting to wed soon. My problem is my father. Back in Asia, my father used to be somebody in a high rank back in the 1970s until Vietnam War. Still now, he is very well known to our people and he reminds us and others every chance he gets. He has a very big ego and always talk extremely high of himself. He praise himself for every little thing and expects his children and others to praise him as well. Reputation is very important to him.

My father is very selfish, stubborn, short tempered, manipulative, obsessive, and verbally abusive. Also, very suspicious, speculative, and he does not trust anyone. He used to be physically violent, but since all my siblings has grown up and some gotten married, he has stopped the physical abuse because he knows that his children will not put up with this. Through the years, my dad has never done anything for us or given us support at anything but tortured us. He has always dug out of his children financially for every little thing he needs. He tries to manipulate us children into thinking he is a good father who has supported us when he actually done nothing much. He is very stingy with his money and will not help out.

My father likes to look for conflicts with anyone who goes against his beliefs and values. Anyone who disagrees with him or tries to give him a little bit of advice will offend him and he will curse and argue them down in a loud abusive tone. He thinks he is always right so everyone agrees with him just to avoid conflicts with him. There is no use in telling him he's wrong but he's right, and to listen quietly even if you disagree otherwise he will curse you like an animal. Anything that comes out his mouth is usually very horrible words, gossips, nonsense, and put downs. My father will talk behind my cousins and their children's back, his own children as well. He will go from one of my siblings to another talking behind their back. His siblings will visit one another, but they don't even come around to visit him as much. When there is a big family gathering, my cousins rather leaves us out because they don't want my father to show up ruining the peace and bad mouthing off. None of my cousins want much to do with him and his pride. They'd rather stay as far as possible.

Both my parents do not work so my older siblings are sorta supporting their rents and living expenses even though they do not live in the same house. My older siblings even bought a house for the family to keep the family together and so everyone can come and go as they wished. But living with my father is so hard that it has driven everyone away. My mother is afraid of him and she tries to avoid conflicts with him by agreeing and doing every little things he commands her to. She is like his messenger, she sends out his messages to us when he dislikes something we do. She has a low self esteem and always stands behind him even when she knows he's wrong.

Our culture does not allow us to abandon our parents no matter how bad they get. As their children, we must be there for them till death. If we leave them behind, it is a disappointment to our family unit and to friends because it goes against the culture rules. You see, leaving him is hard and living or having any sort of ties with him is hard. Confronting my father makes it worse because he can't see himself as this monster who has driven everyone away. He sees himself as a great man whom everyone should bow to his feet. He treats us as strangers and pick on us like a kid. I am very sadden that I could never find peace inside of my family. Listening to each of my sibling's cries from time to time, month to month, years to years because my father had just fought with them makes me miserable. We all have a wounds and plenty of horrible memories of my father that we take with us through the years. When we try to make things nice, we all know that it could never last that long, my father will flip any minute and stir trouble. We don't even celebrate holidays together because everyone feels uncomfortable around him. And if we celebrated without him, he will curse us till death.

Dr. Tracy, if you see a solution to this, please help. Thank you very much.

Dear Long-suffering Daughter,

It is truly a shame, that at a time in your life when you should be so happy making plans for your wedding, you would be so upset by your tyrannical father.

The kindest thought is that he's probably suffering from some kind of mental illness, and the sooner you accept the fact, the easier it will be for you and your siblings to deal with him. There's nothing you can do to change your mother's relationship with him. She's made her life and accepted his tyranny, but there's no reason you have to let him upset you constantly.

I understand that your culture does not permit you to abandon your parents, and I would not suggest that. But in all cultures, there is a time when power and control passes from one generation to the next. It is never easy for the parent to accept, but it is inevitable. In any culture, there are situations when survival overrules obedience to an elder. If your father gathered your family on top of a tall building and ordered you to throw yourselves off, I'm sure one of your older brothers would step up and take control.

You have said your father is manipulative, obsessive, abusive, violent, selfish, stubborn and horrible in every way. In your heart, you know the truth: he is mentally ill. You and your siblings must stop letting the crazy person in the family be in charge and set the rules. This is not easy, but you must do it for your own sanity and happiness. You say his physical abuse finally ended; you now need to deal with his other abuses.

You may have to listen to him brag until he dies, but you don't have to agree to crazy demands from him. Simply say, "I understand how you feel, and I will think about what you are saying." Don't confront him and don't get sucked into arguing with him, but don't agree with him, either. Be respectful, but do not let him rule you, because each time you do, you reinforce his belief that you will do what he says no matter what.

You also don't have to take obvious abuse from him. Determine not to let him upset you. When he acts abusive, you must distance yourself from him temporarily. If you're in his presence, tell him you love him, but if he's going to behave that way, you'll leave. Then leave. If you're talking to him on the phone, simply say "I love you, but if you're going to talk to me this abusive way, I can't continue our conversation. Good bye." And hang up.

Then don't contact him for a period of time, say two weeks. This is not abandoning him; it is simply a way to keep him from damaging you.

Sadly, your father is a crazy bully who has been able to get away with his behavior his whole life and so he thinks that's the way things are supposed to be. If he's isolated and ignored for a period of time everytime he gets crazy, he may change his behavior. Or he may not. The great thing with your doing that is that even if he doesn't change, you will be out of his reach most of the time.

Whatever you do, don't let him ruin the happiest time in your life, your engagement and marriage.

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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