Dr. Tracy's Advice Column

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Not Ready To Marry
Pre-Marital Blues
Some Men Are Just Duds

Not Ready To Marry

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am in need of some advice. I am a 22 year-old female in a stable and committed relationship of approx. 3½ years with my 26 year-old boyfriend. We have been living together for about 2 years. He and I are very much in love and plan to get married at some point in the future…some point WAY in the future. We are both atheist and do not place the moral or societal value on marriage that his parents do. (My parents are not in the picture because they are emotionally and verbally abusive toward me.)

His parents (his mother especially) feel that he and I should get married before I begin college. They say that there is no way we will survive my college years if we do not have the bond of marriage to keep us together. I sincerely doubt this as I successfully supported us both during his extremely stressful and hectic final year of his Bachelor’s program. This time around, while I go to school, our financial situation will not be nearly as strained as it had been while he was finishing his degree. He makes enough money to support the both of us.

Neither of us feels we are ready to get married at this point in our lives. This isn’t due to a lack of commitment or anything of that nature, we simply feel we are too young and that we don’t value marriage enough to make it the “TOP PRIORITY” as so many others see it. I am not ready to take on the “ball and chain” stigma that is associated with the title “Wife.” We do plan to get married after I finish college.

His mother cornered me a month ago and was trying to convince me to get him to marry me. I love her dearly but she said some terribly blunt and hurtful things during that conversation, all of which were meant as constructive criticism but none of which I can manage to take that way. One thing that sticks out in my mind is that she said (and I quote), “What you two are doing right now is just playtime.” This was in reference to us living together. Dr. Tracy, we have been through all of the relationship/cohabiting struggles that all young couples go through. We never have hurtful arguments and have never split up. We lease our apartment jointly, have joint bank accounts, share the household chores equally, make decisions together about expensive purchases…hell, we even grocery shop together! I think that, more than rings on our fingers, is a testament to our successful, functional relationship! In spite of this, his mother continues to harp on this subject with us.

He asks me to understand and respect her point of view because she is extremely Christian and is embarrassed that her son is not yet married. He reminds me that she is also in the throes of menopause so any respectful disagreement with her convictions will only make her upset. This is a horrible thing to say but I think that she knows that nobody wants to upset her and is using that as a way to continue forcing her opinion on us. I’m still so upset with her over that comment that I’ve only been over to her house once to visit since then – normally, we go every Sunday for dinner.

How do I handle this? Do I ask him to intervene with his mother? Do I wait for her to bring it up again and reply openly, regardless of how it might upset her? This subject has been following me around for two years now and I’m just so sick of hearing about it!

One more thing – children will never be in the picture for my boyfriend and I as neither of us wants them.

Thanks in advance for any advice/insight you can provide. Signed,

Frustrated non-Fiancée

Dear Frustrated Non-fiancée,

Most parents want to see their children happily married. Instead of complaining that your boyfriend’s mother wants you to marry him, be happy. Be flattered. Do you have any idea how many letters I get from women whose boyfriend’s mother wants them to disappear – and not down a flowerewn aisle?

Apparently his mother thinks a lot of you to want you to marry her son. So what if she said, “What you two are doing right now is just play time”? She was only reflecting her belief system, not really dissing your relationship/cohabiting achievements. It's up to you to whether or not to make a big deal out of it.

You will never, ever win by coming between your future husband and his mother. The best you can hope for is that she stops trying to push you into marriage, but that’s a long shot. She’s going to keep doing what she does, and your job is to not let it bother you or upset the relationship that you have. If she manages to get to you, she wins and you lose.

Don’t ask him to intervene with his mother. You are a big girl and you can talk to her about it yourself if it really bothers you. Wait until the next time she brings up the subject of you and her son marrying and say, “I understand how you feel, and I’ll certainly think about what you’ve said.” That way you’re not promising her anything, you’re not being rude, but you aren’t caving either.

Don’t go to war with her. After all, you do plan on marrying her son. That means she’s going to be in your life forever. And if you think the nagging about getting married is annoying, it’s going to get worse. After you’re married, she’ll surely be nagging about when she’s going to get grandchildren.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Pre-Marital Blues

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I'm 32 years old and recently engaged. My fiancee and I have just bought a house in an area we love. However, we have recently begun fighting more than usual. Here's the situation -- she's in a bad place. Although she's very talented in her field, she's having trouble landing a steady job. This make her upset. She takes it out on me.

Her parents often bicker and sometimes talk down to each other. My parents are quite the opposite. At least in front of their children, my parents always showed the upmost respect to each other.

My fiancee is starting to talk down to me and raise her voice to me. I'm scared that we'll deteriorate into a relationship similar to her parents' relationship. I tell her that I don't appreciate her tone or what she's saying. She says that I'm being a baby. When we explore the issue further, she says that she knows it's wrong but she's only that way a small percentage of the time. She (being quite self-aware) says that this is likely a result of her upbringing.

Should I tolerate this? Should I grow a thicker skin for the 10-20% of the time that she's like this. Or is this unacceptable behavior? I don't want to progress too much farther into our engagement than we already are if we don't belong together.

Dear Scared,

If something is annoying you before you’re married, it will only annoy you more after you’re a legal couple.

When people get into serious relationships and begin living together as a couple, they tend to also begin acting like their parents – after all, that’s what they’ve learned about how couples live together. However, respect is one of the most important qualitites you need in a marriage, and if your future wife isn’t showing you respect, that’s a serious problem.

The fact that she’s having trouble getting a good job is no excuse for her to treat you badly. It’s easy to be nice when everything’s going along great, but couples have to learn to be respectful to each other when life’s problems come along.

Let your fiance know that her talking down to you and raising her voice to you is a deal breaker as far as your relationship goes. Tell her this is not acceptable, and the next time she does it, make sure there are consequences. Don’t argue with her. Instead, leave and let her spend time alone.

You absolutely shouldn’t tolerate it. If you do, you’ll be giving her the message that it’s okay with you for her to mistreat you, that you don’t respect yourself and that she doesn’t have to either.

Don’t grow a thicker skin. Pretty soon your skin will be so thick you don’t feel anything. Nobody should allow themselves to be abused, even ten percent of the time.

If the problem doesn’t improve, insist that the two of you go for counseling before you get married.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Some Men Are Just Duds

Dear Dr. Tracy,

Back on Aug 10 you answered my letter in your column, titled "Watch out for men like this." I think the man in question and I have finally broken up for good. I wanted to ask your opinion on a few things that happened between then and now.

I found out about a sperm cell extraction procedure when I went for my annual checkup back in November. I was just making conversation with my doctor about my situation when he mentioned it. I mentioned it to my boyfriend and we had several long conversations about it and of course, he told me in a nutshell that having children was out. So we broke up.

We didn't speak for several days, and then he came back, saying that yes, if it's what I wanted then we could get married, do the procedure, and hopefully start trying early next year to get pregnant. I was completely overjoyed. Then a few days of misunderstandings and hurt feelings later, he walked out on me saying he can't do it. I'd never been so heartbroken.

Ten days go by, and he calls the day after Christmas saying he's going to get me a ring, we'll get married because he's miserable without me. Another week goes by, no ring on the day he said he would get it and he's scared again, saying he's not ready. I told him DO NOT CALL ME until he HAS A RING AND IS READY, and that was one week ago today (Jan 14). I also told him not to call until he could dedicate more time to me and our relationship, and that's been an issue with me since we've been a couple. He hasn't called.

During the past several months when we've broken up, I've tried to get out there and look for a man who wants a family, like you said. There are several problems with this. Number one is, the number of men around my age (35) who don't have children in my area is minimal at best. I don't know where you live, but here in the south, women like me are so rare that I'm borderline freakish. I've dated men with grade-school age kids, and some with pre-teen kids... and since I don't have children, I am generally left feeling like a '3rd wheel' or dealing with a vicious or jealous ex-wife, or worse yet, I end up VERY attached to a child and very heartbroken at losing them at the end of the relationship. I swore off men with children because of this, so that really limits my dating pool. I could look for a man in his early 40's, but typically, he either doesn't want MORE children because he's done it already... or there's something basically WRONG with him and that's why he's still single. And don't laugh, but another big problem is that I'm extremely attractive. Most men don't give a rat's ass about what I want in the first place because they're too busy trying to get into my pants, and I'm not stupid. I know men will say whatever I want to hear to get there. Another problem is how possessive and jealous men seem to be before the first date is even over, and at least the man I've been dating for the past year isn't like this. At least he knows the real me and he has all those good qualities I listed in my last letter.

Dating STINKS. I have personals ads up on several websites and get bombarded with email daily, and I am literally repulsed by the men out there, and I don't mean repulsed by their looks alone. A majority of the ones I've seen are just plain creepy. It makes me want to say, screw the baby idea, because it's almost not worth the hassle. I waited 10 years for someone like my boyfriend to come along. Someone who likes the real me... and if I have to wait another 10 years, it will be much too late for me to have a baby. And I am NOT one of those women who goes out and gets pregnant by whomever just because the clock is ticking. I am determined to do things in the right order. Meet, date, BE IN LOVE, marry, THEN have kids.

I guess my question is twofold: What do you make of my boyfriend's reaction when we've broken up? Is he motivated enough by his love for me to change his mind on children, or do you think it's all talk? And what do you suggest as far as me FINDING this fairy tale of a man who is single, no kids, over 33, and NORMAL? Oh and by the way, I'm really hoping he'll at least be SOMEWHAT attractive, because having a baby typically DOES require having SEX, and I am DAMN sure not going to marry a troll just so I can get pregnant. Also, I am open to almost all races, and their carreer or income isn't an issue....I just want someone who lives close by (I'm between two major cities, so there's millions of people here).... so where the heck is he???

Please help me figure this out. I'm fighting major depression over the whole thing.

Dear Depressed,

What’s really depressing is that you’re not sure this is over – you “think” it’s over and that you’ve finally broken up for good. I sure hope so.

As long as you let this man stay in your life, you’re going to ruin your chances of finding someone who can really commit to you and give you the things you want – marriage and children. Don’t let him come back into your life again, with or without a ring.

This man, who claims he was "miserable without you," will ruin your life if you let him. He’ll promise you whatever he needs to say to get what he wants. If you waited ten years for him to come along, then stop waiting. As you wrote in your previous letter to me, he wasn’t motivated enough by love for you to even discuss his vasectomy with you before he got it, even though he knew having children was vitally important to you. You are not going to get what you want from this man.

As for finding someone new, there are men out there. You have to look and look. And you have to give up some of your prejudices such as not dating men with children. That’s ridiculous. Instead, look for a man who loves you, whether he has children or not, and who wants to marry you and have children with you.

Don’t sit around passively waiting for the right man to come along or for your old boyfriend to come back and keep you from moving forward. Start doing what has to be done – looking on dating sites like match.com, answering emails from prospective men, and writing to men who interest you.

Forget the fairy tale man, forget the trolls, and find a real man (even with children) who loves you and whom you can love.

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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