Dr. Tracy's Advice Column

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Valentine's Day Blues
Saying "I Love You"
Not the Right Bling Bling

Valentine's Day Blues

Dear Dr. Tracy,

My boyfriend and I have been living together for seven months. I am 33 and he is 31. We are both divorced. We are extremely happy and in very much in love. There is no doubt in my mind that he is the man I want to share my life with and I know he feels the same. He talks of the future frequently and often makes comments about starting a family together, such as "when we have children". He was even visibly disappointed when a pregnancy test came out negative recently.

He will be moving at the end of this year (he is in the military) and officially asked me to go with him. When we discuss the new duty station, his comments (about spousal benefits, etc.) make it clear that he sees us being married before we move. He drags ME into jewelry stores and asks what types of rings I like. My close friends and even some co-workers have noticed how in love we are and inquire about the status of our relationship every chance they get. Before Christmas, I heard countless comments of how I would come back from spending the holidays with our families (we grew up 45 minutes from each other, though we met 1,000 miles from our hometowns) with a "ring on my finger". I can't walk through the main office of my workplace without someone doing a "finger check".

Recently, he learned he would be deploying to Iraq in March. This, and Valentines Day just over a week away, has only added fuel to the fire. Everyone has just assumed that we will marry before he leaves. Up until a few days ago, I thought there was a possiblity of marrying before he deploys (though I'm content to wait until he returns), but I thought for certain we would be engaged. I know he will not propose on Valentines Day as I found the receipt for my gift while doing laundry. It's jewelry, but not an engagement ring. As his date to deploy looms closer, I'm realizing there is little chance that either will happen and it saddens me.

Therein lies the problem. My boyfriend has noticed that I have been feeling a bit down at times, usually after hearing "are you engaged yet?" from some well-meaning soul, and he wants to know what is wrong. I can't deny that something is bothering me, but how on earth do I tell him what it is without practically asking him to propose? I've told him that I am fine, that we are fine, and that I'm just not ready to discuss it, but that only makes it worse.

I am a romantic at heart and I do not want to have a practical conversation about a proposal, nor would I ever, ever even consider being the one to pop the question. I want him to propose when he is ready. But I also want to be able to openly share my feelings with him. It upsets him greatly that he thinks I'm keeping something from him. I've tried to put on a happy face, but with a seven month tour of duty in Iraq quickly approaching it is difficult. Which brings me to another question...if he will be deployed until mid/late October, and we will be moving to the new duty station in December (supposively as husband and wife) when exactly does he plan to propose and when will the wedding take place? On the same day?!

The comments from friends used to make me chuckle, but now they're making me feel like I've failed in some way. His references to marriage almost feel like a tease now. Do I tell him what I am feeling...that I would love to further solidify our relationship with an engagement before he leaves? Or do I keep it to myself , keep my bare fingers crossed and put the future on hold for seven months? I know I am incredibly lucky to have such a wonderful man, so why is this eating away at me so much? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Dear Romantic at Heart,

Valentine's Day can set you up to have lots of expectations, mostly romantic fantasies of what the perfect Valentine's Day would be, including the perfect card, the perfect evening out, the perfect romantic gesture and the perfect gift. Yours includes all that -- as well as the perfect proposal. Life is hardly ever perfect, and when you try to write a life script that includes someone else, they rarely cooperate.

You can't really be thinking of marrying a man you can't talk to. You have to tell him what's upsetting you. Let him know it's just not fair for him to talk about moving in the fall, and spousal benefits, and then just go off to Iraq leaving you in limbo. There's absolutely nothing wrong with having a practical discussion about your future, including getting engaged and getting married. Between the two of you, someone is going to have to get real about this, and it sounds like it's going to have to be you, even if you are a romantic at heart.

The fact that your guy's being deployed to Iraq makes it important for you to talk about everything now. Don't put this off another day, and don't let it ruin your mood for the time you have left together. There are no guarantees about the future, so don't waste the present.

Sit down with him, get out your calendar or date book, and start counting backward from when you and he would be moving to his new duty station as man and wife. Allow time before that for a honeymoon, and then pick a date for your wedding. Remind him that all this takes planning, which is usually done by the bride, and it will have to be done before he returns. Find out exactly what he has in mind and let him know what you want.

It's natural that this would be eating away at you. You've been led to expect a ring and you don't think you're getting one now. Don't worry about getting a ring by Valentine's Day. Getting engaged and getting a ring are two different things. You can be engaged without a ring. What you really need is a wedding date.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Saying "I Love You"

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I have been a single mom for 8 years & really feel ready to move on with my life. I am 41 years old & have been dating a man for 4 months. I have done a lot of dating over the years & I honestly feel that this one is the nicest, kindest, most thoughtful & decent man I have ever had the pleasure of being involved with. After a lot of thinking, I have come to realize that I really love him. His actions tell me that he loves me too but he hasn't told me so yet.

So my question is - is it OK to tell him I love him first? How are men with that? I hate to rock the boat yet at the same time, I feel like I need to say something. I'm not looking for an instant proposal or a long term commitment (though I would like the commitment of course). I just want him to know how I feel but I'm terrified of scaring him off if he doesn't have the same feelings. And a big part of me also wants to know so I can decide whether to move on or not. Any advice would be much appreciated.

Thanks a lot,

Dear Terrified of Scaring Him,

If you don't want to scare him off, don't tell him you love him. It's too soon anyway. You've only been dating four months, long enough to be "in love" but hardly long enough to know if you truly love him. Even if you'd been together longer, unless you're absolutely certain he feels the same way, it would be inappropriate for you to tell him you love him. Your timing may not be his.

You have a need to tell him your feelings, but you have to ask yourself why. To relieve yourself of the burden of not telling? To get him to say it back? Or maybe to scare him or test him to see if he gets scared off? You admit that, in part, you want to know if you should move on. Why are you even thinking about moving on?

Now is when you should be enjoying the courting phase. Show some patience, let the relationship develop naturally, and let him realize -- on his own schedule -- that he can't live without you. Your inability to live with uncertainty could make you rush this and screw it up.

As to whether you should move on or not, trying to manipulate him or rush things by telling him you love him won't answer your question. You move on if you're unhappy. You move on if the relationship is going downhill or if the man treats you badly. Or you move on if the relationship is simply not going anywhere, but you're a long, long way from that.

Men like to be the one to say "I love you" first. Telling a man you love him after only four months, while planning to move on if you don't like his answer, is relationship suicide.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Not the Right Bling Bling

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I will be getting married in a few months, and for Christmas my fiance bought me a very expensive diamond necklace and diamond earrings, which he wants me to wear on our wedding day. I'm very touched that he would do this for me, the only problem is, I hate the jewelry!

It is not what I had in mind at all to wear, and does not match my gown. Also, I know that he spent a lot of money, and we have other expenses I feel the money could have gone towards.

I don't want to hurt his feelings by telling him I don't like what he bought, but I also feel like he picked out the jewelry without considering the fact that it might not what I would like. Do I tell my fiance how I am feeling, or just wear the jewelry and not risk hurting his feelings?

Thank you!

Dear Almost a Bride,

The best thing you could do for yourself and your future marriage is to wear the jewelry, be grateful, and thank him lots. Consider yourself lucky to be getting married to such a generous guy.

Sure, it's important for couples to discuss big expenditures, and maybe you'll want to get his agreement on that for the future. But the jewelry gift is a done deal, and it's also important for couples to think of the other person's feelings. Remember, he spent time, energy, thought and money to try to make you happy. You don't want to shoot down his good intentions.

Honesty is also important in marriage. But if you tell him how you feel, here's what's likely to happen. Certainly his feelings will be hurt, and he'll feel as if you don't appreciate what he bought you and that you don't think he has good taste. Then, he'll probably tell you to take it back and get what you want. But that's not really going to make you happy, is it? Because then it won't really be something he bought you.

Or perhaps he'll take it back with you. But he'll feel embarrassed, and he'll feel as if he can never buy you anything without getting criticized for not getting the right thing or spending too much money. In the future, when you have an occasion to get a gift, he'll want you to pick it out yourself, so that you'll like it. But really, is that how you want it to be?

The smart woman's strategy here is to live with what you can't change.

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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