"Ask Dr. Tracy"

4/18/99 Advice Column

She's Perfect -- But...
A Too-Long Engagement,
Nervous Breakdown in Hong Kong

Dear Dr. Tracy,

Dr Tracy, I am going out with a very beatiful, intelligent and homely girl. We met over the internet and, she really loves me too much.

My problem is that she is very introverted. Altough she is intelligent and witty, she most of the times is quiet and does not show her feelings. I on the other hand am the most extrovert and outgoing person you can imagine. When we are together with some friends, she would rarely talk. I can see through her that she is underconfident. The reason being that her family is extremely conservative and if feel that she fears that she will be ridiculed, i mean she subconsciously fear that. I am always so lively with her, but at times i feel that is not being reciprocated. But, you see, since she has met me, i have seen a change in her. I am extremely patient, and loving with her, I can see that there is a person in her whom she herself is thwarting, again, subconsciencely. I know that she loves me very much, and the fact is that I love her too, but I want to change her in a way that it will not only be good for her but for both of us. You see where I am trying to go? How can I help her be more passionate...towards things she does, and how can I make her to speak and be confident of her self. See she is only 20, and I feel that she is still in a process of developing a personality, and I want to help her choose the better way. The way that will help her be successful at school, interviews, work and make her more confident.

Hope you can help me. I would seriously appreciate your thoughts and comments.

Dear Life of the Party,

It's nice that you have a wonderful girlfriend, but it's not so nice that you think it's your job to mold her personality. Why don't you just let her be the person she wants to be?

Trying to mold this woman's personality is fraught with danger. If she catches you at it, she'll really resent you for it, because the implication is that she's not good enough the way she is.

If she suspects you don't think she's just terrific exactly the way she is, her self-esteem will be wounded even more, and you'll get exactly the opposite result you hoped for. And if you manage to change this woman who's so almost perfect now, you may not like the changed woman you get -- or she may not like you.

In a relationship, you don't need two extroverts. One is enough. Two extroverts tend to compete with each other. One extrovert and one introvert complement each other. The extrovert brings social fun to the introvert, and the introvert brings quiet thoughtfulness to the extrovert.

Your girlfriend is very young and I suspect you are older. Beware of being too controlling. There's a natural instinct to want to control someone you love. Also, give her a chance to grow at her own rate. Just because you love someone doesn't mean they grow exactly the way you want them to and on your schedule.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

My fiance and I have been engaged for two years. (We dated two years prior to that) When we first got engaged, he promised me that we will get married within three years. This is our third year and I wanted to start planning things for the wedding. However, whenever I mention the word "marriage", he gets really upset and says that I shouldn't ask so many questions about it because we will.

I finally came down to the point one day and asked him what's keeping us from talking about our marriage. He broke down in tears and told me that he's really worried about his sick mother. (She isn't physically sick, but depressed and been talking about leaving this world soon.) He says that his older sisters wouldn't take care of his mother and that he should be the one to watch out for her. (Because that's the way it is in Italian culture.) Then he told me that we CAN'T get married until his mother dies or moves away!

I asked him why not and he told me that because his mother is very anti-social and doesn't want to be bothered. I've even told him that I wouldn't bother her and he told me that his mother wouldn't understand. We discussed about this for a long time and it finally came down to the same statement, "We can't get married yet because of his mother."

I love him dearly, but I don't want to wait for a long time. I want to have a family. Is this really selfish of me to think this way? Please help me, Dr. Tracy.

Desperately waiting for your reply, Very Confused.

Dear Wannabe Bride,

Your fiance wants to drag this out for years, but you don't have years to wait. Tell him he'll have to commit this year as promised or you're not waiting. After all, if you want to start a family, you can't wait forever. And, he's had lots of time to figure out whether he wants to spend the rest of his life with you.

Set a deadline and keep it. Tell him that he has until the end of your third year to get married or you're leaving for good. Then if he does agree, plan on having his mother in your life forever. She's not going to disappear and if you can't cope with his Italian culture, then you can't marry him.

The problem isn't his mother, it's him. He's unable to stand up to his family and will always have the same problem, even if you and he are married.

If he doesn't marry you by the end of the third year of your engagement, then drop him. Don't call him, don't let him be "friends." Let him experience life without you, and if he's going to come around, that'll do it. Let him see you dating others. Let him realize that you're not going to wait for mom to go.

No, it's not selfish of you. You deserve the wedding you were promised and if he's not going to marry you, you have to find out and move on. Your biological timeclock won't wait for his mother to die, and neither should you.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

Hi, I am 35 years old, living in HK, I have been suffering a nervious breakdown for more than a year and half, have become worse and worse. I look an sounds very distraught , I am living in fear and panic, I feel like can not find any light at the long dark tunnel, there is no way out whatever i try, 7 or 8 out ten nights I usually have nightmare, and always wake up with serious headache, it makes me more depressed in the following day, I have too many problems, I have lost everything I used have: money loss in the stock market and being unemployed for one year , plus broke up with previous boyfriend half a year ago, everything have gone serious wrong.

of couse some part of it caused by unfortunate circustmanc. HK is going through a servere recession , lot of people have suffering financial difficulty , I am just one of the victim, more difficult part is it will take long time to fully recovery , I can't change and control it, people should be positive and patient at this moment. I am in my thirties, I can't want anymore, landing a man become urgent target , I am desperate for that spiritually and financially (my saving would be used off within two years without working). if I had a boyfriend who can support me(not necessary financilly) , my stress and depression would be reduced significant , I am very lost and confused, don't know how to plan my career direction , I don't have lot of helpful friend to talk to, if i met a man who could understand my situation and accept me , I would fall into his arm.

I have been trying very hard to meet new people through "personal" ads or in the bar, I found out myself difficult to smile , pretend my life is ok, I know I should be happy, carefree and humorous like I used to be on dates, that's the essential attractive personality in a woman, but I can't hide my grief ,resentment and desperation on finding romance , I know they( most are caucasian ) are drawn by my physical look at first, but they might back off afterward(sometime I talk tough and nasty), I know It's not wise to show depress and problem in the first date, but I just can't act normal, at least I can't lie about being unemployed.

I am pursuing a part-time bachelor degree because I had failed to find a job( I used to be secretary), equip myself with higher qualification is only choice so far, but I'm afraid it might become my shortcoming, men might sense or feel my situation is unusually, and stay away with the troublesome, the cost of living in HK is very expensive, it's not easy to concentrate on studying unless you are financilly settled. my bad mood and bad shape have resulted a disadvantage or maybe a "turn off" in their requirement list, it have made me feel even more depressed than before, the more I want it , the more difficult i can get it, anyone going through difficulty are more vulnerabl and eager for caring and love, since I don't have it , it leads to low spirit and poor performance on dates, siginificantly reduce the opportunity of getting it, sounds quite satire! I want to know How should I reveal my problems with guys at the begining of relationship ? how women in my situation find romance ? do most men don't want get involve with a woman who are not working in a very expensive city ? how much effect it could make? thanks a lot! I am looking forward your precious advice.

Dear Lost and Confused,

Right now, you're in no position to find a lover. A healthy man wants a woman who's not moody and depressed. He wants a woman who will be happy to be with him. You're right: nothing drives a man away faster than a woman who is unhappy in spite of his attentions. The only kind of men who are interested in a depressed woman are men who only like women who have problems. Find one of them, and you'll have to stay sick forever to keep him happy.

That's why you should get your life on track first. I know Hong Kong is in a recession, but instead of going out to bars, focus all your energies on finding a job -- any job -- and get your finances under control. That will go a long way toward reducing your fear and panic. While you're looking for work, join a support group that will help you. Continue your studies at night.

Don't look for a man to solve your life problems. A man can be a wonderful partner, give you love and support, but he can't solve all your life problems and should never be expected to make you happy when you're basically unhappy.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

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