Blame It On The Bird
Dear Dr. Tracy,
I'm a woman, 29 years of age, living with my 39-year old fiancé. We've been engaged for two years and have lived together for four but have made no steps toward actually getting married. The pressure to take that next step has been increased recently by his upcoming job transfer that will involve a move to another state.
Things between us haven't been so great lately. Everything came to a boil Saturday when some things were said that shouldn't have been and every problem I've bit my tongue about was shouted in his
face. After cooling off and lengthy discussion, it seems the problem is that he's been unhappy for a long time and this is the source of his crappy behavior (i.e. staying out all night without calling, going out on a weeknight and drinking so much that he has to call in sick the next day, and escaping life by immersing himself in computer games).
He blames every issue entirely on one thing -- my pet bird. He now claims that everything would be just dandy without the bird because the bird stresses him out when she's noisy. He says that he doesn't want to come home anymore. He insists that it isn't "normal" to have a bird in a house and that this particular bird is too loud for any "normal" human to tolerate. In fact, he's issued an ultimatum -- the bird has to go. The only question now is whether I surrender her for adoption and stick around to see if things improve or take her with me as I walk out that door.
I've basically checked out since Saturday. I quit wearing my engagement ring, I change in the bathroom with the door locked, and there is zero physical contact and conversation only as necessary. And yet, when I dropped him off at the airport today to go on a short business trip, he was talking as if we are still deciding whether to buy a particular house or have our new home custom built. It's not that he doesn't know I'm struggling not to punch him in the nose, he just doesn't seem to believe I'd "choose the bird over him" (his way of putting it).
Please help me understand his point of view. Is it reasonable to expect me to give up a pet I've had for ten years? I tried the approach that the new home will have more room than the tiny one-bedroom place we have now and the bird can live in my hobby room where he wouldn't be in direct contact with her. This was not enough for him and he wants her out.
You have a man who has lived with you for four years, been engaged for two, and now he decides he can't marry you because he doesn't like your bird. It's obvious that there's more going on here than the bird, and he doesn't want to admit exactly what his problem is - so he's blaming it on the bird.
And he's also making it your fault for not loving him enough to get rid of the bird for him. However, I think it's not the bird's fault, or yours. I think your fiance is having cold feet. And frankly, he doesn't sound like such great husband material in any case. Suppose you got rid of the bird and he still stayed out all night, went on drinking binges, and escaped by immersing himself in his computer games? Then how would you feel?
Everything wouldn't be just dandy without the bird. If you don't believe that, send the bird to visit your mother for a month and see what happens. See if there are wedding plans made. I doubt it.
I'm positive your Mr. Wonderful is an insensitive clod. What kind of a man would insist that you get rid of your pet bird that you've had for ten years? Not a very nice one. He's not only being unreasonable, he's being mean.
If he really loved you, he wouldn't want to hurt you by forcing you to get rid of your bird. And I doubt if you really love him either. In your letter, you don't say one positive or loving thing about your feelings for him. Nor do you have anything to say about him that makes him seem lovable at all. What on earth makes you want to marry this man?
You and your fiance have more problems than this bird. You should definitely seek go for counseling and work on your differences before you think about making a lifetime commitment to each other. You obviously have communication problems. Biting your tongue about problems until you can't stand it anymore is no way to be with someone. Problems are best worked out as they come up. Saving them up for a big blow out is the worst thing you can do.
You won't be happy spending your life with a man who's so insensitive to your feelings. Tell him, "Love me, love my bird."
A Woman of a Certain Age Wants To Marry
Dear Dr. Tracy,
I have just turned 40 (I look like Im in my early 30's) I am attractive, have a cute figure have a decent job and generally have men asking me out or interested in me frequently.
I have never been married but have been with men who might have proposed but the problem was I was not in love with them. Most of my life it seems I have dated men who are "players" or are close to being one. Maybe it has been something psychological which made me go that way. This past December my ex boyfriend and I broke up, actually he broke up with me after five months of heavy dating telling me he "loves me but is not in love" with me. I had thought about breaking up with him previously due to his having to be at a local bar pretty much every night as well as other reasons.
Now after this break up I realize how much I really want a serious one on one relationship which will lead to marriage, I took your advice made a list of what I want and am planning to look for your book about marrying later. My question to you is I feel like I have wasted the best years of my life on losers and here I am still single at 40, I dont want to be alone the rest of my life. My ex broke up right before the holidays and it was a reality check on being alone belive me! How can a woman of my age find the right one? I see so many people happy out there or even having affairs outside of their marriages - and here I am alone! Why can't I seem to find a decent, faithful, loving man who will love me and I him? Why is this such a "feat" to find the right person? Please advise me as to what I could do.
Searching at 40
You've taken the first step. That's to realize what you've been doing wrong: picking players. Now the second step is to find a man who is not a player, but who's commitment-minded and wants to be married, perhaps one who's been married before.
You're old enough to know the signs of a man who's not really available for a long term relationship like marriage. Don't spend a second with a man who wants to hang out in bars, or who says he's not ready to settle down, or who shows no signs of being able to make a commitment. Stop meeting men by accident. Instead, purposely set your goals and find the man you want. When you meet men by accident, they get what they want, but you rarely get what you want.
Make a project of finding Mr. Right. Men who have made commitments before are good bets. Men who show that they can nurture relationships -- men who have plants and pets, men with lots of old friends. Stay away from men who shun responsibility. Next, think about meeting more men. Go on the Internet. Log on to match.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or any of the other hundreds of dating sites. Put your profile out there and say exactly what you want. Don't be shy and don't lie.
Once you have gathered a quantity of eligible, available men, start making choices based on whether the man has marriage potential. Start thinking of getting married, not just finding someone. After all, you can find lots of guys to play with. Finding one to marry is another story. If you can't picture yourself actually marrying the man, stop wasting your time with him.
Then choose from among the men who really want you. If a man isn't crazy about you, don't waste your time trying to change his mind or convince him that you really are wonderful. Move on to the next one. When you're older, finding love is a numbers game. You'll have to kiss lots of frogs and go on lots of dates. Don't waste another minute on men who show no potential.
It's harder to find Mr. Right when you're older because you're more particular. When you're young, you'll take just about anybody and you're flexible enough to fit in with him and his ideas. When you're older, you have your own tastes, your own ideas, and your own belief systems, so you have to find someone who meshes with who you are. That's why it's harder and that's why you'll have to resign yourself to dating lots of guys to find the right one.
I do recommend my book, "Marrying Later, Marrying Smarter," available through this site or in your local library.
Married Women Don't
Dear Dr. Tracy,
I've been with my husband for nine years now. I love him for all kinds
of reasons, and he loves me very much, too. I don't see myself as the
kind of person who has an affair, but I have been having "an affair of
the heart", and I'm tired of it and wonder if you can give me some
I fell in love with someone I work with about two years ago now. At
first I thought it was an infatuation, and just tried to deal with it,
and looked forward to it ending. It hasn't. My feelings are as strong
as ever. We get along well, needless to say. I suppose we have both
been interested in pursuing a frienship since we like each other, and so
we do the kinds of things work-friends might: sometimes we go see a
movie, together or with others; we get together for a drink at the end
of the week, again usually with others; etc. Because I felt his
interest in me was also strong, I spoke about it to him once. (He was
single when we first started working together, and now has a girlfriend
living in another city.) I told him I had "confused feelings" about
him. Of course, I shouldn't have said anything! In any case, he told
me he did not have confused feelings about me, because I'm married and
he has a girlfriend and he would never interfere with that. I believe
him. That was a year ago. We continue to get along well, and be very
careful with each other.
So, how do I get over him? Should I avoid meeting him outside of work
hours? Should I tone down the kind of work-friendship we have? Or, do
I accept the fact that, for whatever reasons, I adore this guy, and just
relax and enjoy the friendship, knowing that neither of us will let it
go too far? What does a modern woman do?
Confused in Canada
The man in your office has it all right and you have it all wrong. He's single. He's not confused about you because he respects the fact that you're married and he has a girlfriend. Even if you weren't married, there's no guarantee that he would feel any differently.
Stop pursuing a friendship with him. Stop doing things after work. Stop going to movies together or out for drinks at the end of the week with him. Instead go home to your husband where you belong.
You are fortunate enough to have a husband who loves you and who you love. Don't be a fool and risk it all for someone who obviously has no interest in you.
Get over him by leaving him alone and paying more attention to your husband instead. Tone down the work friendship before you embarrass yourself and him too. Stop adoring him and stop taking chances with your happy marriage.
Even modern married women simply don't involve themselves in flirtations with men other than their husbands. It's just not the smart thing to do.