Dr. Tracy's Advice Column

Cartoon Kiss

2/3/2002

Beauty is Only Skin Deep
To Tell or Not to Tell
When Religions Differ



Beauty is Only Skin Deep

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am in desperate need of help, I am out of a 20 year relationship 17 yrs married and 2 kids. I have met a wonderful woman, who saved my life during the most devastating period of my life after my divorce. The woman is a little over 2 years older than myself, but has older looking skin that I try to overlook but can't seem to do it.

I love her and she has given me a new life and wants to eventually marry, but I can't seem to get over the fact that she looks older. She tells me in a year she will have a face lift. She is an attractive woman basically but has sun damage and wrinkles around her eyes and makes them look dark and old when she does not have makeup on.

Do I give her up based upon such a shallow feeling, I am very confused and need advise? My ex wife was a beautiful younger woman, but she destroyed my life. This woman picked me back up nursed me back to life. I want to love her and spend my life with her.

Depressed and confused

Dear Depressed and Confused,

You're depressed and confused because your values are way off base. You even admit that your feelings are shallow. You're worried because the woman you love has a few wrinkles around her eyes and looks old without makeup. I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but all women will eventually look old -- and you will, too. Have you considered that you may already have a couple of less than perfect physical attributes? For all you know, she has chosen to overlook your flaws.

Sure, you could look for someone younger with better skin, but it's going to be a tall order to find someone younger with better skin who you can love and who you can be sure will love you as much as the woman you now have. And if all you're feeling is a mid-life crisis itch, you should remind yourself that you've been there, done that with a beautiful younger woman -- your ex wife, who destroyed your life. Do you want to go through that again?

If your concern is really about what your friends and business associates will think, don't worry. Your friends will be happy for you if you're happy, and your business associates will respect you for choosing a mature woman.

It's time for you to realize that what you see of a person is only one percent of who that person actually is - the rest, and most important part, is invisible. If you love this woman and want to spend your life with her, then you should consider yourself lucky that her only flaw is sun damage and wrinkles around her eyes. It could be much worse - she could be emotionally damaged or damaging.

The good news is that wrinkles on the outside are easy to get rid of. If it's really the wrinkles that are the only thing that holds you back from giving your all to this woman you say you love, then dig deep into your piggy bank and give her a face lift for Valentine's day. Then nurse her through her recovery as a small repayment for all the emotional nursing she has given you.

You should be aware, though, that there are problems involved when you change someone. She may come out too young and beautiful for you, or the new her may decide she wants someone else. Or you could discover that it's not really the wrinkles that held you back. For example, you may just not be as emotionally recovered as you think, and you may not really be ready to commit to anyone.

But my advice is, you'd be a fool to let a few wrinkles stand in the way of true love and happiness. Besides, you're probably responsible for giving her a few of those wrinkles and some of her gray hairs as well.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy



To Tell or Not to Tell

Dear Dr. Tracy,

i have a good friend who's husband is cheating on her. he told me a couple of months ago that he was seeing in someone else and then later told me that it was over. this was my excuse for not telling his wife.

recently he's been seen around town with the other woman whenever his wife is not around. he holds hands with this woman and kisses her in front of a lot of people who know he is still married.

amazingly no one has told his wife. i'm feeling pressure from my friends to tell her since i am one of her closer friends, but honestly i am terrified. what if she's in denial about the affair? surely she must suspect something! i don't want to be responsible for breaking them up however i'm afraid she's going to feel betrayed once she finds out so many people knew and didn't say anything.

what's the best way to handle this situation?

Dear Good Friend,

Good friends don't keep those kinds of secrets from their good friends, even if there are risks to telling. I can understand that you didn't want to be the bearer of this kind of bad news. As the messenger, you could wind up being resented almost as much as the cheater.

However, there are ethical issues here. You have conspired with her husband to keep this secret and believed him when he said his affair was over. Of course, he lied to you. Why wouldn't he? He was already lying to his wife. You should have told him as soon as he told you that either he'd better tell his wife, or you were going to.

Since you didn't do that then, you are guilty of violating your friend's trust. Close friends are meant to be trusted, not to conspire with a friend's husband to keep his cheating a secret. Your friends are right. You should tell her.

It's possible that she already knows and isn't in denial at all. If you value your friendship, tell her. Comfort her and offer to help her in any way. Give her recommendations for a good lawyer who will tell her her rights. Take her to the appointment. Don't tell her husband anything. As a matter of fact, don't talk to him at all.

If she's in denial, you will have to be the bad guy. Friends can't always tell each other only the good things in life. Don't feel as if you're being responsible for breaking them up. Her husband is responsible for that, if it happens, not you.

Of course, she'll feel betrayed if she finds out that everyone but her knew and nobody, including her close friend, told her. So don't keep this secret.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy



When Religions Differ

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I wrote you a couple of months ago about an Internet dating problem and found your advice very helpful. I'm 45 and divorced for several years, with no children, and turned to the internet to help me find people outside my own immediate environment.

Now, I have a 'next stage' problem.

I've met a man, through my Internet site. We had a very successful first date (to the point that we did have sex, but that's not the problem!).

On a recent phone call (since the first date), it came up in the conversation that his family of origin belonged to a particular religion -- let's just call it one of those religions that does a lot of door-to-door evangelizing. He no longer is in this faith, having decided that it is a lot of rubbish.

So far, so good. His behavior so far does not indicate that he is bound by any of the tenets of this religious group. And it is still very early in our relationship (the second date occurs this weekend).

But it bothers me. Part of it is that I am a Roman Catholic and the religion to which his family belongs is notoriously anti-Catholic in its doctrine. Part of it may be my own prejudices, perhaps instilled by my own faith, about this particular group.

Finally, here is the question. When, if ever, should I ask him more about any lingering ties he may feel for the religion in which he was raised? I also want to ask him how his family feels about him seeing someone who is outside this sect (and Catholic as well!). I know the second date is probably too soon. But there is quite a bit of intellectual, emotional and physical chemistry, and so far he is showing most of the signs of being the type of person with whom I could have a satisfactory relationship. I don't want to jeopardize that by seeming to have insurmountable objections to his religious heritage. Yet, I also do not want to have to pretend an approval for this particular religious group which I do not feel, and I am concerned (based on experiences my friends have had with relationships with similar groups, and problems) about what effect his family's affiliation might have in the future.

I may be worrying far too soon, but there seems to me to be in my situation elements which any person contemplating a relationship with someone of a radically different religious background might face. I hope you can advise me.

(sign me, if you want), Not bigoted but cautious

Dear Not Bigoted but Cautious,

You're a grownup woman who's dating a man who has decided he isn't interested in his family religion. So what's the problem?

I suspect that the problem's on your part, not his. You're the one who's worried about the religious difference. You're the one who's making all kinds of assumptions about what his family would think. You're the one who's decided not to approve of another religion.

I know of many Catholics who have married people of other faiths and very successfully worked out any problems that have come up. If you were thinkng of having children, then you would be faced with deciding what religious believe your children should have, but at your age, that's probably not going to be a problem.

If you are worried, talk about this with him. It's never too early to ask about religious differences. The second date is an ideal time. You should be willing to discuss your own religion and how your family might react to his families' beliefs as well. If he has indeed decided his family religion is a lot of rubbish, it's quite possible that he has also decided that your religion is a lot of rubbish too. There's no sense in getting involved in a relationship with problems that can't be solved.

Remember, however: religious differences only stand in the way of couples who are uncompromising in their religious beliefs. It's important when couples are of different religions that each respect the religious choices that the other one has made. If you both can't do that, then find out as soon as possible. No use investing a lot of time and energy in a relationship that was never meant to be.

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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