Dr. Tracy's Advice Column

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Puff Puffing Their Love Away
A Friend In Terrible Trouble
Valentine’s Day

Puff Puffing Their Love Away

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I won't offend you with numbers but I'm a lot older than my husband. We've been married for almost three years. Needless to say, our marriage is more complex than conventional aged couples. Sexually speaking, we enjoy our age difference and find it very exciting. Whether it's age or personality or a combination of both, I'm the dominant partner in our relationship.

I'm also a smoker. Like most smokers, I have mixed emotions about my habit. I recognize it as physically addictive and unhealthy but I also find it physically and psychologically enjoyable.

Most non-smokers are revolted by my habit but my husband found it charming. We're the epitome of opposites being attracted to one another. He knows that when he married me he also married my cigarettes.

The three of us had a happy marriage until he started smoking too.

My husband knows I would never encourage anyone, regardless of age, to start smoking, which is why he hid it from me. I caught him smoking in our bathroom about a year after we were married. I was shocked, hurt and angry. We talked and argued about it for days. He was aware of all the health risks but he still wanted to smoke!

He thinks it makes him look older. He thinks its fun having something in common. He thinks its romantic. In contrast, I don't want him to look older because I enjoy his youth. We have lots of other things in common so we don't need to share smoking. He's halfway right about the romance. I enjoy sharing a cigarette with him after we make love, but he is a closet smoker, so the romance doesn't spill out of our bedroom.

Obviously I have a problem with my husband smoking. I wish he didn't smoke but now that he does I wish he had started before I met him. At the very least I wish he would come out of the closet. Because of our age difference I feel responsible for him. I liked it better when I was the only smoker in our marriage. This may sound silly but I feel like his smoking has diluted my dominance. Cigarettes are a symbol of adulthood and though he's technically an adult he's very young and that makes him to young to smoke in my mind.

I'm a realist. I'm not writing for advice on how to quit or how to make my husband quit. Neither one of us are going to do that. I just wish there was something you could say to make me more accepting and tolerant of the situation.

It bothers me that he's a closet smoker. He's been smoking for almost two years but he still does it in secret. By the time I had been smoking for two years, I didn't care who saw me. He doesn't smoke in front of any of our friends or family and it is really inconvenient. Before he started smoking we used to go out for dinner frequently. We can't do that now because he needs to smoke and is afraid someone will see him. We rarely invite people to our home any more because he needs to smoke. He is especially terrified of his mother finding out and she smokes too!

I hope you don't think I'm being too petty, but marriage is hard enough when you have nothing to conceal.

Dear Smoking and Loving It,

Your concern for your young husband's health is valid, but that's not the main thing going on here. You want to keep him subservient and well-behaved. His smoking, especially since he is sneaking smoking, is a sign that he’s not totally obedient, and you’re worried. Since he disobeys your “no-smoking for him” rule, what other rules might he disobey?

I don’t buy for a minute that he’s smoking in the bathroom because it makes him look older. If nobody seems him smoking, then who’s he looking older for? The answer is himself. He’s proving to himself that he’s a man by smoking. You want to be the boss in your relationship, and his smoking defies your authority. He’s obviously getting some kicks out of the whole thing. He’s enjoying smoking, and sneaking it in private is making it even more fun. He’s getting off on getting away with something. It makes him feel powerful.

Not only has he diminished your dominance, he has also begun to take the upper hand, which I suspect has you more uncomfortable than his act of smoking by itself. Now that he’s addicted to the cigarettes, he’s using that addiction to call some the shots in your relationship, in spite of your being older and “in charge.” For example, he’s got you not going out to dinner and not inviting people over so that nobody will see him smoke.

Relationships are evolving, not static, especially when you marry someone young who is still growing and changing. You can’t take all of a man’s power away from him, no matter how young he is. Eventually he was bound to rebel against your domineering ways.

So, you have two solutions. One is for you and he to go together on a “stop smoking” program. That’s the best solution for you both. The other is to ignore his smoking and go on with your life. Make plans to go out with friends and invite people over and let him decide how to deal with it. Stop helping him to hide his smoking.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

A Friend In Terrible Trouble

Dear Dr. Tracy,

My friend "Stephanie" has been dating a guy named "Naveed" for a year. They have an unhealthy relationship. He calls her every 30 minutes to know what she is doing. When she is in a place where he can not reach her, she has to call him every 30 minutes to let him know what she is doing and where she is going to. When she visits me, Naveed calls my home to talk to her several times. I asked her to tell him not to call my house anymore. She talked to him but he continued calling. One day he tells her he loves her, the next day he doesn't want to be with her. She is always crying and under stress because of him

One day Stepahnie and I were at the mall and she called Naveed to let him know where we were. Stephanie mentioned that we were going to eat lunch. Naveed invited us to eat in his apartment. He wanted to cook for us. I told Stephanie that I wanted to spend time with her so I would prefer to eat at the mall while we shop. Naveed got furious and he told Stephanie not to leave the mall. Stephanie was scared. She did not know what to do. We couldn't understand why he did not want us to leave the mall. I told Stephanie that I needed some time away from this craziness.

Seven weeks ago, Stephanie told Naveed she was pregnant. Naveed told her that that was not his child. During the same time, Naveed's father became sick and he had to travel to Pakistan. A week later Stephanie found out that Naveed was hiding the whole time here in this city. He thought that Stephanie was pregnant and he was hiding from her. After he left she found out that she is not pregnant. She tried to contact him in Pakistan but he never left a telephone number. Seven weeks later he found out that she is not pregnant. Three days ago he "came back from Pakistan" and he wants her back.

Since the time he was out of her life, Stephanie accomplished so much in her life. Now she is confused and she wants to believe that he was in Pakistan all this time. She wants to believe that he is a wonderful man and that he is the one for her. She just found out that he is married and has two kids in his country. He told her that he wants her to be his second wife.

Stephanie is my friend and I feel I need to help her but I don't know how. I have told her that he is not a healthy person but she just think I don't like him because he is from Pakistan.

The friend

Dear Friend,

You can clearly see what’s happening with your friend, but she can’t. She’s been brain-washed by her boyfriend into doing whatever he wants. He’s a total jerk and she refuses to see his behavior for what it is.

He’s doing everything an abusive man does to a woman, demanding all her attention, keeping her away from her friends, telling her what she can and cannot do. He’s also lied to her and left her when he thought she was pregnant. Now she finds out that he is married with two kids and wants her to be his second wife. In Pakistan, women are treated abominably. They are routinely beaten by their husbands and abused in ways that are truly terrible.

Although polygamy may be okay in Pakistan, it is not legal in the United States. So tell your friend she can’t be married to this man in this country and would be very, very unhappy as his second wife in Pakistan.

If your friend won’t listen to you, gather a group of her friends and relatives together and stage an intervention. Let her know how much you all care for her and then put group pressure on her to stay away from this man. Offer her support both emotionally and physically if she needs it.

Let this man know your friend is not alone and that there are others watching his behavior. Do some research and find out if he is in this country legally. If he isn’t here legally, let him know that if he doesn’t leave your friend alone, you’ll see that he gets deported.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Valentine’s Day

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I have to say that I'm single (I'm 36 and female), and I never get depressed on Valentine's Day.

It's sad the way so many other people seem to, or get angry if their significant other doesn't give them flowers or candies and/or forgets to take them out to dinner. I can't help feeling that they take Valentines much too seriously.

Valentine's Day is mostly overrated, over-commercialized hype perpetuated by greeting card companies and candy manufacturers because it's profitable for them. And they do this by making people feel that they're losers if they're not in a relationship, or jerks if they don't give their lovers and/or spouses presents.

If more people realized this, they'd be much happier - and healthier.

I'm not anti-romance, or against Valentines, and I'm certainly open to being in a relationship. I just don't believe in being more miserable than necessary.

Hope this is helpful - Life Is Too Short To Dread V-day

Dear Happy Without A Valentine,

Congratulations! I am printing your letter because I got so many letters from men and women who are depressed on Valentine’s Day because they don’t have a Valentine. You are so right - not having a Valentine doesn’t mean you have to be unhappy. Too many people are letting the Hallmark hype get to them.

People who aren’t part of a couple of Valentine’s Day have a feeling that all those couples are exchanging gifts, cards, candy and flowers, eating candlelight dinners and being nothing but romantic. Actually, many happily married couples are lucky if they get a card and a Valentine’s kiss.

If you don’t have a special person to be your Valentine this week, find a friend and plan to exchange “friendship” cards, even if it’s someone of the same sex. Letting a woman friend know how much she means to you can give some meaning to this silly holiday.

Instead of being depressed because you don’t have a Valentine, do something nice for yourself or for someone you love, friend or family member. Remember, Valentines come and go, friends and family are there forever.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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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