The Intimacy Factor
Dear Dr. Tracy,
I'm currently in a relationship that has lasted for 2 years. I met him on a match-maker website, and we hit it off great. All of the right feelings were there and after only one month of dating, we moved in together. We both normally don't rush to live with someone, but it felt right at the time. Unfortunately, we didn't give each other the chance to really get to know each other or to become friends.
I live about 1700 miles away from my friends and family and during the last year have been questioning my happiness, not only living so far away, but also the happiness in my relationship. There seems to be a few things missing in this relationship. First: there has not been any intimacy in about a year's time (on both of our ends), second: it seems as if we are both working towards separate goals and dreams. He is completely focused on getting his business off the ground, and I'm working towards my education. There is nothing bad with this relationship. We both care and love each other and are adult about our feelings. We also came to an understanding that we both feel that not all of our needs are being met.
There's another side to the story. About a month ago, I visited my family for the holidays and caught up with an old male friend of mine. We were great friends and did just about everything with each other (this was about 13 years ago). During that time, I found out that he had really strong feelings for me but then, I didn't quite feel the same (I was 18, he was 19). Now after contacting him again and having conversations, a spark was created in me. He has never married and is currently single, and come to find out, he still has those same feelings; I don't think he ever stopped. During our conversations, I found out that we both share the same ideals and values, especially when it comes to marriage. My current boyfriend has told me earlier that he is going to marry me someday. The key word is "someday," and I feel my biological clock ticking.
I feel totally confused and just want to be able to trust my own judgements and feelings, as well as grasp onto happiness and run with it.
How does one come to grips with their feelings and know that they're making the right decision?
If I’ve done my arithmetic right, you’re 31, a good age to marry and have children. However, you’re living with a man with whom you have nothing in common. You haven’t been intimate for a year. That’s enough time to realize that this relationship is on its way down the toilet.
There doesn’t have to be anything “bad” about a relationship to make it wither and die. You can care about each other and love each other and be as adult as you want about your feelings, but the truth is that you’ve grown apart and aren’t motivated to do anything about it.
If either of you really cared about the passion in your relationship, you should have dealt with the lack of intimacy problem when it first started. You should have insisted on going for therapy or some sort of relationship encounter. Instead, you just drifted along, letting the sparks between you get fewer and fewer and your responses get more and more lukewarm to each other. With you focused on your education and him on his business, you now seem to have totally lost your passion toward each other.
Relationships are a lot like businesses -- they either get better or worse. They rarely stay the same. Yours has spiraled so far downward that it will require work and dedication to turn it around. Neither of you seem motivated to do that.
Instead, you are focusing on a man you knew years ago. Instead of finding the lost spark in your current relationship, you have found a “spark” with this man from your past. You sound like you’re ready to move on to the next spark, without ever finding out what made this one go out.
This is a time to pause. Don’t rush blindly from one relationship to the next. You say you still love each other. One good way to come to grips with your feelings is to do the right thing. Act with integrity. Tell your current boyfriend you're thinking of ending the relationship, but, for the sake of the two years you've been together, you're willing to give it one more month if he'll agree to weekly couples counseling sessions.
Give it one last try, and you’ll feel better about yourself. At the very least, you may get insights into how to prevent the loss of intimacy next time. If you want to date this man from your past, you really have to end your current relationship honorably.
Timing Is Everything
Dear Dr. Tracy,
I have no one else to talk to. Everyone's advice has just been to do what I think is right. I am a 22 year old soon to be college graduate and have been with my girlfriend for a year and a half. I love her very much but she is in a different place. She graduated a year ago, and has established a very respectable career. She has her life all planned out, and knows what she wants next. I on the other hand am trying to just get through the next few months, and hopefully get a decent job in my field. I have no idea where my life is going to take me in the next few years.
She constantly talks about weddings. She loves weddings and a few of her friends have already gotten married. She asks me to fantasize what our wedding would be like. She also often asks me when we will move in together. Basically all the commitment things that I cannot even think about at this point in my life.
She is in a very hard time in her life, because she has done what she has worked for and wants to know what is next. We live an hour apart and I only see her every few weekends. We talk on the phone every night. She has frequently been asking me to talk nice to her, and make her feel better. I am not a very outspoken emotional person. She sees us as being together forever. She looks at the next 50 years, I look at the next week. I don't even know that she is the one for me. How would I know? I have only had one other real girlfriend. I even look at the option of splitting up for a short time for me to figure it out for myself, but if I told her this it would break her heart. I don't want to just keep on being with her because I know she can't live without me. But I couldn't even imagine my life without her right now.
What should I do to make her feel better, and to feel special. I cooked her a nice romantic dinner the other night, but I need to give her more. I am just not ready to start thinking about moving in with someone, and even remotely thinking about marriage at this point in my life. I unlike her don't see myself getting married until I am financially stable, and have established my career. But, she won't except waiting around. I just want things to be the way they are, and take one thing at a time.
Please any advice would be very helpful. I don't know who else to turn too and I don't have the money for your private counseling, I am a broke college student and am trying to figure out how I am going to buy food this week. Thank you for your time. It is greatly appreciated.
Dear Not Ready,
Your girlfriend knows exactly what she wants – to move in together and to get married. You, on the other hand, are nowhere near being ready to marry.
If you think that making her a romantic dinner or any other romantic gesture you can make will change her mind and keep her from wanting marriage, you’re living in a fantasy. When a woman wants living together and marriage, nothing else will do. Sure you can distract her, maybe for an evening, but she’ll soon be back to wanting the whole enchalada.
Frankly, there’s nothing you can do to make her feel better and special without giving her the commitment she wants. She has weddings on the brain. All her friends re getting married. You’d have to get her a lobotomy to keep her from thinking about getting married.
She wants things from you that you’re not able or ready to give. You aren’t even sure if she’s the right woman for you, so how could you possibly consider a lifetime commitment? Since you’re not ready to make a commitment, stop being such a wus and tell her how you feel.
Sure, you’ll probably lose her, and sure, this relationship has been very special, but the truth is that most relationships don't work out. Your life is changing. You’re graduating, moving on. You may have several wonderful relationships before you're ready to settle down.
Be fair to her. Don't try to keep her on hold. If you try to drag the relationship out without giving her a commitment, she’ll begin to really resent you, and the relationship will deteriorate anyway. You owe it to her to let her go so that she can find someone who is ready to give her what she wants. If you truly love her, that’s what you’ll do.
In Love With An Alcoholic
Dear Dr. Tracy,
I am 47 years old, married only once for 25 years, and now single and in
a relationship with a 42 year old man who I am having doubts about. I
know there is not a perfect man or that I am a perfect woman and that
our relationship is not perfect. There are just some things I am having
trouble living with and I don't know if I should end the relationship.
First of all, he is an alcoholic and he is aware of it. This leads to
why I have been feeling the need to pull out but I am finding it hard
to break up with him as I do love him. He is planning a Valentine's
get-a-way at the coast and has hinted of popping "the question." I
want to marry him but my intuition tells me that this will be one of
those favorite mistakes. What should I tell him... Yes or No?
Speaking from the heart
Dear Wanna Be Bride,
Loving an alcoholic can be a slippery slide to disaster, unless the alcoholism is under control – going to AA meetings or getting treatment and absolutely not drinking. Alcoholism is a disease and needs to be treated as one. If the man in your life is aware of his problem and proves he is willing to get treatment and stay sober, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t marry him.
Actually, you could get engaged with a deal -- that you’ll have a long engagement, say at least a year, during which time he will show his ability to stay sober. Tell him you want that not just for your own protection but because you love him and want him to live a long and healthy life. If he manages to keep his alcoholism under control, and if after a year you still love him and want to marry him, you’ll have some reason to believe that you're not walking into endless heartache.
All relationships have problems, and when you fall in love in your forties, both people are more likely to have baggage that they bring with them. The only question you have to ask is whether or not you can live with the baggage your man brings. His alcoholism will never go away, so you have to be reasonably sure he'll stay on the wagon. Many people do, and have happy marriages.
If you do go forward with this man, be sure to read “Co-dependent No More,” by Melody Beattie. It has so much wonderful information about living with alcoholic partners.
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