Dr. Tracy's Advice Column

Cartoon Kiss

2/13/2005

To Parent or Not to Parent…
A "No Gifts" Guy
Doesn't Like His Friends



To Parent or Not to Parent…

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I've looked through your column but can't find anything similar to my situation. I've asked for advice from friends (some with kids) but am at a loss on what to do. What should I consider if I'm thinking about a lifelong commitment with a single father?

I am in a 2 1/2 month relationship with a single divorced father of 3 (ages 9, 7, and 4). I am 29, he's 32. I have been divorced myself for almost a year without any kids. He was divorced because he states that they grew apart, this was about 4 years ago. We are starting to get really serious, and I am starting to have these doubts.

I am very much in love with this person, but am afraid that I can't see myself being with him long-term because I have to admit I'm selfish. I want all his attention, I want to start my own family and not have to think about his kids. We had discussed this, and he assures me that I would be as involved with the children as much as I want, he and the kids won't expect that I would be their 'mommy'. I also thought about any resentment, about future finances, about parenting styles, about the expectations of how much love and attention he has to give me and his kids.

He is great with his kids, he's great with me. I also haven't met the kids yet because I want to sort out these feelings before I do make that kind of commitment. He told me that I can take as long as I want until I'm ready to. I don't know if it's possible (or just wishful thinking) that I could overcome this if I love him enough.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Dear Considering,

Thinking about a lifetime commitment to a single father is a big, big step. If you're not totally committed to the man and his kids, it's going to be horrible for everyone involved.

If, as you say, you're selfish and want all his attention, then you're doomed to have constant problems. You can't avoid sharing your single father with his kids. They're going to need a lot from him on a regular basis for a long time, and if you're going to want him to spend less time with them and more with you, he's going to think you're trying to come between him and his kids. Rather than make him choose between you and the kids, you'd have to plan on doing lots of things together. You'd have to adjust your schedule to theirs. You'd have to make a big effort, and the kids still might not be very receptive.

Beyond him and the kids, you'd have to come to terms with his ex-wife and carve out a workable relationship with her, because the two of you would be at lots of events together. Think about soccer games, holidays, school graduations, etc., etc. The list goes on and on to marriages and grandchildren. You'd be "the other" grandmother. There's also the possibility that something would happen to his ex-wife and you and he would wind up being fulltime parents to the kids.

His reassurance that you wouldn't have to be involved with his kids any more than you want to be is a joke. It makes me worried that he's not in touch with reality. If you're married to him, you will be involved with those kids, and your life will be affected by them. Even if you're not the mommy, you'll be constantly involved in solving their problems. It's inevitable. Your life and your privacy and your finances will be involved. You're smart to think about all the ramifications and to wonder whether you're really up for them.

At this stage of the relationship, it sounds like you don't love this man enough to make the sacrifices that would be required. Give it some more time and see if your feelings grow enough to want to think about his kids and being involved with them. If so, you'll then have to spend time with the kids to see what they're like and figure out if you could love them through the tough teenage years when they're less than cute.

Step-parenting is a lifetime tightrope act. You have to know what to say and when, and it's not easy. Sometimes no matter how hard you try, you're the fifth wheel and not really a part of their family.

Sure, you can overcome all these problems if you love him enough. But if you don't love him enough and you don't love his kids enough, you'd be better off starting fresh with someone without kids of their own.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy



A "No Gifts" Guy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

My boyfriend and I have been dating for about 3 years. We have a great relationship and I love him very much. But there's one thing that really bothers me about him. Namely, he doesn't take the time to make me feel special on special occasions such as my birthday, valentine's day or christmas. When these holidays are around the corner, I start shopping for gifts for him about 2 weeks before. I put extra time into choosing his gifts so they're thoughtful and meaningful. I usually get him a few gifts, all nicely wrapped with a sweet card.

My boyfriend on the other hand doesn't ever think to get me anything. He waits until the last minute and then he tells me he didn't have the time. While he unwraps his christmas gifts I sit and wait, secretly hoping he will whip out my gift in a second. But it's pointless, it never happens. I always play it off by saying that I don't need anything, I'm just glad to be with him. But inside I'm always hurt that he didn't get me anything. I don't want much, in fact I don't want him to spend money on me at all. It's the thought that counts not how much money he spends. I would be happy if he just got me a card and a teddy bear.

I was always was afraid to tell him how I feel about this issue until this year's Valentine's Day. One week before Valentine's Day, I went shopping for my boyfriend and bought him 7 outfits (some dressy shirts and some casual tops). I didn't spend much as the clothes were on a big sale. All the stuff cost me no more than $50. I was so excited about the gift because I know anyone would be happy from a gift like that, espcially him, he loves to dress up.

So, day before Valentine's Day I decided to give him my gift. I couldn't wait until the next day. He really liked all the clothes and they fit him perfecly. He was so happy and couldn't believe what a good taste I had.

The next day was Valentine's Day. My boyfriend called me at work to tell me we have reservations to a restuarant for 9:30pm. I wasn't happy with the time of dinner. 9:30? I go to sleep at 10:00. That's all you will get when you book a reservation on the day of Valentine's Day. I was a little upset with him waiting until the last minute but decided to take things into my own hands. I found us a great place with dinner and a comedy show for 6pm to which we ended up going. All night I waited for my boyfriend to surprise me (wasn't even thinking about the proposal). When I realized it wasn't going to happen, I finally told what I think of him and his gift giving.

I know it may sound selfish that I want gifts. But it's not like that. I don't want expensive jewelry or other costly things. Just a little something to show that he cares. Small box of chocolates, one rose (I don't believe in spending $50 for a dozen roses, they die anyway) or a cute teady bear would satisfy me.

When I confronted him and told him how it makes me feel when I don't get anything for my birthday, christmas even valentine's day he was upset with me even thinking that way. He told me that he should be enough for me. That he says he loves me everyday and he doesn't need an occasion to tell me that. And that gifts are only material things and don't mean anything. He said, that he has reasons and that I will never understand, it's a guy thing. He also admitted that he got offended with my gift (the clothes) because it made him feel like I don't like the way he dresses. And he knows its not true, he just needed some casual clothes which he didn't have (he dresses up 7 day a week-dress pants, shirt & tie).

Dr. Tracy, is there any hope that he will ever change? He was like this since the beginning of the relationship. I don't want to know how he will be like for our wedding anniversary, etc. I'll always feel neglected and unappreciated. How do I get him to start treating me special on these occasions. I feel like not getting him anything anymore. I feel stupid for always going out of my way for him and he doesn't even remember the occasion sometimes. Any advice will be greatly appreciated!

Unappreciated

Dear Unappreciated,

We all need to feel loved, and if you don't feel loved in your relationship, you will never be happy. If he has always hurt you in the past, chances are he'll continue to hurt you in the future. You need a man who makes you feel loved and who appreciates you for what you do for him.

Of course he's supposed to love you every day. That's a given. But when you love someone, you also don't miss the important, special opportunities to show your love. A man who refuses to get you a card for your birthday or Valentine's Day is a jerk. Or worse. He knows it hurts you, and he's perfectly happy to hurt you. He says it's a "guy thing"? Well, it's the kind of "guy thing" that enables him to say to himself (and maybe his buddies) "Boy, do I have her crawling. She buys me presents, and I never even get her a card, and she keeps coming back."

This is a power thing, a dominance thing. And you need to stop being so submissive. Assert yourself. Let your boyfriend know that this is a deal breaker. Tell him you're not looking for expensive gifts, but you absolutely must have a man who's willing to get you a birthday card, and that if he won't, he is seriously jeopardizing your relationship.

The next time a special occasion is coming, start reminding him about it maybe six weeks ahead of time. Remind him by telling him, write it on his calendar and send him an email about it. If the special occasion arrives and he still doesn't come through, you will have to leave him to get his attention.

The reason you may have to take such drastic action is that you let this go on for three years without putting a stop to it. The other big problem is that you didn't tell him because you were afraid to confront the issue. If you can't confront an issue with a man, you really can't have a good relationship.

Don't be afraid to speak up when you're unhappy. Letting a man get away with bad, hurtful behavior for years surely gives him the idea that it's okay.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy



Doesn't Like His Friends

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am with a wonderful man who I love deeply. We are making plans to be married this year and are both very happy.

The problem is that I don't like his friends. In fact I think I may hate them and the feeling is mutual. They make snide remarks and talk about me at the other end of the table using a code name when they think Im not listening. They are like a teenage clique who need someone to hate and talk about and I'm it. But they put up a friendly front and my partner is completely oblivious to all this.

I feel like Im on my own on this. I can't talk to him about it because he gets angry and says Im paranoid. Im not sure myself, I wonder if Im nuts.

He also does not want to seperate his friends from me, in a way its seperating his life. Do I not marry someone because I hate his friends? It has been a problem for about a year with many little episodes. I feel he is always on their side and thinks the worst of me.

I would never ask him to choose, I would rather leave. Is this a small issue? Do I just try to ignore them and how I feel when Im around them? Am I paranoid? Is our getting married just about us and nothing and no one else matters?

Dear Deeply In Love,

You don't have to be in love with a man's friends, you just have to be in love with him. However, putting up a friendly front and appearing to be nice to his friends is important. You have to develop a "being with his friends" persona -- like a "game face" -- that protects you from hurt and allows you to put up with them. Call it your "being with his friends" act, just like you probably have a "being with his mother" routine.

Don't give up the man you love because of other people. That's really silly. It's somewhat unreasonable to expect that you will love all his friends and vice-versa. Hang in there and eventually the problem will get better. You and your man will make new friends as a couple. When you're his wife, his old friends will realize they have to accept you.

Since he seems determined to defend his friends, you have to let them hang themselves. If they're really as anti-you as you say they are, they'll slip up and do or say something he can't ignore.

Marriage is not "love me, love my friends." Often couples have friends from their single lives that their mates don't really like at all. In that case, it's perfectly appropriate to see those friends alone.

Yes, your getting married is just about you and him. Since that's the case, you have to be able to work out problems that come up. But you also have to feel as if he's on your side. If he doesn't eventually come around to siding with you at least part of the time, you should rethink marrying him.

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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