Dr. Tracy's Advice Column

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Fear of Commitment
The Doormat Husband
Is Honesty Always the Best Policy?

Fear of Commitment

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I read through many of your columns but I did not find anyone with my particular problem. I am scared to death of the committment of marriage. I am 27 amd currently dating a wonderful man who is absolutely great looking, and unbelievably kind. We have been together for over two years. The problem is.....he wants to get married. He proposed to me six months ago and I told him that I had to think about it. The more I think about it, the more I panic and I know it is unfair not to give him an answer so I feel great pressure to decide. I know that I love him. I am sure that I would be miserable without him. The problem is that I feel like getting married to him would be giving up the possiblility to find a man who is as attractive as him but also as funny and interesting as my last boyfriend (who I also refused to marry after four years of dating).

Am I setting myself to be an old maid by expecting that I could find someone with everything that I want? I have met two men who I thought had everything that I wanted, both whom I would have been eager to marry. However, both of these relationships were short-term and I ended up getting dumped in both cases. I am not sure if these relationships were more enticing to me just because they were uncertain, or if I would have maintained those feelings of committment and excitement to these men even with time.

I feel very confused. I also feel a little bit like a freak as it seems to me, from reading your columns and other relationship-oriented books and articles, that fear of committment is generally a man's problem. I hope you can give me some advice about whether I should hold out for my Mr. Perfect or settle down and give up a chance at my fantasy man.

Dear Scared,

Many people, both men and women, are afraid of commitment and marriage. After all, it means you'd have to grow up, be an adult, and make a choice. You could be afraid of choosing wrong and winding up divorced. Most of all, you could wind up missing that "fantasy man."

Beyond fear of commitment, you're suffering from the fantasy that a perfect man exists. Perfectionism will make you crazy. There is no perfect man. Don't try to take a part of this one and a part of that one and fantasize Mr. Perfect. That's like saying, I'd like it to taste like an orange, but have skin like an apple, and smell like a banana. There is no such thing. So you have to choose.

As for the ones who got away, you're right: a man you can't have always seems more interesting and exciting. After all, you never get close enough to him to find out all that's wrong with him.

Instead of looking for a perfect man, think about which man you trust, which man you can feel comfortable with, and which man will be best in the long run. Some men who are exciting to date make lousy husbands.

You say your current boyfriend is unbelievably kind. That's worth a lot of other qualities. You can't have everything in one man. So you'll have to choose the qualities that are most important to you and forget the others.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

The Doormat Husband

Dear Dr. Tracy,

My wife and I have been married for 5 1/2 years. We lived together for about 10 months before we married. During this time, I can honestly say I have been miserable for all but 6 months. The usual problems of finances were the major reasons then and I believe they are behind most of our problems now.

For two years I worked at a metal forging factory. It was the worst job I have ever had, but it paid well. My wife had a relatively low paying job and I often asked her to quit and go to school so that she could eventually be able to contribute more. She always refused. Eventually, she got a job making much more than I had made. Soon afterwards, I asked her about the possibility of me quitting and going to school. She seemed to like the idea and even asked me several times about what courses I was to take, how long I would go, etc. I had several thousand saved up and intended to pay my way so that it would not be a burden on her. I told her I planned on quitting soon and she agreed.

I quit and within two weeks her attitude changed completely. She got more and more adamant that she wasnt going to support a man. I learned very quickly that school was out of the question. First, she demanded the money that I had saved up. Then she demanded that I get a job. I have a rather good work record and within 24 hours I had 9 job offers, including one that paid 3 times what I had made before. At this time, I was broke and having given her all my savings, unable to even drive to the interview without asking her for gas money. Upon seeing the job offers and interviews I had lined up, she told me I couldnt have any of them. Her reasoning was it was too far to drive, or it would interfere with her schedule etc. This went on for several months. She wanted me to go to work for the grocery store, but they wouldnt hire me because I used to make 20,000 a year more than the store manager. She wasnt worried about me making money, she just seemed to enjoy the position of power she had. I still remember the smile on her face each time she informed me that she was free to leave me anytime she wanted, that no judge would even grant me visitation much less custody if I didnt have a job. Those were really dark times for me. Eventually, I borrowed enough from my mother to get gas money to get a job. I did not tell her until I had it so that she couldnt say I couldnt have it.

Our sex life pretty much died after we got married. Recently it has gotten to the point where once every other month is about normal for her. I feel like she used sex to get me to marry her.

I can go on and on but suffice to say, the absolute only reason I am still with her is our children. There is so much water under the bridge between us that I doubt if I will ever trust or love her again. I think daily about when the children are older and able to choose between us in a divorce. Am I wrong?

Dear Miserable,

You have given all your power away to your wife and you have allowed her to abuse you. What on earth made you think that she gets to make all the decisions and tell you what to do?

Apart from the abuse you've been taking, it's a lousy strategy for either person -- the wife or the husband -- to be the total boss in a marriage. Instead, they should be partners, putting their heads together and planning for success.

Starting today, stop letting your wife tell you what you're allowed to do and what you're not allowed to do. Don't let her be totally in charge of your life and finances. Important life decisions about work and education should not be dictated to you by any other person.

If you stay in this miserable marriage for the sake of your children, you'd be doing a disservice to them and yourself. You're wrong to wait to think about divorce. Do it right away. See a lawyer and find out what your rights are. You still have a chance to live a happier life with someone else.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Is Honesty Always the Best Policy?

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I've never asked for advice from a stranger before, but this is something that is weighing heavily on my mind. I've had the same boyfriend for 7 months and I am absolutely in love with him. After 4 months, we had sex for the first time and have continued at it ever since.

The problem is that I haven't been completely honest with him about my sexual history. He thinks he is the second person I've been with, but in actuality he is the fourth. I am not proud of the people or situations I chose and have never told anyone about the third person and only a select few of the second. But I would like to be honest to boyfriend about everything and this is the only area that holds me back. I have never lied to him about the number of my partners, I simply didn't offer up any information and he never asked. I'm afraid he would be very upset because I was his "first". I am also afraid this will change his opinion of me and make him see me for what I am not.

Please help! I am very confused on whether to let it all out or to keep the past in the past.

Sincerely, Afraid to be Honest

Dear Afraid to be Honest,

In this case, your fear is justified. Honesty is great, but not if it's going to hurt someone else for no reason.

We've all heard that "Honesty is always the best policy," but it's not. It can be cruel. You don't tell Grandma she looks fat in her new dress. You don't tell your child that their first drawing looks like a bunch of scribbles. And when it comes to telling about previous sex partners, honesty is generally a terrible policy. In this case, it sounds like you'd like to get it off your chest, but relieving yourself of guilt and pain isn't a good reason to 'fess up, especially if it's going to cause unnecessary pain to someone you love.

If your boyfriend isn't asking you exactly how many partners you had, maybe it's because he really doesn't want to know. Confession may be good for the soul, but you should only confess to your priest or therapist.

What you did in the past and who you did it with is your business and your business alone. Sharing this information with him could indeed cause a rift in your relationship.

And for pity's sake, there were only 4! It's not like there were 40 or 400. As long as he won't be hearing about your other loves from someone else, keep quiet about this. You have everything to gain from keeping your mouth shut, and lots to lose by talking.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Submitting a Question to this column

Dr. Tracy regrets that it is simply impossible for her to answer all of the hundreds of questions submitted to this column each week. However, she does read every question, and tries to select the three which are of the most general interest to the visitors here.

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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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