Dr. Tracy's Advice Column

Cartoon Kiss

5/21/09

Is he a keeper?
Right Man, Wrong Ring
A Dangerous Meeting



Is he a keeper?

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am 28. I went through a divorce over 4 years ago. I have been dating my boyfriend for just under 4 years. He is 30.

Short backstory - we dated in high school and broke up when he graduated. Our mothers became best friends. 8 years later after my divorce, and after his most recent break up, we started dating. In the 8 years we were apart I was with 1 person who I married and divorced. He had relationships with 3 different women, 1 of whom he had a daughter with.

I bought a house 2 years ago that we moved into. He works full time, with his brother. I work full time as well. We both have debt (I more than he). Up until last month I was paying everything and he was giving me money towards house bills and his personal bills (credit card, car insurance, child support). If he didn't have enough to cover the bills, I made up the difference. Over a month ago I became fed up of him not making me a priority, being irresponsible and choosing to spend time with his brother over me (they work together, hang out together, make plans for the future together, they call and text each other, they even have a bank account together which is what pushed me over the edge). I helped him try to see his daugther, but when I gave up the effort, he did as well.

When I put my foot down and stopped paying his bills, he hasn't paid them. Also when I put my foot down over a month ago, I kicked him out of our bedroom and he has since been sleeping in the basement. He has never been a big talker, but I thought given the severity of this situation he would say something, anything. The most recent argument is that he is planning a Memorial weekend getaway with his brother, even though he cannot afford it. His mom is stepping in and paying his bills while he cannot.

I cannot even say that he is selfish because he doesn't care if his own bills get paid and he doesn't take care of his health (he smokes cigarettes and pot and drinks. he doesn't go to the doctor or dentist for anything, heck he doesn't even floss)

I love him, I am comfortable with him, he helps with the house bills and he helps with yard work. However he is not responsible, he doesn't care about any bills, he is immature, he has lied and he would rather spend time with his friends and brother than me, he doesn't seem to care about seeing his daughter and he cannot talk to me about anything. It is just hard to believe that he loves me as he says he does when he treats me like this. I've asked, begged, pleaded face to face, by email, text and letter for something, anything more or better. There is silence. His goto phrase is "I don't know" - to questions from "Do you love me" to "What do you want to eat".

The only time that he shows me love and affection and has conversation with me is when he is high or drunk and then he doesn't remember what was said.

Does anything I wrote give indication of hope or a chance? If so - what else can be done because I've tried everything I can possibly think of.

Dear Hopeful,

You've given this relationship a lot of chances and there is absolutely no sign that this loser is going to change his ways. It didn't work out when you were in high school and now you're back trying the same thing with the same guy again.

He chooses his brother over you, his mother pays his bills, he drinks and drugs and doesn't even sleep with you. He's self-destructive, doesn't love himself, and doesn't love you either, no matter what he says when he's stoned. What on earth are you keeping him for? You'd get more satisfaction from a puppy and a lot more love.

The best thing you could do would be to throw the bum out. Let him get his life straightened out on his own. You can't help him. You can't fix him. And if you keep trying, you're going to wind up deeper in debt and even more frustrated.

Never try to fix a man. Having a relationship is hard enough, but with a man who needs a total makeover in every way, it's impossible.

Ask yourself why you choose to love a man who gives you so little. Is it because you feel needed or superior? Maybe you think he has to stay with you because nobody else would have him?

You're in love with a loser and he'll drag you down with him if you don't let him go. You've tried everything else, now try saving yourself from this destructive relationship. If you don't get out, your self-esteem will suffer, your back account will disappear, and your life will be spent worrying about how to fix this unfixable man.

Sorry, this one isn't a keeper.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy



Right Man, Wrong Ring

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I have been with my boyfriend for almost two years now. I am 27 and he is 31 and neither of us have ever been married. We love each other very much, have a great relationship, and have started talking about marriage. He even went so far as to tell me that he already has a ring picked out -- it belonged to his favorite aunt and he is clearly very proud of it and wants to pass it along to me. I am honored that he would make such a decision about a cherished family heirloom.

Here's my problem--he has described the ring to me, and I don't like it! I'm not usually picky about jewelry at all, but it just doesn't sound like something I would like to wear at all (big, gaudy and gold--I'm more a small, simple, and silver kind of girl). I feel like I'm being so shallow, but I am very excited for him to propose, and I don't want to be disappointed in the ring he chooses, especially not when it has such sentimental value. Part of me also really just wants us to have our very own ring.

I don't know what to do. Is it wiser to just accept the ring and hope it grows on me to spare his feelings (I know he'd be hurt otherwise)? Should I tell him how I feel? If so, how do I do it without hurting him?

Thanks for your help!

Dear Fussy,

Marriage is about commitment and making a life together. It is not about the ring, how big or how small it is or whether it's exactly what you would choose. Many women marry with no ring at all.

Get a grip. You love your boyfriend and he loves you. You are talking about marriage and he's about to propose with a ring he thinks you should be honored to wear. If you refuse the ring or act like you don't want it, not only will he be hurt, but he's going to have second thoughts about you. You'll seem picky -- and yes, shallow -- and in general, an ingrate.

You probably have a fantasy that's like a jewelry store commercial, where the young couple choose their diamond together. You see yourself at Tiffany's or the local mall, exploring the possible rings and trying different ones on. Or you've been watching The Bachelor on television and you see him choosing the "perfect" new ring and you think that's how it supposed to happen.

Well the truth is that's a rarity. Many couples wind up at the neighborhood pawn shop looking for something cheap, or settling for a cz because they can't afford a real diamond, or being given a family treasure that may not be exactly her fantasy. Instead of mourning your dream ring, think of the auntie's ring as having good vibes from the happiness it brought her and the pleasure your boyfriend will have in giving it to you, knowing that you are wearing part of his family history.

Gold is traditional (silver is not) and it's quite possible that he can't afford to buy you a nice ring, but can give you one from his family. It's part of belonging to him and his relatives and will cement relationships all the way around.

Do you have any idea how many women would love to have your problem? This is matter of being kind and being smart. Accept the ring and be happy with it. Then sometime, a few years from now, if it hasn't grown on you, you can always have it restyled.

There is simply no way to tell him you don't want the auntie's ring without hurting his feelings and the feelings of his entire family. Remember, you have to live with his family for the rest of your life. Don't start off by rejecting an heirloom. You say you're not picky about jewelry, so why are you thinking about making an issue over the ring?

Perhaps you're really not ready to marry and are looking for an excuse. But if you are ready and want to marry, shut up, take the ring and keep your opinions to yourself about whether it's too big or too gaudy.

Love the man, love the ring. It's really not a big deal, but if you reject the ring, you could wind up losing the man as well.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy



A Dangerous Meeting

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I'm a 63-year-old man, married to the same woman for over 37 years.

Recently, my high school girlfriend, who I have not seen in 43 years, reunited with me via email from over 1,000 miles away. Coincidentally, we were searching for each other, and have had frequent enjoyable emails during the past two months.

Although I thought of her over the years, I never thought I'd see her again. It now turns out that she will soon be visiting in my area, and we are planning to meet at a restaurant we used to go to when we were teenagers.

I'd like some coaching on the form of our initial greeting.

It will be in a public place. The proprietors of the restaurant know my wife (who won't be at the meal). My ex-girlfriend is not married now. It's not a real "date," but it's more than a business lunch or a meal with a couple of couples or a bunch of the guys. My long-term objective is friendship. I'm not likely to leave my wife.

Obviously, this reunion calls for more than a hearty handshake, but how much more? A hug seems inevitable. But beyond that, what kind of a kiss? Hollywood style air kiss? Quick peck on the cheek like for a grandmother? Quick kiss on the lips like for a female friend? Long kiss like for prom date or a wife?

I assume we'll figure it out together on the spot, but how do I start?

Thanks!

Dear Kisser,

Keep your lips to yourself. You're a married man and you're playing with fire meeting an old girlfriend who is single. I hope your wife knows about this. If she doesn't, you've just taken the first step down a very slippery slope. Even if your wife knows all about it, the situation is fraught with danger. Your old girlfriend may already think there are possibilities for a relationship with you, since you've been emailing and now are meeting. It's very likely that she thinks it's a date.

The safest and wisest thing to do would be to take your wife along and introduce them. But it doesn't sound like that's the plan. You say you're not likely to leave your wife (not likely but possible?) and the object of the meeting is simply friendship, but I can't help wondering why you're so concerned about kissing or not.

A kiss shouldn't even be under consideration. You should simply give her a minimal hug with your head turned so your lips are well out of range. No kisses at all, unless they're the Hollywood-style air kiss. Instead, you need to immediately establish the proper tone for this renewed friendship -- and do so in unmistakable terms. If you don't take your wife, have pictures of your wife with you. Then, within the first 60 seconds, before your old girlfriend has a chance to blurt out anything she might regret, say something like, "I'm so sorry I wasn't able to bring Joan. She's terrific. You'd really like her. Here's a picture of her."

That will dispell any romantic notions your old girlfriend may have. You'll come across as friendly but not flirtatious. Your old girlfriend may be disappointed, but she'll respect you. You must close the door decisively on any fantasies that either of you may be harboring.

Don't do anything stupid. Don't have a relationship -- emails, friendship or otherwise -- behind your wife's back. If you do and your wife finds out she will be deeply, deeply hurt. After all, you have 37 years of marriage together. She deserves full disclosure and a husband who isn't lusting after an old girlfriend from high school.

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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