"Ask Dr. Tracy"

2/16/97 Advice Column

Sixteen and Old,
Confused Love,
Hot for a Friend's Girlfriend

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a 19 year old male going out with a very goodlooking 16 1/2 year old girl. I met her at work and have known her for 2 years. Six months ago we started going out and we are pretty serious now. She is the oldest 16 year old I know. This is due to her extensive past. I love the person for who she is today and I want to spend the rest of my life with her, but I have a whole bunch of problems.

Some background-
My girfriend was raised by a crazy, alcoholic, drug-using (crack, cocain) single mother who didn't give a damn what her daughter did. Her mother had many, many, many men and some of these men (2) sexually assaulted her at a very young age (7 and 9). She only remembered this at age 14. My girlfriend has seen a horrifying things in her childhood. Physical abuse (not to herself but to her mother - hiding under a bed - her mother stood crying bloody from head to toe ) Drug abuse (not to her but her mother), Sex (walking in on, seeing condoms etc..) . As a young girl her mother ordered her to give "kisses" to all of these men (which makes her sick to the stomach when she thinks about it today). She was a very quiet girl her whole life. She move too many times to remember and has never really had many friends. She lost her virginity to a 16 year old at age 12. She then went to mexico (for 3 weeks) and slept with a 22 year old once and a 32 year old once. You must understand - she looked 19/20 at age 12 (in Mexico)- I swear it, I've seen pictures. Back home after her trip she had 6 other men/boys (aged 16-18) over a period of 2 years. In high school she found one boyfriend after all of this and stuck to him. She at the time said enough with this crazyness and calmed down. She has remained that way.

About Me -
I was raised by a single mother also, but she loved me and took care of me. Never exposing me to anything. Today I have a stepfather and a happy home - along with the average problems but I'm happy. I lost my virginity to my present girlfriend and do not regret it at all. I guess I have a very simple/average past.

My Questions and Problems -
I know her past is one for the talk shows. I know she did very, very, very stupid things. But she is different today. Her past scares me, but imagin what she feels like. I spent New Years '97 with her alone in a hotel and she broke down and cryed and cryed and cryed. She regrets everything, she feels dirty, low and degrated. The only person she has ever really loved is me, she is scared to even think of what "I" think of her. I am the only person that knows her entire past (sometimes I wish I didn't). Never the less I choose to be with her. I love her dearly and am going to stay right by her side. I just need help in finding a way to help cure her emotions. To help her feel good about herself. To realize that her past is her past and there's new and better things to come. I desparately need your help. What do I say next time she falls apart on me, what can I do, what do I say. So far I told her that I'm there for her and I will always be there for her. But that doesn't really cure her insides. How do I explain her past to her and to myself (I feel sick thinking about it sometimes).

Sorry for writting a novel but If you could please help I would be able to sleep again. Is she healthy (mentally)? what happens later on in life (flashbacks, breakdowns)????????

Need help

Dear needer of help,

Your girlfriend needs more help than you can give.

If you want to be a lasting couple, you both should go to therapy. Even if you're not a couple, your girlfriend needs years of therapy to make peace with her past. The memories of her horrible childhood will never go away, but she has to reach a place emotionally where she can live with the pain, accept it, forgive and get on with her life. A therapist will be able to help her do this much better than you can. All you can do is love her in spite of her bad memories and lousy past.

Dating someone with your girlfriend's problems can be daunting. First of all, her past experiences with people who were supposed to love her, like her mother, were so terrible, she may never trust someone again. If she trusts you, she may never believe you could love a rotten person like she feels she is. Since she feels unworthy of love, it's hard for her to fully experience it.

You, in turn, could be the kind of guy (of which there are many) who only loves a needy woman. So if she gets well, you may not love her anymore. On the other hand, she could get well and decide she no longer wants you. The down side of therapy is that the changed person who comes out of a therapeutic situation may decide he or she doesn't want the same people in their lives as they did before.

Proceed carefully here, and both of you read Melanie Beatty's book, "Co-dependent No More."

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I have been in a relationship with my boyfriend for seven years. This past year we were to be married, but he called it off two months before the wedding. I then found out he was seeing another woman. I quickly packed up myself and our child and moved out. Now he wants to come back. He says he can't let me go. He still talks to the other woman claim ing to be friends. This woman supposedly loves him and won't let him go. I truly love this man,but I can't trust him right now. Our child deserves to have his father and mother together if possible. My friends say "dump the bum" but my heart says I can't live without him. I don't know who or what to listen to!! Can you help?


Dear Confused,

Your friends may be right. On the other hand, this may be the only time he's been unfaithful, and he may be truly willing to change his ways. For the sake of your child and the seven years you've invested in this relationship, you should give him one last chance. But don't just listen to your heart and take him back without conditions.

You're hurting, but at least you are in the power position right now. He wants you back, so be smart. Don't give him what he wants until you are assured that you're going to get what you want.

Don't take him back unless you get him to agree not to see the other woman again, or talk to her or even be friends unless he includes you too -- fully. You see, when a couple is really tight they don't have opposite-sex friendships that don't include both of them. That means he can't have friendships with other women unless you're included. Get together for lunch? It's got to be with you -- as a couple -- and her and a boyfriend. Any other arrangement is playing with fire.

Also, this is the time to insist on getting married. Tell him he can come back when there's a ring on your finger and you've set a near-term date for getting married.

Be strong.

Dear Dr. Tracy,

Okay, here's the problem. I am in love with my friend's girlfriend. I can't tell either one, in fear that something I do or say could hurt either relatoinship. I'm closer and better friends with the girl. Now I don't know if she knows or not. In the past months, she has been leading me to think she might feel the same way about me. The two of them have been going out for about 8 months now. I didn't feel this way towards her until recently when she began flirting with me. I then realised the way I felt about her. What do I do?

Dear in love with friend's girlfirend,

Stop! There's absolutely no way you can do anything but lose here. Don't let this girl get to you. Why would you want a girlfriend who's going to be flirting with your male friends? She sounds like one of the types I describe in "When To Not Even Get Started" in my Library. The best thing to do is get over her, fast.

If you can't do that, at least stay cool, which should avoid ruining your friendship and could possibly lead to a happy outcome. The next time she flirts with you, don't flirt back. Tell her you respect her, your friend, and their relationship. It's possible she's thinking of breaking up with your friend. If that happens and she then flirts with you again, let her know you're interested, but you want to wait until she and your friend are sure they're not going to get back together.

Give it time. Better yet, find a girlfriend of your own who doesn't belong to someone else.

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