Dear Dr. Tracy,
Hi Dr. Tracy I have a question that I haven't been able to find answered in
your column archives. I am 31 year old woman who has been dating a 39 year
old man for 2.5 years. We are both divorced and have children (3 boys for
me and 1 daughter for him). He's been divorced for 10 years and I've been
divorced for 2 years. If you're doing your math, the answer is no, he was
not the cause of my divorce. My divorce took 2 years from seperation to
final paperwork, so we started dating shortly before my divorce was final.
We had a talk the other night about our future and where we are headed
together. He wants us to live together once his daughter graduates from
high school (3 years) but he doesn't think he believes in marriage anymore.
Of course, he had a terrible divorce (how many are good?). I, on the other
hand, am fairly sure that I'd like to be married again. Neither of us want
more kids, but his argument is that if everything is going good and we're
both happy, why jinx it. And in some ways I agree but still kind of feel
like it's an easy out...although I've never seen him take the easy way out
of anything. He is the most honest, upfront, caring, and do-the-right-thing
type of person I've ever met. I don't doubt for a minute that he loves me
and I trust him explicitly. I love him and don't know whether to make
marriage a deal breaker. I am happy with him, but I don't know if I'd end
up unhappy because I'm not getting what I want in the end. I guess I need
to decide how important marriage is to me. I don't have a problem living
together, I guess I don't want to be 40 or 65 or whatever and introducing my
boyfriend. Could I be feeling pressured by society's views of not being
married? What do you think of live in's never moving towards marriage?
Thanks for any help you can give.
Dear Looking Ahead,
Living together in general is a good way to approach marriage when you're not sure how compatible you'll really be on a day-to-day basis. It's also a good way to "try out" being married.
Couples who live together often wind up happily married for the rest of their lives. My husband and I lived together for over a year before we were married. And that didn't make getting married any less exciting or important in our lives than if we hadn't lived together.
Some people do ask, "Why marry, if you can live together and have all the advantages of being married without the ceremony?" They say, "It's just a piece of paper. What's the difference if we feel married without it?" The truth is that when you're not married there is always a little nagging tickle of insecurity, as if there's one commitment you haven't been able to make. When you live together without being married for many years, you may feel married, but you're not.
Certainly you're not entitled to the legal rights and protections that a married couple has. One of you could become ill and the other one may not be able to take care of their affairs or even visit them in intensive care in the hospital. Relatives can step in and claim that they, the blood relatives, have the right to decide how your loved one will be cared for.
Having children makes marriage even more important. The children will constantly be faced with the problem of explaining that their mother lives with someone who's not their father or even her husband. This isn't really fair to the kids.
Socially, you will never be accepted in exactly the same way that a married couple will be. Your "living together" status will come up over and over again, and will constantly be something you will have to explain. Being 40 or 65 and introducing your boyfriend or "significant other" can be awkward.
Nevertheless, there are couples who have both decided for their own reasons that they don't want to be married. These couples, usually childless or with grown children, manage to live together and co-mingle their finances and lives, working out the problems that come up. They face their friends and families secure in the decision they have made.
That isn't what's going on here, though. You want to be married, and at your age, you shouldn't be facing life without the legal and social benefits of marriage which you really want. You are already feeling pressured by society's views of not being married. Imagine how pressured you'd feel if you were actually living together and had to explain things on a regular basis. If you feel you want to be married at some time in the future, you shouldn't settle for less.
I do think you're jumping the gun here though. After all, you're not even thinking of moving in together for three years, until after his daughter graduates from college. Who knows if you and this man will still be together then? Let him know, though, that even if he doesn't believe in marriage, you do. Tell him that there are many reasons why and reassure him that marriage isn't the jinx, choosing the wrong person to marry is.
Dear Dr. Tracy,
How are you? I have something on my mind that you have most likely answered a million times. After reading your entire web site, I still can't come to an answer that fits my situation. What I have to say may seem strange, but it's a reality to me and I need some professional advice.
I'm a 25 year old single male, never been married living around the country and world in the US Navy. I go to school part time and have plans on becoming an officer in the next few years. Currently I'm stationed on the West coast of the United States far from my original home in the South.
Traveling to other countries, just visiting places for a couple days at a time I've become interested in other cultures than American. Like many other sailors I've also turned my eye toward foreign, particularly eastern woman. I know there are many Asian woman in this country, but it's more than just the nationality. It's the way of life and customs I've become so attracted to. Wanting to learn more of the costoms, I started a penpal with a girl from the East. We communicated for around a year through e-mail and exchanging postal mail and cultural gifts, such as music tapes pictures, and trinkets. Through that time we have taken quite a liking of each other, only as friends. Around May of this year we exchanged phone numbers. She has a BA of science and speaks very good English. We talk on the phone about 3 or 4 times a week now. Though we are from two totally different cultures, we seem to have more in common than any girl I have ever known. We share the same thoughts about religion, morale, family orientation, music, and so many other things. We have both developed feelings for each other that neither one would reveal until around October. Of course because the reality of this whole friendship is two worlds apart. I frequently date girls in the town I'm stationed in right now because I would look foolish to my shipmates if they saw I serious I take this girl. No other girl can seem to catch my heart because I think it has been stolen by the one so far away.
My question for you doctor is this. Should I discontinue this communication with foreign girl? I do believe there are real feelings here and we will both be hurt. I'm secure enough that meeting this girl wouldn't be a financial burden. Since I'm so far from home and constantly moving, atleast till in 40, is there a difference in where I meet the one I think is right for me? Is there a chance that a reality can come of all this?
Thank you Dr. Tracy for taking the time to read my question I'm desperately seeking a professional answer on. I really enjoy your site. I think you have wonderful advice for all us fish out here lost at sea.
Dear Lone Sailor,
I'm sure you are very attracted to this woman, but it's almost impossible to be truly in love with someone you've never met in person. Your attraction to the Asian way of life, and not American Asian women, makes me wonder if what you're really attracted to is the apparent submissive quality of Asian women.
If you are thinking that an Asian woman will be submissive and let you be the boss and ruler of his roost, think again. Many modern Asian women, especially the educated ones like the one you're corresponding with, have no intentions about being submissive in their relationship. While it may appear, when looking from the outside in, that the Asian man is the king and the woman his obedient slave, appearances are deceiving. Many Asian women are really very strong and rule the roost behind closed doors.
That said, of course you shouldn't discontinue your correspondence. Your Asian friend could be the perfect woman for you. But don't make any decisions until you have spent time together in person -- serious time, not just a few weekends or holidays.
There really is no difference where you meet the woman you will love, here or abroad. However, there is a difference in where and how she will be happy living. It's important to find out if she would be happy far from home in an alien culture living in a military social setting. Being a military wife is hard on American women who are in their own cultural setting. It's even harder for someone from Asia.
Pushing Too Hard
Dear Dr. Tracy,
I am an attractive 50 year old woman . I have successfully raised three children as a single mom and then went back to school. If I can, I will finish university this year , that is , if I can study with a broken heart.I have had a hard life. My parents were both alcoholics and I sort of raised myself. I searched for love that I never had at home in the arms and company of different men. I have forgiven my parents because they are only human. I have still a little resentment towards the fathers of my children because they more or less abandoned me too. Although one died God rest his soul. All I have ever really wanted in my life was a home and a sense of security with someone whom I love and who loves me back.
I have been decieved many times in my life and I always bounce back with God's help. The deception went as far as being decieved by a minister in the church. He taught me how to witness to people and hand out tracks with him for about six months until we were very close and then he hit on me for sex. I threatened to tell the church but by this time I was in love with him because he was extremely attentive to me and taught me many things about the bible and human nature(he was much older than me , that was one reason I never dreamed he would ask for sex) We had an affair that lasted 12 years . I really loved him and still do but he was hit by a car and died 8 years ago .
Fourteen months ago I met a very interesting man. He is 45 years old. He is very shy and he told me I was his first real girlfrend.He spoiled me in a way I had never been spoiled before. He phoned me every day for the past 14 months , called me his honeybun and took me out to restaurants , bought me clothes. I enjoyed buying him things too and taking him places. We spent so much time laughing untill our stomachs ached and the sex was good too.
Recently with some encouragement from me he bought me an engagement ring and got down on his knees to ask me to marry him. I accepted . We went to meet my parents and they got on very well with him. he is such a sweet person that they were actually almost fighting over who got to talk to him most.
The problem is that I do not have a job right now due to a neck injury. I have one more credit to get at university before I can get a good job. He lives in a house that he bought with his sister.
She is another story. I find her to be domineering and controlling and bossy with him and he cant seem to see what is going on. We recently had a falling out because I asked him move up the wedding date from 2 years to 6 months because I am not getting any younger and niether are our parents. I figure why should we waste valuable time.He panicked and we argued until he said I dont want to marry you . I wound up in a hospital over night and I missed writing my test the next day. I had to see a hospital psychologist and she said you are okay but you are going through a crisis right now. It had been 5 days since I had seen him and I hadn'teaten anything .
I went over to his house to see him and his sister treated me with disrespect as if I had done something to her little brother. We talked and he said he had not eaten most of the week iether and that he missed me too. We parted on good terms . He said he would come to see me tonight but he has not shown up. I know he loves me but he is not a very strong person . He seems to me to be controlled by his sister!! I offered the ring back but he would not take it I know he loves me . Maybe he is afraid to lose the house. Does it sound like I am right or are things just moving too fast for him even though he set the pace? should I wait for him and how long ?
Dear Wanna-be Bride,
You've been with this man for only fourteen months, a man who's never been married and who says you're his first real girlfriend. Sure, you're ready, but he's not.
He's still living with his sister. He has proposed and bought you a ring, however that wasn't enough for you. You had to push him too hard to move the marriage up. That's exactly not the pace he set. I think you should back off and relax. This marriage is not even close to ready to happen. He needs time to get his affairs in order and to make peace with his sister - and so do you.
If you and he are going to be happy together, you are going to have to befriend his sister and get her on your side. Of course she treats you like the enemy. You're upsetting the comfortable status quo of their relationship, and you caused her brother pain. You weren't the only one who was suffering. When the sister saw her brother in pain over your relationship, she naturally took his side, not yours. What would you expect?
It seems to me that you want to control him just as much as his sister. I suggest that you back off on your demand for an instant wedding. Instead, consider compromising and setting a date that you both can live with, even if it has to be two years down the road.
In the meantime, finish your studies and get your own life in order. Get a job. Be a productive member of society and reapproach him and his sister as a mature person who doesn't need instant gratification. You can't expect a shy man who's never had a girlfriend to be totally comfortable rushing into marriage. I don't think it's about losing a house. I think it's more about moving too fast and perhaps moving from his sister's controlling to yours.
You originally agreed to the two year engagement, and he's under no obligation to change that. You should wait for him and give your relationship time to repair the damage you have done as well as to mend your fences with his sister and show that you are not going to hurt the brother she loves.