"Ask Dr. Tracy"

3/5/2000 Advice Column

If You Have To Fight, Fight Fair
When He's Not Romantic
When He "Needs Variety"

Dear Dr. Tracy,

Do you have any safe fighting techniques for a couple who have a great relationship except when it comes to fighting?

My boyfriend and I have been together for 2 1/2 years and we love each other a great deal. When we fight it is awful. We interrupt each other. We go in circles. I just need to know some way to fight fair.

Dear Fighting Couple,

Nothing is more destructive to a relationship than constant fighting. You say things in anger that you don't mean and wish you hadn't said later, but the spoken word, like the speeding bullet, can't be taken back. Your mate remembers what you said and it bothers him long after the fight has been forgotten. The best advice is not to fight. Instead, listen, discuss, and communicate before things get emotional.

However, sometimes even the closest of couples has a fight. It happens. Every relationship that lasts has to be able to survive a fight. So when you can't stop yourself and a fight breaks out despite your best intentions, remember that there doesn't have to be a winner and a loser. The relationship has to win -- by continuing. The first rule of fair fighting is don't threaten to break up if you don't get your way.

A fair fight means no screaming, no threatening, no physical violence. To fight fair, stay on the subject. Don't bring up past battles. Don't use the "you" word. Don't say, "You always," or "You never."

The best way to keep things under control is agree not to interrupt each other. Let one of you talk until you've said everything you have to say while the other one listens. The listener is only allowed to say, "Is that all?" Or, "What else is bothering you?" Or, "I understand how you feel." Those are the only allowed responses. When the first person is done, then it's the next person's turn to talk and the former talker's turn to listen and make the same responses.

If you can't come to agreement, agree to consider each other's positions. Often, thinking things over is better than trying to settle an argument on the spot. You don't have to fight to the death of your relationship. If a fight seems to be getting out of control, leave the room or even the house. Sometimes a cooling off period is called for.

And remember, this is the person you have shared many good times with and whom you love. Don't let a fight ruin all you have together.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I have been seeing a man for the past year. He is kind and considerate to me and treats my son well. I would marry this man in a heartbeat only one thing bothers me about him. He is not romantic. I enjoy our sex life but he never sends me flowers, never surprises me, nothing. Today was my birthday and even though he called me and wished me Happy Birthday he didn't send a card, take me out to dinner, nothing. It was one of the loneliest birthdays I've ever had. We had an argument a few weeks back. He wants to get married and I told him I wasn't ready. The fact is that I do want to get married but without romance I won't be happy. How do I approach him with this problem. I realize gifts are supposed to come from the heart and not be expected, however, if a man is trying to win a woman's heart doesn't he usually do these things to show that he cares and loves her?

Dear Romance Lover,

Of course a man who loves you should bring you flowers, send a birthday card and take you out on your birthday. But since your guy is great in so many other ways, consider teaching him how to be romantic.

The trouble is that you, like most women, think romance has to be a spontaneous act that the man thinks of on his own. You think that if you have to tell him you'd like him to send you a birthday card, tell you he loves you more, take you out to a romantic dinner or bring flowers, it doesn't count. Well, that's just not true. It does count. Many men just don't have a romantic mindset, and so you have to tell them what to do.

If you want a birthday gift, start hinting broadly weeks before your birthday. Say, "I wonder what you're going to get me for a birthday, (or Valentine's Day,) gift?" Or, "Nothing would make me happier on my birthday to get flowers from you."

Sure, gifts are supposed to come from the heart, but there are lots of men out there that just don't get it. They express love the way they feel love, and gifts are not necessarily part of their life experience. So if you want gifts, give gifts. Show him by example. Make a big fuss over his birthday, your mutual anniversary, etc.

Some men think of gifts all the time, and other men just don't. But don't throw the man away just because he's gift-insensitive. Instead, educate him. He can be taught to give gifts. But he already has the most important qualities - he's kind and considerate.

If he loves you and he knows it would mean a lot to you, he'll begin to give you what you want. But you'll have to get over hoping he'll do it on his own.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I'm absolutely at my wits end! My boyfriend and I have been living together for over 4 years now. I do love him, but our sex life sucks!! He says he HAS to have variety....that he gets bored when he's with one woman for any length of time, and that he has to have sex with a variety of women. He is cybersexing on the internet, and has even made plans to go to San Antonio next month to go to a motel room (and have sex!!!) with one of his internet girlfriends!!! This blows my mind!!! I'm certainly not a prude, but if one is in a relationship, I would think one would want to work on the relationship...NOT screw around with other women!!!!! I'm not overweight, I'm intelligent, interesting, good-looking, and enjoy sex (and have been told I'm sexy).

HELP, PLEASE!!! I would appreciate any suggestions you have to solve this problem!!!

Dear Wits End,

After four years of living together, it's time to say goodbye. Tell your boyfriend that just as he needs variety, you need fidelity. Fidelity emotionally and sexually.

If you continue in this relationship with a terrible sex life, no devotion, and a man who obviously doesn't respect you enough to be faithful, you're a fool. You'll be destroying your own self-esteem and wind up not loving yourself or him.

If you allow him to go to meet his cybersex sweetie in a San Antonio motel, and then take him back, you'll be exposing yourself to every sexual disease that she and all of her previous lovers may carry - that is if he ever decides to have sex with you again. If he doesn't want sex with you, you'll begin to feel that there's something wrong with you. No woman can live for very long with a man who doesn't desire her without wondering why not.

Don't waste another minute on this man who doesn't appreciate you. If you are intelligent as you say, start using your brains to get the kind of man you deserve. Whether you are great looking or not, you don't deserve this kind of treatment.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

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