Dr. Tracy's Advice Column

Cartoon Kiss


More than a Religious Problem
Pressured to Marry
Does their Age Difference Matter?

More than a Religious Problem

Dear Dr. Tracy,

From what I've read from your past columns, you have the tremendous gift of seeing things "as they are" - something that I completely lack. I hope you can help me. I am 34, single (never married) woman. I have been friends with Mike, (who is 37, never married) for about ten years. Throughout our friendship he wanted us to date, but I resisted because he is Jewish, I am not and his parents would absolutely disown him if he were to marry outside of his faith. For as long as I have known him he has always been tortured by this. His parents are orthodox but Mike is not religious at all.

For the past two years he was very persistent about us dating and even stopped talking to me for a while when I refused. Last May I finally agreed, impressing upon him that I wanted to get married and if that he should not pursue this if he could not ultimately take that step. He said "I love you, but I have religion issues, career issues and commitment issues (afraid to sleep with just one person), but I know that this will work - you are my soulmate. I just have to ease into this". So we began to date.

Immediately he wanted us to begin looking for an apartment that we could buy together (we both live in Manhattan), and he wanted us to book a two week vacation for August. But, the first couple of weeks that we dated we barely saw eachother. I am an attorney and I work very long hours and at this point I was in the middle of a big "deal" By the time we actually began to spend some time together he was very tense and depressed. At one point he told me "the only good thing in my life is my Porshe". His parents were also torturing him. They know me and they know how he feels about me. He told his partner (who is very friendly with his mother) that we were dating and his partner told his mother. She was giving him a "guilt trip" on a daily basis. He complained about this every time we got together and every time we spoke.

There is also the "commitment issue". He said that he needed time to ease into a commitment, but I don't think he was dating anyone else. He has been having meaningless sex for the past 13 years and I think he is sick of it. But his constant complaining about his parents and his fear of commitment put me on guard and I didn't want to sleep with him. I was really afraid of getting hurt. On our third date we went back to his apartment after dinner, started to fool around (we were both partially undressed) and I bolted! The entire time I was thinking about his parents and his constant complaining. He broke up with me about two weeks later because "he just didn't feel like he was dating someone if he wasn't sleeping with them".

I tried to talk to him about what happened but he refused to discuss it. I was hurt, but took it in stride. I immediately went to Italy for a week, came back and started dating again. One of his friends saw me on a date, so he knew and he was really upset about it. We agreed to be friends, but to never discuss our dating relationship again. I dropped it, but he didn't. For the next two months he called me three times a week and badgered me with rude, insensitive comments (that I was so cold and unaffectionate while we dated). I tried to talk to him about this and he said: I never said anything, you misheard, and ultimately I was only joking. I was so annoyed that I stopped talking to him for six months.

To make matters even worse, my dad underwent major surgery and his best friend was his surgeon. I knew that Mike's friend was keeping him informed about my dad's condition, but I didn't call him to tell him my dad was going into surgery. Honestly, I was so focused on getting my dad into surgery (he didn't want to go - it took me six months to convince him) and handling all of the arrangements, that I couldn't handle one more stressful event. The day of my father's surgery (about 3 weeks ago) Mike called my parent's house. I picked up the phone and he said "Hi Nicole, this is Dr. Smith, may I speak to your mother?". He refused to speak to me! I called him a couple of days ago to try and smooth things over, but he clearly did not want to speak to me.

This is not the first time that I have "cut him off" for a couple of months and has told me in the past that it really hurts him when I do this. I guess in many ways he associates this with what his parents have consistenly threatended to do if he marries a gentile. But I tried to talk to him about what happened in his apartment and the subsequent rude comments - but he didn't want to talk about it. And I was getting really stressed out from it - just rehashing it over and over in my mind, I was barely sleeping and dropped 8 pounds.

In hindsight I realize that he was hurt and rejected by what occured in his apartment and his comments were his way of conveying that. He also has not been in a relationship for about 13 years - he was engaged when he was in medical school, they broke up and since then it has been a lot (hundreds) of first dates. So he is not a great communicator. I also realize that he is lashing out right now - like "you didn't want to speak to me, now I don't want to speak to you".

I love him and I know that he loves me - he truly believed that "this was it" when we started dating. For the first time he talked about having kids, even started composing a book list for our kids. He also just turned 37 and has built up a very successful practice, so he is "ready".

I want to make amends with him. I don't think I will ever be able to move on with someone else unless I know that there is absolutely no chance with him. I have never had a problem meeting men and have even been proposed to twice, but my feelings for him were always there, and still are. We have great intellectual chemistry and (from from our limited interaction) great physical chemistry. I know that it will be a "rough road" for a while (because of the religion issues), but I truly believe that he is my soulmate. I also believe that he will not let his parents stand in our way of getting married.

I realize that I have a couple of issues myself (the intense fear of getting hurt, fear of rejection and some commitment issues) and I am working on them. Eventually we will run into eachother - his practice is a block away from my parent's house and he always walks down their block. I just don't want to say the wrong thing when I see him, because this may be my only chance to turn things around. How can I get through to him - get him to "open up"? Do you think I even have a chance?

Thank you, Sleepless in Manhattan

Dear Sleepless in Manhattan,

Your Mike has many problems that go way beyond the religious ones. But let's start with that. His Orthodox parents wouldn't accept you, and you would never feel comfortable with them. Even non-orthodox Jews wouldn't fit with their ideas of what a "good daughter-in-law" would be. Even if you were Jewish, you would probably be unacceptable to them and vice versa, unless you were Orthodox.

If you were to marry Mike, which I doubt would happen, they would make your life miserable and you would always be fighting an uphill battle for acceptance. This is beyond the typical Christian/Jewish match which can work very nicely if the two people are in sync and able to compromise on important issues such as how to raise the children and what holidays to celebrate. You and Mike aren't even able to agree on dating, let alone living together and having a life together.

Mike is totally spoiled and although he says he wants to marry, he really doesn't. He's a depressive who is tortured by his parent's strict religious beliefs. I don't know if he will ever be happy, and I doubt if any woman will ever be good enough for both him and his parents. He has commitment issues, is addicted to meaningless sex, and says the only good thing in his life is his Porsche. What kind of values does he have? Are these the ones you want to live with?

He's already shown you what he's like when he doesn't get his way - he's rude and insensitive and unable to see anyone else's point of view. He thought he had the right to badger you because you refused to have sex with him (which was smart of you, by the way). Imagine how he would act if you were married to him and refused to do what he wanted.

What's really concerning is that you are making excuses for his behavior - like he refused to speak to you because he was hurt. He's beyond childish - he lashes out and doesn't communicate. Don't continue to try to have a relationship with him. He may never be ready.

Your own fears and commitment issues are exactly what keeps you hooked on Mike. If you only love a man you can never have then you get to avoid commitment.

But if you forget Mike except as a friend from the past and face up to your own issues, you can find someone else who is actually able to commit, to compromise and to have an intimate relationship on every level. Don't waste your life. Find someone else.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Pressured to Marry

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a 29 year old male who has been on and off with the same girl (25) for 9 years (longest period apart was for three years). For the last year, I have received major pressure to get married from her and her family. I do not think I am ready to get married, but sometimes I am not sure. I am scared to make the wrong decision. She is a good girl, but I do not want to make the wring decision for either of us.

Maybe if I explain the reasons I feel I do not want to get married, it will help you in responding to my question. Part of the reason is because I have seen from my parents, who are still together, and other couples how hard it is to be married. The added responsibility and stress of getting married is not very enticing to me either as I still feel I am a kid at heart. Another reason that affects my decision is that I think I will cheat on her. However, sometimes I think I will cheat on whomever I marry. I know it sounds low but these are thoughts that cross my mind. It also does not help that I know that my dad has cheated on my mom. Finally, although I trust her now, I have been hurt by her in the past and she has made me feel insecure in the past.

The reasons I think I am scared to marry are twofold. First, I am the type of person that sometimes does not appreciate what I have. So when she is not around I miss her. But when she is around, sometimes I get disinterested. Secondly, around two years ago I met a girl that I was attracted to. We spoke on a daily basis for around 5 months. I enjoyed speaking to her. We ended up having a rendezvous one night while I was still with my girlfriend. I am not talking to the other girl anymore, but I still think of her every once in a while. Is this part of the excitement of having another girl or is that other girl someone I should have pursued? Finally, although I feel I have been wrong in not proposing or leaving her by this time, the pressure she has put on me has not made my decision any easier.

Please Help!

Dear Pressured,

Give this girl a break and break up with her. She deserves a man who really wants to marry her and who intends to be faithful. You couldn't be faithful as her boyfriend and you doubt your ability to be a faithful husband.

Don't hold on to her just because you're afraid of making the wrong decision, and don't marry her while you're afraid you shouldn't. And don't keep tying up her life. You've had nine years to decide if you want to marry her. If you're still not sure, you will never be.

It will be tough breaking up with her -- for both of you -- and you may miss her after you break up, but you'll get over it and so will she. As for the other girl, you will have time to pursue your relationship with her after you break up with the one you're not going to marry. Then you'll be able to find out if it was the excitement of cheating or if you were really interested in her.

Yes, you have been wrong in not proposing or leaving her by this time, so don't make matters worse by keeping her hanging any longer. Make a clean break and give her a chance to find someone who will want to marry her.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Does their Age Difference Matter?

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am 23 years old and my boyfriend is 38. I did check your love library and have not found a column that directly relates to my situation.

I have always been more mature than most people my age. My parents divorced when I was 12 and I moved out on my own at age 15. Unfortunately I have grown up rather quickly. I was in a very abusive relationship for five years that I sucessfully got out of. Following this relationship I did not think that I would ever date again, and if I did I promised myself that I wouldnt fall into the "I can change him" trap, or have a rebound relationship. I became rather picky with whom I dated.

I developed a close friendship with a man who is 15 years older than myself about a year later. He never ceased to amaze me. He has never been married, has no kids, and is stable in his life. The more time we spent together the more I saw him for what he is. He is so caring, sensitive, thoughtful, unselfish, loving, romantic, not controlling, intelligent, funny, and just an overall wonderful person. I realized that this man had everything that I ever wanted. We fell in love, which was a surprise to both of us. I never thought I would date someone 15 years older than myself! He was concerned that he was holding me back from "being young" and experiencing life. I feel like I have experienced life and he is not holding me back from anything.

We have been together for about three years now, and are currently living together. I must admit that at times I do wonder if the age difference is going to be a problem or if it is "right" to be with someone in his late 30s. I do want to get married and have children, he would make a wonderful father, but would it be fair to the children for him to be so much older than their peers fathers? I hope that this does not sound selfish but I am also worried about being a young widow! What do you think I should do? Can this relationship work?

Thank you very much for your time,

Dear Young,

In most cases, age does make a difference. You enjoy different music, you remember different things from high school and have less shared history, you probably have different friends, and you like to do different things in your spare time. So although people are often attracted to those who are quite a bit older (or younger), their different life experiences, values, and ideas often make it impossible for them to have a lasting relationship beyond the first attraction.

However, in your case, the age difference doesn't seem to matter. You developed a friendship first, you've been together for three years, and you seem to have found someone with all the important qualities a man should have.

I have known couples with a large age difference who have been able to live happily together for many years. Only you can know if you're going to be okay with being with someone who is more mature. You have to ask yourself if you're okay staying home and being with his older friends, rather than going out with people your own age.

He's not too old to be a father, and a good father. However, your children would have an "older" father compared to the fathers of their friends, as you point out, but that's not a big deal. As far as being worried about being a young widow, you can become a young widow at any time. His health consciousness and the age his parents lived to will give you an idea of his life expectancy.

I'd say that life is short (even if you live a long time) and if you're happy and in love, go for it. Nobody can predict the future, but you have as good a chance as anyone else to be happy.

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.

Dr. Tracy says, "Is your question urgent? Many of the most beseeching, desperate messages I get are not answered in this column because the answer is just a couple of clicks away in my Love Library. Have you tried my Love Library? I know that nobody goes to libraries anymore, but check this one out -- it's so easily searchable that it's fun and easy to use!"

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You may submit your question to Dr.Tracy's column by e-mail here. (Tips: to increase your chances of having your question chosen, state your age and your marital history, and remember to use paragraph breaks so that your question isn't just one big, hard-to-read clump of words. Also, questions in all caps won't be answered.)

(Featured art from cover of Letting Go, by Zev Wanderer and Tracy Cabot, published by "Bitan" Publishers, Tel-Aviv, Israel)
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