Dr. Tracy's Advice Column

Cartoon Kiss


Weakness for "Damsels in Distress"
Daughter Dearest
Living Together Blues

Weakness for "Damsels in Distress"

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I've perused your love library and advice column archives and was actually surprised to not find much on what I thought would be a fairly common issue.

I'm a 44 year old, reasonably sane, professional, educated, divorced man, who's really gotten sick of the situation described below. Throughout my life I've had many 'sane' relationships with good, healthy women, but my downfall is that I've had a fatal weakness for 'damsels in distress.' The thing is that these 'damsels' are usually the cause of their own distress and really don't want to do anything about it other than complain about how horribly they have or are being treated by their husband, boyfriend, or whatever the case may be.

So sparing you the gruesome details of my latest failed venture, here's the head-scratcher: why is it that some people (man or woman, it doesn't make any difference) just want someone in their life that treats them like dirt? A person can have nothing but awful relationships with miserable people their entire life and when somebody good comes along, somebody that REALLY WILL treat them with love, respect, and kindness, they run like the hounds of hell were after them and end up right back with the same or another degenerate that treats them like shit.

My only thought is that it's their drug of choice. They complain constantly about how awful their lives are and how their partner mistreats them, sobbingly saying that what they want more that anything in life is for someone to come along who loves them and treats them well. This is all good and fine, but when it comes right down to it, they just don't want anything to do with a nice, decent person. What they really seem to want (or need, maybe) is to play the victim and the martyr and get all that sweet, sticky sympathy and attention from anybody who will listen, but at the end of the day, they won't change a thing. Why why why??? Your thoughts on this would be appreciated.

Thanks, sick of distressed damsels

Dear Reasonably Sane,

The problem isn't the women, it's you. Sure, they have a problem, but you're the one who keeps choosing those troubled women. Why would you do that? Have you ever wondered what you're getting out of those relationships?

If you think about it, choosing a really needy partner is a way to make yourself feel like a big shot. You get to be the sane one, the right one. She's obviously not as sane, not as right, or she wouldn't have gotten involved with a man who treated her so badly. Now you get to sweep in like a Prince Charming come to rescue the distressed damsel.

You think that if you do lots for her, treat her like a princess and be the good guy, she'll have to love you. It never ever works. She'll cry on your shoulder for a while, but then she'll go back to Mr. Nasty the first time he calls and you're left wondering why.

Perhaps she equates being mistreated with love, which could come from some long forgotten or suppressed childhood wound. What's amazing is that you think you can cure her problem or that you can make her love you by being nice.

You're merely providing a place for these women to unload their problems and play the victim while you sympathize. The relationships these women complain about are actually symbiotic. A woman who thinks love and pain go together finds someone to give her the pain that makes her feel loved. If she finds a nice man who treats her with love, respect and kindness she doesn't want him because she thinks there's something wrong with him.

Since she doesn't think a lot of herself, she sure isn't going to fall in love with a man who loves her. She thinks she's a loser so he has to be a loser too if he loves her. Besides, she misses the drama.

If you really want to change your life, change the way you operate. Find a woman who doesn't need to be rescued. Then learn to give the right way. Don't become boringly nice. Don't choose a woman who needs to be changed to be okay. Find one who's okay already. Then, if you don't know how to create the "in love" feeling, I recommend my book, "Manpower, How To Win the Woman You want." It will tell you how to avoid the "witches, bitches and crazy ladies" and how to behave when you find a good woman.

Don't give up. Just choose differently. It's easier to change yourself than to change someone else.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Daughter Dearest

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I'm an attractive 36 yr old female and have never been married. I am also a recovering alcoholic. I met my fiance after 2 years of sobriety. I love him very much. However, his 32 year old daughter, who is married, lives 4 hrs away and has two children, has started to interfere with our relationship quite a bit. He is a Dr. and is still recovering from the financial loss of his divorce 8 years ago. I have no children and do not want a child.

His daughter is from his 1st marriage. He is 57 years old and has been married twice. We are engaged to be married this upcoming summer but I can feel the tension building as he secretely tries to please his shopaholic daughter and me.

I love this man but I truly hate this. I understand that his daughter loves him and I don't blame her for being protective. However, when I met him she was non-existant in his life. No visits, no phone calls-nothing. He has suffered severe depression and made it through beautifully. I'm glad to see his mental health is back and he's positive. She began popping up in his life again to play martyr and nursemaid although she cared nothing at all about him before this.

Now that I'm around she calls everyday and rearranges our Christmas and Holidays to suit her just "Daddy and me" shopping sprees that he really cannot afford. I was dismissed from these holiday activities to suit her. As a result, I ended up doing my own thing and was much happier anyway. She is not used to this "treatment" I guess since she kept the perfume that I was supposed to receive as a gift from her. Certainly childish.

I have a feeling he's talking about me in a slightly negative light(for lack of better words) just to please her and this can only lead to disaster. I'm not sure but I think he will eventually do as she wants. I've notice certain changes in him after he talks to her but then he's back to his old sweet, honest self within minutes. This all just started and I have a feeling that I better prepare myself emotionally and financialy for the worst.

If he keeps this up, I will be forced to leave. What a shame. Please, I need sound advice about this.

Lost in the swirl. Please help me.

Dear Lost in the Swirl,

Being a stepmother is no picnic. With older kids it can be a nightmare, especially with grown daughters who feel a proprietary interest in keeping dad to themselves.

Your fiance is showing every sign of not being willing to put you first. If you marry him and he is still putting his daughter first, your life will be a nightmare.

Now is the time to let him know that this isn't a workable arrangement. Stop agreeing to rearrange your life for her, or you will be doing that forever. Don't let her dictate vacations and don't allow yourself to be dismissed from activities.

Your fiance may think that "family comes first," which is a sadly common misconception. Wrong. Your mate comes first, then your family. He needs to get clear on this. You have to come first in your husband's life, before his daughter, or your marriage will be a disaster.

Even without this concern, marrying a man who's that much older than you is problematic. You could be sacrificing more than this love is worth. It's one thing to give up having children, since you say you don't want any, but remember, you could change your mind. In any case, when you're still a vital young woman of 50, he'll be an old codger of 73. It's one thing to give up having children, but you will probably be giving up sex as well way before you're ready for that.

Okay, many May-December marriage work out great, but there have to be certain understandings, like who comes first in his life. If your fiance can't make you number one, all the time, then don't marry him. Now that the daughter has seen how easy it is to manipulate you and dad to do what she wants when she wants to, she won't stop there. She'll see how far she can push.

If you really love this man and want to marry him, stop this nonsense now. See a counselor together to get 3rd party input so that he understands what he has to do. Make sure he can say no to her before you say yes to him.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Living Together Blues

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am 36 years old and have been living with my 38 year old boyfriend (I hate that word) for many years now and we have both agreed that neither one of us wants to ever get married again as he has had one bad marriage and I have had several bad marriages.

However, he is more like a husband to me and I am more like a wife to him but he still introduces me as his girlfriend. I am not simply a girlfriend, we own personal property together, a business and about to buy a new work truck together and we have several bank accounts together and he refuses to accept me as being his wife or calling me his wife. Does this ever stop or is there something that will make this easier on us as I can't stand this girlfriend mess as we live a married life but without the paper.


Dear "Girlfriend,"

I can certainly understand that you are tired of being called his girlfriend when you are for all intents and purposes a wife -- owning property together, sharing bank accounts, etc. However, actually being a man and wife requires that you bite the bullet and get a license and marry.

You both need to deal with the fact that you are unhappy with this arrangement. Tell your "boyfriend" that you need to make some changes.

First, decide what you really want. Do you want to make it fully legal so that you can have the rights that a wife has in society? Or do you want a lifetime commitment that says you are there for each other no matter what? Or do you simply want to tell people that you're married and have him call you his wife?

Or maybe you'd be satisfied with a euphemism like "my life partner." If that would satisfy you, it seems like an easy solution. But if he won't call you what you want to be called and let you introduce him as something more than your "boyfriend," then he really doesn't care whether you're uncomfortable of unhappy. You are going to continue to feel devalued in this relationship, and that's not going to lead to happiness for either one of you.

People often agree that they never want to get married and then change their minds. Perhaps that agreement made sense for you at first, after your bad marriages. But you've been presumably happy together for years now, so why do you feel so locked into your agreement? If you go out to dinner and the meal stinks, does that mean you never eat out again? Lots of people have had terrible marriages, and they still marry again are are happy. Life is full of disappointments and recoveries.

Marriage has many advantages, one being that you don't have to be called girlfriend anymore.

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!"

If you can't find your answer in the Library and you feel you MUST have an answer, you can get a personal answer from Dr. Tracy within two business days by availing yourself of her inexpensive private counseling.

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)
Return to "Ask Dr. Tracy" Home Page

© copyright 1995-2011 Tracy Cabot