"Ask Dr. Tracy"

3/10/96 Advice Column

Bad advice from friends, No kids?, Can you ever trust a cheater?

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I really hope this question is general enough for you to answer in your column. I am at the beginning of a new relationship with a 29 year old woman and I'm 24 years old. I've never dated anyone older than myself, and the truth is she often times feels self conscious about the age difference.

A friend of mine said to me that if I get into a relationship with a woman who is nearly 30, more than likely she's ready for marriage and wants to have kids right away. If I were to get married, I do think she's the kind of woman I'd love to be married to. She's beautiful, she's intelligent, funny, kind, and caring. I feel so happy when I'm with her, and so depressed when she's gone for a few weeks.

The question is, do you think I'm paying too much attention to my friend's comments? I guess I'm afraid to ask my g/f directly about it because I don't know what she'll say. By the way, in case this helps, she was in a really nasty relationship 10 years ago and this is the first relationship she's been in since then.


Dear Blue,

The worst way to make a decision about your happiness is to listen to your friends. They're concerned with their own happiness, not yours. Listen to your heart. If your heart tells you this is the woman for you, go for it. A five year difference seems like a lot now, but when you're 74 and she's 79 it won't matter nearly as much. From a sexual standpoint, you're actually perfect for each other -- she's at her peak and so are you.

It's easy for friends to say, "Oh, I'd never do that," but the truth is, you have no idea what they'd do, and they'd probably do "that" and more for a great love. She may be more ready for marriage than you, but you'll just have to see. Simply because a woman's almost 30 doesn't mean she's dying to marry and have kids. Lots of women don't marry until their 35 or 40. And not all women are dying to have kids. (See the next question).

Forget what your friends say and follow your heart. And for some information on love and loving that has nothing to do with age, read "Why People Love" in my Library.

Dear Dr. Tracy,

My fiancee and I have a major problem- he wants to have children and I don't. He's 36, never been married, and I'm 33, and was married long ago but had no children. We are wonderfully compatible otherwise, but this is an enormous problem. We tried seeing a counselor, but she just told me that I'd "probably want children eventually"! I have many reasons for not wanting children, and my fiancee doesn't know why he does want them, he "just does". Do you have any suggestions?

Dear Childless,

I'm surprised you became engaged without discussing this profound incompatibility. If you're really not willing to have children, you shouldn't marry this man. He will spend the rest of his life looking at kids and yearning for them. He'll be envious of all his friends with kids, and he'll feel like he's missing an important part of the life cycle.

You probably have sound, logical reasons for not wanting children, but for better or worse, this is not a debate where logic wins. Surely you understand that wanting children is a built-in, biological urge that runs far deeper than logic. You're asking him to forego his connection with the ongoing generations, the joys of parenting, the special love between a parent and child, and the fulfillment of his life scheme. If he does so for you and not for his own sincere beliefs, he will eventually resent you for what he'll see as an empty, childless life.

Your fiance is at an age when all of this is coming to a head. I suggest you either agree to have a specified number of children or find someone who doesn't want any. This problem won't go away.

Dear Dr. Tracy,

Is it possible to trust a man you love again after you have found he cheated on you? The relationship is over and apparently had ended about a year ago. I had my suspicions at the time but said nothing at first. Then i spoke up and he got the message and came to his senses and realized what he would give up by continuiing the affair.

Anyway, my fears were confirmed last week when I saw photos of the two of them in a photo album in his bedroon. I know it was wrong of my looking in the album but I could not resist. I have not let on that I saw the pictures but I am deeply hurt by this. Why didn't he just break up with me at the time? We had been together for about 9 months when this extra-relationship started. it lasted about 6 months.

I don't know what to do. I really love this man and believe he now loves me, although at the time of the affair he probably didn't. In the year since he broke up with her things between us have gotten better, but I still feel betrayed. I may have been partly responsible because i wanted a serious relationship right away and he wanted to take things slowly. He often said, he felt "smothered" by me. So, why didn't he just break off with me? It certainly would hurt less than it does now.

I really trusted him. If it had been a one-night stand, that's one thing, but a six-month relationship is something else. and, to make it worst, he found the ugliest, most out-of-shape person to cheat with. When i saw her pictures, I wanted to scream, "you broke my heart for this!!" Quite insulting, and I know this is not a nice thing to say. so, please forgive me.

How do I get through this? It is affecting me emotionally and physicially. Any thoughts you might have will be greatly appreciated.

Dear Hurting,

Yes, it's possible to trust a man again after he's cheated, but he has to earn that trust. And there are steps to take which will help you forgive and forget, but they start with trying to learn something from this hurtful affair.

You ask why he did it. My friend The Old Seducer offers, "At first, it may have been a protest, a way of saying `see how bad things are with you? I'd rather go to bed with an ugly broad!' But if he kept it up for 6 months, it was 'cause he'd found something with her he didn't have with you, even if he didn't want to give you up."

The way to get this behind you is to do something together to change and improve your relationship. Tell him he can start to earn your trust by tearing up the picture of him with the other woman, and start showing you in every way that you're the only woman in his life.

And while it may be difficult for you in your wounded condition, you must ask him to suggest what you can do together to make your relationship more intimate and satisfying. Don't mention the other woman, but don't take "Oh, everything's fine" for an answer, either. Remind him that no relationship is perfect, and being honest about this is part of regaining your trust. Ideally, he'll suggest ways to improve your relationship which you will find agreeable, perhaps by making your sex life more exciting for both of you. If sex is involved, don't ruin it by saying, "so this is what you did with her!" It may or may not be. Just enjoy it.

If you work together on this and accomplish changes, it will give you a sense of closure on what happened before, and you will be able to put it behind you. Remember, he chose you over her, and you love him, and there's nothing you can do about the past. A good relationship requires two good forgivers. If you can't forgive, it's hard to find lasting love. If you love, you can forgive.

Questions may be submitted to Dr. Tracy's column by e-mail.

Dr. Tracy selects 3 questions of the most general interest per week to answer in this column, since it is not possible for her to answer all questions submitted.

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