"Ask Dr. Tracy"

5/23/99 Advice Column

Desperate Stepmom
Engaged but not Turned On
Healthy Anger

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I have such a dilemma and I really hope you'll offer some advice - I can't be the only one going through this. My "significant other" and I have been living together for two years (together four years). He has three children from his previous marriage, ages 18, 21 and 25. (incidentally, I am 30, my "s.o." is 50, and I have no kids - by choice) The middle child just graduated from college, and thus my problem begins. He has no job, no real prospects, and has moved in with us. Don't get me wrong, he is a good kid, and speaks respectfully to his father and me. However, every job interview he has been on, his father has gotten for him. He unpacked his things yesterday while I was at work and imagine my surprise when I arrived home and he had transformed his room into an exact replica of his apartment in college, complete with neon beer signs hanging on the wall. His father has handed all three of the kids everything and as a result, none of them are overly ambitious.

I desperately need advice on how to get through the time he lives with us - from the looks of things, he's going to be there a while. I am truly desperate. I feel invaded and my s.o. feels I am "borrowing trouble" if I try to discuss boundaries and rules for this kid. He loves to party and has a lot of friends. I just know the first time that phone rings in the middle of the night from one of his buddies, I will come completely unglued. I don't want to alienate dad or the kid, but I cannot tolerate watching this adult child mooch off his father, who is too kind for his own good. And I cannot tolerate this feeling of being invaded. My privacy is precious to me. Moving out over this is situation is not an option - neither dad or I want this relationship to end, and that has not ever been discussed. One last example and I will close so you can (hopefully!) offer me some advice. S.O. and I have a standing weekly dinner date with two other couples that we all really look forward to. Well, the cincher for me was this afternoon when dad invited junior along, since he didn't want him to be sitting at home by himself with no dinner (he later told me). Am I wrong to expect that we should continue to do the things we did before we had a houseguest? Please, please respond to this. I really don't know how to handle all these feelings I have. I am a very outspoken and honest person. Can you please offer advice on controlling my tongue?! So many times I've wanted to just explode but I end up enraged and holding it all in, then blowing up at dad when it's just the two of us. That isn't fair to him. Please, Dr. Tracy, I need professional advice before my relationship goes down the tubes. Just sign me,

Desperate Step mom

Dear Desperate,

You are in a terrible Catch-22 situation. If you make a fuss over the stepson who won't work and is a moocher, you're going to ruin your relationship with the man you love. If you don't say anything about the son, you are going to feel invaded and taken advantage of. There's really no easy way out.

Learn to love the son and don't criticize the way his father indulges him. I have seen longterm marriages fall apart because the wife criticizes the husband's handling of the children. You're in an especially touchy position because of your age -- how can you act like a tough stepmom when you're only 9 years older?

Instead of getting involved in parenting, let his father come to see that the boy is spoiled and lazy. Eventually, he'll try bringing the party home and his father will begin to realize he's being taken advantage of. If you say it though, you're buying trouble. In the meantime, begin to make private time for just the two of you.

Find a private space that's just yours, away from everyone, so that you can enjoy your privacy. Insist that the two of you have grown-up time alone and then plan separate times which include the errant son. Set aside a room that's off-limit to the son - one that's just for you and his father. Make arrangements to travel a lot - after all, you now have a built-in housesitter. Find a hobby that you can both enjoy that will take you away -- golf, for instance, or diving.

A twenty-one year old isn't going to want to hang out with his parents forever. Keep telling yourself he'll be gone soon. Hasten his departure by playing classical music or old 50's or 60's music in the house. "Help" him by "cleaning" his room when he's gone. Both will drive him crazy but are not obviously antagonistic.

When you feel the urge to blow up at dad, remember that's not in your best interest -- it will destroy your relationship.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I've been dating a wonderful man for 4yrs now, (I'm 25 he's 26) we've been engaged for 8 months. Problem is, I am not physicaly attracted to him at all, I haven't been since the first few months of the relationship, when everything is fabulous anyway. In past relationships I've been very sexual, in this one, even when he tries to instigate something, I find ways to bow out. I've been beginning to wonder if there's something wrong with me, but my sex drive otherwise seems to be purring along fine, just not for him. He's a great guy, my best friend, but that's just it, it feels more like a friend than the person I want to be sleeping with for the next 50yrs or so. He's started talking about getting our own place, I'm thinking about leaving. How can I marry a man that I don't want to have sex with? And I keep getting told "Well, there are worse things to base a relationship on than friendship." Help.


Dear Engaged,

You ask how you can marry a man you don't want to have sex with. Well, many women do. But not many women with healthy sex drives.

Sure, there's friendship and that's nice, but when a couple sleeps together all the time with no sex, their libido will either go away entirely (which yours hasn't done) or they'll begin to resent each other.

If you marry him, you'll only be frustrated and pulled toward extra-marital sex with the first man who comes along who turns you on. Marrying a man who you don't want to have sex with is like going to an Italian restaurant when you hate garlic. What's the point?

Since you have a normal, intact sex drive, you should find someone you can enjoy having sex with. Don't marry a man who you doesn't turn you on. You'll be denying yourself an important part of marriage. Since you haven't been physically attracted to your fiance since the beginning, your friendship isn't likely to turn into a sexy marriage. Nor is your fiance likely to become a sexual being if he hasn't been up till now.

You're too young and too sexy to give up sex forever.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

Hello, 31 year old male here! Was left by 26 year old fm whom I was going to marry. Usual "I love you but not 'in love' with you, let's be friends" excuses. (do women have a monologue at birth for this?) Dating for two years, happy times including a 4 month travel vacation. We fought once or twice even though we spent every minute of every day together. Sometime later she sends me the not so lenghty e-mail (ouch!) Included was the sentence that she needs time to think things through. The next thing I know she is hosting sleep-overs for one of her male co-workers. I wasn't happy. I left right away because I didn't want to be subjected to any more belittlement. Bought a bunch of books, including yours. After three months feeling pretty good about myself.Got to session fourteen 'healthy anger' and I wrote her an e-mail (her choice of communication) I mentioned how not so nice she was etc. highlighting key issues I had with her. Nearly two weeks pass and she phones me eventhough I had asked her not to. She had just read my letter She was crying saying how she misses me, how she doesn't know what she is doing and she wishes she could make up her mind. I didn't expect this response from her. Any thoughts? Thanx!

Dear Angry,

You are on the road to recovery and your ex knows it. By writing the angry letter and letting her know exactly how you feel about her, you've changed the roles. Now, instead of being the pitiable betrayed lover, you're a righteously angry ex with self-esteem that's too high to let yourself be taken advantage of.

She knows you're no longer there pining for her anymore, and she misses having someone who loves her and might just be waiting for her to think things through. She wants you back in that insecure position so that she'll feel secure.

Don't be taken in. Don't let yourself become the backup lover for someone who wants to play around and have you on call just in case.

Even though she's crying and says she misses you, she's still saying she doesn't know what she is doing and can't make up her mind. Nothing's really changed except who's crying now.

Don't give up feeling good about yourself and wind up back in the same situation. Either ignore her, or tell her you'll be looking for someone who knows what she wants. Once your ex finds out that you're with someone new, there may be even more tearful phone calls. But don't be taken in.

If you dated for two years, that's plenty of time for her to know if she wants to spend the rest of her life with you.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

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