"Ask Dr. Tracy"

3/22/98 Advice Column


Dear Dr. Tracy,

I've read through your entire library and haven't found any answers to a problem like mine. About 3 months ago I broke up with a woman I had been living with for 3 years. She's 29, I'm 27. I had bought a house with her (which I now own solely) and we had become extremely close. We had planned to get engaged for the last 2 years but could never stop fighting long enough to get around to it. I couldn't take the fighting and the unhappiness anymore, so I told her if she didn't leave, I would.

She left, but has completely fallen apart since. She is living with some family members of hers, but apparently she just cries all day and night, she calls all my friends and my family repeatedly to try and find out about me, and how I could have done this to her, why I hate her so much, how I could be so mean. She also has been calling me on and off, usually at about 3AM. I know she is trying to get on with her life, (she's in therapy) but she doesn't seem to be able. I'd taken care of her for the past three years, and I still feel like I'm the only one who can help her. I don't hate her, I love her, I just think we were the wrong people for each other. I tried to tell her that but she doesn't seem to hear me. Is there anything I can say or do for her to help her to get on with her life? I know time is supposed to heal all wounds, but she seems to be getting worse, not better. How can I help her, without giving her the wrong message?


Dear Haunted,

It's too bad you two didn't go into therapy when you were together and fighting. That was the time to try to fix things, not now. Now that you've broken up with her, you're trying to make it okay. It won't work.

You can't break up with someone and then make everything fine, not after three years of taking care of her and all those promises of marriage some day. Of course she's upset, but it's time to stop taking care of her and let her take care of herself.

Sadly, you can't do anything to make her feel better except to get back together, which you're not doing. So stop putting salt in the wound by dribbling little drabs of love and information to her through her parents, friends or midnight calls. Stop trying to help. There's nothing you can do now except leave her alone. The more you try to help, the worse you'll make it.

Accept that she's angry and upset with you and may remain unhappy with you, perhaps for the rest of your life. After all, what did you expect -- "Yes dear, that's fine. I understand."? From the person who fought with you all the time? Stop communicating with her totally. Every time you do, you just make her think there's a chance of making up.

Get on with your life, and let this be a lesson: even if you're the one who does the breaking up, you don't get to escape the pain.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I'm 22 years old and I've never had sex, never kissed a guy and, hell, never even held hands with a guy. I have lots of male friends, but they just regard me as 'one of the boys'. I've never really had a problem with that before - in fact, I've used my position to match make several of my female friends - but I am now beginning to worry if I will ever have a relationship. My two best male friends have explained that I am just not the kind of girl most guys go for; I'm a bit of a smart alec, I am extremely plain and overwight and I have a passion for martial arts films. Guys like feminine girls, but I don't want to like skirts and crying at romance films.

My real problem, however, is not the lack of compansionship (as I've got plenty of friends), but the increasing rumours about me being a lesbian. Some of my best mates, male and female, are getting suspicious, and I do not know what to do about it. I have considered cracking on to one of the more available guys but even assuming I could gain the confidence to do that I'm not sure I really want to.

I am actually beginning to wonder if, where there is the smoke of these rumours, there may also be fire. Could it be that I have never fallen in love because I really am, unconsciously, a lesbian? The more I think about it, the more I worry. I do seem to think more about the female television and movie stars I like than the male ones.

Then there is the final problem of my virginity. I have a reasonably high libido, in that I get horny a lot, but I've never considered having sex as I've found a hand works fine, but a friend recently told me that the older you are, the more your first time hurts. Is that true?

Dear Never-been-kissed,

You're obviously sexually torn and ambivalent. Maybe you like boys, maybe you like girls, maybe you like both. Unfortunately, there's only one way to find out. Try a little of both and see what turns you on.

If you're totally turned off by being feminine, then you'll have to find a guy (or a woman) who likes butch girls.

If you get horny a lot, then perhaps its time for you to find out who you are so you can get satisfied.

As far as sex hurting more the longer you wait, that's just not true unless waiting makes you more fearful, thus tighter and less lubricated. Waiting a long time between sex, even for non-virgins, can make insertion more difficult until the muscles lubricate and stretch a little. But then, there's always K-Y. In any case, the longer you wait, the bigger a deal the first time becomes.

I'd say you've waited long enough. Visit a "girls only" bar and see how it feels to be there. Maybe you'll find that it's easier to be confident with no men around. Discovering your sexual identity will be the key to a rich and loving life. Until then, you'll be in limbo -- waiting, wondering, but not really fulfilling yourself.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

You have probably received hundreds of letters from women on this relatively "normal", "boring" subject, but I hope you'll answer mine anyway.

I'm 28 and have been dating this particular guy, who is my age, for 1 1/2 years. I have made it clear to him on more than one occasion my goals and intentions in a relationship: true love, marriage and family. I try not to pressure him. But, he never brings up the subject except to tell me that we can't get married yet for financial reasons (though we each make 50K a year), or until we figure out where we want to live, etc., or until his company stock options come due, or until he's fully vested in his 401K, etc. He knows that I desire to be married before the turn of the millinium with about a year's engagement.

He treats me very well, is considerate and kind, loves kids, is educated--is the type of guy I want to marry. He does not have much dating experience--I'm his first long-term relationship, and he was a virgin before he met me. But, is he just stalling? How do I know? I only want to marry someone who also wants passionately to marry ME, so even though I really love him, I will break up if I don't think he is ready to get married.

Dear Waiting,

Your "relatively boring normal" subject is one that so many women face. Like you, they think the guy should be enthused and eager to experience marriage, commitment and children.

Unfortunately, men are rarely as eager to marry as we women would like. It's almost a knee-jerk male reaction to come up with lots of reasons why they can't commit. It's nothing to take seriously and of course you should try to pressure him. If you don't, it won't happen. Most women pressure men into marriage. They resist, you pressure. Then they finally propose. They like to think it's their decision. That's the way it usually happens. And lots of "happy ever after" marriages result.

In your case, you got a guy who couldn't decide to lose his virginity until he was 26. Left to his own devices, he might not decide to get married until he's 52.

Read "The Steps to Commitment" in my Library to get a sense of how fast things normally progress. Then stop being coy. Tell him in no uncertain terms that you have plenty of money, you can figure out where to live after you're married, and you're not going to wait until he says everything is perfect, because it's perfect right now and you want to be engaged right now.

Ask him if it's not perfect because he feels he should date around a little more before deciding. Key question. If he needs it, grit your teeth and let him fly for a few months. You date, too. If he doesn't come back, it's better than him flying off after you've had two kids.

But take action and get decisions made. Set a deadline and let him know there has to be an engagement by (insert the date of your choice). Being engaged means setting a date to be married. Plan it, do it. Men don't have your timeclock, your priorities. Put your foot down. Don't stand on ceremony. Get what you want and create the life you both should have. He'll be glad you did and so will you.

Forget only wanting to marry someone who passionately wants to marry you, and marry the man you passionately want to marry. Women are usually ready sooner. Don't break up just because he's not passionate about marriage.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

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