"Ask Dr. Tracy"

6/13/99 Advice Column

Desperate for Affection
Living Together Is Not Enough
A Lonely Smoker

Dear Dr. Tracy,

Yesterday, while mowing the lawn, I was thinking about the important things in my relationship of 3 1/2 years -- or was trying to and had a hard time. I made a list of what I want from a relationship -- such as affection, communication, sex, humor, respect, companionship, truth, security, joy. Ya know -- a few small things. I'm afraid we don't really have any of those! I have an in-home business so provide housing, utilities, and a small salary to my girlfriend. I can't say I'm easy to live with as my business is very important to me. But I try to show affection and communicate as best I can. She apologized for being self-centered and non-affectionate but said it was menopause and her hormones kicking in ( she won't see a doctor and this has been over 3 years) I don't understand why she stays??????? We've tried counselling but we slip back into old patterns quickly. Neither of us can be having much fun. Should I bite the bullet and say either things change or we acknowledge the relationship doesn't work? Or keep living that life of quiet desperation, hoping something will change? I enjoyed reading thru many of your old columns but didn't find the answer. Maybe we ask too much of each other or for something we can't give. All I know is that I would love a spontaneous hug - without having to ask for it. Thanks

Dear Desperate,

You say you are not easy to live with and your business is very important to you. Reading between the lines, I see a man with entrepreneurial madness - the inability to see anything else as important as the business. And I see a woman who isn't getting enough attention.

You have chosen a woman who isn't warm and affectionate, and I suspect that suits you most of the time. She lets you put your business first and doesn't make demands. Two people don't spend three years together without developing patterns that somehow suit their lifestyles. Ask yourself what you get out of this non-affectionate relationship, like time to devote to your business.

Now you are both reaping the sad rewards that come to two people who haven't set time aside for each other. Neither of you feels loved enough. The problem is that if you leave this relationship without changing, you're going to be in the same situation with the next woman.

In order to make each other feel loved, you're going to have to set aside time away from the house and the business. To get all the things you want from a relationship, you're going to have to give something. Think about working shorter business-at-home hours. Take weekends off. Spend a weekend or a week away from the business and just concentrate on each other. If you can't get past the problems that stand between you, resume therapy. Don't think of counseling as a one-time quick fix. You two could continue seeing a counselor as often as you need to if you find you are slipping into your old ways.

Also, let your companion know that you are not going to continue the way things are. Tell her exactly what you want and what you need. Find out from her what she wants and needs.

Meanwhile, it sounds like she needs to see a gynecologist to get her hormone levels checked, and if needed, take hormonal supplements. If she refuses to do that, you should take it as a sign that she's not interested in prolonging the relationship. If you can't take time away from your business, she should take it as a sign that you aren't as interested in change as you say you are.

In any case, don't just sit around waiting for a miracle. Make an effort to change. Consider spending a weekend at one of Herville Hendricks seminars for couples.

If you make a real effort and get nowhere, you'll both find it easier to part knowing that you've given it your best shot.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I've been living with my boyfriend for 6 months. We were together for three months before that. I'm 30; he's 50. I've never lived with anyone before. He's been married and lived with people. I've been surprised to find that it feels uncomfortable to me to be living with him without being married. I guess it feels unreal to me, as though we are pretending to be something that I want us actually to be; we're extremely compatible and our domestic life is very happy. We've talked about marriage and children as likely in our future together, but increasingly, I want to be married right now. Should I tell him how urgently I'm feeling this, or hope that I calm down? Should I ask him how he would feel about marrying sooner rather than later? And why, when he gives me every indication that he's planning his future with me, should I feel the need for us to marry so soon?

Dear Worried,

Your desire to be married is natural and normal, especially now that you've experiencing this domestic bliss. Living together makes you a family unit, and in your mind, family unit means marriage.

When you live together without the benefit of marriage, there's always a little nagging insecurity. No matter how good everything is, the situation feels slightly impermanent without a formalized commitment. Also, at your age, your hormones are screaming out for babies and your biological time clock is whispering in your ear, "Do it now."

Talk to your older sweetie. He should be happy to have a young honey who wants to devote her life to him. But don't wait too long. At his age, his desire for marriage and children could just be a passing fancy and he could soon decide he's too old to start another family. Even if you start now, he'll be pushing 70 with teenagers to raise. If that's going to be a problem, it's best to find out right away.

Strike while the iron is hot. Tell him you want to be engaged by (insert a date, like next month) and married before the end of the year, which means you have to start planning right away. Remember the time frame: it takes six months to plan a wedding, and even longer to get pregnant and have a baby. So you need to get started sooner rather than later.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

My problem is probably a common one but somehow I'm not succeeding in finding a solution.

Well, I smoke. I'm ashamed of it but thats how it is. I've smoked since I was twelve yrs old, or for twelve yrs (Im 24), so its a habit hard to break. Most of my friends and family smoke too, and I hardly ever find myself in a smoke-free environment. Well, Ive had non-smoking boyfriends and never had any problem about it. Until now. You see, I have had a friend for a year now, and there has always been intense sexual tension between us almost since we met for the first time. After working close together for ten months (I mean behind the same counter-close) four days a week, we started dating. It all went beautifully and we decided we wanted to take it to the next level and became lovers three weeks ago. I am so inlove with him and want to stop smoking because I know he hates it more than anything. But hes been nagging me about it, and decides for me that we sit at non-smoking areas, but the worst is that when I smoke he moves into another room and closes the door.

Ive tried to be considerate, I dont smoke more than 3-4 cigarettes per day, and always either standing by a open window or open doors. Never smoke around food or the bedrom, never in the car, never even in the same area of the room as hes in. And since the frequency is not that great I thought he might try to handle it. But hes kind of making me choose between him and stopping smoking although he never says that. I can understand him hating cigarettes, but Im thinking that he knew I smoked before we started to get serious and I feel really pressured, and like hes trying to control me or taking the decision for me. Im a very independant person and support myself, have a good job that pays well, like living alone, although I wouldnt mind the right man moving in, and maybe its stupid but I feel as if hes trying to take charge of me, my life, my personality, my right to choose. What are your thoughts on this? Am I just paranoid and should I just focus on quitting or do I have a right to be concerned.

Dear Smoker

Yes, you're being manipulated, but it's not a bad manipulation. Your guy isn't trying to manipulate you to rob a bank or go off your diet. He's trying to get you to quit smoking.

Do it! Don't even think about it. Stop right now. You'll be glad you did. Your health and your relationship depend on your stopping. Don't think about his taking something away from you. Instead consider that he's trying to give you something wonderful - a smoke-free life.

Yes, you have your right to choose. Hopefully you'll make the right choice and choose to be free of cigarettes. If you need help, see your doctor or join a group like SmokeEnders that helps people stop smoking.

I don't blame your guy for closing the door and moving to another room. If non-smokers don't want to sit on the same side of a restaurant with a cigarette smoker, you shouldn't wonder that he doesn't want to be in a small room with one. I think he's a saint for putting up with as much smoke as he has, and if you want to keep him, you'll quit.

It's nice that you try to smoke in a way that's considerate to him, but not all your smoke is going out the window, and I don't think you realize how obnoxious it is to a non-smoker. Some of it clings to you. Plus, of course, your smoke is dangerous to you and everyone around you. A man who's serious about you would want you to quit to be sure his future children won't be inhaling your secondhand smoke. A man who doesn't care about you or a future with you wouldn't be so concerned about your smoking. So be glad this non-smoking guy wants you to quit.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

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