Dr. Tracy's Advice Column

Cartoon Kiss

4/11/2004

Taking Him Back
Is It Worth It?
A Friend’s Bad Decision



Taking Him Back

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I have been in the same relationship on and off for the past six and a half years. We have a five year old son together, but have never married. He asked me to marry him when I was pregnant, but I do not think he ever intended to marry me. I think he was just trying to appease me. We have seperated twice, once because he threw myself and our son out of his home and the second time I moved out because I simply could not take the situation anymore.

During the time we were together we were basically miserable. Nothing I did, said, thought, suggested . . . ever made him happy and seemed good enough. He has adult children from his first wife, and him and his children always saw fit to make my life as idfficult as possible. I am not for an instant trying to suggest I am perfect or that I played no part in any of this. I was as difficult and angry as the next, however most of my actions and / or reactions stemmed from defending myself.

Anyways, the problems started when we found out I was pregnant and carried through until I moved out. During the relationship my son and I were kept at arms length from him and his family. We were not invited to family gatherings that he and his other children would attend. And if we were ever to be invited we were pretty much ignored while there. He would take family vacations that did not include myself or my son making whatever excuse he wanted.

Easy to see why I moved out, isn't it?

Well, here is my dilemma. For the last year he has been trying to reconcile. In almost every manner he seems to have changed and trust me I have put him under many tests to make sure ( I know that is wrong, but I had to know if it was an act). For the past year we have been closer and have gotten along better than the five and a half years before. And he has proposed again complete with a new ring, and a "Please Do Me The Honor".

First Problem: The problem is that his older children still live with him, and unfortunately their attitudes and behaviors have not changed. It is not only directed at me, they are equally mean to him as they are me. I have told him I can not live with them and feel that they should move out. They are both twenty years old, are not in any kind of school and their main hobbies are drinking and making life difficult for anyone who has any comments or complaints of them. He will not have them move out and he feels he can somehow fix the problems they have. I do not damn him for wanting to help his children, but they do not want his help and feel their lives are how they want them to be. And I simply do not feel we should have to endure their behavior and have fears that our relationship would survive having to live with them.

Second Problem: He and his family are going on a vacation, a Disney cruise. And my son and I are not invited to go. In all fairness, he did ask if we wanted to do last year, but at that time I wanted to wait to see how our relationship progressed and to see if we actually we able to reconcile. Now that we have, he says we cannot go. He lists several reasons as to why, none of which are very nice. He said since the relationship between myself and his children has not gotten any better he feels it would not be a comfortable situation. Now kept in mind his children are adults and our son is five, and this is a Disney cruise, complete with Mickey Mouse and the whole gang. I brought this to his attention, and his response was that his children are blood and that is why they get to go over myself and my son. Another reason he said he doesn't want us to go is that he would have a better time if we were not there, that he needs a break.

This sounds so much like his past comments and behavior, I just do not know what to do. I do love him and would want and have wanted nothing more than for us to be together as a family. I am so confused. I have invested so much time, energy, tears, sleepless nights . . . into this relationship over the years. And I do not want to hurt my son or confuse him over this anymore.

Please give me some advice on what I should do. Is there some avenue or direction I can take to better understand this? Am I being selfish and / or unreasonable difficult? I would truly appreciate any advice you give.

Dear Confused,

Sure, you want to be a family – but do you want to be a part of this family? Are you sure?

You really can’t marry this man without also marrying his whole family – including his grown kids who are already causing problems for you. You’ve already discovered that you can’t live in the same house with him and his kids. So don’t even think about marrying him until that problem is solved. They have to move out or you have to live somewhere else. It’s that simple. It's time for them to leave the nest, anyway, as all grown children should do. But he has to come to this realization, and only he can make it happen.

That will reduce the problem but not end it. These grown children won’t disappear. Unless they move far, far away, they’ll be around for the rest of your lives. When a man has adult children, it's common for them to feel that they’ve been in their father’s life longer than you have and have special standing way above yours. Even under the best of circumstances with really nice adult kids, you’re often fighting an endless battle.

With these kids, you’d be taking on a lifelong war. Just with visits and phone calls, they're capable of coming between you and your partner and undermining your relationship. The only way to keep that from happening is for your man to decide that you will come first in his life. Deciding is the easy part, though. He must also inform his grown children, and have the strength to enforce it. He must stand by you, as his life partner, no matter what conflicts and arguments arise with the grown children. This is very hard for any father to do; many simply can't, and many wives are miserable as a result.

You may think your man has changed in many ways, but he's just talking the talk, not walking the walk. He consistently puts his grown children first, before you and your son. Actually, he's not even talking the talk -- it was outrageously insulting for him to say his grown children are “blood” and you and your son are not, after asking you to marry him. His reasons for not taking you and your son on the Disney cruise are feeble and mean spirited. If he's too weak to put his foot down and get his grown children to treat you with respect, then you’re better off without him.

You’re not being selfish or unreasonable. You’re being smart. You are protecting yourself and your son from a life filled with hatred and dissent. Without the support of your future husband, it’ll be impossible to meld this family. Either he’s on your side one hundred percent, or you shouldn’t marry him. Think about giving him a lot more tests before you walk down the aisle. He’s obviously not passing now.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy



Is It Worth It?

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a 30 yr old female with 2 beatiful children and i have been dating a 25 yr old man for 7 months now, it has been a bumpy 7months and we have always worked through our problems. We started off as best friends and sat on the phone for hours, then one night while we were out that all changed.

We still have that best friend relationship as well as lovers. We tell each other everything and i mean litterally everything. Sometimes what we have to say to one another may hurt but we have to say it.

In our 3rd month he cheated on me for a one night stand, he told me because he said i deserved to know and he didn't want to lose me. It was really hard for me to deal with it, so i tried to call it off.....he cried and said he can't have me out of his life, well why did you do it if you know it would cause a break up? But we worked it out, although it is still hard for me i forgave him but really dont trust him like that again.

I have never been in love before and I always had a wall around my heart and for some reason he tore it down. We do love each other very much but something is troubling me, I feel like i am on a emotional rollercoaster with him alot lately.

He says to me he feels himself to be so weak, and that he needs to do better by me and become the man that i need. He feels he can't do it. So to make this long story short, i told him that i loved him for who he is now, and that maturity will happen, just not overnight. I have noticed a change in him on his growing up.

Because i am going through this alot with him i told him lets go our own way, the he cries and says " i am not giving up on us" and "i know i can do this and i will stop giving myself doubts". he has a low self esteem and he just feels he isnt' good enough for me. but i love him for who is, not what he can buy me, or what he isnt' doing. I know i have to be patient and it will happen but just not overnight.

I feel as if i found my soulmate with some problems, but i am not sure i want to deal with all of this.

My question is........Is this really worth it? Is it worth hanging on to someone you love so much and i have faith in him, i believe in him...(someone has to) and i just don't know if i should listen to our pastor when he says, be patient he loves you.......please help......I am so confused. The normal me would say leave him, you don't have to deal with this, but i know it is through good and bad times that you should be there for each other.

Dear In Love,

You ask an interesting question…when is it no longer worth it to hold on to a relationship? How do you know when it’s time to get out?

One way to tell is by the pain/pleasure ratio. It’s very simple. If the pain in your relationship starts to outweigh the pleasure the relationship gives you, then it’s time to reevaluate the relationship. For example, in a good relationship, you should be happy about 80 – 90% of the time. When the amount of time you’re happy is only half the time or less, you should seriously think about getting out.

Being on an emotional roller coaster may feel like being in love, but it’s often just a sign that you’ve fallen for someone who is unable to make a commitment. Carole Botwin write an interesting book called “The Dance-Away Lover,” about those men who come close to you and make you feel loved and then just as you’re beginning to feel secure, they dance away. Sound familiar?

Set a time limit for how long you’re going to put up with your soul mate’s problems. It’s nice that you think you’ve finally found your soul mate, but you should realize that there can be more than one soul mate out there, and if you’ve found one, chances are you’ll find another one.

Further, you need more than just a soul mate. You need a full life partner -- a man you can trust, one you can depend on and one who your children can look up to and respect. It’s worrisome that he says he’s not good enough for you. Maybe he’s right.

You’ve been in this relationship for seven months. It’s reasonable to give it a year. Let him know what he has to do to stay in the relationship beyond the time limit. If he doesn’t prove himself reliable, trustworthy, and someone you can lean on, then say good-bye. You don’t need another child.

It’s true that you should be there for each other through good times and bad times – but that’s after you’re a committed (usually married) couple. When you’re just dating, there are definite limits to how much bad you should put up with. The dating time is a time to find out if you want to stick with someone for the good and bad.

Sometimes two people come together and are soul mates, but just can’t make a lifetime commitment because one of them isn’t ready. Timing is everything, and if he’s not ready to settle down, you’re better off finding out now than later.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy



A Friend’s Bad Decision

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I have a close friend who just announced that he is getting engaged. Normally, I would consider this wonderful news, but this romantic relationship seems very rushed and unhealthy.

My friend ended a 3 year relationship rather abruptly in early June. He had been depressed and said that he was confused and anxious and didn't know what he wanted. He then met a new female employee at his work later in June. Within a month's time she had moved into his place with him.

Meanwhile he was in contact with his ex-girlfriend on a regular basis. They spoke periodically and things were very friendly. ( Yet he somehow neglected to tell his ex that he was dating someone let alone living with her...) In September he made a point of seeking out his ex to tell her of some rather big news. He had just had a large melanoma removed, passed his surgical boards, and was going to be shipped to a military base in the middle east for the next 3 mos.

My friend left for the middle east in October. His ex called to wish him well on his trip and during that conversation inadvertantly learned he was seeing someone. The situation digressed when the current girlfriend then decided to pick up the phone and call the former girlfriend and ask questions about why the ex was calling her man. In short, it seemed that neither girl had been getting the entire story from him. Once he left for Iraq, his girlfriend moved back to her home state.

I recently heard from my friend, and he announced that over the Christmas holidays he and his current girlfriend got engaged and said he had "found what he always had been looking for". That was the best way he could describe it. He said that she made him change the way he looked at things. Strangely, she is still living in her home state although he is back stateside.

My concern is that my friend is acting irrationally. His relationship signals rebound to me. Normally, he is a very careful, methodical person. He has experienced a few major life events all at the same time, and I wonder if he is overcompensating.

As, a woman I will freely admit that the behavior of his intended- the phone call, and moving in and out so quickly- leaves me a little wary of her character. She strikes me as insecure. My friend's omissions don't spealk well of him either.

I guess my question is, does my friend seem ready to marry based on his previous behavior? Does she? Are my perceptions of this situation really off base? His own mother has said that she hopes he isn't chasing an infatuation. Am I wrong in thinking this might not be a healthy relationship given that there were lies told from the beginning and 1/2 of the short time he and his fiancee have known each other they have lived apart?

-Pained Observer

Dear Pained Observer,

When a friend says he’s found what he always looked for in a woman, then you might as well keep your objections to yourself. There’s nothing you can say or do that will sway him, and you’ll only wind up with him getting angry and resentful toward you.

Love often looks irrational, and every engaged couple has well-meaning friends with worries and reservations. If all those worries proved out, there’d be no married couples at all. As for your assessment of your friend’s character and his fiance’s character, it really doesn’t matter. He’s not going to listen.

Maybe neither of them is ready to marry, but is it really your business. No! Can you really do anything to change the outcome? No!

Men marry mail-order brides they’ve never met and live happily ever after. Who can say how long a couple have to be together to marry? Couples have married after two weeks and then lived their whole lives together.

I’m against people rushing into marriage, but once a couple decides they’re on the way to the altar, the best thing to do is step back and wish them well.

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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