"Ask Dr. Tracy"

4/14/96 Advice Column

The "Evil Girlfriend", Needing to be needed, Lesbian possessiveness

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I've been in the most wonderful relationship for over a year now and we recently got engaged. I'm the happiest I've ever been but, one problem keeps cropping up from time to time, his family.

I love them all as people and for the most part, they're a lot of fun and seem to like me. Recently his sister who lives across the country started an issue out of the fact that I read his e-mail. He asked me to do so because he works most of the day and wants to spend the free time he has with me, not sorting through e-mail. His sister feels somehow this is an invasion of his privacy and that it will cause problems in our relationship in the future.

I feel his sister is out of line telling us how to have our relationship. The real problem is that this isn't the first time his family has had feelings that I'm controlling his life. His parents disapproved of his moving several states away with me and it's taken me months to mend my relationship with his mother. I'm afraid that his family is looking for reasons that he shouldn't be with me and also that his sister will bring his mother into the privacy issue.

I love him dearly and he doesn't feel any of his family's complaints have merit but, I want to know if it's reasonable to put up with these accuasations and complaints. I need advice on how to work this whole situation out.

Tired of being the "evil girlfriend"

Dear "evil girlfriend",

Unfortunately, when you become seriously involved with someone, you also take on their whole family and all their craziness. It's not something you can easily get rid of. E-mail isn't really the issue here. Of course it's okay to help your man with his e-mail. In a good relationship, very little needs to be "private." If it's okay with you and with him, it doesn't really matter what his family thinks.

They are objecting to e-mail, but what they're really upset about is that you're taking him away from them. It's a power struggle as old as time and which they have little chance of winning. You're there and you're staying, so they'll just have to deal with it, and they will eventually, although it could take years.

In the meantime, be nice, but firm. Say, "I understand how you might feel that way, and we always consider your opinions to be valuable. Thanks for your imput." Then do exactly what you please.

They can only bother you as much as you let them. After all, they are several states away. Don't let them ruin this happiest time in your life, and don't fight with your fiance over it. When it comes to life problems, this is a small one, even if it seems annoying.

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I'am almost 46 years old and have a "girlfriend" that's almost 27..... .my question is....... Is this really unusual...we are both recently divorced....she has 3 children, 1,4,6 yrs old. I have 2, 15 & 17........ we really have a great sex life.....and most of the time we have a lot in common.......my concern is that I like to "take care" of her... and she seems to like to be taken care of.....other women in my life "don't seem to like" to be taken care of...........I'am afraid I feel the way I do because I'am a person who likes to have someone need me.. ...... Is this a mixed up mess that will end in both being hurt..... or is there hope...........???????

Dear Older Man,

If you like "taking care of someone" and that's an important part of love for you, then you're going to have to find someone who is in need, such as your 27 year old with three small children. However, it might be wiser to find someone closer to your own age who wants to be taken care of. When your 27-year-old is your age, 47, you'll be 66, and I wonder how great your sex life will be then.

Also, will you be prepared to deal with teenagers when you're 60? You have teenagers now; will you want to go through teen parenting all over again?

Another potential problem you should be aware of in this relationship: What if your younger woman becomes more self-sufficient as she gets older and no longer needs you as much? Will you have to find someone new and needy in order to feel loved?

Finally, all givers need a taker. But be sure your taker is also capable of giving when necessary. With your age difference, the tables could eventually turn and you'd need to be taken care of. Then what? Would she? Could she?

Go slowly with this one. Certainly consider pre-marital counseling before you dive in.

Dear Dr. Tracy,

can you help me? im a 19 year old college student in western mass, im dating a girl that is in love with me but i dont feel the same way about her. she finally let me see other women, but im afraid to tell her about seeing someone else, it will hurt her too much. it took me cheating on her to let me see other people. what can i do? does this only happen in lesbian relationships?

Dear Girl Problems,

No, this doesn't only happen in lesbian relationships. Heterosexual relationships aren't always mutual either, and it's never easy to back off from someone who's in love with you. However, relationships between two women do seem to be more emotionally charged, more dramatic, and more intense than heterosexuals' or even gay guys' relationships. Perhaps it's because women in love tend to act more from their feelings than from their intellect.

Also, it's so hard to find a lesbian lover, that once found, it's even harder to let go. Breakups can get really out of control -- "a woman scorned," etc.

But cheating, sneaking around, and lying aren't the answer-- they all come out eventually. Besides, when you're the cheater, you feel bad about your own integrity.

See "'Convenient' Relationships in my Library for some insight into why you may be staying in this awkward situation, as well as "Ending It", which will give you some suggestions for how to let her down as gently and gracefully as possible. But you must be honest with her. Let her know you care about her and that you want to be close, however, you're just not ready for a committed relationship right now.

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