Dr. Tracy's Advice Column

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She Wants To Move In
Who Gets the Ring

She Wants To Move In

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I'm a 36 year old woman who has been dating a truly wonderful 47 year old man for a year now. We have taken our relationship very slowly and from the begining without discussion it we have been monogamous. He has three wonderful children though he has lingering 'bad experience' feelings from his sixteen year relationship with his wife and the ensuing 'ugly divorce' of four years ago. He shared with me from the beginingg of our time together that it would be more likely that it would in fact not evolve into a serious committed relationship. I gave him no complaint and only appreciation for what he was and has been capable of sharing with me. To both of our surprise, our time together has in fact blossomed into love for one another and we have now just recently reach the juncture where a 'dialogue' about what is next in terms of co-habitation seems to be appropriate. Neither of us have any desire at this point to legally marry and perhaps never will. We both share feelings that marriage in the common sense of the word is not necessary to a heathly, long term relatioship.

My dilema is this: We both have very similiar dynamics (which include insecurity) when it comes to initiating discussions about topics of this magnitude, though once initiated we communicate wonderfully and more often than not find our ideas and thoughts being along the same lines. At this time I desire to bring up the topic of moving in together, but am unsure how to approach it without sending out a message that we've reach a point of 'all or nothing'... I'd prefer a long, over time, discussion about what living together means for us as well as the 19 year old daughter that lives with him (which unfortunately she and I do not have a good relationship at this time, it's not bad either...she's just at a difficult place in her life which I understand and I do not try to fix or force myself upon her. She's polite to me but combatitive with him regarding our time together when I am not there....) as well as, the two younger children 14 and 7 who visit each weekend, whom I do have a good/fun and interactive relationship with.

How and when and what to say...? I've talked to friends and family about this and each has a different opinion ranging from it's not up to me to bring it up... to... just tell him what I'm feeling... I'm simply worried about marring the careful pace we've taken along our relatioship path... but our combined work schedules are such these days that living together is really the only move forward for further discovery as well as it's the place I want to be.

Thank you for your help (and web site, it's very informative and helpful!)

Dear Insecure,

Good communication is the prime resource you'll need when it comes to "moving in together." Moving in isn't just a matter of your putting your things in his house. Moving in requires more than just closet space. It requires many understandings, such as who pays for what, who owns what, who gets what if things don't work out, and what the exact parameters of your relationship will be. For instance, about his children: will you become a surrogate mother? What would your responsibilities be around the house? And regarding child care?

So you see, the moving in you want is not simple. It requires lots and lots of discussion. Since your problem is how to get the "moving in" discussion going, here's what I suggest. Don't just tell him your feelings. Instead, ask him what he thinks of couples in general living together without being married. Then ask him what he thinks of some other couple you know moving in together. It's always easier to talk in generalities or about other people than it is to talk about you.

This will give you some insight into whether to even bring up the discussion about the two of you moving in together. If he says he thinks it's a terrible idea and he'd never do it, then you have your answer without really asking to move in with him. If he seems positive, it's easy to bring the discussion around to the two of you. Remember, moving in is a commitment, and he's already told you he doesn't want commitment, so you need to feel him out on this.

As for his 19-year-old, she'll probably be moving out in the near future. Most 19-year-olds are on their way to establishing their own lives. Since you're in no hurry to move in and will want to have long discussions over time about moving in before attempting such a thing, time is on your side. It's very possible that she'll have moved out long before your moving in becomes a reality.

There are some other issues here that are important. Marriage, for example. I suspect you are conceding too much in your mind to what you think he'll want and are afraid to speak up for what you want. It's easy to say you both agree that marriage isn't important and it's just a piece of paper. But once you are living with this man, you may well feel differently. Certainly the degree of acceptance your relationship has with your friends and families and his children will be very different if you choose not to marry. Instead of being a "step-mother" or "wife" you'll be a "live-in." There's a big difference, both legally and socially. If your "live-in" has an accident and winds up in the hospital emergency room, his ex-wife and children will be able to visit and you may not. Legally, his next of kin, his kids, will be making decisions regarding his care, not you.

Also, you are rather blithely skipping over having children. You are pretty young to give up all hope of having a child of your own, and the time to bring these issues up is before you move in, not afterwards. It may seem to you that not having children is no big deal, but your feelings could change drastically on that issue in the future. Just as your feelings about marriage may change.

Don't agree to not marry and not have children. You could be very sorry if you do, no matter how good your relationship is. If this man really loves you, he won't want to deny you either marriage or children. Don't deny yourself.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Who Gets the Ring

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I have just broken off an engagement that lasted only 3 months. We had been together for about 3.5 years total. The reason I broke off the engagement is because:

1. I had 2 friends that did not have knowledge of one another tell me that He had hit on both of them with in a 4 mth time period.

2. He kept telling me little lies.

Now, with the lies, I was a bit concerned, however when I was confronted about his flirtations/slick moves, I drew the line and called it off.

The question: Who has the right of the ring? The man when the women called it off? Or the women when it was the man's fault that they broke off the engagement.

Your prompt response is greatly appreciated.

Dear Ex fiance,

You made a difficult decision to break off your engagement. You did it because you obviously didn't trust your fiance. That's a good decision. It's not possible to have a lasting relationship with marriage and commitment if you don't trust the man you're engaged to.

But now that you've broken off your engagement, you have to give the engagement ring back. An engagement ring is the symbol of a promise to marry. It means, "I give you this ring because you have promised to marry me." If you no longer want to marry the man, you are no longer entitled to the ring.

It doesn't matter who breaks off the engagement or whose fault it is that the engagement is no longer on, the ring goes back to the person who bought it. If you paid for the ring, you get to keep it. If he paid for the ring, you have to give it back to him.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy


Dear Dr. Tracy,

I'm so happy i found your website just when I'm so confused. This is a little long but please read it.

I am 25 and in my first serious relationship for a little over a year. My boyfriend is a nice and educated man, he is also my first lover. however when we started dating he told me that he wasn't ready to commit because he was still looking for himself (he's in therapy and depressed) At the time i was ok with it. I decided to spend more time doing things to help me grow as a person and not rely too much on him like i did at the beginning. (I used to call him all the time and make plans for our weekends, afraid that if i did not, we would not see each other) So it was nice to have a full personal life and have a friend/lover. Then lately (about the last 5 months)our relationship evolved in an unexpected way. Slowly he started calling more often, sometimes 3 times a day just to say hi, goodnight and funny stories. I don't even need to call him anymore because I know that if he passes a day without calling, he would call first thing the next morning. Now he's the one wanting to do things together and giving me profuse excuses when he's busy and promising that we'll do things as soon as he has time. He is extremely reliable, always on time or before time. Always there when he knows it's important to me, no matter what. The perfect boyfriend! I'm from a foreign country and he even took a class to learn my native language so that we would be closer. Once after an argument he told me that " he really loves being with me and doesn't want to mess it up", also he tells me " I love" every so often. He likes when I get upset because it shows that I care. (I used to let him do whatever without getting mad). lately he even wrote me the most beautiful poem in my native language telling me how he doesn't want me to say goodbye and he sees us growing old together. our relationship has grown in a wonderful way. I do trust him and am comfortable with him.

The problem is that I want a committed relationship now, and think of breaking up with him. I'm confused because I don't see how can someone say he can't commit and act that committed a year later. I love him enormously but I'm afraid because he said he couldn't commit before acting totally committed. I'm afraid of being hurt and wish to end it. What do you think? I know it was long but I really need your advice, this is so urgent. i know you talked about commitment but I haven't read about a guy who becomes committed after, is that normal?

Dear Confused,

Of course you're confused because your boyfriend first said he wasn't ready to commit. But that was more than a year ago, and things can change. Men do change their minds and are quite capable of commitment, even when they say they won't commit in the beginning.

Now you've been together a year and he's had time to become the perfect boyfriend. You don't know if he's truly found himself or if he's no longer depressed, but those would be important things to find out before you rush into a commitment.

He seems very attentive and that scares you. Perhaps part of you was more comfortable in the position of wanting more from him and not getting it. Now that you are getting so much from him, you are thinking of breaking up. That doesn't make any sense.

You should continue in this relationship, since it's moving forward. Relationships either get better or they get worse, and yours is getting better. As long as he continues to shower you with love and affection and to act committed, enjoy your time together. Don't rush into marriage or a lifelong commitment until you're sure you can trust his feelings. But don't break up.

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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