Dear Dr. Tracy,
Im a 42 year old women, married for 22 years, on paper as they say but I only concider myself as truely married for the first 13 of those 22. My husband and I have mutually fell out of love with each other and havent been intimate with each other for the last 9 years.
We have two children together and have concentrated on raising them as normal as possible putting aside our needs for affection with others...as in affairs seeings as we were not affectionate with each other. Now they are at the age where we could explain to them that we have grown apart in our marriage but we remain very good friends and still live together...like roomates. They both seem ok with this, I think the fact that they see us getting along with no arguements has a great deal to do with this.
Two years ago I met a man that I started a great friendship with who is in a similar situation. He is also married but hasnt had any relations with his wife for the past 10 years and he is also not one to have affairs just to have sex so has gone without. We both have grown very close as friends and have often thought of going further but here is my question
Is it classified as an affair or cheating on our spouses if we did take it further, Im not sure just what you would classify the term "affair" to be. I look at it as one partner engaging in sexual relations with someone while STILL having some kind of relations with their spouse. Can you clear this up for me?
Dear Out of Love,
Thatís what this world needs, one more new exception to the ďwhatís really cheatingĒ question. And just when I thought Iíd heard them all.
Iíve heard ďOut of town doesnít count,Ē ďOld lovers donít count,Ē ďOne-night stands donít count,Ē ďSame sex doesnít count,Ē ďOral sex doesnít count,Ē ďComputer sex doesnít count,Ē and now this Ė that if youíre not having sex with your spouse, infidelity doesnít count. Where did you get such an idea? Just because you fell out of love doesnít mean that infidelity wonít count.
It all counts. Anytime a person who has made a commitment of monogamy to another person has intimate relationships of any kind with another person of any sex, itís infidelity -- itís cheating on your commitment.
Is any cheating an affair? Not necessarily. An affair is a relationship with someone other than your partner that goes on for some time and usually involves more than just sex. With an affair, emotions are involved as well, but whether emotions are involved or not, itís still cheating.
So since you are already emotionally attached to this man, some would say you are already having an affair, if not a sexual one, with him. But if you do have sex with him, everyone would consider that an affair, without question.
There is one exception to the rule of whatís really cheating, and thatís if both parties willingly agree to an ďopenĒ relationship, such as swingers who have recreational sex with others. But since your husband doesnít know and his wife doesnít know and neither of them have agreed that itís okay, you and he would be cheating.
There is another alternative. Both of you could get divorced and then youíd be free to do whatever you want with each other. But for now, youíre married. Those vows are what counts, no matter how many years you havenít had sex.
Romeo and Juliet
Dear Dr. Tracy,
I am a 25 yr old Italian kid from NJ. My family is hardcore Italian; my parents were born in Italy and moved to Brooklyn, NY when they were very young. We have huge Sunday dinners, we eat pasta with every meal, my last name ends in a vowel my first name is Francesco, and every one of my nine thousand family members is named Maria or Anthony, you get the point.
My first day of college this girl caught my eye, there was something about her that I had to have. Over the next few day I looked everywhere for her, it turns out she happened to be in my English class. So I approached her asked her out and she agreed. Well one thing led to another we fell in love and now 6 yrs later we are still together. I really love this girl, she is sweet, smart, sexy just a good person. We had some tough times together that should have broken us up but we stuck together. After freshman year I went to another college about an hour away we didnít see each other that much and it got to a point we decided to see other people. After about six months we got back together because no one could compare or come close to what we had, which made our love for each other stronger.
Youíre probably asking yourself well if everything is so good what could be the problem, she isnít Italian she is black. My family is very against this. Her family isnít happy about it but they are not as adamant about it as my family. We do everything together but she never comes to any of my family gathering or parties nor do I go to any of hers. She knows how my parents feel about it. Her mom is ok with it but I donít think her dad is. Over the years this situation brought some tension between us I figured it would be a lot worse but I think we love each other so much we donít let it get between us.
I think now that we are getting older its coming to the question of what do we do. I get this vibe sometimes from her that she is losing hope for us. I really love her with all my heart, but I donít want her to miss out on anything because of my family she doesnít deserve that. I can miss out or suffer for her sake I can deal with it but I canít let her go through anything like that she it too much of a sweetheart for that. Sometimes I think about letting her go so she can be with someone whoís family will accept her. I really wish my parents would accept it. Do I just move forward with her and donít look back or end it. I am very torn about this and I donít know what to do. This email is from the heart, I know you have a million other people asking you for advice but please if you can find the time to give me some advice I would be grateful, I donít know what else to do, I donít want to lose this girl and have to go through life wondering what if.
This story is as old as time itself -- since the first cave man brought a woman from another cave home with him and the people in his cave didnít like her because she was different. Shakespeare immortalized the story of lovers from warring families in "Romeo and Juliet," and the same tragic story was retold in ďWest Side Story.Ē
I get so many letters from couples just like you. They are in love and their families donít approve for one reason or another. Some donít approve because the person their child or relative has fallen in love with is from another race, or has another religious belief, or is too old or too young, or isnít educated enough, or doesnít have enough money or the right job or background. The list of objections goes on forever.
Everyone has family ties, but when the time comes to marry and start your own family, your own family must come first. If you really love this woman as much as you say you do, youíll stand up to your family and tell them to either accept her or lose you. Given that choice, they may come around. Under no circumstances should you give up the woman you love because your parents or other family members donít approve.
Your girlfriend may be losing hope because she sees that you arenít strong enough to stand up to your family and insist that she is the most important thing in the world to you. She may be losing hope of having a future with marriage and family and a life together because she knows that would mean youíd have to put her first, before your family.
If youíre not willing to stand up to your families and take the happiness you deserve, they will conclude that they were right all along -- that you were never truly meant to be together.
Stop wishing your family would accept her and get on with your life. Follow your heart and find your happiness with the woman you love before itís too late. Neither her family nor yours will stand in your way if youíre really determined and strong.
Wait or Get Out?
Dear Dr. Tracy,
I am a 36 year old divorced mother with two terrific boys. Iíve been divorced for 4 years and have been dating a wonderful man for the past two months. Heís responsible, smart, funny, athletic, respectful and very devoted to his three children. We have great conversations and fun when we are together, which is about once a week. We have great chemistry, too. He appears to be just what Iíve been looking for, but of course only time will tell.
There are several issues that Iím concerned about and wanted your sage advice. First, heís been separated from his wife for 9 months, but while the papers have been filed, the divorce is not final yet. His wife cheated on him and ended the marriage, and sheís been in a serious relationship since they split. He has no wish to reconcile. Second, heís told me that while he can see long-term potential with me, he canít get overly emotionally involved for a while (probably a year) because he doesnít have much free time (he has one free evening a week due to his job and children, and he spends it with me) and doesnít feel that it will be fair to introduce someone into his childrenís lives right now. I agree with him on this issue and have kept my children separate from my dating life, except for one serious relationship I had a year ago. He is also the stable force in the lives of his children Ė primary custodian, living in the family home. His wife has already started ďblendingĒ her boyfriendís kids with hers and heís seen how tough itís been on his kids.
We are dating exclusively because we began sleeping together after a month and believe in monogamy. I am interested in developing a long term relationship with him. Is it crazy for me to continue dating him exclusively with the hope that in a year he will be more available (both physically and emotionally) for a deeper commitment? Should we put our romance on hold and just ďbe friendsĒ until heís in a better place? Should we continue to date, but not sleep together and start dating other people (he probably wouldnít have time, but I would)? I brought up the idea of him dating other people if he really didnít want to get too emotionally involved with anyone (me) but he said he didnít think that was the right solution. Part of me thinks maybe I should just enjoy what we have right now and not think about the future for a while. I know heís scared, doesnít know what his life will be like in a year and is in unknown territory, but I do think that he cares about me and can see a future with me. Heís dated 4 or 5 other women before me, but those didnít progress past a few dates.
I donít want to walk away from him, but I donít want to be a heartbroken fool in a year. Any advice on how I should handle this situation??
This isnít a difficult question. Youíve only been together for two months and so far everything is good. Why are you worried about down the line if youíre so happy now? Your instinct to enjoy the here and now is good.
It takes at least six months of dating to even know for sure you want a guy for keeps. He seems nice now, but you canít jump to lifelong conclusions based on two months.
Whether or not youíll get your heart broken isnít predictable either at this early date. You want to know exactly whatís going to happen before you make yourself vulnerable, but thatís not how relationships work. You have to be able to live with uncertainty in the beginning in order to get to a point where the relationship is more secure. You never know for sure upfront.
But there are signs. If a man shows himself to be a jerk by treating others badly, it's probably only a matter of time before he treats you badly. But so far, this guy hasnít done anything but be honest with you and treat you lovingly.
Iíd give this a few more months and then reassess the situation. He may have changed by then, or you might find that thereís no progress. In that case, it would be time for a serious shape-up or ship-out talk.
Until then, enjoy the good times and the chemistry, but be cautious and watchful, as in all relationships. Also, especially in this situation, be careful not to give too much too soon. Youíll only scare him and make him uncomfortable.
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