Dr. Tracy's Advice Column

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A Mate But Not A Match?
Open Marriage 2nd Thoughts
A Fool in Love

A Mate But Not A Match?

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am about to leave a relationship that isn't broken, and I'm petrified. I have been dating a wonderful, wonderful man for just over a year. We fell in love very quickly and very soon it was understood that we would marry someday. He's 34 and I'm 26.

The problem is that I have it much more together than he does. I am on the career track, and I am universally acknowledged to have lots of "earning potential"-- I am going to work hard and earn money. He is the antithesis of this; he's not against work, per se, but he's not corporate. He wants to ocean kayak and rock climb and ski and lead tours to Latin America. We joked early on that he would be the house-husband and I would earn all the money.

He also has a very significant amount of debt-- twenty thousand dollars. When his previous relationship of 5.5 years broke up (VERY acrimoniously), his girlfriend shoveled her credit card debt onto him, arguing that she had supported him and he deserved to assume debt she had undertaken. Despite the fact that he had no idea she was getting herself into debt, he accepted the debt load, because it seemed the honorable way to end things and to get her out of his hair. Now, of course, he has no chance of paying it back and might go bankrupt.

I love him. Everyone loves him, but more than one of my family members has come to me to express doubts about him. At first I shrugged off all the criticisms, saying, "If I love him, and I do, we will make things work."

Now I am considering breaking things off. He is the sweetest, kindest, gentlest person; he would be the most wonderful father I can think of; he is attractive, decent, and devoted to me. In other areas, we have nothing in common: he is outdoorsy, adventuresome, confident and arbitrary, while I am bookish, ambitious, tentative, and reserved.

My question to you is: Is it possible to wish someone well, to want him to be happy, and yet to know on a deep level that it just isn't going to work? Part of me wants to hold on to him, just because he is so special. The other part sees fights in the future, conflicts over money and attention.

Perhaps I have answered my own question. I don't know. It is cathartic simply to write about this. Thank you for your time.

Dear Petrified,

Marriage is obviously a serious step and one that should be made with much thought and concern for the future. However, marrying with a view toward how much money a man makes compared to how much you can make is a fairly recent phenomenon, and perhaps one reason for rising divorce rates. Things were simpler when people married for love. Or if a woman married for money, there wasn't the complication of her possibly out-earning her husband.

The fact is, a man who earns a lot of money will of course be a good provider, but not necessarily the best husband. You say you make good money and can make lots more in the future. So why do you worry about what he makes? Are you looking for a mate or a meal ticket? It doesn't sound like he's intimidated by your earning potential.

Frankly, none of your objections to him would matter to me. A man who is kind, loving and gentle, sweet and devoted to you, should not be thrown away lightly, no matter what your friends and family think. After all, they're not the ones who will have to live with him, you are. A man who makes a lot of money and is devoted to his work won't be devoted to you in the same way, I promise you.

Also, the fact that he is adventurous, outdoorsy and confident can't hurt. You don't need a clone of yourself to marry. You need someone who will appreciate what you are, but who can bring something different to the relationship. Maybe he'd even get you to look around and enjoy the world in a different way. And perhaps you could encourage him to be more financially responsible.

However, it is true that some men are wonderful and yet we can't live with them or marry them. If you are really going to resent the fact that you make more or have a better credit rating than he has, then give him a break and let him find someone who will appreciate his special qualities.

Don't be surprised, though, if you wind up regretting letting this one get away.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Open Marriage 2nd Thoughts

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I have been married to my wife for eight years. She is 30 and I am 36, Lately we have talked about being more open to sex, my fantasy is to watch her have sex with another man. One night I let her go a club with her girlfriends, I showed up a couple of hours later unknown to her and she was all over a man in his 20s. I am starting to have second thoughts of letting her go through it. she has found a nice young man and they both want to do it. When I saw them kissing it kinda of hurt my feelings because she doesn't kiss me the same way that she was with him. Also at the bar she let him fondle her in public, something that she never lets me do. My question are are feelings of guilt/jealousy normal even though I have given her the ok to experiment, And the second questions is Is this abnormal to feel this way?

Dear Jealous,

Many men have a fantasy about watching their wives have sex with another man. However, very few are ready for the reality of it. Seeing someone you love kissing someone else is just the beginning of what you will experience if you go through with this experiment in open marriage. You may see her having a bigger, better orgasm than she has with you, or making love with a man who is more generously endowed than you are and enjoying it tremendously.

Most couples who experiment with swinging find that it's a one-time thrill. They try it and then decide to live without it. Couples who do successfully "open" their marriages are very secure in their love for each other. They must be able to participate in all kinds of sex acts with others and never have it affect their relationship.

They also have very definite ground rules for what goes and what doesn't. For example, it's okay to have sex with someone else with your partner watching, but not if your partner's not there. Couples who live in open marriages don't feel jealous because they replace those jealous feelings with feelings of happiness that their mate is having so much pleasure.

If that sounds like something you'd have trouble with, don't experiment with outside sex in your marriage. The fact that you felt jealous, hurt and upset with just seeing your wife kiss another man should tell you that you aren't going to be happy if she has sex with another man.

You are having normal male possessive feelings. You feel guilty because it was probably your suggestion in the first place, and your fantasy to see her with another guy. But now that there is a chance this will move beyond fantasy to reality, you are having second thoughts and feeling jealous.

Tell your wife how you feel. Cancel turning your fantasy into reality. This kind of experiment is not for you.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

A Fool in Love

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a lesbian woman, in a relationship with a co-worker for the past year. The problem is her roommate. They were in a committed relationship for 6 years. They broke up, and 2 month later, Angle and I were dating. Had I known that she would still be living with this girl, I would have never gotten involved. I think they do way too many things together. Weekend get-a-ways, shopping, biking, golfing. All the things I would like to be doing with my girlfriend.

We have never been away for a whole weekend. She tells me that I have nothing to be worried about, because she is in love with me, not her anymore. I have broken up with her a few times because of trips and outings they have taken without me. But I always take her back, because she "sweet talks" me back. The last time was for her birthday. We had plans to go camping with two other couples, and 4 days prior to going, she cancelled with no reason. Come to find out, she told me she was going away with her ex-girlfriend. This is something she did every year with her girlfriend for her birthday. She left for 5 days. My heart was broken and I called in sick to work for 3 of though days. I felt my whole future with Angle was gone. Of course, when she returned she said she had to go, because she was not going to let anyone dictate her and run her life. And she would do anything to make this up to me. she said she was sorry and wanted to be with me more than anything.

Now, I am in limbo. I love her so much and want more than anything to make things work, but at the same time, I feel foolish if I take her back. I told her she should work things out with her ex, but she says it will never happen, because she want's more than anything to be with me. Please help me, I feel so lost without her, and don't know if I can move on anymore. She say's that I am just jealous and insecure. I have never been told that about myself before. I am 33, and she is 36.

just a fool in love in CA

Dear Fool in Love,

You are being played for a sucker. Don't take another day of this. If your girlfriend really cared for you more than she does her "roommate," she'd be spending time with you, not her roommate. She's spending all her spare time with this other woman. Certainly that should give you a clue that she's not devoted to you the same way you are to her.

The problem is that you let her sweet talk you into taking her back after she's spent time with her roommate over your objections. Since she's been able to have you both for so long and get away with it, and since she's always been able to talk her way back into your heart, she has learned that you'll put up with whatever she does.

Once you've taught someone that they can walk all over you and get away with it, you have no future except to get treated badly over and over again. By putting up with her bad behavior you're destroying your self-esteem. You can't feel very good about yourself when you're being played for such a sucker.

Of course she should have spent her birthday with you, and all those other days too. And if you keep taking her back, your heart will get broken over and over again. As long as she lives with her ex, they'll continue to torture you with outings where you're not included. It's time to take care of yourself. Insist that things change or don't take her back. Tell her you're going to find someone else, and start taking steps to do just that. Better to go through the pain of a real breakup than to commit yourself to endless heartbreak.

Stick to your guns and get your self-respect back.

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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