"Ask Dr. Tracy"

4/28/96 Advice Column

What's Wrong with Living Together?,
A "Born-again Virgin", Cyber-flirting with Disaster

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I have noticed that both in your answers in this column and in the "Love Library", you associate committment with the idea of marriage. You emphasize a lot the fact that sooner or later, two people should get married.

In this day and age, what is wrong with two people who are truly monogamous and committed to each other, to live together as married for many years without having to go through all the hassles of a formal wedding (not to mention the expense)?

Dear living together,

There's nothing wrong with two people living together if they are "trying out" marriage, or even if they just want to be together but unmarried. Lots of people live together while their married friends get divorced, married, divorced and married again. Their living together relationships are deeply committed and work for them.

But for most people, living together without marriage poses lots of problems like "What do we call ourselves?" and "How do we get people to treat us with the same respect we'd get if we were married?" and "How can we explain our commitment?" Questions and problems continue into such areas as spousal rights, credit cards, bank accounts, tax status and the legal issue of what happens in case of illness or death of one partner.

The advantages to marriage go beyond resolving legal and social questions. For most people, making a private commitment to each other doesn't carry the finality and moral obligation of standing up in front of friends and family and making the same vow. A marriage ceremony clearly means a lifelong commitment; it imparts a deep sense of oneness with another person, a closeness and intimacy that's very hard to achieve any other way.

You're right that formal weddings are truly a hassle and can be expensive. On the other hand, lots of things are expensive and a hassle, but they don't hold the promise of lifelong love.

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a very attractive, single woman. I am 26 years old and have been married and divorced (I've been divorced for 2 1/2 years). I haven't been sexually active with anyone for two years. The problem is not that men don't find me attractive, it's that when they find out they're not going to "get any" from me, they aren't interested anymore. Can't a girl have morals anymore? I've done my share of sleeping around in my younger days. I am a very kind, funloving, attractive, smart woman. I just don't understand why it is so unacceptable to choose not to have sex these days. I'm beginning to think that I'm never going to find a man. I am looking for a soulmate. Can you give me some advice?

Dear not giving any,

So you've noticed that men want sex. Is this really a big surprise? And now that you've decided you don't want sex, you're going to try to find a man who's willing to be a soulmate without having sex? My friend, The Old Seducer, says, "I'm always real suspicious of born-again virgins."

If you're serious about this, I suggest you look among men who are abstaining from sex for religious reasons. There are many who are handsome, kind and very moral and who would appreciate your abstinance. You can also look for men who aren't having sex for fear of STD, but these are more iffey.

Regular guys, with no religious or moral objections to having sex, want to have sex. That's just the way it is. Sorry.

Dear Dr. Tracy,

Last year my husband bought a computer for me for Christmas. Well after exploring and playing with it for a few weeks.. I became connected!! I began having so much fun Chatting and talking with new friends online. You see I am a housewife and very happy with my lifestyle of a stay at home mom and wife. I was well prepared and ready for the sacrifice that was needed to become a Mother and I adore my family. The problem with that is I have no more personal space.. I don't need much privacy but I do need some!!! So I found an alternate sence of privacy on the net where I could be the Old me.. you know keep the spirit alive. I will never and do not want to have an affair or flirt in real life but the anonimity of the net lets me flirt all I want too. And I am always mindfull of the people I flirt with telling them that I am happily married and that I am not looking for a REAL relationship just deep meaningful conversation and friendship.

My husband was very hurt by all of this and through many arguments and much talk he is beginning to see that I am and always will be his loving wife and that I needed this outlet. The past year has been pure hell for me and resentment has set in even though I love my husband he became the enemy and it has hurt me and Him deeply. I know he is trying to give me what I need but, am I wrong for wanting this? I have such a feeling of guilt but I cannot help but need my space It makes me happy to be my old self even if it is virtual it helps me emotionally to be able to talk to people about very personal things that I feel I cannot share with my husband. I love him so much and I am trying to give up my playtime for him but every time I give up more I get so angry at him and I am suffering terribly because I should be happy with what I have... I have a hard working man.. who is very attractive and very loving..a good father...Just about everything he does is perfect...I have a nice home.. He doesn't have any serious vices.. he is not a mammas boy.. He never puts me down or call me names.. never raises a hand to me..I could go on and on.. but he does not want me to have this little bit of privacy he finds it insulting that I can not share everything with him... Help....

Dear Computer flirt,

Well, no wonder your husband is upset. Your interpretation of "having a little bit of privacy" is flirting with strangers! In a good trusting marriage, the partners don't have that kind of secret life. I'd be really upset if my husband was flirting with someone online in secret.

I don't know why you're risking your marriage over this. Perhaps being cooped up in the house with the kids has made you a little stir-crazy, but you've got to get a grip. You have wonderful guy. Don't be stupid and risk everything for a little bit of cyber-attention. Why don't you give your husband a chance to share your playtime, or find a new play activity that you can do together.

Give up the computer affair. It won't keep you warm at night. It won't warm your bed or your heart. And it will never replace the good man that you have. I promise you a man who loves you is more valuable than your computer "space."

If you need a private fantasy life, get a good book. He won't be insulted if you don't want to share that. Or find yourself a hobby or activity that gives you private pleasure or excitement without threatening your marriage. To help patch things up, I suggest you click on "Avoiding Fights " in my Library, and follow the links.

Submitting a Question to this column

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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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