"Ask Dr. Tracy"

5/3/98 Advice Column


Dear Dr. Tracy,

Where do I begin? My husband of 4 months, I suspect is seeing other women. Not that it surprises me, I've known him for 10 years and he's had several girlfriends during that time frame. We got engaged in November of '95 and the following spring, I became pregnant with his child. 5 months into my pregnancy, after just moving in with him, I found out he was seeing 2 other women. One relationship ended shortly after I confronted him, the other one dragged on (partially my fault) even after she moved out of the area. It finally took me to hop on a plane, find her house, and confront him in front of her before things truly ended. he left with me and the baby that night and we got married last fall. i thought that we had worked things out and that now he'd straighten up and fly right. boy was i wrong.

now he's got a couple of girls calling the house at odd hours and he gets defensive if i answer the phone and he's not home and i know it's for him so why do i answer and i found some e-mails in our e-mail account trash folder he sent replying to some personal ads he saw on the internet. he's got his own e-mail and i hacked into it and found that he's still seeing someone he dated before we got engaged.all of this has just blown me away and i am at a total loss as to what to do.

i love him very much and despite all of what i've just said, we have a good relationship and sex life (or so i thought). his dad and granddad both have cheated so i don't know if he's conditioned to believe it's okay or maybe he's just a womanizer in nice guy clothing.

we've tried to talk about things but he's not willing to go to counseling and the last time we talked he said that he didn't want to be married and that he wasn't ready for the responsibility of having someone depend on you entirely. so, as hurt as i was by this, i discussed with him looking into getting separated. that was over a month ago - we're still in the same house, still doing things together as a family and still having sex.

i've thought about having an open marriage (basically letting him run around) but the thought of him being with someone else really eats away at me. i have low self-esteem and a huge amount of stress from working 2 jobs, caring for a 1 1/2 year old and wondering what to do about my ill-fated marriage. leaving is a lot easier said than done, since we have a child and i'm financially strapped and have no money for a lawyer (he can get one easily through his job) and i'm catholic and divorce is not an option. if you're not quick to condemn me, i could really use some words of advice. thanks.

:-) hopelessly devoted to mr. wrong

Dear Hopelessly Devoted,

Of course you're not surprised by your husband's philandering. He's been doing the same thing ever since you met him, and you've been letting him get away with it and even encouraging it. How? By staying with him and sleeping with him and loving him no matter what he does.

This doesn't sound like a salvageable situation. This is not some contrite hubby who's begging for forgiveness after straying one time. This turkey sounds like he's never going to change, at least not with you. Maybe five or six wives down the line, he'll run into someone who won't put up with his shenanigans, or maybe he'll die a sneak and a liar and a cheat, because that's what he's proven himself to be. And yet you tell me you love him anyway.

Then you confess you have low self-esteem. Well, that's why you put up with him. You think you're so lowly and unlovable that you have to accept a cheating man to get love. You're conditioned to believe that, and every time you let him walk all over you, you reinforce your own low self-esteem and make it lower. So then you bend over and say kick me, and he does. Oh my. This is a vicious cycle you're in. And to make matters worse, you say you're a Catholic and can't get divorced. Well, that's not necessarily so. Lots of Catholics manage to get out of bad marriages.

So listen to the jerk. He says he doesn't want to be married. He's promiscuous and could give you and your baby AIDS. And he's not ready for responsibility. So stop trying to force a round peg into a square hole. He's not going to change, at least not with you, because you've taught him that he can do whatever he wants and get away with it. Go see a legal aid attorney. You must stop feeling helpless and start taking care of yourself. Get into a women's support group at a nearby church or extension class. Look into assertion training. I highly recommend that you read Wayne Dyer's book "Pulling Your Own Strings." I'm sure you can find it at your local library.

I believe in trying to save marriages, but I'm afraid that the longer you stay with your husband the worse it'll get.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I have been involved with a recently divorced mother of three. She is a co-worker, and we were friends before that. The relationship began very casually, i.e. a cup of coffee after work, eating lunch together, etc. It gradually (over three months) blossomed into a romance. Then, needless to say, I fell in love with her. Hard.

Then something changed, today I recieve this hand-delivered letter. It reads-

"I know there are somethings I need to tell you. You're not going to like this very much, but I can't just keep you hanging on either. But right now I can't be in a serious relationship with you. I would just like to be your friend. After being in a fourteen year marriage I need my freedom for a while without any tie-downs. Please understand this. I never meant to hurt you at all. I don't need to make any mistakes that I would regret later. "

Right now I am so confused. I know her marriage was less than ideal. It was abusive, physically and emotionally. And I understand her difficulties of being a single mother. God, I love this woman so much, and I don't know what to do.

Dear Confused,

My heart goes out to you, but I'm afraid you've forgotten the simple truth that just because you're in love doesn't mean the other person feels the same or shares your fantasies of what the relationship is.

I suspect that you gave too much too soon, that you didn't give the recently divorced mother room to breathe after her divorce, and that you unwittingly became the "interim man." (That's the guy who listens to all the problems and maybe has a little romance with the woman, but whose timing is just off because she's not ready.) My Love Library is full of warnings about all these relationship mistakes, so your situation can be an object lesson for others, but that doesn't help you now.

So what choice do you have here? You can agree to just be friends and go on about your life, or you can not agree. In which case you go on about your life without being friends. Since you work together, being friends would be best, but don't let the friendship get close again. That would be a big mistake.

The best thing you could do is stop moaning about this woman and find someone who's really ready for a romantic relationship. Then, after Ms. Newly Divorced has had some time to look around and see what's out there, she just might start thinking about you differently when she sees you've got a new girlfriend. After all, who wants to eat in a restaurant with no cars parked outside? So make yourself desirable by showing her that someone else looks at you in a romantic light. Don't be a doormat, the one she calls to bolster her ego when she's down or to fix the toilet or to put the back fence back up when it falls down.

She's right. After 14 years of marriage, she deserves a chance to be single and to find out who and what she really wants. Maybe it will turn out to be you in the long run. Maybe not. In the meantime, it does you no good to carry a torch for her. Get back to living your life. If your heart's not in it, just go through the motions at first, and things will improve. Trust me.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I have been with my soul mate for three years. I have an engagement ring but no wedding date. How can I get the wedding date?

Signed , Frustrated

Dear Frustrated,

Being engaged means you have a date to get married. Getting a ring doesn't mean you're engaged unless you've also gotten a wedding date. So, first, set a date in your own mind. Tell yourself, "I want to be married by ...." Then tell your fella. Let him no there's no more putting it off. You want a date and you want it now.

Sometimes you have to make a man a little uncomfortable to show him how important something is to you. You may have to throw a real fit, hollering, crying, banging on things, refusing to give him all the wonderful love goodies he usually gets until he sets a date. Let him know this is really important to you and that there will truly be no peace for him until he does. Promise him that the minute he does this one thing, he'll have everything he wants -- peace, love, sex, food, etc.

Plan a time to confront him when you have his attention and there are no other pressing things that have to be done. That way he has no excuse to avoid you or get away. Friday evenings are good because he'll be tired from work and looking forward to a nice weekend. Let him know how wonderful the weekend will be once you have this one thing out of the way.

Plan ahead to overcome all his objections and arguments. Work out counter arguments for everything he may say, and be ready. Consider it like a school debate where the one with the best arguments wins. Be emotional if necessary, but also be practical in overcoming all of his objections, whether they're emotional or financial. Have a suggested date or two in mind, and figure out all the other arrangements like where, and who's going to pay, so that he won't be able to put you off. Keep it simple. Don't terrify him with plans for the wedding of the century.

Then don't give up. Don't stop until you have the date. And don't feel bad about pressing him. Some men can wait forever, but a pretty engagement ring is no substitute for marriage and children.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Submitting a Question to this column

Dr. Tracy regrets that it is simply impossible for her to answer all of the hundreds of questions submitted to this column each week. However, she does read every question, and tries to select the three which are of the most general interest to the visitors here.

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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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