"Ask Dr. Tracy"

5/19/96 Advice Column

Reluctantly in Control,
An interfering mother,
Impatient on Cloud Nine

Dear Dr. Tracy,

My boyfriend and I have been together for 3 years. We're high school sweethearts and go to separate colleges. We used to have a really excellent relationship. We're best friends, are compatible physically, and can work almost anything out by talking it through. However, we're finding that the distance is taking its toll on us. We correspond a lot through phone calls and e-mail.

My problem with our relationship is that I feel that I give more than I receive. I've read a lot about this, and I communicate my feelings to him, but he just doesn't understand why I need the kind of support that I do. I feel that in any relationship, especially a long-distance one, couples have to be creative in expressing love because otherwise it gets dull. I try to do this by sending him letters, packages, and just being spontaneous. But he can't do this. I know he's busy, but I feel that I need more support than I often get.

Also, we're finding that our communication styles are more different than we thought. I'm from a very demonstrative family; he is not. So basically he only tells me things when I ask first... not when he thinks them. I'm so frustrated because I feel like I call all the shots. I give a lot, and I make the vast majority of decisions like conversation topics, where we go when we're together, etc. He just seems like he never has an opinion!! He is very ambitious and goal-oriented otherwise, but in our relationship, when there's a problem, he feels that having love is enough and he doesn't know how to fix it. Basically I just feel like he's wimping out on me... I hate being in control all the time!! How can we become more balanced? We argue all the time now, and we're sad that we're so stuck. PLEASE help.

Dear In Control,

You've taken control of the relationship, supplying all the things your boyfriend can't or won't, and now you're complaining about it. Lots of men won't tell things unless they're asked, and most are just not "support-oriented" and don't communicate their feelings as well as women do. It's no big deal. Part of the strain here is being apart and keeping long distance love alive. After three years together, you know what he can and can't do, and there's nothing wrong with your taking up the slack.

It sounds like the problem is not that he's unresponsive (which would be more worrisome) -- he just doesn't take the initiative, and he isn't as demonstrative as you are. That's just who he is. And if you call all the shots in the relationship, that's not so terrible. What's terrible is that you're so uncomfortable being in charge.

If you're the one who's giving, giving, giving all the time and he's not, the solution is to stop giving so much. Remember, sometimes giving everything is just another way to make someone dependent on you so you can be in charge. I'd say, accept your own power as well as the relationship you've created. He probably won't get better at taking charge of your life together, so don't count on miracles.

Like many women, you're a "take charge" person who's conflicted about it, feeling that it's unnatural for your man not to be in charge in the relationship. Forget it. Take charge and enjoy it. At least you'll get what you want.

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a 25 yr old Asian male and have been dating a 28 yr old Asian girl. We have known each other for only two month and are deeply in love and very happy. Her parents love me. The problem is my mother. In Asian culture and in many cases many cultures the man should be older than the women. My mom has never met my girlfriend because she lives 3,000 miles away from me. She already dislikes my girlfriend because of the age difference (which to me and my girlfriend is insignificant) and her religion (she is Catholic) but not a devout one. My mother is very racist and discriminatory and very argumentive. She is asking me to choose between her and my girlfriend. My mother tends to make alot of assumptions.

My girlfriend and I do not plan to get married anytime soon and have had many friends and family to take the relationship very slow. I think the only way to convince my mom is an answer from you saying that age and religion should not play a role in my mother's judgment of my girlfriend. My girlfriend and I are very happy and many of our friends see the happiness between us. The thing with my mother just tears me. Can you please advise? Thanks.

Dear Son of Interfering Mother,

When a man falls in love, it's his business, not his mother's. If you ultimately decide to marry this girl, the three years age difference will prove insignificant. It shouldn't affect anyone, especially your mother. Actually, she should be happy you've found an Asian and not someone of another race, which would probably REALLY upset her. Remind her of that if she gets too difficult.

This is not just "an Asian thing." No mother ever thinks any woman is good enough for her son. Certainly my husband's mother didn't think I was perfect enough for her darling boy. Smart mothers eventually learn to shut up about what they think of their son's choice, and all mothers show amazing adaptability when grandchildren appear.

It's also not important that you two are of different religions -- as long as it's okay with the two of you. Letting other people, even your mother, make decisions about who you're going to spend your life with is foolish. Be smart. Follow your own heart, not your racist, discriminatory mother's. This is not a choice between your mother and your girlfriend. You can be respectful of your mother without having to follow her prejudices.

Lucky you, your mother is 3,000 miles away. She can only annoy you and tear you up as much as you'll let her.

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am an nineteen year old college sophomore. My boyfriend is a twenty-two year old college freshman. We have been dating for one year and four months and I have never been so much in love. I know I might be young in your eyes, but I know love. That's not my problem, however. I love him and he loves me. But he has been attending school in Washington since last August. We've seen each other twice since then and I love him even more each time I see him. Now we're seriously discussing marriage. The problem is this: He feels that we should wait until I'm twenty before we get married. That's next February. I don't want to wait that long. It's not like I want to get married tomorrow or anything. I was thinking more along the lines of late summer.

I guess my question for you is whether I'm being impulsive or not. I feel that getting married after two years is fine. Am I wrong in thinking this just because I'm young? I really do love him. No matter when he asks me to marry him, I will say yes. And he asked me my ring size last week. Is it really necessary to wait those extra six months just so that, chronologically, I'm not a teenager any more?

Dear Impatient,

You are indeed fortunate to have found the man you want to love forever. Wait until you get the ring. Then worry about your date. Besides, being engaged and planning a wedding is a fulltime job. Planning to get married will take at least six to eight months.

Instead of worrying about the extra six months, enjoy the engaged/madly-in-love time that you will (hopefully) only have once in your life. Don't shortchange yourself. Nothing is more fun that being engaged to the person you love, planning a wedding and simply basking in your happiness. The six months will fly by with choosing a wedding site, a dress, dishes, crystal, invitations, guest lists, attendants and all the other hundreds of details engaged couples deal with. Also making all those decisions together becomes the basis for your future relationship. Don't rush. Six months is nothing. Read "The Steps to Commitment" in my Library, and you'll see the everything's tracking just as it should.

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