Dr. Tracy's Advice Column

Cartoon Kiss


Culture Clash
Problems With An Ex
Feeling Used

Culture Clash

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am 25 years old and my boyfriend is 30. I am white British and he is originally from Afghanistan but has lived in the UK for eleven years now and is naturalised. We have been having a relationship for a year. The problem is that he keeps me a secret from his family, who all live in the same town as us, and I am never invited to attend family functions or to even meet his brothers and sister. I know his brother as I worked with him for a few months (in a non-governmental organisation helping refugees) but my boyfriend won't even tell him and when I see his brother my boyfriend pretends that we are not together.

I understand that this may be part of his culture, but they live here now - and in Western culture this is very disrespectful and hurtful. My family has welcomed him with open arms and he is invited as my partner to my sister's wedding in June. I am very in love with my boyfriend and he says he is with me, but is this going anywhere? Please help.

Dear Never Invited,

Your boyfriend is taking unfair advantage of your love. You love him, so you put up with him hiding you from his family. However, the problem is not just what he's doing; part of the problem is you letting him do it.

This wouldnít be happening unless you had agreed to act invisible when his family is around, even if the agreement is unspoken. If you hadnít agreed, then he wouldnít be able to stop you from walking up to his brother, sticking out your hand and saying, ďHi, Iím his girlfriend.Ē

All relationships have unspoken agreements, but they're about things which seem so obvious and right to both parties that words aren't necessary. Otherwise, agreements are meant to be negotiated. Which means if you donít like the terms, you donít have to accept them. Tell your boyfriend that you are in love with him and that if he really loves you, heíll tell his family about you and introduce you to his family as his girlfriend. If heís too much of a wimp to stand up to his family for the woman he loves, then youíll be better off without him.

Sure, it would be hard to show up at your sisterís wedding without him, but you canít keep letting him hide you. Not only is it disrespectful, but itís also bad for your self-esteem and will make you feel like a second class citizen. The longer you allow him to hide you, the worse you will feel, and your negative feelings will eventually erode the love you feel.

Give your boyfriend a deadline, say two months, to introduce you to his family. Tell him that if he canít or wonít do that, youíre going to have to break up with him. Yes, you are giving him an ultimatum. If you donít, you could go on and on like this until his family finds some Afghanistan girl they approve of for him to marry. Since heís such a wuss, heíll probably go along with the program and youíll be left in the cold.

Stop being the invisible girlfriend. The longer you go along with this charade, the more he'll feel entitled to keeping it up.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Problems With An Ex

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a 19 year old girl who is having some major issues about this guy I am seeing.

About a month ago my ex boyfriend moved out on really bad terms. We fought all of the time, we didn't agree on anything accept on what to eat. He put me down and I did the same. It was the worst relationship I have ever been in.

My ex boyfriend moved in with his friend. Well one night I was on the computer and my ex's friend was also online. We started talking about hanging out some time and getting to know each other. Well later my ex caught him talking to me. He flipped out on me and called me every name in the book. Later that night my ex's friend called me and we talked for like 2 or 3 hours. He called me the next night and said that he would like to come over the next day. I let him.

That night he ended up coming over it was behind my ex's back because he knew my ex would be upset. We ended up being intimate and now we want to keep seeing eachother but we are in fear of what my ex will say. My ex's friend feels horrible about it and say's he is going to tell my ex what happend. He doesn't know how to bring up that he wants to keep seeing me either.

Is it wrong what my ex's friend and I did? Is there some sort of line that was crossed that shouldn't of been? Do you think my ex has reason to be mad? Or is it alright to see his friend? I don't know. Please help.

Dear Girl with Issues,

Iíd say the primary issue here is ethics and honesty. Your new boyfriend should have been upfront and talked to your ex, his friend, before he started a relationship with you.

In a case like this, itís always best to clear the air first. Good friends say something like, ďNow that youíre not seeing (insert name), would you mind if I called her or took her out?Ē A good friend knows that even if a couple broke up, there could be a problem dating a friendís ex.

You know what a crazy your ex is and how nasty he can get. You and he have a history together of arguing and fighting, and you say it was the worst relationship you ever had. Certainly you realized that you would be waving a red flag in front of your ex by getting involved with his friend. And your exís friend knew he was doing the wrong thing by sneaking around with you. Perhaps knowing that your ex would be really upset and that you two were sneaking made the relationship even more enticing and exciting.

Itís not wrong for you to date your exís friend. What is wrong is the way you did it. Your ex is angry because he feels betrayed by his friend and by you. Itís a little late to ask if itís okay to see his friend, because youíve already been to bed with him. The time to ask that was before you two began sleeping together.

At this point, you probably donít care about losing your exís friendship and trust. Itís really your exís friend who has to mend the fences here if he wants to keep his friendship with your ex. Of course, that may not be possible under the circumstances.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Feeling Used

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a gay female-age 49--I would like to understand what it is within me that keeps attracting cold, manipulative, and intimacy-deficient females?? I consider myself (and others do,as well) an intelligent, creative, sensitive person w/ a great sense of humor and uncanny wisdom. Yet, I keep drawing from the well of tainted water. Almost all these women have problems expressing and displaying emotion..many use men sexually to acquire financial and material gain..The most recent played flirtation games for quite some time till I started getting seriously frustrated and angry.

She was seriously ill not too long ago and nearly died--I was at her side every spare moment and felt as though it helped her recuperate..and it bound us together, as well. Other family and relationship issues arose and I tried to help her through it all--I do not deny that I wanted more and have always been very up front re: my feelings..no mystery there. She ignored these confessions most times or laughed and cozied up to me coyly--I suppose I was reading too much between the lines..I always felt I had some mysterious power to break through and in the beginning we both agreed as much. But as time has gone by she has drifted to several men..all desperate and needy (perhaps like me), all driving themselves crazy to have and keep her..why can't I act on my values and drop this idiot??

This one, in particular, is troublesome since she is my supervisor. I am looking for other work but until then I feel angry and unable to work w/ her. We are no longer in communication but I still feel so damned screwed..w/out benefit of orgasm..I have done much to help her and feel terribly used and cheated..

Dear Angry,

The key to your letter is the fact that you say you have this problem over and over again, and that you may be like the men who are attracted to this woman, needy and desperate.

You are certainly acting as if you are needy and desperate. You give way too much of yourself. You give your love before itís appropriate and before you know if the other person is deserving. You do everything for that person, such as being at her side every spare moment when she was ill.

People who do everything for someone do that because they think, ďIf I do everything for you, I have some power over you. If I do everything for you, youíll have to love me.Ē Thatís absolutely not true. People rarely love the people who try to control them by doing everything for them.

You confessed your feelings before you knew they were returned and continued those confessions even though you didnít get an ďI love youĒ back from her. Now you are having trouble dropping her because you have invested so much time and energy. Youíre like an investor in a failing company who keeps trying to buoy the company up by putting in more money instead of cutting their losses and walking away.

If you feel angry because you were screwed, used and cheated, itís because you were such a willing participant in your own abuse. You must learn that when someone doesnít return your affections, donít become more loving, donít do more just to try to turn them around. That just teaches them that youíll be there no matter how they treat you. This can be hard when your choices are limited. It's hard enough to find a straight relationship, but even harder to find a gay one. You might think each one is the last woman in the world -- but she's not.

I suggest you read "Are You Giving Too Much Too Soon?" in the Love Library.

The other important lesson here is that you have to stop choosing partners who have problems expressing emotion and who use men sexually. Surely you know that these are unethical women, so why love them? They certainly donít deserve your affections.

Next time, choose a woman who is open and affectionate and who doesnít use sex to get ahead. Youíll be three steps ahead if you do.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

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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