"Ask Dr. Tracy"

5/26/96 Advice Column

When Crazies Recover,
Slaves and Masters,
Is this "The One"?

Dear Dr. Tracy,

What happens to the relationships of 'crazies' when they get better? I would have qualified as one of the crazies during most of my relationship with my husband. When I first met my husband, I really wanted someone to take care of me and make me feel loved, and he filled this role easily. After years of treatment for depression, I'm relatively normal now. But although my condition has improved, he's maintained the same 'I must take care of you' attitude. I've become very tired of being married to a 'parent' and told him I want a more adult-to-adult relationship.

He's declared that he'll do anything, and has started therapy to try and change the way he relates to me, in order to make me happy. But I don't feel that I love him anymore. It could be repressed anger and those feelings could return; I don't know. For the time being I'm staying with him because he's making such an attempt to improve himself that I feel that I should take a chance to save our relationship.

I know that this may not be a very general question, but perhaps you'll use it as a cautionary tale against getting involved with crazies. So my questions are - do you think there's much hope that we can develop a more normal relationship? And is there any point to trying, if I don't currently feel any affection towards him? How long should I wait to see if I can love him again and if he can truly change his behavior?

Dear Recovered Crazy,

Your husband has a need to be with a crazy lady and you once filled that need. Because you were crazy, he got to be oh so sane. He got to be in charge and take care of you. Because you knew you needed help, you were willing to let him.

Now things have changed. You're well. You're not the same person you were before. You've worked hard to become strong and independent and you're not willing to let him be your caretaker any longer. That's the danger of falling in love with a crazy person: when they get well, they may no longer need or want you. (A lot of this sounds like it's right out of "Spotting the Crazies" in my Library.)

So of course your husband's upset. You've changed the rules of the relationship and insisted on new ones. Like many men and women who are attracted to neediness, his self-esteem is tied to how much he's needed. He's going to have to learn new ways to get the self-esteem he once got from your continued dependence.

Of course there's hope you can develop a more normal relationship. The question is, can he change and can you learn to feel affection for a man who isn't taking care of you?

Change doesn't happen easily. It takes effort. Give him time to make the effort, (six months to a year). If at the end of that time he's still being your parent, get out. Some men just can't love someone who isn't needy.

As long as he insists on keeping you dependent, your newfound relative normality is threatened. Depression comes from feeling powerless to control your environment. Don't let him push you back into the powerless position you've just struggled to get out of.

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I need some advice except my master won't give me the money to pay. The advice I need is about my master and how I get around the problem of no money for advice.

Dear Slave,

Most experienced slaves learn how to manipulate their masters. If you got someone to spend the time it takes to enslave you, I imagine you can figure out how to get him to do whatever else is important to you.

In any case, you could always just go ahead and use your master's credit card, and then when he found out he'd discipline you, and you'd both be happy.

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a reasonably attractive 23 year old female with a great sense of humor. My problem is always that I think "this is the one" when I get into a relationship with a seemingly nice guy. How can I stop feeling this way? I know it scares the men off, and yet I continue to hang on to the thought that this problem could be fixed. The problem lies in me, not them, but I don't know how to change. Please.... can you help me??? Thanks, Lonely

Dear Lonely,

Naturally you wonder "Is this the one?" when you meet a nice guy. There's nothing wrong with that. What's wrong is letting him know that's what you're thinking.

Remember, nobody can read your mind. So if you just think he's the one, that's okay. But if you let that thought lead you into doing stupid things, then, yes, you'll drive men away. Read "Are You Giving Too Much Too Soon" in my Library for the full list of the specific things you may be doing wrong.

The antidote is to act as if you don't care if you never see him again, even if you are wondering "is this the one." Then you'll get a chance to find out instead of scaring them away.

Let's say some nice guy you went out with hasn't called in a couple of weeks. Instead of being driven to call him because you thought he was the one, you'll just be cool and let him call you or not. If he does, you'll act as if you were on your way to a date with some guy who could be the one. In other words, be happy to hear from him, but be in a hurry.

The "never let them see you sweat" of dating has to be "never let them know you think they're the one."

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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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