"Ask Dr. Tracy"

8/29/99 Advice Column


Attached to an Ex
Desperate and Depressed
To have Sex orů




Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a 38-year-old female, the mother of four children. I have recently been divorced. I began seeing a counselor prior to moving from the home. My counselor said I have had an in-house separation for years prior to my ex-husband initiating divorce proceedings. My ex-husband, age 42, decided to have a mid-life crises and felt that 20-year-old girls were more appealing to him and began having out in a college bar, which he still frequents.

In the meantime, an acquaintance of my has shown interest in me and we have done some things together this past summer. I enjoy this man's company - he has a great sense of humor, he helps me with things around the house, he is buys me gifts, treats me respectfully, puts my children's needs ahead of his own, laughs and enjoys my children and is very good to them, and is just genuinely a very nice man. Physically, he is not the world's most attractive man, but what is on the inside very appealing, in my opinion. This man loves me very much and it scares me to no end. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that my husband has made bitter comments about "if you could stand to look at him" and has accused him of being "deceitful" because when this man comes to town, he visits me now instead of my ex. I can't seem to tell my ex that I enjoy this man's company. I feel good with this man - I can be myself and he doesn't belittle me or criticize or condemn me - he accepts me for who I am.

I'm far from ready for a marriage and my friend accepts this and understands this. He is probably the most understanding person I've ever met. But, I am afraid to let him visit anymore because I get uncomfortable due to my ex-husband's comments. Emotionally, I'm really attached to my ex, which is understandable after 19 years of marriage, I suppose.

Is there any hope for me?

I don't date anyone and the times I have been with my friend have been merely with visits to my home for the day and on a few occasions, we have spent time alone going out when the children are at their father's house. We have a lot of common interests, also. What I love the most is how easy going and good natured he is and how he can bring me to tears with laughter, yet I feel like there is a black cloud hanging over my head because I always think of what my ex will say.

Dear Attached,

Despite your therapist saying you had an in-house separation for years before getting divorced, and despite being divorced, you're still letting your husband dictate your life. You're obviously unwilling to really let go of him.

You say he hangs out in a bar with 20 year olds, and this is the man you listen to. Where is your mind? Stop giving away your power to a man who obviously has such bad taste.

Let your ex know that it's none of his business who you see. If he insists on belittling your new friend, simply say, "But he's such a wonderful lover." And you may not be far off.

Good looking guys are often the worst in bed - and you have to worry about them chasing after 20 year olds to assure themselves that they're still attractive. Go for a guy who's not drop-dead gorgeous and you may find yourself in sexual heaven, no kidding. Guys who don't look so good try harder, and they're nicer to boot. So break your ties to your ex once and for all. Tell him to get lost and stay out of your life.

Stop living your life to please a man whom you obviously haven't been able to please in years. You're still on the pleasing merry-go-round, and if you don't get off, you'll ruin your life for sure.

It's time to get the message - your ex has no interest in making you happy or in letting you be happy with anyone else. He'd have something disparaging to say about a new man in your life no matter who he was. He's just trying to keep you miserable and in your place just like he's been doing for years with his criticism and belittling.

Reclaim your power. When you start to worry about what your ex would say, picture him in the bar with a 20 year old, happy as a clam. Is this a man whose opinion you should value? Of course not.

So don't be foolish. Enjoy every moment of happiness with the new man and remember, only 1% of a person is what you see. The rest is on the inside.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy




Dear Dr. Tracy,

I honestly went through all of the other letters and while bits and pieces of others stories helped none seem to completely finish the puzzle for me. I would appreciate any advice you or the other readers could give!

I have been involved with this guy since high school. We have been boyfriend and girlfriend several times including numerous break ups. This last time I broke up with him officially a year ago in September. Every time we break up, we can never seem to really stay apart. The longest we didn't speak was about 4 months or so. Needless to say we are hanging out again, including sleeping together.

This has been going on for about 7 years. I love him to death, but basically he won't commit. We are both 24. He will not even be in a relationship with me now. He says when he's out he doesn't look for other people, etc., etc., but the bottom line is we could both see other people if we wanted. He says he realizes nobody loves him like I do, but I deserve more. He says he's not completely together so he's not ready. Not ready includes a relationship, moving in, and certainly marriage. I have my self together as far as being in school and having a full time job. He has a good job but only part time and has not gotten very far in school. There are obviously many things going on here. I just can't figure out what to do. Some of my main concerns are why I won't be without him, why can't we work, and why he won't let go or completely hang on.

By the way during times of separation he has been with a couple of other people. I really have not and is the only serious boyfriend and aside from the first time, the only person I have had sex with. I'm sorry to keep on like this but I really need HELP! Thank You!

Signed, Desperate and Depressed

Dear Desperate,

No wonder you're feeling desperate and depressed; seven years is too long to wait for someone to decide whether they really want to be with you or not. It would be bad enough if you two were dating for seven years and not engaged yet, but you aren't even at a point where he can admit he's in a relationship.

You're afraid to be without him because no matter how bad it is, the rotten relationship you have always seems better than the unknown or having no relationship at all. Wrong.

This guy's been keeping other men out of your life since you were 17, so you don't have enough experience to make a decision about whether he's really the right man for you or not. You need to date other men. You need to experience a good relationship, because so far, you haven't had one.

Why does he keep coming around? It's simple. You give him everything he wants, including sex, on his terms, and he never has to give you anything you want.

This relationship has a lot of problems, and it's often easier to start over with a new person than to get the old person to change. That's because you've let him get away with having you whenever he wants without giving you the commitment you want. He will take advantage of you as long as you let him.

The only hope you can have of ever getting him to get serious is if you stop giving him everything he wants without getting anything you want. So break up with him completely -- and that means sex, companionship, friendship, even talking on the phone.

Refuse to see him until he gets a fulltime job and make a commitment. If he can't do those things, don't take him back even for an instant or you'll lose all credibility and wind up back in the same situation you've been in for seven years.

I've seen these things go on for 15 years and the problem never changes. You need to take action to save your life and find the relationship you deserve.

Leave him. Immediately. Start to look elsewhere, beginning today.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy




Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am in my 50's and recently fell in love with a widower my age. We have been dating for a month, and I have been hemming and hawing and finding excuses not to have sex because I am embarrassed. I've had sex only once before and it was such a bad experience that I quit dating for 20 years and concentrated on my career. I assume I must be in love because I've had dozens of crushes, but never this emotional intensity. Now I'm afraid that my inexperience will turn him off and I'm considering telling him that I don't want to see him again. I read "the joy of sex" but this book seems to assume that you know what you're doing. Can you recommend any good instruction books? Should I tell him how inexperienced I am? I'm better at putting business deals together than personal relationships.

Dear Inexperienced,

Look at it this way, it couldn't be any worse than last time, right?

Sure, you're scared because you feel inadequate, but there's no need to let your nice widower know everything. After all, no man needs to know the personal details of your past sex life.

Instead of going into the details of when, what, who etc., this is the time to be vague. Say things like, "I haven't been with anyone for a long time." And, "I probably an not as sexually experienced as you are."

Twenty years is a very long time, and you can build up a lot of fears over those years. Try desensitizing yourself to having sex by imaging yourself doing it. Picture yourself and Mr. Widower doing the act. You'll get used to the idea that way. I recommend a book called "The Ultimate Sex Book," by Anne Hooper, available through Amazon.com. The book is illustrated and deals with many different sexual problems in plain English. Sex is an experiential kind of activity, though, that's hard to learn from a book.

But you really don't have to be hemming and hawing and making excuses about having sex. He probably knows enough to take care of making it work. I suspect that you are somewhat worried about giving up your power and control, something that I've found is a real issue with women who've been successful in business.

However, I'd suggest you let nature take its course and try sex again. Having sex is not like making a business deal. You don't have to agree ahead of time to have sex or not have sex. You don't have to agree ahead of time to all the terms. You can just let it happen and work it out as you go.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy





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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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