Dr. Tracy's Advice Column

Cartoon Kiss


A Secret Engagement
Disabled Dating
His Female Friend

A Secret Engagement

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I'm 26, and I started seeing my boyfriend six months ago. From the beginning, we both felt like it was a great match. We make each other very happy, and I can easily picture myself spending the rest of my life with this man.

My boyfriend and I had been talking casually about marriage. Just a few weeks ago, he asked me when I'd like to have our wedding. Well, I was really elated! I chose a day next July, to give us plenty of time to save money and plan the event. The thing is, my boyfriend doesn't want to announce our engagement to anyone yet. He hasn't told any of his friends or family, and when I press him on it, he says that I can tell whoever I want. I'm of two minds - a part of me likes having a secret that's just between the two of us. However, my skeptical side is uneasy about his unwillingness to share our happiness with everyone. Also, it's really hard to start planning a wedding that no one is supposed to know about.

Dr. Tracy, what is happening here? Could it be that he's embarrassed that he can't afford an engagement ring right now, even though I could care less about a diamond? Or is it because I haven't met his family yet, and he's worried about what they might think? I've never been engaged before, and I feel like I can't talk to anyone about this. Is his behavior normal?

Secret Bride

Dear Skeptical,

One of the most exciting times in your life is when you get engaged. And sharing that news with friends and family is one of the best parts of being engaged. Your friends and family want to share your joy. You want to begin planning for the biggest day of your life.

How can you do any of that if your boyfriend doesn't want to tell the people who are important to him that he's engaged? Being engaged is an important step in both your lives, and you don't want to do it half-way.

Sure, you could tell everyone you know, and eventually his friends and family might also find out, but that isn't the right way to go about it. Have you talked to him about why he's keeping you away from his family? Yes, it's possible that he's embarrassed that he can't afford an engagement ring, but that's truly a minor issue. Get a diamond substitute, many of which look as good as a diamond.

But first, before ring-shopping, before even agreeing to get engaged, you must meet his family. You should have met them long before now. When you marry someone, you marry their family as well. What if they live a life you'd never want to be a part of? If your boyfriend hasn't introduced you to his relatives, you have every reason to be concerned. You don't want to marry a man who keeps you a secret. You want a man who's proud to introduce you to everyone as his fiancée.

It sounds like you and your boyfriend have some serious disclosure and communication issues to work out. Let him know that if he wants you to agree to being engaged, you must have full disclosure of everything - his family, his finances, his friends and his feelings. Explain to him about planning a wedding and what it entails. Then, after you've met his family, plan an engagement party and invite both families and close friends. An engagement should be a joyful time, not a skeptical one.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Disabled Dating

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a 34 year old never-married female. I have a dilemma I haven't seen in your column and would appreciate some advice.

In the past 8 years, I have developed a progressive case of severe rheumatoid arthritis, affecting every joint in my body. I have gradually changed from a highly athletic, active person who pursued activities ranging from snow skiing to jogging, to someone who is in chronic pain at all times. Basic household chores are difficult due to pain. I also suffer from chronic headaches, sleep and digestive problems.

I have several excellent doctors who treat me but I seem to have a particularly severe form of this disease.

If you saw me, you would never know there is anything physically wrong. I look exceptionally healthy. I have what would be considered an "excellent" figure, great skin, thick, healthy, shiny hair. I wear attractive, flattering clothes and tasteful make-up. I have managed to keep working, despite the pain, and work in a professional field. I have a graduate degree. Not to be arrogant, but I am very intelligent.

Now for my dilemma. In the first few years of my disease, I did quite a bit of dating, but didn't meet anyone I felt a deep connection with. None progressed passed casual dating.

Due to my physical limitations, I am very restricted in my opportunities to meet men. I am pretty much restricted to activities that involve almost no physical activity, such as movies, talking, sitting, eating. At the rate I am going, its very likely I will be using an electric scooter within the next few years.

I don't have a problem doing on-line dating, because I have done it before. But I am starting to feel, now that my disease has progressed, that I struggle to relate to people that are completely healthy. This has happened even in my friendships, and relationships with family and co-workers. I feel a deep level of rapport with my friends who also have a chronic illness. There is an element of comfort and acceptance that exists that I find people who do not struggle with serious chronic health issues cannot provide.

Not that chronic illness is my only "interest" -- I have extremely broad intellectual interests that I pursue that have nothing to do with chronic illness.

But I am starting to wonder that if I am to truly find a long-term mate, I should start to consider dating men who are physically disabled in some way. I guess I am doubtful that I would find a highly intelligent, well-educated man who I can have true rapport with on many levels among the disabled population.

It was hard enough finding the right guy when I was healthy, now I feel like what I am considering doing is analagous to finding a piece of dust ON a needle in a haystack.

I try to envision dating a healthy man and truly can't see it working. Its not just a matter of someone "accepting" my illness, its a matter of restricting activities to a very narrow range every day. I would feel tremendous stress knowing I would constantly be saying, "I can't do that" day in and day out. I already do this with the friends I only see once every few weeks and its a drag.

So I feel that the only option is to start looking among people who could more likely understand and relate to my limitations.

So, I am interested in your thoughts on my situation and any suggestions. Thank you.

Dear Sufferer,

You are in an unusual stage of an illness - far enough along to suffer a lot, but without any outward signs of your pain or limitations. So unless you tell someone what your health situation really is, they're certain to expect you to be able to do what any other woman would do.

That's why it's important to be up-front about your physical limitations right in the beginning. That way, you'll know that the person who chooses you - or whom you choose - will know exactly what they're getting into. That means that there will be no surprises down the road, and you won't have to be constantly explaining yourself.

As for dating others who are handicapped, you'll first have to get over your preconceived notion that it's impossible to find handicapped men who will live up to your expectations as far as being highly intelligent and well-educated. There are lots of physically challenged men who would more than live up to your intellectual expectations.

Remember, there are great thinkers, like Stephen Hawking who suffers from ALS disease, whose minds are more able than most other people's. One of the big problems the physically handicapped face is that others think they are mentally handicapped as well. They are not, as you know.

Finding a good man is hard for anyone - healthy or not. But you'll feel better about the process if you've fully accepted yourself. You'll also be better off if you find a man who knows everything and still loves you. Go with full disclosure, and count on the reach of the Internet to help you find someone.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

His Female Friend

Dear Dr. Tracy,

Im 42, female and I am exclusive with a man for six months now. He is great in almost everyway. The one problem i have is he has a female friend that has caused a lot of problems. I am not jealous of her romantically. I dont believe there is anything going on. She is married to a wonderful man. But she has been friends with my guy for several years. Here are some of the things she has done.
1 Taken me out to dinner and pumped me for info, including sexual information between he and I. She even called several times , while I was at his house, and asked if we were using protection.
2 Told me that he has a child that he adopted out. He told me in the beginning that his ex aborted a child and he didnt find out about it until it was too late.
3. Said he is cheap. He buys all his flowers, which are beautiful, from sams club. She said Ill never have them delivered to me at work, he is too cheap.
4. Told me what his income is. Said he doesnt make much money.

The first time I met this girl, at a bowling party he took me to, she left after 15 mins. stating she has a stomach ache.

She lost her job, this is before I got to know her well enough, I got her another job. We are both in the medical field. She called me at work one day and was screaming about how I was trying to get her fired over soemthing I said. One thing.....we dont work for the same co. I just happened to know someone looking for a mgr. I tried to tell her it would be silly to give her name then to discount her. That would make me look a little fickle. It was at this point that I realized she was lying about my b/f and all the things she stated about him.

I hung up on her twice for calling my office and screaming. She has made it clear to my guy that I am not allowed at her house again. He parks his boat there at her dock and I cant go on it.

She calls him at least twice a day. When Im there he does not answer. She always does a hang up and never leaves a msg. Today....she left a msg saying .....Today is the party Mark, dont forget to bring the salad. She knew I was there.

Dear Disrespected,

You're right. You're not getting the respect you deserve. But are you demanding it?

If you're exclusive with this man, then he should be insisting that his friends accept you or else. It's absolutely wrong for him to continue this friendship with his woman friend who has treated you so badly, screaming on the phone and lying to you and generally trying to create trouble between you and your boyfriend. You should come first with him.

Mark should tell her that he's not coming to any parties unless you're invited too. He should also tell her to stop calling him twice a day. If she doesn't, he needs to change his number. He also needs to find a new place to park his boat.

If parking his boat is more important to him than your happiness, then you should find this out before you get more involved in this relationship. Tell him you're not going to put up with this any more and he has to move the boat or lose you. This woman is trouble. Your relationship is doomed if he keeps putting his boat and his friendship with her first.

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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