"Ask Dr. Tracy"

6/11/2000 Advice Column

He Doesn't Feel "The Passion"
Sucked In by A Vampire
Money Matters

Dear Dr. Tracy,

My name is Lana. I'm 33 years old and have been divorced for 7 years.

I've been seeing a man for nine months. We have become best friends - we can talk about anything with each other, can't go a day without talking (at least two times per day), and he is always the first person I call when something wonderful or horrible has happened in my life (and visa-versa). We spend every weekend together, and days during the week as well. We get along fabulously. We have a healthy relationship - no drugs, alcohol, abuse, no bad history, etc. etc.

We have never had sex, or even spent an entire night together. I've only had one other relationship like this - with a gentleman who had a strict religious upbringing. My current beau had a strict upbringing as well - but his reasoning is that he wants to "be sure I am the one". I do not have a problem with this.

What I do have a problem with is that he will not let the relationship progress - because he is "not sure". I have not met any of his family (small family), and I've only met one of his friends (his best friend). He said that if he introduces me to his mother or grandparents, they will constantly ask him about me, marriage, etc. He has met my mother, brother, sister and a cousin. He was fine around them - was not uncomfortable or awkward at all, and my family thinks he is wonderful.

Our last two arguments (and we've only had two) have been because he would not attend functions with me where my friends were going to be. He said that he worried if he met everyone and became friends with them it would be hard if we broke up. I flat out asked him if he already knew that I wasn't the one and he just didn't want to tell me. He said he honestly could not tell me that. He said he could not think of one reason not to be with me - but that he just didn't feel the "passion" (butterflies, pounding heart etc.). I know he is attracted to me, and that I have "turned him on" before, so it isn't that.

I suppose my question is - what is the "butterflies/pounding heart", etc. Is that really love? Or is it lust - or "being in love with being in love"? Am I making sense? I mean, I have felt the "butterflies" before in previous relationships, but those were whirlwind relationships that ended after a couple of months, and I was not friends with these people like I am with my current beau. What is he expecting to feel? He has had one other very serious relationship - he lived with her for three years. He said he felt the "butterflies" with her, but also didn't see her in his future.

He has talked to me about buying houses, having kids, says he can see us in the future being happy, but he is afraid what we have will not last. He said he has never been in this situation, and doesn't know what to do. Something is putting up a roadblock, but he is also afraid he will make the biggest mistake of his life if he loses me.

What does all of this mean? Is he just a commitment-phobe?

Dear Stuck,

This relationship is stuck, and the reasons your beau is giving for not letting it move forward are pretty feeble. You're spending every weekend together and time during the week, too? I believe there's more here than him not being sure you're "the one."

He has other problems as well. One is that he has a rather immature outlook on love. He wants butterflies. He wants his world to be rocked. He wants rockets to go off. Well, with no sex, that can be difficult, but not impossible -- you can do it, but he won't like it...

In order to have that kind of "in love" feeling complete with butterflies, pounding heart, etc., there has to be insecurity. You've made him too secure in the relationship. He's certain he's got you and he can have you on exactly his terms. It's time to put a little "fear of loss" into the equation.

Don't be such a patsy. If he won't have sex, then let him think you're going to get it somewhere else. That'll put butterflies in his stomach. Stop being so available. Tell him you will be spending a weekend with a "friend" and can't see him one time. That'll give him more butterflies. Let him think he's competing for you, not that he has you on hold until he finds someone who makes his heart pound. If he's a commitment-phobic guy, then the best way to shake him out of his phobia is letting him know that if he doesn't snatch you up, someone else will.

If he's never going to take the next step, you may as well find out before you waste too much time with him. Put a time limit on how long you'll wait for sex, and demand that he meet your friends. I've never heard of anything so ridiculous as not wanting to meet your friends because it'll be hard to lose those friends if you broke up. What about losing you?

If you follow my advice, he may just snap out of his commitment-phobia, but I suspect there's something fishy here, and you should try to find out what it is. Try to contact his ex. Ask her to lunch and find out, woman to woman, exactly what his problem is. After all, you're at the prime of your sexuality; no use wasting it on a sexual deadbeat.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I'm writing to you because I don't know what else to do, and need your help. I'm in a relationship with a woman who is 15yrs younger than I am, and we have been together on and off for almost 4yrs now. During that time we have had so many issues to deal with or I have had so many of her issues to handle. It seems like it's one issue after another, I was married, and then divorced, with 2 small children, who have since moved in with me permanently because of the death of their mother from cancer. Anyway she couldn't get over the age difference or the fact that I had kids with me, or the fact that I was divorced, coupled with a non six figure salary to boot. Granted, I should have walked a long time ago but, I was/am in a vampire relationship and can't get out.

She's not a bad person, but is quite neurotic, and has a terrible time making any decisions, also she is a perfectionist and seeks to try and make me perfect so that she, her friends and her parents (who strongly disapprove) will accept me in her life. I don't want to make her out to be the bad guy, but she has done some horrible things to me while under the influence of love. She abandon me on the side of the highway once while returning from the beach, in an effort to "scare me", and has attempted to get me arrested by the police on some trumped up charges because she was upset with me. I've talked to other councilors who said that her behavior is not acceptable (just so I wouldn't feel like I was crazy) and she offered to change. Now she is very critical of everything I do from the things I tell my children, to how I drink a glass of water. Recently she said that drinking is now a problem, she wants to go from a wild thing to a teetotaler and thinks that I should follow and not drink at all, only rarely at parties or what not. Now I don't drink every day , week or what have you, I do like to enjoy a beer in the summer, or wine on the weekend with friends, but she says that now that's too much.

At this point I'm totally lost, I know that she has a control problem, (I don't know what that says for me) and this just seems like one more thing that she wants, no matter what I give or change it's never enough for her, she always wants more. I can't take it anymore, is social drinking still acceptable? Remember I have 2 small kids and don't get out that much, once or twice a month if I'm lucky. I've concluded that she will never be happy, the problem is that she always sucks me back in, and make me miserable. What do I do now?

Dear Sucked In,

You are indeed addicted to a bad relationship. She's tried to get you arrested, she's abandoned you on the highway, she resents your kids, your age, and the fact that you don't make a six figure salary and she criticizes everything you do. How much worse could it get?

Being with a perfectionist is a losing battle. You can never please a perfectionist because no matter what you do, you will never be perfect enough. Even if you were to stop drinking and make more money and try to please her in every way, you will still have two small children she resents and you will still be 15 years older than she is. If your age is a problem and your children are a problem, then you should throw in the towel and get out of this relationship. Your age and your children are not going to change no matter what.

Unless you're completely masochistic, you wouldn't stick with her, as awful as she is to you, unless you were getting something out of it. You might be getting great sex, or an ego boost of having a much younger woman, or even the excitement of having constant emotional uproar in your life. If it's great sex, you can find it elsewhere. If it's an ego boost, you can learn to boost your own ego. And if it's emotional uproar that adds interest to your otherwise dull and boring life, you need to find an exciting new sport or hobby. Think about what you're getting and ask yourself, "Is it worth it?" The answer is probably "No!"

As long as you subject yourself to her constant criticism, you will be unhappy and so will she. You will never be able to live up to her unrealistic expectations, and you will be allowing this neurotic perfectionist to make you and your children feel unworthy. Making the kind of changes she needs to make requires a huge commitment and often years of therapy. I don't think that's going to happen.

The way to get out of an addicted relationship like this is the same way you would get over any addiction: cold turkey. No contact at all. Break it off once and for all and don't even try to remain friends. If you won't do it for yourself, do it for the children. They don't deserve her.

Get out while you can. She's sucked you dry enough.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I have been with a kind and caring man for seven months, he moved into my cottage a month ago. I am 33 and he is 37. In many ways this is the best relationship I have ever had, we have many hobbies in common, share views on life and how to bring up children. He is wonderful with my two sons aged 4 and 13. He has a daughter of 7 who stays with us every other weekend and the children get on very well. Our sex life is fantastic and getting better all the time. Sounds too good to be true?

My main problems are that before I met my partner he had a business fail and is left paying off £25,000 ($50,000?) worth of debt. He has made arrangments to make reduced payments that he can afford and pays on time every month. He now has a new job and is doing well. He wants us to buy a house in the near future and although I doubt we would be granted a mortgage, if we were I would be very wary of making a joint financial contract with him. I have told him that the creditors will not accept reduced payments for ever and if we can afford to buy a house they may be able to take any equity. Also my partner has an almost cavalier attitude to money, in a nice way, i.e. always buying me gifts, taking me out for meals. Normally this would be lovely but I keep telling him to stop spending money and pay more off the debts! He gets very angry with me and says if I love him money does not matter!

I have an illness called Lupus and will not be able to work full time, with two children I need security for the future. I hate judging our relationship on monetary grounds but I believe he is in denial about the severity of the situation. He has booked an expensive holiday later in the year for us, the amount would have taken sizeable chunk off the debt. He says when the forms come from the creditors (which they do every six months) he will not put down how much he is now earning, in other words lie to keep reduced payments and spend the money on luxuries!

He is a good man in so many other ways that I would hate to end the relationship because of this but I can't make him listen to my worries. I don't want a life pursued by creditors but I do want a life with this man! I would be grateful for your advice.

Dear Debtor Lover,

There's nothing worse than living with financial problems. Money problems can destroy even the closest couple, and different ideas about how to handle money are certain to cause continuing stress and conflict in your relationship.

Different financial and life styles have just begun to come between the two of you, and you should nip it in the bud. Since the two of you have so much going for you otherwise, it'd be a shame to let his lack of financial responsibility ruin everything. The longer you put off dealing with this, the worse it will get. Sit down together and make up a budget. Have full disclosure about who owes what and make plans about how to pay it back.

Try compromises. You can go out to dinner, but to a less expensive restaurant. Tell him you are uncomfortable going on such an expensive holiday and find some that will cost less. If he insists on the expensive holiday or it's too late to cancel, then tell him you'll only go if he agrees to do skimp somewhere else to pay off the debt. Learn to negotiate. Don't let him bully you into submission by getting angry when you bring up the subject. Tell him it's for his own good and for the future of the two of you and your children.

Let him know you love him, but that you can't enjoy all the luxuries if you're having to live a lie to have them. Devise a compromise plan for paying back the creditors, one that you both can live with. If you can't get him to agree with your financial planning, then the two of you should see a financial planner together. Sometimes hearing it from a third party will make all the difference.

Whatever you do, don't marry him if you can't find a way to compromise and negotiate so that you are comfortable with the financial situation. You've only been living together a short time, so make further commitments slowly until you see how the debt gets paid.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

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