"Ask Dr. Tracy"

6/28/98 Advice Column


Dear Dr. Tracy,

It seems every time my boyfriend and I get into an argument (which is quite frequently now a days) he throws a temper tantrum. He says that I act like a baby and therefore acts like one in return. Our latest argument was over a magazine crossword puzzle! I asked him not to do it and he sat down on the couch and started doing it anyway. I know it seems petty but shouldn't my asking him not to do something be enough? Anyway, I grabbed the magazine out of his hands and said "didn't I ask you not to do this?" and he turns around grabs another magazine and throws it across the room. I ask him why he did that and he responded with "because it's fun." He then took another magazine from the table and hurled that one too. This continued until he ran out of magazines. He refused to pick them up. It has been a day and the magazines are still all over the place. He doesn't live with me so he doesn't have to live with the mess he tends to create. Why would a grown man act so childish? He is almost 29 and acts like he is four. It is getting ridiculous. Any advice? OUT OF PATIENCE

Dear Out of Patience,

When couples argue about things like who's doing the crossword puzzle, the real issue is not the crossword puzzle. It's usually something deeper that's been festering. Something like "You don't love me enough." Or, "I don't feel loved enough." Instead of saying how they're feeling, they bring up something insignificant like the crossword puzzle and argue over that. This blocks intimacy and can lead to a breakup without you ever knowing what really happened.

Try telling your boyfriend what you really mean. "When you ignore me, I don't feel loved." Or, "I don't feel like I'm getting enough attention."

You are really not in charge of him, just because he's your boyfriend. You have no right to tell him when he's allowed to do a crossword puzzle and when he's not allowed to. You have overstepped the bounds of what you're in charge of and he's rebelled.

Back off. Don't try to control his behavior. You're not his boss. You're acting like the parent and then complaining that he reacts by being a child. Stop parenting him and start treating him like an equal. Stop trying to control his behavior and control your own.

If you ask him to do something and he refuses, of course you feel like he doesn't love you enough to do what you want. But you have to realize that just because he loves you, he doesn't have to obey you.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I know you can't answer all the questions sent to you but I have something I feel very strongly about and wonder how many others may wonder about. My question really is a simple one, but it puts a strain on my relationship. I strongly believe there is a difference between Loving a person and being IN Love with a person. Unfortunately, my wife does not feel the same way. I don't want her to say something she doesn't feel, but I worry about where we are headed if she does not feel that she is IN Love with me. Am I wrong to feel this way or am I just making too big an issue of this? I guess what I really need to know is what is the difference between being in a committed and Loving relationship and being IN Love with the person you are in that relationship with? Your answer could really go a long way towards saving a broken heart.

Thank You,

Need to know

Dear Need to Know,

Yes, there is a difference between being in love and loving. Dr. Dorothy Tennov described the differences very nicely in her book "Of Love and Limerence" where she describes the "in love" feeling as "limerence."

So what is being "In love" or Limerence? The "in love" feeling was first written about in the Middle Ages when knights were in love with ladies. They wore their ladies' scarve on their helmets and pined for their loved one while they were on crusades, but their love was rarely consummated. It was love from afar.

There are certain conditions that must be present to have the in love feeling which make it difficult to sustain when you've been together a long time. In order to be in love, you have to fantasize about your loved one and aggrandize your loved one. Something that's easier to do if you're on a crusade than living together and dealing with every day stuff like overflowing toilets and sick kids.

In order to be in love, a person has to have their love returned somewhat, but not altogether, yet they have to have hope of having it returned altogether aqt some time in the future. So once you've given your all to someone, they lose that insecure feeling that's part of the "in love" emotion. When couples have been married a while, they have flashes of being in love once in a while, but in love turns generally to loving -- a more calm, more comfortable, more secure, more longterm kind of caring, but probably a little less exciting than the in love stage.

So give your wife (and yourself) a break and enjoy the loving that you have. It's different from the crazy in love, but it's just as valid and it lasts longer. I suggest you read "Why People Love" in my Library, and then click on "Making Love Grow" at the end of that article.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a social work student who recently had his fiancÚ of four years break up with me because of my college education. I understood and believed in the ethic of not pushing one's education down the throat of one's significant other. But what is one to do when he is growing personally, spiritually, educationally, and psychologically and his or her significant other does not grow, or worse, reverts to dysfunctional patterns of relating to the stresses and strains of life? I still think she is a wonderful person and I care for her, but that hasn't changed her mind. Should I have insisted that she grow in her personal growth so that we would not have grown apart?



Dear Heartbroken,

There's always a problem in a relationship when one person grows in one direction and the other goes in another direction or fails to grow as fast. The fast grower, you, always gets annoyed at the slow grower, your fiance. You think that because you love someone they will grow in exactly the same way you do and at the same speed. That's just not true, especially when you're young.

I always tell people that they should look for someone who is their psychological opposite (extroverts get along great with introverts), and their sociological equal (college education with college education, upper middle class with upper middle class). Relationships are hard enough without having an even bigger gulf to bridge.

You probably grew apart, and that happens. Insisting that the other person grow at the same speed that you do would only lead to conflict. You just can't make someone else grow at your speed. As for dysfunctional patterns of relating under stress, well, anyone can relate functionally when there's no stress. Stress brings out the worst in people, and they often revert to the dysfunctional patterns of behavior they learned in their families.

I really don't think your fiance broke up with you because of your education, but if you think that's the reason, then you should definitely look for someone who is equally educated for next time.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Submitting a Question to this column

Dr. Tracy regrets that it is simply impossible for her to answer all of the hundreds of questions submitted to this column each week. However, she does read every question, and tries to select the three which are of the most general interest to the visitors here.

Dr. Tracy says, "Is your question urgent? Many of the most beseeching, desperate messages I get are not answered in this column because the answer is just a couple of clicks away in my Love Library. Have you tried my Love Library? I know that nobody goes to libraries anymore, but check this one out -- it's so easily searchable that it's fun and easy to use!"

If you can't find your answer in the Library and you feel you MUST have an answer, you can get a personal answer from Dr. Tracy within 48 hours by availing yourself of her inexpensive private counseling.

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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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