Dr. Tracy's Advice Column

Cartoon Kiss


Engagement Issues
Afraid to Commit
Run, Run, Run

Engagement Issues

Dear Dr. Tracy,

First of all, I would like to let you know that I find your web site really informational. Your advice to people is so intelligent, practical and it makes so much sense. I really treasure your opinion. -- By the way, your columns are the only ones that I find worth reading as far as relationship advice.

Ok. Here is my story. I am 35 years old. I got engaged to my fiancÚ 3 months ago. We have been together for 16 months and I love him dearly. He is everything I ever wanted in a man and I really want our relationship to work. He is 42 and has never been married before. I was divorced once 5 years ago.

But there are some issues that really bother me

1. Since I met him, he has only invited me to his house twice. When I ask to stay over at his place - like after a Broadway show at night because his place is only half hour away from the city while mine is 1.5 hour away - he always finds an excuse. One time, we had a big argument about this subject. He said that he is very self-conscious about the smell of his house --- because I am super sensitive to any smells... I don't know if I should question this or if I should appreciate his sensitivity.

2. He never introduces me to his family. His parents both passed away. He doesn't have the best relationship with his siblings, but he does talk to them occasionally. However, none of his family members are aware that he is engaged. He states that he doesn't want to talk to them about our engagement because they might not be happy for him anyway. I understand his situation, but is this normal?

3. He complains about women in general. He thinks they are manipulative, play too many games and love to fight. Sometimes, he gets upset while watching TV because there are some unstable women doing stupid things. He clearly states that I am the most normal woman he ever met. And he loves my common sense the fact that I'm very responsible. But every time we have disagreement, he ALWAYS accuses me of initiating a fight, not being sensitive, etc. --- Most of the time this is not true and his accusations make me really feel bad. I tried to talk with him about his, but I almost get little or no improvement on this behavior. -- What shall I do? I feel very unhappy about this. I doubt if I can put up with this for much longer.

4. I would think that if he loves me, he would love to spend every weekend and holiday with me. Well, sometimes, if we have argument before the weekend /holiday, he would just blow off the plan without even calling me. Is this common in a man's world? Or am I too needy and dependent?

5. We both don't want to talk about the wedding plans. (My parents live in another country so neither of us wants a big wedding). Actually, I would like a decent wedding, however my fear is that I will make a fool of myself if we have an argument again right before the wedding. Of course, he is going to blow off the wedding and then everybody in the world will know ---- Is this a sign that I can not count on him?

I am really confused. I don't know if these are critical issues within a relationship. I learned from my previous marriage not to rush into a relationship. I also learned that it is better to get out of a relationship rather than be stuck in one with major issues between the couple.

Thank you so much for your time

Dear Sensitive to smells,

You're right to be worried. The issues you're talking about should be resolved before you marry. Your man who has never been married at the age of 42 probably doesn't know how to share. You need to educate him. He also needs to learn to communicate. You can't have a decent marriage if he doesn't.

1. As for being invited to his house. I don't think it's because you're too sensitive to smells to stay at his house. I think he's just not telling you what the real problem is. Yes, you should question it. You should find out what the smell is? Is he cooking crack in the back room? Is he smoking pot? Is he a real pig with garbage all over? Something weird is going on here.

2. You definitely should be introduced to his family. He should be telling them you're engaged. Why don't you plan a party and invite them? No, it's not normal to not introduce your fiance to your siblings or even tell your siblings you're engaged. How your fiance relates to his own family is an important indicator of his ability to form and nurture family ties, and he doesn't seem to relate very well. Not a good sign.

3. His hostility toward women is another ominous sign. After all, you're a woman. His hostility is dangerous, and his unwillingness or inability to work out problems makes him a very poor marriage prospect.

4. When he "blows off your plans" without even telling you he's doing that, he's showing total disregard for you or your happiness. He's also showing that he is undependable. No, it is not common "in a man's world," and you are not too needy or dependent. A woman should be able to depend on the man she's going to marry to be where he says he's going to be and to keep his commitments.

5. In what sense do you think you're engaged? Engaged means engaged to be married. But you can't talk about wedding plans, and you don't believe you can even depend on him to show up at a wedding. Your engagement is largely meaningless until you first resolve these problems.

I'm glad you're smelling a problem. These are critical issues. Let him know that you are concerned, and that these are relationship-breaking issues that you have to work out. If he loves you, he should be willing to go in for pre-marital counseling, which I recommend to all couples who are engaged with problems. If he is unwilling to go for counseling, you should reconsider this engagement. You deserve a man you can depend on, who can introduce you to his family, and who doesn't show weird hostility towards women.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Afraid to Commit

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a 35 year old, never been married woman, with no kids. I am usually single, with the occasional boyfriend. My longest relationship was two years. I know I am a commitment-phobe. Normally I end up choosing commitment phobes. This works well because then I can blame the failure of the relationship on their hang-ups, thereby not having to deal with my own.

About 6 weeks ago I met an attractive man. He is 32, married twice, with no kids. He was the one who persued me, I like him very much and things have moved along very rapidly. He is French, I am American, he's been here in the US less than one year. He is in the process of divorcing his current wife. He is straightforward about prefering to be in a relationship as opposed to being single. His paperwork is in order, and is his business, I have nothing to do with it. He has long range plans to be in this country and wants to settle down here.

The problem is I am inventing reasons in my head not to continue the relationship. I keep try to convice myself there is something seriously wrong with this man ... he does the regular little things like leaving dirty dishes in the sink, leaving his stuff laying all over the place, channel surfing when I'd rather talk, etc. ... but I keep thinking he must have some serious character flaw. Maybe he's a control freak, maybe he's abusive, maybe he's mean to my cat when I'm not looking ... and, of course there's no evidence of any of this. Am I just freaking out because I actually I have a chance at a happy fulfilling relationship? Or are my instincts trying to tell me something? Do you have any suggestions? Because I'd really rather not blow this. Thank you!

Scared and Confused.

Dear Scared,

Now that you've admitted that you're a commitment phobic woman, it's time to get over it. You're 35 years old. If you don't get over this phobia soon, you're in danger of spending the rest of your life alone, not to mention missing your chance to have a family and children of your own.

If you have hang-ups you haven't dealt with, get them out on the table and start talking about them. Don't look for other people to blame. Instead, accept your faults and forgive yourself for them. Then move on with your life.

As for this new man, why not pursue the relationship? What have you got to lose? Not much.

When you find yourself inventing reasons why you can't be with him, use "rational emotive therapy" on yourself. That means that you replace your irrational thoughts with more rational ones. When you start telling yourself not to continue this relationship because maybe he's mean to your cat when you're not looking, replace that negative thought with a positive one. Tell yourself that he's probably not mean to your cat, because if he were, the cat would act weird when he was around.

Ask yourself if you're afraid of confrontations. Women who are afraid to confront a man often let problems ride, like him leaving his stuff laying all over or channel surfing when you'd rather talk. If you ignore it when he does these things, he'll assume it's okay with you. So instead, bring them up and discuss them and talk about solutions. Just tell him you'd prefer it if he'd not channel surf when you want to talk. Assert yourself. The sooner, the better.

If you can't learn to assert yourself, you'll always be running away from relationships, because no man is perfect and every relationship needs adjustments. The only way to get a positive change in a relationship is to state what you want.

I think you are freaking out because a part of you really wants this relationship and you are letting your subconscious scare you. When you start to have irrational thoughts, like he's beating your cat behind your back, just tell your inner voices to shut up. If you give your rational self a little help, it will win out over your irrational self.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Run, Run, Run

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I want to ask you your opinion. I am a twenty year old single woman, and I have been in a relationship with a guy for about a year and a half. It started off good, but over the past eight months it has begun to completely fall apart.

It started with him not spending as much time with me as he had been. Now he refuses to visit me at my home because he hates the layout, he has borrowed hundreds of dollars from me which he will not pay back, he remembered my birthday but said it was unimportant in that I did not really need anything, he also did nothing for our one year anniversary. He dosnt talk to me when we go to out as if he is embarassed for me, and he wont go anywhere with me, we have to "meet". He acts like he is deeply ashamed of me and my interests and makes fun of me and says mean things to me around his and my friends. But this is just the beginning.

Our sex life has gone to hell, and he tells me to shut up when I cry that our relationship has gone bad, and he calls my feelings "bulls**t". His pet names for me are "porker" and "chubbs" even though I am not fat or anywhere near overwieight. When other guys look at me or flirt with me he says its because I look like a slut or that I was putting out the signals. He fell asleep the other night while I was pouring my heart out to him, I was shocked when I heard him snoring! One night I had to go the ER and the next night he promised that he would spend time with me since I was very sick. Well he came over all right, and brought six of his buddies for poker! I laid in bed all night alone. He seems obsessed with what his friends think, and gets furious with me if anyone knows we are having problems. Recently, when he is not busy, I ask him to hang out with me, but he says he has to see what his friends are doing first. However, he won't let me have any friends and every time he calls me the first thing he says is "Who's over there?"

But here is the catch, all of this he has done and more, but he still says he loves me. I have tried to leave him, but he begs me back. He tells me that I am the best thing that has ever happened, and that he will try to treat me better. In fact, he acknowleges the fact that he isnt there for me. But everytime it goes back and is even worse. He has never cheated on me or hit me, but it seems like he is abusing me in other ways. I love him very much, but I am so tired. I am an intelligent attractive woman, what is wrong here? Why does he hurt me this way? I cant leave him, my feelings are too strong, but even as I am writing this, I have not seen him in four days. Please tell me what is wrong with him, why wont he let me go? Sincerely, confused.

Dear Confused,

Of course it's confusing when a good relationship goes bad. You always think that if you just hang in there, you can get back to where you were - back to the good times. Sadly though, when a relationship starts to go downhill, it's almost impossible to turn it around without leaving.

You're not getting sex, he's verbally abusive, he's taken money from you, he forgets your birthday, he makes fun of you, and doesn't nurture you when you are sick. What a litany of horrors. And you wonder what you should do? The answer is obvious. Run for your life. This man is toxic.

Yes, you can leave him. It might be hard, but you'll be better off. Why are you staying? Because you can't resist someone who says he loves you, even when it's obviously an empty promise. Haven't you heard the expression, "talk is cheap"?

The real question here isn't what's wrong with him. The real question is what's wrong with you and why do you insist on staying in such a destructive relationship. Is your self-esteem so low that you don't think you deserve better treatment?

The reason he treats you so badly is because you've let him get away with it. You've taken it and stayed around, like a dog that gets kicked and comes back for more.

You're being abused and you know it. You deserve better. But if you don't get out of this relationship and find a nice guy who will love and respect you, you are in danger of ruining your life.

Don't wait for him to let you go. Just leave!

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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