"Ask Dr. Tracy"

7/12/98 Advice Column


Dear Dr. Tracy,

I've been married to the same man for 12 years. We were together for a year before that. The first 7 years of our marriage was spent in turmoil. Constant fighting was the norm. His philosophy was that he was an adult and didn't have to answer to anyone. I spent countless nights wondering where he was. When he would come home, he was always defensive before he walked in the door, and a fight was inevitable. He left me alone more times than I care to remember to care for our infant twins. By around the 4th year, it started to escalate. I will never forget the first time. We fighting (again) and in frustration, I threw the dish towel I had been drying my hands on at him. When I turned to walk away, he threw one of the kids large fairy tail books at the back of my head, proceeded to drag me to the parking lot in the complex we lived in, throw me against his truck and tell me to get out and stay out. I went to the store and bought milk, drove around a little, and of course, went home. I thought it was just a really bad fight and now it was over. But it only got worse from there. Our fighting got to be more and more of the same. I became depressed and felt trapped. I got pregnant sometime after the first two episodes. I did nothing but cry and cry. I finally called my mother and she fronted the money for me to have an abortion. It was the most horrible ordeal I ever endured. As soon, and I mean AS SOON as it was over, I wished I could go back in time just 5 minutes and change my mind. It devastated me emotionally, and I will forever grieve and regret it. It was at that time I looked at him for the first time with a burning hatred that has burnt into my soul. I feel like it was all his fault and I can't no matter how hard I try, forgive him or forget.

Three years of running from him, being thrown out and told I can't have the kids, being thrown into walls with threats that if I made him hit me he wouldn't stop and he would kill me. Having my phones ripped out of the walls when I tried to get to them. The rage and frustration of not being able to get past this man in the hallway to my hysterical babies at the other end of it.... It all came to abrupt stop one night when I finally did manage to get a phone and connect with 911 before he pulled it out of the wall. The whole night of happenings feels so surreal now, but I can't forget any of it. He cried and begged for us to stay together and work things out. My children love their daddy, I had no money, no place to go, I agreed. We did a brief stint of counseling, worked on some issues, I think! ... and I will testify that he hasn't touched me in 6 years. why am I more confused and depressed then? He still has an ugly temper, is still dominating in the sense that "this is his GD house and he'll do what he wants" ... It's ok for him to be angry, or in a bad mood, but the kids and I can't be. We have to maintain seemingly perfect behavior around him, or he gets pissed off. It's this that is wearing me out. No one is allowed to be in a bad mood, have an off color remark, or foul up in his presence! He works late alot, and we are thankful for that. The weekends can sometimes just be toooooo long for me and the kids. He has an accident with his truck, or fouls up the checking account, and I have to be supportive and kind???!! I am sooooooo sick to my stomach holding in my anger sometimes, I feel like I could just start screaming and never stop. I don't know where to go with all this pent up anger, hurt, and frustration.

His good qualities are that from time to time he is just the most wonderful man on the face of the earth. He is generous in the fact that all I have to do is admire something in a shop window or catalog, and he bends over backwards to see I get it. He tries so hard to be good sometimes. makes me feel bad for feeling some of the things I do sometimes. He used to say he was sorry for things, but I don't hear that anymore. I don't fight back anymore. I have come to realize that it is far better to just make like I don't hear him, feel anything, or respond to his words and actions. It keeps the peace. He cried for days two years ago when I said I was leaving. We had it all worked out, the house, the kids, belongings ... He cried and kept me up for two nights solid talking, wanting to know why etc... I don't know when or how, but I agreed to stay for a while. Things were better than super for around 3 months. Now I'm sitting here writing this to you, just as confused as can be. I have no grounds? to leave ... He is no longer physically abusive, he buys my heart's desires, when he wants to be, he is great with the kids... What do I base all these feelings on???? What is wrong with me that I am so angry despite loving him still?

Sorry this turned out so long. Thank you for taking the time to read this regardless of what becomes of it. Thanks for the lending ear :)

Dear Bottled Up Anger,

A man who abuses you emotionally is as toxic as a man who abuses you physically. Just because he's stopped hitting you and throwing you around doesn't mean he isn't beating you up with his words and actions.

Of course he's nice from time to time, that's how he gets you to stay around. But buying you anything you want is his way to excuse his rotten behavior. He tells himself that the gift makes everything okay. It doesn't. No wonder you can't forgive him for the past. He's still running and ruining your life on a daily basis. Living with a man with an ugly temper who says it's his house and he'll do what he pleases is hell. Nobody should have to live in fear of their spouse. You are giving up your life to an abuser, letting him get away with any kind of bad behavior, and holding in your anger. That anger turned inward causes depression. And if you're depressed enough you shut down emotionally. That's what's happened to you.

The situation is not going to get better unless you take action. Stop letting him get away with his rotten behavior because each time he does, he learns that it's okay. Tell him that one more outburst and you're going to see a lawyer. Insist that he get into anger control therapy. If he won't, get a lawyer, get a divorce, and start planning to salvage the rest of your life.

You're going to have to take the risk of losing this relationship to get a better life. Otherwise, he'll just get worse and worse and you'll spend the rest of your life depressed.

You need therapy too. Get into a women's support group. Read Daniel Goleman's "Emotional Intelligence" and you'll see what's wrong with Mr. Nasty. He's an emotional child. Stop living a life where you feel like you're walking on eggs all the time. Get in touch with your lost self-esteem and you'll find that this situation can't go on. He'll destroy the rest of your life if you let him, and you'll have nobody to blame but yourself because you didn't take action and get out.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

My girlfriend and I have been dating for almost 2 years (in July). I am a white american and she is an indian-american. Not american indian, i'm talking from india. She graduated in may from college. I still have 2 more years. That is not the problem. She comes from a very traditional family. So much so that her only sibling (brother) had an arranged marriage. He was just married in India last week. Her parents do not know about me, I have never met them, and I think her brother knows I used to date his sister (he thought it was a phase). My girlfriend does not want to go to pharmacy school like her father wants her to.

When she comes back from India later this summer, i am going to drive up to Chicago and we are going to tell them about us. I guess it's important to know that she comes from a wealthy family. When we tell them of our relationship, she will, at the very least get cut off financially. She is not worried about the money, and if it matters, neither do I. Both her parents were born in India, as was her brother. She was born in Chicago, brought up in public schools, but yet is expected to abide by Indian ideals.

My parents are behind us. They are obviously worried, but they still support us both. Financially we are going to be well off. She has been offered a job when she returns that pays very well (upper 40's to start as a pharmacy tech), and I have a potential job out in Kansas City when I graduate. Now I think I have explained that. We both love each other very much. We tried to break up, because we thought we were doing more harm then good for each other but it didn't work. I would go to the ends of the earth for her, and I truly believe she would do the same. She is my best friend, confidant, the person I can talk to, or the person I can cuddle with when I need to. I need her, I love her, i want her to be my wife. I have asked her to marry me, and she did say yes. I already know what I want to do, and what I have to do. I just want to know if I am doing what's right for her and I. I am 25 and she is 23. I guess I look more for affirmation then anything. Sometimes it's just frustrating. We didn't do anything wrong, but fall in love. I didn't know that was so horrible. My girlfriend fears her father, he has done some pretty heinous things to her, both mentally and physically. I think she fears of what he could do to me more then herself. I honestly believe that he might resort to something drastic. But the love I feel for her is worth it. What do you think?

Dear Outsider,

I hear your problem all the time. Particularly with Indian families from India. They seem to be especially determined that their daughters have traditional marriages with Indian men, not Anglos.

I'm sure there's no way you're going to be welcomed by them. Perhaps you should save yourself the trouble of visiting. Once they hear about your romantic interest they are very likely to spirit your loved one away to India and you'll never see her again. Also, if you're truly worried about her father being dangerous, then perhaps he is.

I think that only an elopement and even an estragement from her family will help you through this. She is going to have to love you enough to make up for the possible loss of her family. They could very well shun her if she marries you. On the other hand, you can't live your life to make your parents happy. If you do, you'll wind up making yourself unhappy.

So grab your happiness if your love is strong enough. Tell your girlfriend that she may have to divorce her father to marry you. See how she really feels about that possibility. Of course, there's always the possibility that her parents could come around at some future date, perhaps when there are grandchildren.

You will always be an outsider to them, though. You don't have their heritage, their race, their religion, their eating habits, and their culture. Also, they will always be angry with you and her for taking away their dreams of her marrying an approved Indian man.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am 25, female and in a 10 year relationship, he's the same age, we met when we were 15. I work in a creative industry that is very hip, and trendy, as am I. I am the type of person that loves activity and excitement. Although at some point in my life I know I would like a stable quiet homelife with a couple of kids and a house. (So does he) Currently I live in an apartment about 40 minutes away from him. We rarely see each other, but a few times on the weekend. When we do, we do things in near his place, which I find extremely boring etc.. He is also a bit of a workaholic. And is usually too lazy to come into the city. We also don't really talk of marriage.. I generally do a lot of things alone, even go on vacation alone.

I took a job in another part of my company a year 1/2 ago and developed a mutual attraction to a co-worker. He is married so I didn't pursue it. Recently we became quite close, and were intimate one night after work. The next week he left his wife, moved into a hotel. He contends that they were having marital problems for over two years, and was planning to leave, they have been married for 7. I'd also like to add that she works with us. This was about 2 months ago since then, we have seen each other for dinner, drinks, movies, and trysts about 2 to 3 times a week. Last week he moved into a sublet and is planning to present his wife with official separation papers etc..

Well, the problem is that I think I am beginning to care about him, I turned down a 5 month commitment job that would have taken me away, for many reasons but I have to admit one of them was for him. I'm completely comfortable with that decision and have no regrets. I am terribly afraid of what awaits me. I have this theory that love is not hearts and flowers forever obviously and that it becomes the same way eventually with everyone down the road. Not to mention that statistically the odds are against us anyway. Him coming out of a bad marriage, he definitely has rebound written all over him, he's ten years older than me, I could just be a play thing for him... a mid-life crisis... see what I'm getting at??

So I am staying in the long term relationship for now, because it's safe, I know he is loyal and would never leave. I mean isn't that what love is about anyway?? Loyalty after everything else is gone?? I am so confused because the new guy (pardon me for coining the phrase) ROCKS MY WORLD!! He is sexy, sweet, thoughtful, he treats me like a queen and makes me laugh. I think I may be in love but practicality keeps me away. That is the right thing to do isn't it ?? Please help. I need the voice of wisdom!!! Thank you so much!!!

Dear Playing the Odds,

Sure there's a risk to choosing Mr. Rocks My World, but staying with Mr. Boring is really a bad choice. Perhaps you're not quite ready to choose.

Give it some more time before you make a decision. I'm afraid that after ten years with Mr. Boring, he's gotten really unbearable, and he's only going to get worse. If a man's not exciting to you when you marry him, believe me, the excitement won't show up by magic. You've changed a lot and grown up since you met Mr. Boring and he may have been fun when you were 15, but today you've drifted apart. He wants to stay home, you want to go out. Love is about more than loyalty, although loyalty and commitment are important.

Howard Hughes used to say he never made a decision until he absolutely had to. Perhaps you should try his advice in this situation. In any case though, it's been my experience that women who marry boring but safe men wind up bored and having affairs on the side. You're already doing that and you're not even married.

Besides, if you've been with a guy for 10 years and he's not talking about marriage, he may never bring up the subject. A guy who's been married isn't all bad. He's been trained to take out the trash and put down the toilet seat and he knows the mistakes to avoid. You could do worse. Also, he's already broken the marriage barrier, so he'll be more likely to marry again.

But wait until he's fully separated from his wife until you see what he's going to be like when he's on his own. In the meantime, why throw away the hearts and flowers, even if you're just the "Interim Woman" and it won't last? It doesn't sound like Mr. Boring is going anywhere. Give love a chance.

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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