His Jokes Hurt
Dear Dr. Tracy,
I have read ALL of your columns and the web-site, and also the books (I even ordered “Letting Go” just in case, but I have not yet opened the package as I do hope I will not need it!). I really think that your advice is the best, and I do to use it, and it works! It is the first time that I have decided to write to you to request your professional opinion on my situation.
We have been together with my boyfriend for 2 years. I am 31, divorced, and he is 22, never married. For me it started as sex-only, and 4 months into the relationship I decided to stop it and move on. But then he pursued me very hard, and we continued seeing each other and soon found each other in a very loving and affectionate relationship.
The relationship progressed very well, he’s introduced me to all his friends and family, we go out, do lots of things together, he takes care about my apartment and plants while I am away on business trips (I travel at least once a month for a week). We communicate pretty well (he is visual, I am auditory, and I use his “language”, and it works OK). I now feel that I also love him very much.
Taking your advice, in June I talked to him about our plans for the future, and we agreed that by the New Year we will have established the dates for our engagement and wedding. He wasn’t very enthusiastic, but accepted the deadline and after just one day of cooling-off became even more affectionate. I also show lots of affection and love towards him.
However, the more caring his actions become (for example, now every time I get back from a business trip, he prepares nice surprises for me, brings me flowers etc.), the more often I hear him say things that puzzle and upset me. For instance, previously he never mentioned our age difference. The other day he made a silly joke about it and also joked about some differences in our sexual preferences (something like “if you are less active than me now, imagine how it will become in the future”). After I once mentioned that he needs to be more persistent in looking for a job (he had to quit his part-time job about four months ago as the new schedule did not coincide with his university hours), saying jokingly that if he happens to become a parent, he’d have to care for the family, he said: “Well, if it’s time for ME to become a parent, then for YOU this time was long ago.”
He fixed the sink in my apartment that had been broken for a long time, I was so happy, and started thanking and kissing him, but he very seriously responded: “I hope you realize that you should really value me”. I just said: “Of course I do” and tried to be extra nice. The other day we were watching a movie about some middle-aged career-woman who had no personal life, and he jokingly commented: “Wasn’t your life like that before I came?” He also recently started talking me into anal sex, just to experiment (he never had it before), but this is not what I would like to do, and he was mildly dissatisfied about it. Should I go for it even if I absolutely don’t want it? We are generally very compatible sexually, though it’s true that sometimes I have less desire when I am very tired after work. When he worked, he was also much less sexually active.
He is generally a pretty critical person, but lately has been especially critical about me, including the way I cook, use makeup, clean the house etc.
Just a couple of days ago, I said that I really look forward to the New Year as we will develop our plans for the future then, and he said: “I don’t know what you are talking about”. Around the same time, when he got especially relaxed, he said that if only I knew how much he loves me, and that I am the only woman who can understand him so well, and that he feels so easy and comfortable when I am around. Isn’t it contradictory? How shall I continue “pushing” in this situation?
What does it all mean? Is he implying that he is “better” than me and that I am not worth him? He remembers it was his idea to continue the relationship, and that he knew from the very beginning about my age and marital history. He also knows that I am independent financially, but I never used this fact as an argument. On the contrary, I always try to choose inexpensive activities and do not mention my expenses, not to make him feel uncomfortable. I am pretty good-looking, very patient, faithful and affectionate. I believe I am a good partner, but I don’t want to be “better”, I just want both of us be equally good!
How should I behave? Am I just overreacting? Or is this a signal of a more serious problem? I do not know how to react to these things and in most cases just turn them into jokes or ignore. I do understand that my problem may be not so significant compared to others, but I already went through physical abuse and a really painful divorce, and I so much want to have it “right” this time!!! Dr. Tracy, would you be so kind as to respond to me? Thank you very much, I really appreciate it.
You started this relationship "just for sex" and then realized that just for sex often turns into more. Now you say you love him very much and want to make a life with him, but he's making not-so-nice remarks under the guise of humor.
You say you are puzzled and upset by the things he says and yet you try to laugh them off. That's the absolute worst thing you could do.
When a man does something you don't like, you have to tell him about it in no uncertain terms the very first time he does it. If you have to, throw a fit, cry, rant and rave, but don't act like you think it's funny. That only encourages him to do it more. It's almost like you're giving him permission. It also means that the next time he'll say something even worse, just to see where you draw the line. Maybe he wants to see how much you'll take.
Let him know you won't stand for this kind of remark, even in jest. Otherwise you're going to be dealing with it ongoing and worse.
You have to nip his bad behavior in the bud. Don't be ashamed of your feelings and hide them. Look him straight in the face and tell him, "When you say things like that it hurts me, even if you say it as a joke." Don't let him wiggle out of it. Don't dance around your age difference. Ask him if it's starting to bother him that you're older.
Don't let him get away with a thing. Confront each remark as it comes up. Otherwise you'll wind up saving them in your head - as you're already doing - and worrying about them until the saved-up hurt finally poisons the relationship.
As for him, he needs to get a job and stop mooching off you. Then he'll have something else to do with his energy besides sitting around waiting for some new sex act. And if you don't want to provide the particular kind of sex he wants, don't.
You need to be able to say to him, this is what I require and if you can't provide it, we can't have a relationship. You should be appreciated, not criticized. Don't ignore things that hurt you.
Emotional abuse can be as nasty and harmful, in its own way, as physical abuse. Don't let him get away with putting you down. If you do, it will escalate, become a habit, and ultimately ruin your relationship.
As for you "pushing" to set a wedding date, don't. You need to fix this relationship before you get in any deeper.
He Won't Get A Divorce
Dear Dr. Tracy,
I am a divorced woman of 34. I have been with the same man for 5 years now,he is still tec. married (although they have been separated for 6 years). He adopted her 2 children and now he pays child support.
The problem that I'm having is this - every year he says he's going to get a divorce, but he never does anything about it. The one time he told me to call around and find out how much it would cost. I did. Then he wanted to have the most expensive atty. that I could find. I don't know why! in our state if you are seperated for 2 years you can get an uncontested divorce for about 200.00.
I have even called a place that takes $25.00 down and you make payments. I got all the paperwork for it and he still didn't look at it until we got in a fight. Still to this day (that was 6 months ago) he still hasn't done anything.
I have asked him to leave if he didn't have something done by next New Year's day. Am I wrong? We are engaged (or supposed to be) I'm tired of waiting. He says he hates her, I feel if thats true then he would have gotten his divorce along time ago.
He says he loves me more than he has ever loved anyone before, but why does he continue? He knows that this bothers me and that I have cried myself to sleep at night, so again why.
Oh by the way his other excuse is that he hates paper and he hates court.
Dear Tired of Waiting,
You wonder why he doesn't get a divorce and marry you. It's simple. Because he doesn't have to.
He can have you and your life together without getting a divorce. After all, you've stayed with him even though he's still married for five years now, so he thinks he's entitled to have things just the way they always have been.
You say you're "engaged," but how can you be engaged to a man who's still married to someone else? An engagement is a promise to be married, and a real engagement requires that a date be set for that wedding. Obviously you can't marry a man who's not divorced.
He knows that you're bothered and that you cry yourself to sleep at night. Why hasn't that moved him? Apparently because he is selfish and doesn't really care about your feelings. I'm not sure why you want to marry this guy, but if you do, you'll have to enforce the January deadline. Remind him of it and let him know that if divorce proceedings aren't started by January 1, you expect him to get out of your life.
I don't buy his excuse about hating legal paperwork and hating court. So does everyone, but if you want a divorce, you go through it. I suspect that his failure to get his divorce is just a way to avoid marrying you. If so, you should find that out and move on while you're still young enough to find someone else and start a family of your own.
Waiting for a "Love Accident"
Dear Dr. Tracy,
I really like the practicality of your answers to the questions I've read week after week.
I have one I'm hoping u could advise me on. I'm a 27year-old single lady of an Asian background & a professional working in a fairly established firm. I've been in a serious relationship two years ago and been a few on casual dates since then.
I met this guy several months ago in the course of work and we have easy conversation. It may have bordered on something more than innocent at times but there was no special attention from his side other than that, as far as I could tell. Overall, I find him down-to-earth, generous, funny & really fun to talk to. We get along great, I haven't met someone like him in a long while..and I know he's unattached. Problem is, I am of two minds whether to make the first move & ask him out (he hasn't). It doesn't sound like a big deal but I've always held a strong belief that if the guy's really interested, I don't have to be the one leaning forward. I've done this years back and still recall how it felt when I realized he took advantage of my feelings. I've also seen how my friends who met the Right One didn't have to put in any effort - he simply came along into their lives.
I feel this is 'the way things are'..that fate will take its course naturally and your soul mate appears without our having to look for them. One of my friends attended dozens & dozens of social activities & met no one till one day, when her husband-to-be appeared in another setting where she was just being herself, antennae lowered, no manhunt strategy applied. I am getting a little antsy still though, about simply 'waiting' for things to happen and letting fate govern the outcome of this particular situation. My friends say time is not on my side & to just give it a shot. I used to be cool about these things but am getting influenced by what they say.
What do you think I should do?
I'd really appreciate another point of view.
Dear waiting for Fate,
Some people get lucky and love finds them. Some people get lucky and fall into the job of a lifetime. But for most people, success in life, in career and in love requires planning, purpose and pursuit. They can't just sit around and wait for luck to come their way.
If you're 27 and want a relationship, do exactly what you would do if you wanted anything else in life - go after it. Life is too short to let it happen by accident.
Telling women that they should wait to find love until it happens by accident is telling women they are helpless to control their future and their fate. That they must sit passively back and wait for the universe to bring them love. What a lot of hooey.
You want it, go get it. You want that guy. Go after him. If he doesn't want you, find out and move on. There are so many men out there.
For every story of an accidental meeting when the woman wasn't looking for love, there are just as many stories of looking for someone and finding them. You are at a distinct disadvantage waiting for someone to come along. You could get lucky, or you could be one of the unlucky ones and then you'd be kicking yourself for not taking action.
You deserve to choose from a quantity of eligible, qualified men, not just take whoever comes along. You wouldn't buy a new suit or a pair of winter boots that way. You'd shop. You'd have criteria for what you want. And you'd try on lots to find the one that was just right for you. Why would you do less looking for your future life partner?
You are not helpless. You don't have to be passive. Join match.com or some other big online dating service and begin to choose the men you want. Take charge of your life. Stop waiting for things to happen.
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