Dr. Tracy's Advice Column

Cartoon Kiss


Commitment Phobic Or?
Masher or Pal?
A Physical Relationship

Commitment Phobic Or?

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I was divorced about 4 years ago. My ex and I have a 7 year old boy who is the best thing in the world. I met a man shortly after my divorce who is three years younger than me. He is a good man in many ways. He has values, integrity, and is an honest man who is very good to my son. We allow each other to be ourselves and get along great. However, he is a text book comittment-phobic.

The problem is, we have been dating for over three years now and he has no intentions of proposing until he is done with college (1-2 years). He was in the Marines and got a late start with school. Although I feel it is more a personality flaw than situational, (school is a good excuse) I do respect his goals. However, I have given him much of my life and my son's life and I feel that he should show intent with at least a ring if he expects me to wait another year or two for marriage. He has taken a break from our relationship TWICE due to his comittment-phobia. Both times was when we began getting very close. I stood by him both times. He knows I will NOT do it again. As a matter of fact, he told his best friend the last time we were 'taking a break', that he knows I am the one for him and he is coming back with a ring. Well, he never did.

I dont believe in ultimatums. He understands what I want and is very stubborn on budging on when he will propose. Although he says he wants me to be his wife 'someday'. A rumor went around last week that we were engaged. A friend told me he said, "NO, I am not engaged nor do I plan on it anytime soon!" He admitted to saying this. I do not want to be with someone if I have to force it or feel like he will finally give in and propose when there is nothing else left to do. I feel I have given him a lot and deserve something in return and think maybe I should tell him that I have given him more than enough and I feel since he is clearly not ready I need to move on before I begin to resent him. I think I should tell him that since he isn't ready to give in totally, I do not want to continue the realtionship and allow my son to become even closer to him and his family. I dont want to open my son and myself up for hurt down the road, since he has proven to take his breaks when he gets scared. I am thinking of telling him, "I am ready, you are not. If and when I become the priority in your life, give me a call, otherwise, I am going to go enjoy being on my own and moving on."

What do you think?

Sincerely, Tired of dating....

Dear Tired of Dating,

You have every right to be tired of dating this man who backs off and breaks up every time he gets close. The big question is, even if he made a commitment to you, gave you a ring and got engaged, could you trust that he wouldn't get cold feet and break up with you before the wedding?

Combining his commitment problems with your different priorities and his stand that he doesn't want to commit until after he finishes college, your chances of getting him to marry you on your time schedule are very slim. Even if you got him to give you a ring and you agreed to wait two years to get married, would you really be happy? I don't think so.

You want to be married and you want to be married very soon. He doesn't. That doesn't mean that he doesn't love you. He probably does. He just doesn't want to marry you at this time.

Timing is everything. Even the truest of soul mates will miss making a connection if the timing isn't right.

You say you don't believe in ultimatums, but at this point you have nothing to lose by giving him one. Why not tell him that you aren't willing to wait and want to be engaged now and married by (you insert the date). If he says no way, then tell him you're leaving. You were going to leave anyway, why not give him an ultimatum first?

Giving an ultimatum and then acting on it is a very empowering act. It says, "I'm too valuable to put up with this. I deserve better and if I don't get it, I'm out of here." For once, don't let him be the one to call the shots about your relationship.

I'm always amazed that otherwise smart, powerful women give their power away as soon as they get into a relationship.

Most important, if you leave, leave. Don't do it half-way. Don't talk on the phone. Don't be friends. Don't email or continue the relationship. Start dating someone else -- preferably several other people -- immediately. Make it a rule to only date men who are ready to get married, now.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Masher or Pal?

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I'm 37, single, straight, and I have a relatively glamorous job in the New York media. I date a lot, and take out a lot of beautiful girls. But frequently, I'll find out sometime during the date that they have a boyfriend. Now, I'm not complaining. If you want to take out beautiful women, you have to expect that some of them or even most of them have boyfriends. Nor do I blame them for coming out with me, because I always invite them in a friendly, non-threatening way: it's never "come wiz me to de cas-bah," but rather, "why don't you come along on a restaurant review next week."

That's the essence of my question. For a long time it seemed like this was the smart way to go. Invite women to hang out with me, no pressure, no "scamming," and see what happens. The worst case scenario, I figured, would be that I would make a beautiful female friend, which would lead to meeting other attractive women, who might not have boyfriends, either real or fictive. But now I'm beginning to think that I'm unmanning myself by making these dates so unthreatening. Maybe I should make clear in some subtle way that it is, after all, a date, and not just some neutered social encounter. Still, I don't want to come off as a masher / creep -- which is how I feel if I press too hard too early. I'm not the alpha male type, but I am beginning to wonder if it isn't my fault not for sending less ambiguous signals. On the other hand, the cool, friendly approach seems to make a lot of sense. But now I just feel like a loser. Are these women just playing me for the attention and the free meals, or is it my fault for desexualizing myself?

And a follow-up question. Setting apart the damage to my ego, does it make sense to go out on a date with a woman you know has a boyfriend? It always seemed to me that any woman, if unmarried, is fair game. Many times a woman is with a guy but still actively looking....I don't know. I just feel like such a creep and a jerk now. I'm really beginning to hate myself. But I'll keep at it: dating is just tough. "$&*( with the bull and you get the horn," as the saying goes.

What do you think?

Soft Sell Guy

Dear Soft Sell Guy,

You're being so non-threatening that you're not being taken seriously. Perhaps it's because you're not being serious. Maybe you just want a beautiful woman to take to a fancy dinner. You don't say anything about any other quality these women have besides good looks. Perhaps you need to look for more important qualities such as kindness and an affectionate, generous nature.

But if you want a real woman to have a real relationship with, the first thing you find out is if she's available - before you ask her out. How? You ask! You say, "Do you have a boyfriend?" If she says, "Yes," and you still want to ask her to dinner, then you're not getting any surprises. And who's to say she won't wind up liking you better than her boyfriend? That's always possible.

However, a man who really wants to get serious with a woman finds out right away whether or not she's got someone in her life. Asking first lets a woman know that you're interested in a date, not a neutered social encounter. It doesn't mean you're a masher or a creep, just that you have self-esteem and don't want to waste your time with someone who's not really interested in you.

One way to feel better about yourself is to only ask women out who are available and who are obviously interested in you. If you're worried that women are only going out with you for the attention and the free meals, only ask women out who are willing to go for a walk in the park with you as well as to a fancy dinner.

Don't give up on dating, but do start looking for women outside of your circle - women who don't know about your glamorous media job and who could see you for yourself.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

A Physical Relationship

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I'm a 33 year old single woman. About 4 years ago I met a genleman that I was highly attracted to. We dated a couple of times, then our relationship turned completely physical. We dated others, did our own thing, but always managed to "hook-up" a few times a month.

The last time we were together, about 6 months ago, he told me he was engaged and getting married soon. Of course, I read him the riot act and went on my merry way. I honestly had no idea he was in a "committed" relationship, much less married.

Now he has been married for about 3 months, and is contacting me again. I know I shouldn't respond, but I am curious. I could never be "that woman", so seeing him would never happen, despite the amazing chemistry we had in the bedroom. I have to admit, I would like nothing more that for him to get divorced so we could pick up where we left off. Not to worry, I don't have desires or illustions of any more than a physical relationship with this man.

Can you offer any insight as to why he continues to contact me? Can the "honeymoon" really be over already?

Dear Curious,

It's always tricky to have a "just physical" relationship. That's okay if you both know and accept the parameters of the relationship. But even when you do, as in your case where you both dated others and managed to get together just for sex, it's easy for one party or the other to get very disappointed.

You were upset enough to read him the riot act when he announced he was engaged and getting married, and I can't blame you. You were losing your boy toy. Sex objects usually know that's what they are, and you and he had an unspoken agreement about what you were both in the relationship for.

You say you had no idea he was in a committed relationship or about to be married. But there must have been clues. He had to be seeing his significant other on Saturday nights, holidays, and other times. Didn't you ever wonder why you only saw him on off-times like Thursday afternoons or Tuesday evenings, why you didn't go out a lot (where his real girlfriend might see you), or why you didn't spend a lot of time at his place (where his girlfriend's picture might be in evidence)?

Maybe you never bothered to ask him about his other time, since you just wanted him for one thing.

Now he's married and calling you. Surprise! He's coming back for more of the same. When the sex is good, they almost always come back, or try to. I doubt if it means the honeymoon is over with his wife, just that he thought he'd have you and her too.

Tell him in no uncertain terms that you're not interested and not to contact you again. A guy who calls an old girlfriend - sexual or otherwise - after being married only three months is a jerk and doesn't deserve you.

If you want a guy just for sex, that's okay. But don't be surprised when that's all he wants from you too.

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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