"Ask Dr. Tracy"

10/31/99 Advice Column

Is the Age Difference Too Much?
Marriage or Else
Parents vs. Fiance

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I like to think of myself as quite liberal, yet I am strangely upset by my Grandfather who has just decided to move in with a girl only 2 years older than me, meaning they have an age-gap of over 50 years!

There are two queries: the first is why is she interested? I think I'm puzzled. She comes from a broken home and he was very supportive of her when she was a schoolgirl and helped her through her parents' divorce and her failed school exams. He even taught her to drive. So maybe she just likes the fact that someone cares for her, but still, can you be in love with a man more than 50 years older?

The second is: why am I jealous? My Granddad has 3 Grandsons and me and although I'm the only one I have always been his "favourite Granddaughter" and every time I have visited he has cuddled me and told me I was "more beautiful than ever". He hasn't stopped doing this now, but somehow I don't like the idea of him being fond of another girl my age.

Can you explain? By the way, my Grandma died about 9 months ago and I feel guilty that I wasn't around to help him much (I had just started a new job, just got engaged and just moved house and didn't have time to visit him often enough when my Grandma was ill and after she died, I sort of feel that since his Granddaughter wasn't there, he needed a replacement).

Dear Granddaughter,

Of course someone can love someone fifty years older, and the reasons are different for everyone who does. Sometimes an older man can recapture his lost youth with a younger woman. And sometimes a younger woman can find the loving father she always wanted but never had.

From all your grandfather did for this young woman, it sounds like he's been a replacement father figure for her for many years. Also, she hasn't reached her sexual peak and may not be comfortable with guys her own age who can't think of anything but sex. As for him, he's so far past his sexual peak that any sex he gets is great.

And as for you, well, the whole thing is really not your business to judge. Your grandfather is old enough to collect social security, so he's old enough to do exactly what he wants, including living with and even marrying a much younger woman if he wants.

Be happy for him because he's found someone to love. You're probably feeling jealous because you're picturing some other little girl on his lap getting all that cuddling and love and affection that you got. But you've already found that you're still able to get all you want, so it's time to learn to share. All grownups have to do that.

You can hardly take time out of your busy life to be there when he needs you, and apparently she can. So stop feeling guilty, and learn to live and let live. I doubt very much if your grandfather decided to move in with this young woman because of you. The best thing you can do is make friends with your grandfather's new love. Then you'll feel more comfortable when you do find time to visit.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I hope that you can offer some insight on my question. I recently moved in with a man whom I love very much on the understanding that we would marry. I have been very clear (ever since the very first date) that I am only interested in living with someone if marriage within a reasonable time is part of the plan. I had not planned on moving in with him this soon (we have been together a year), but an opportunity to buy a beautiful house came up and we decided to go ahead and move in and talk about the wedding later--at least this was the original agreement). I am 30; he is 32.

Now, he is getting cold feet about marriage. He's very money-oriented and I am an artist who doesn't make a lot of money (he has a computer job, is well paid and will be even more so in future). I have never asked him to support me or take care of both of us at any time. He has not been supportive of my proposed plan to work part-time or temp so that I can focus more on developing my career in art (and hence be home more, be less tired and irritable from juggling three careers, etc.), because he wants to have a certain amount of money and financial security and he's afraid of having to support me. Now he has suggested that perhaps I should move out and that he has 'wasted enough of my time' because he is not sure that he wants to marry me any more. He also says that he loves me and that my moving out is not what he wants. (The house loan was set up in his name because he wanted to be able to qualify for a low-interest loan and our two incomes would have disqualified him--hence I have no legal recourse as far as the house).

I have read your comments on how men become 'classic wafflers' when marriage is the issue at stake and your advice on insisting on it until it happens. I suppose that my problem with this is that I have been clear since day one about my expectations and that until a few months ago, it seemed to me that he and I were on the same page about all of this. I don't feel that I should have to insist on something that I have been clear about since the beginning. I know that this man loves me, but I am very hurt by his selfishness and his seemingly sudden change of heart, and I don't know what to do. Everything I thought we were working toward seems to have suddenly gone smash, and I am so sad and confused....

Any thoughts you may have would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks, Lonely in Texas

Dear Lonely in Texas,

Your guy has a big case of cold feet. All his excuses about money and who supports whom for how long are bull. He has plenty of money. This is about him changing his mind, or thinking he can do better than you - perhaps even find a woman with similar financial prospects.

You and he have totally different life values - he values making money, and you value being an artist and wife. I'm surprised you got this far with such a basic value system difference. If you have any hope of working this out, one of you will have to compromise and realize that there are other things that are important too - like loving and being loved.

You could, of course, point out to him that there are artists who make more than computer people. Tell him if he were really interested in a partnership with you, he'd think of a computer project that would be the next amazing art internet moneymaking machine. However, there's little chance that will get you what you want. Here's what will.

Tell him he's right -- you must move. Tell him you love him and you know he loves you, and that you're very sorry you have to leave, but you expected to have a marriage, not a live-in relationship, and you can see he's decided not to honor his agreement. Tell him that after you move out you will not be seeing him or talking to him or having anything to do with him and that you will immediately start dating and looking for a man who has the same goals you have.

Then leave. When you do, don't have any contact with him. Don't answer his calls or e-mails or letters. He will be all alone in his new house and there will be memories of you everywhere in it. If he's in love, he'll be like an addict whose total pleasure supply is cut off. He'll be desperate to have you back. If he catches you on the phone, tell him "I'm sorry, but I have to get on with my life." Click.

You will also miss him, but you must take this action. If you stay, he won't know what it's like to be without you, and you will lose credibility, self-respect, and self-esteem. If he doesn't miss you enough to come after you, then he doesn't love you enough, and you shouldn't even want to marry him.

Be brave. Leave. I have seen this work over and over again. Men hardly ever appreciate a woman until she's gone.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

My Fiance and I have been dating for 5 years. We went through our ups and downs and we even broke up for a while. For the record, there was no abuse. After 4 years of personal and spiritual growth we got back together and after a year, he proposed to me and I accepeted. My parents got devestated because they do not approve our getting back together, let alone get engaged. I haven't told him how they felt, but eventually he noticed how they acted around him. It's very uncomfortable to talk about him to them or to see all my family together. My parents own a condo in Florida where all the family gets to gether for a weekend and we went. After that weekend, I gave up trying to make them forgive him and trying to tell him to relax. He said he can't relax and be himself around them and that he can't pretend all the time. I love him and I love them. I am afraid I have to end this because I know it will get worse if we get married and have kids. We have our problems and we work it out. But my family loves me so much that they can't trust him for me again and they worry. I tell them to trust my decision and choice and be happy for me. And I tell my fiance that they are my parents, they will be in my life and that they have to be respected. But they don't respect him because of our previous break up and because of what I went through. And he thinks it's only me he has to please and not the. It it causing me to drift apart both from my parents and from my Fiance even though I love all of them dearly. I want to keep all of them.


Torn Apart,

Dear Torn Apart,

Learn to say, "Mom, Dad, I really love him. I know you are worried, but try to accept him for my sake. If you really love me, you'll help me make this marriage succeed."

It's true that some cultures live communally, but more often, there comes a time in every woman's life when she has to choose in one way or another - to separate from her parents and follow the man she loves. It's as ancient as the cavewoman leaving her tribe and moving to her caveman's cave and living with his tribe.

Separating from one's parents is part of growing up, and if you really really love this man, nothing your mother or father or any relative could say would stand in the way of your being with him.

Often parents don't approve of a child's choice of mate. In your case with good reason. Apparently when you and he broke up you made a big mistake and told everything to everyone including your parents. You let your parents see how much he hurt you, and of course they don't want you to be with him because they're afraid you'll get hurt again.

So now you may have to choose between a weekend at your parents condo in Florida or the man you love. Hmmm. Not a tough choice if you're really in love.

Concentrate on pleasing each other, not your parents. If your relationship progresses to love and marriage and children, your parents will probably come around to some extent. They may never love him the way you want them to though. When my own parents married, both their parents objected strongly, and they stayed married their whole lives. If they'd listened to their parents, I wouldn't be here now, so maybe I'm biased in favor of children making their own marital decisions :)

Now for the big question. Are your parents right? Maybe. Should you not be marrying this guy? Only time will tell. However, this is not the kind of decision that is made with parents coming first. So do what your heart tells you, and hopefully your parents will be there for you whether it works out or not.

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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