"Ask Dr. Tracy"

8/30/98 Advice Column


Dear Dr. Tracy,

I have been dating at guy for almost 6 months now. We get along great together, have a lot of shared interests, talk well together and seldom argue. Things have been pretty tense in the last month and a half, though. He was laid off and is looking for another job. Since then, he's withdrawn and doesn't seem to be interested in sex or in seeing me as often as he used to. I have tried to be supportive, but I'm worried that we have different philosphies on money and self-esteem. Sure, it sucks when you don't have a job, but it's not the end of the world (or so I think). He should have no problem finding a job (we live in a metro area and he's got good experience in a growing field). I feel hurt that he doesn't want to draw comfort from me and I don't understand why he needs to take out his present lack of a job out on me. His complete lack in libido and unwillingness to spend time with me has got me worried. Is there anything I can do? He draws away during his problems and I just want to get closer...

Dear Hurt,

Men get a lot of their self-esteem from their work. That's part of our culture. When a man's career is in turmoil, you can expect him to lose interest in sex or in having a relationship.

There's nothing you can do short of getting him a job, and I don't recommend that either. When women help men get ahead with their careers, the guy often begins to resent that help and dumps the woman after he's made it. He doesn't want to be reminded of where he came from and how he got to the top. So be smart and back off of this relationship for now. Give him time to get his act together and he'll come back to you when his libido is back. Don't try to help. Don't try to get closer at this time.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I have an unusual question, which although concerns a relationship, does not concern a romantic one. My problem is with my mother (though it infringes on my romantic relationship as well). She was controlling throughout my childhood, and continues to be controlling even now (I'm 21 years old). We have argued, non stop, for about five or six years, and it's not just the typical teenaged rebellion type thing. We really do not get along; we clash fiercely. The thing is, my father left her many years ago, and she has no family here, and I am left feeling incredible guilt when I express thoughts of wanting to move out of the house. I do not want to hurt her; for all our fights and disagreements, I love my mother, but it is ruining not only my self esteem but my sanity to remain at home, and I suspect hers as well.

I do not blame her, solely, for my life's problems, but there is no doubt that I was raised radically differently from most kids (my family is from England, but we moved to Canada when I was younger), and as a result, I hardly had any friends in school, and never had a boyfriend until a couple years ago, which ended badly. Needless to say, the relationship I'm in right now could use some work too, but I don't even want to get into that, as there are so many things complicating it, including the fact that I, for all intents and purposes, cheated on my boyfriend, who is already a very insecure person. But back to my mother.. I have not seen anything relating to parents in your love library, and I'm at the end of my rope, as all I can find anywhere is how parents can deal with their kids. I am not cold hearted enough to just leave and not look back, but I am severely depressed and often suicidal, and part of it is being trapped in that house. Please help me if you can, I don't know where else to turn.

Sincerely, Helpless

Dear Helpless,

Your depression is caused by your feelings of being helpless. You feel helpless to control your situation and have always felt that way. Long ago, your parents moved and you had to go along. Well, that was when you were a child.

Now you are 21 and no longer a child. You can move out, get a job, and get a place of your own. That's the way the world has worked for endless generations. You are not responsible for providing company for your mother. She should find friends of her own. Basically, you and your mom each need to Get A Life.

You must realize that you are not trapped; you are staying with your mom because you have decided to, and you also have the power to decide not to. Most children have left home way before they're 21, and most parents deal with it. You don't have to feel guilty or "cold hearted."

Another thing for you to consider: one of the best ways to cure depression is to take action in your life.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am writing in response to your letter to the young man in love with his girlfriend of Indian origin. I'm pretty surprised at the extreme advice and discouragement you have laid on this guy. As a Canadian-born woman of Indian origin (my parents too are from India), I think you are stereotyping Indians as rigid and closed to the possibility of their children marrying out of race, religion and culture. Granted, I know that my parents are much more liberal and accepting than many Indians, but I also know that much of the Indian "strictness" if you will is not at all unbeatable. I have seen many men and women in similar situations as the man writing to you, who have been able to (albeit with patience and time) integrate their non-Indian partners into their family.

I think I speak for many Indo-Americans, Canadians, etc. when I say that for any Indian parent, estrangement from their children is much much worse than marrying out of the Indian culture. If the guy has no respect for things Indian, then I can see a problem, but it doesn't sound like that's the case. Perhaps I haven't explained this well, but I feel very strongly that you are giving Indians a bad rap. This guy and his fiance should meet the parents and at least try to explain. The daughter should approach the subject first. That's just my opinion, from a pretty good vantage point.

thank you for you time.

Dear Lucky with Liberal Parents,

I'm happy for you. However, in my therapy practice and life experience, I've rarely heard of in-laws who start off being understanding and supportive about their children's interracial and/or mixed religion marriages.

My task here is to give readers the kind of real-life advice I give my clients, not to stay on politically correct terms with all religious and racial groups. (Which keeps getting me in trouble :)

If you could see the hundreds and hundreds of letters I've received from readers describing horror stories with parents regarding social, racial or religious differences, I think you'd agree that my advice to the young man in question was a realistic warning.

I just wish more parents were like yours!

Thanks for writing,

Dr. Tracy

Submitting a Question to this column

Dr. Tracy regrets that it is simply impossible for her to answer all of the hundreds of questions submitted to this column each week. However, she does read every question, and tries to select the three which are of the most general interest to the visitors here.

Dr. Tracy says, "Is your question urgent? Many of the most beseeching, desperate messages I get are not answered in this column because the answer is just a couple of clicks away in my Love Library. Have you tried my Love Library? I know that nobody goes to libraries anymore, but check this one out -- it's so easily searchable that it's fun and easy to use!"

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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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