"Ask Dr. Tracy"

8/20/2000 Advice Column

Her Legs Turn Him Off
His Internet Affair
Pictures of His Ex

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a 27 year old male and have been dating a 25 year old female for 4 years. Everything is perfect in our relationship and we are planning to be engaged soon. However, there is one problem. My girlfriend has developed these unsightly varicose veins on her legs.

She is a very attractive girl and still very young. There are certain medical procedures that she can have done that can reduce or eliminate most of the ugly veins. She has already done a treatment once but has no plans to go back and finish the job. I tried to express to her that I really wanted her to do the procedure but she is content to leave her legs alone. She feels that no one is perfect and I should love her the way she is. She is upset that I am being vain.

Dr. Tracy, I realize that no one is perfect and that I am not perfect. However, these veins really turn me off. Is there anyway I can communicate to her that she should get the procedure done? I am so unhappy when I see her in shorts or a bikini. This veins developed over the past year. I feel it is really hurting our sex life, because I am just not as attracted to her like I used to be.

I don't want to insult her or break up with her because she is truly my love. This is holding me back from buying a ring and getting engaged, though. How do I tell her this? Money for the procedure is not an issue, she just has to be willing to go through with it. I realize that the most important thing is the person you are marrying and not what they look like, but I still need to be attracted to her. I would really appreciate any advice you could give. I feel helpless.


Dear Helpless,

You are in a perfect relationship - except for her legs! Really? I can't help but wonder if there's more than legs involved here, even though you say everything else is perfect. If she got her legs fixed, would you find something else that bothers you? What if she marries you and gets pregnant? Would you be turned off if she has stretch marks on her breasts or stomach which often happens after pregnancy? Actually, that may be in the back of her mind when she says you should love her the way she is and nobody's perfect.

Nobody stays perfect forever. We get old, we sag, we get wrinkles. Varicose veins are the least of it. If you're so unhappy with her in shorts or a bikini, are you sure you're not simply worried about what other people will think of you being with a woman with less than perfect legs? Needing perfection in your life is a curse. It means you can never be happy because life is never perfect, and the truth is that there are no perfect women.

But if you're turned off, you're turned off, and that's a reality you must deal with if you're planning to get engaged. You really should both be hot for each other right now, because you can't expect passion to suddenly bloom after you settle into the everyday routines of being married.

The first thing you should do is try adding enough spice to your sex life that you never even notice the veins in her legs during sex. Start by reading "Spicing Up Your Sex Life" in my Love Library, and pursue this if your girlfriend is interested. Who knows - you could get such special sex going between you that you wouldn't trade her and her varicose veins for any woman on the planet.

If that doesn't work, your last chance is to negotiate. Unfortunately, there's no nice way to tell your girlfriend that her legs turn you off, but do be sure to have tell her lots of great things you love about her first. Communication is important in any relationship, and unless you can talk to her about your feelings, you are doomed to be unhappy and she not to know what's wrong. Maybe if you talked to her about it, you'd find out that there's something about you she doesn't like. Then you could trade. You could get your nose, teeth or whatever fixed in exchange for her getting her veins fixed.

But remember, the veins could return. So, if you feel as if you can't marry a woman with varicose veins no matter what, then you should tell her that and set her free to find someone who can.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

My husband of 11 years has had a secret e-mail relationship with an ex-girlfriend whom he dated in his younger years. She is having marital problems, she consulted him, he consoled her- and I was left out of the loop. He did not want to discuss her with me, and he was growing increasingly distant from me as their relationship progressed. He visited her a few times, they spoke on the phone, and maintained the "heat" over the internet. He finally admitted the relationship after I had confronted him ["a woman knows"...], and said that if I told him to end the relationship he would. But only if I told him to. I did. And he did end it.

But having accepted the "slip", I still can't get over the sense of betrayal. I think they did not have a sexual relationship, but the emotional bond makes it almost immaterial. To me it's the same thing. He went outside of our marriage for emotional fulfillment. I now feel inadequate, guilty, sad, betrayed, angry with him and with her, and mostly confused. I am told to forgive, but how do I forget? How do people get over this?


Dear Alone,

I don't blame you for being upset. When a married man has an emotionally intimate relationship with a woman other than his wife, it is definitely a form of infidelity. No wonder you were upset. He was treating her like his best friend when you should be the only one with that status.

He was also emotionally undermining your relationship by talking to her about things he didn't want to tell you about. And to top it all off, he was sneaking. If he weren't doing anything wrong and felt that the whole thing was perfectly okay, he would have told you about it. The fact that he was sending hot emails, sneaking visits to her and having secret conversations are all big red flags. And you are right, a woman "knows."

One of the most important rules of a happy marriage is that married men and women shouldn't have friends of the opposite sex who aren't friends with their spouses as well. Your husband's unwillingness to discuss this other woman with you and his increasingly distant behavior were indeed danger signals, and you did exactly the right thing by insisting that the relationship stop.

Too many women are afraid to put a stop to their husband's Internet philandering. They don't want to insist that he stop, and so he continues. So you told him to stop and he did. Now you say you've accepted the "slip." But still can't get over the sense of betrayal. I understand how you feel. It will take time and effort for you to fully trust him again, and you're right, it doesn't matter whether they were actually intimate or not. It's the emotional bond they had that's so upsetting to you.

You may feel that you won't get over it, and even though a part of you may always be angry and upset over what happened, your job will be not to dwell in that part of your mind. Sure you can always bring it up to yourself and wallow in it and feel inadequate, guilty, sad, betrayed and angry, but that won't improve your marriage or your life.

You need to find new ways to develop emotional intimacy and closeness with your husband. Consider a weekend workshop for couples or a few sessions of couples therapy to improve your communication with each other.

You have choices to make here. You can choose to remain angry or you can choose to forgive and improve and get on with your life. Getting over an emotional betrayal takes time, but it does happen. It's really up to you.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a 22 y/o, never married female who needs your advice. I met my 26 y/o, divorced for 1 year boyfriend and since the day we met have been swept off my feet happy. He is kind and caring and I really believe this is the one for me.

Here is the problem, while at his parents house looking at his baby pictures I came across his wedding pics. A little uncomfortable looking at them I put them away and left the topic alone. I was at his house recently looking at a collage of photos on the wall and noticed one of him and his ex right in the middle. I can't figure out why he still has the pic on the wall. They were only married for a 1 1/2 years! Should I say something about it? He has told me he has been over her for a long time, but why the pic? We are getting pretty serious and before it goes too far I want to make sure I am not the rebound girl. Thanks for your help and consideration.

Confused in Tampa

Dear Confused,

If he was divorced for a full year and dated during that time before you met him, I don't think you need to be overly concerned about being the rebound girl. This sounds like a simpler problem.

Any time you date a man with a past marriage, you can expect that there will be baggage of one kind of another. Photographs are one big part of the problem. You can't expect him to burn every photo that represents his past just because you're in the picture now.

As for his parents having wedding pictures, I can tell you it's sometimes hard to keep up with your children's spouses of the moment. As the parent, you try to keep changing the pictures when a new spouse shows up - if you remember. But the memories of your child's first wedding are always there. Don't expect his parents to be perfect at keeping his past pictures a secret.

As for your fella, well, men in general are pretty insensitive to the whole issue of pictures of ex's. They just don't think about it as a problem. If it really bothers you, find a way to replace it with a picture of the two of you instead. Take some pictures of the two of you and tell him how happy it would make you if your picture were on his wall instead of one with her. He'll probably be surprised that you care about something which to him is so insignificant.

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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