"Ask Dr. Tracy"

11/21/99 Advice Column

A Controlling Man
Why Can't He (or Won't He) Commit?
She's Irresistible to Him

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I have been dating a man for over 2 1/2 years. The problem is he has been married three times, doesn't think that he is ready for marriage again. I love him with all my heart but there are certain things that he will not put up with. For one thing, he is very spritual, meaning if he is going to be with me for long-term, I have to submit myself to him, never say "no" to him and if he tells me that I should do something that he thinks is best for me, I cannot say no otherwise he gets disappointed with me. I want to make him happy, but I have a mind of my own and sometimes I get stubborn. I just don't like someone telling me what to do. He has been hurt so many times by women, and he says he knows what will work in a relationship and what will not. He is 20 years older than me and has done so much for my children and myself. He says I should be grateful for what he has done, and I am! Do you think that he is controlling or do you think that I should try to please him and be a help-mate to him.

Dear Grateful,

Just because you're grateful to a man doesn't mean you should let him control your life. Consider yourself lucky that he isn't ready for marriage, because marrying him is about the worst thing you could do. There are probably three ex-wives out there somewhere who would agree with me.

Men don't get better after you marry them. Marriage isn't some magical wand that cures a man's faults. To the contrary, marriage often unleashes a man's worst faults. If he's a controller before you're married, he'll think the marriage license gives him absolute control over you. He'll try to totally rule your life. And remember, whatever annoys you before you're married will only annoy you more after you're married and feel stuck.

Do I think he's controlling? Of course he's controlling. What really gets me is this outrageous theory he's laying on you - that because he's spiritual, you've got to be submissive. While some religions may require wives to be submissive, you're still a free, modern woman and you don't have to let yourself get entrapped in that life. In any case, a truly spiritual person is respectful and accepting of others, not a relationship nazi.

He may feel that because you're 20 years younger, you'll accept all this and take his advice without question, but it sounds like you're not willing to do so, and I applaud you for that. I doubt if you'll be able to make him happy and still have a mind of your own.

However, men can change. And there's nothing wrong with pleasing a man and being a helpmate, as long as you don't have to give up your self-respect and ability to make decisions in your life to do it. So if you want to try to work this out, stop letting him think that he's in charge. Immediately. Tell him the only way the relationship can continue is as a partnership, not a dictatorship. And then make sure it's working that way for at least a year before even considering marriage.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I have been seeing this guy for 3 years on and off but for the past year we have just been seeing each other. Since we have know each other for 4 years I know everything about him and in turn he knows everything about me. We act like a couple but the problem is that we are not. I love him and he knows this but he can't even commit to me as boyfriend and girlfriend. We go out with friends and everytime someone has mentioned something about us being boyfriend and girlfriend he doesn't claim me as his lady but as a close friend.

I have asked him what he wants from me in terms of our relationship and all he says is that he wants us to be a couple but he doesn't see it possible. Why does he spend time and money on me, Why does he go through all the arguements with me? I know that it is not the sex that is keeping us together because it isn't about that. And he doesn't go to anyone else for it. So why is he being the way he is?

Dear Almost A Couple,

You've been in an exclusive relationship for a year and he won't even introduce you as his girlfriend? That's deplorable.

So why does he treat you this way? Why does he introduce you as a "friend" when you're really much more? Because you let him, because he can get away with it, and because he's trying to keep his options open in case he sees someone else he wants.

If you really want him to appreciate you, you'll have to leave. You really have nothing to lose. If you stay, he knows you'll argue and ask but that in the end, he can keep doing what he's doing. Only by leaving will you convince him that his behavior is unacceptable. The sad part is that the longer you stay around and let him introduce you as a friend and still give him all the advantages of having a girlfriend with none of the responsibilities, the more entitled he'll feel. It's as if you give him permission to treat you badly by standing around and taking it.

If you've already told him you don't want to be introduced as his friend, but rather as his lady or girlfriend, then you have to take action to change his behavior. Always have cab fare with you when you go out. Then, the next time he introduces you as his "friend," give him your dirtiest look and leave. If he asks what's going on, tell him you just don't like the way he's treating you so you're leaving. You have to reclaim your self-respect and put a little teeth into your argument for more status and couplehood.

If he's ever going to see the possibilities of the two of you becoming a couple, it will be after you leave him, not while you're standing around being his "friend." So leave and start dating someone else. Let him see what it's like to be without his "friend" for a while and he may decide he's made a mistake. The worst that will happen is that you will regain your self-esteem and find someone who will claim you as their own true love.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a 44 year old divorced man with a 17 year old daughter living with me. She has lived with me for 3.5 years when she was accepted to go to a magnet school in my city which is different from her mom's. I had suspended all of my dating activities to be able to devote time to her and not have any conflicts.

About a year ago I met a 37 year old woman that caused me to want to open up to dating again. Once I made my feeling known to her she seemed to open up to me and it appeared that all would go well. She has stood me up several times for dates, if while talking on the phone she has to excuse herself she says that she will call right back and never does. She constantly complains about something or someone and always has an answer or excuse for every situation.

She works out of her home and the company she works for has set up a separate line for her use there. I recently found this out and that I have not been given her personal number. She has an excuse for that too.

Soon after we began talking and my first "Date Standup" I decided that I would simply terminate the personal part of the relationship (we also have a business relationship) and fax a termination notice to her home office. I thought this would be best in order to avoid getting sidetracked in a conversation.

An hour later she called appearing to be upset and couldn't understand why I would want to terminate the "none" relationship. We didn't end it but she indicated that I should give her more time since she was recently out of another long-term relationship. I agreed to do it but decided that I would be involved at a distance and not talk to her until she called me which worked for a while.

This has been the most curious relationship I have ever been involved in. She has suggested a need for money but has not pursued any from me. I have not volunteered any and will not.

My problem is that she is irresistible to me and I can't figure out why! When we're together its like we are made for each other. She does all the things that I adore. She slides up next to me even in public like I am and have been her man for a long time. Its not sexual, just tender. What do I do? I just can't understand and don't know why. Please help!


Dear Teased,

You are on the road to being used and abused. Why would you want a woman who has stood you up several times, who doesn't call you back when she says she will and who has suggested a need for money? Sure, she's an irresistible tease, but there's more to it than that. I suspect that you're one of those men who just has to be needed.

The problem with being a man who needs to be needed is that you'll find a woman who has lots of problems. She'll only keep you until you manage to solve her problems, and then she won't need you any more. It's a sure prescription for getting your heart broken.

You're a giver who's met a skillful taker. You haven't given her money - yet - but you've given her too many chances. The reason you want her so badly is because she knows exactly how to pull your strings. She gives you what you want - affection in public - and then gives you little else. So you try hard to get close enough to her to get the good part, the part that draws you, and you wind up getting the bad part too.

You can learn an important lesson here. When a woman says she needs more time, it's a way to keep you around in case she changes her mind, but basically she doesn't want you, not now, maybe not ever. In the meantime, you're on standby, waiting to see if she'll change her mind -- and she's free to date others, knowing she can always snap her fingers and you'll come running. You'd be a real fool to get involved in this kind of relationship.

Find a woman who really wants you, now, not maybe at some time in the future. Life is today, and if you're 44, you're a very desirable age. There are some wonderful women out there who would adore you instead of standing you up or being ambivalent about whether they want you 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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