Dr. Tracy's Advice Column

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What Counts As Cheating?
Getting to Marriage
Nagging Wife

What Counts As Cheating?

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I'm a 23 year old female. My boyfriend (also 23) and I have been together for about 4 months now. I like him a lot, and I see a lot of potential for this relationship. We tell each other all the time how compatible we are and how we plan on working hard on this relationship to allow it to flourish. A little while ago, the issue of commitment came up, and I asked him what his ideas of commitment included and what constitutes cheating. He told me that he didn't see situations of infidelity in black and white, and that if I had a single act of sex with another guy or kissed another guy, and it meant nothing more then sexual attraction (emotional bonding is a no no, however), then we would talk about it, and find ways to strengthen our relationship. He also promised that he would tell me if he cheated on me, but he said he couldn't promise that he wouldn't cheat, because my bf only promises things when he feels like there is 110% that he can hold that promise.

His answer really bothered me because it made me feel that somehow he doesn't value our relationship. He then asked me about my ideas about infidelity, and I told him that kissing, sex, any type of sexual act, and emotional bonding constitues cheating in my eyes. And I told him that I would also tell him if I did any of that. I also told him that if he did any of the above with another woman, then it's over between us because I don't tolerate infidelity and its not something to even talk about once it has happened. My bf willingly accepted that, and he said if anything should happen, he would promise to tell me, also knowing that it would be over between us. However, he said if anything was to happen between me and another guy, he would want me to tell him, but that he would access the situation before making a decision, but he said that since he put a lot of effort and love into a relationship, he doesn't think that one kiss or a sexual act should break it up. What bothers me is that fidelity is not a problem to me, and temptation is also something that isn't a problem to me. My bf then explained that sometimes its more difficult for guys because temptation is something harder to resist.

I am bothered because his views on infidelity and my views are different. If my standards on him are a lot stricter and more black and white then his are on me, then I'm afraid that it would be difficult for him to uphold to my standards since he sees this issue in a different light. What advice do you give someone like me and my bf where are views on a very important issue differ? I like this guy a lot, we are attuned to each other in so many levels, emotionally, intellectually, mentally. Is this one difference in values and standards damaging enough to break us up? Should I let it? Help, I'm confused!!! Thanks for your answer, I hope to hear from you soon.

Dear Bothered,

You should be bothered. Men have been using this "I'm just a man and I can't help myself," ploy to excuse their philandering for endless generations. Guys have come up with all kinds of exceptions to the fidelity rule (and more than a few women have adopted them as well).

There's the well-known "Out of town doesn't count" exception. And "Oral sex doesn't count." (guess who probably used that one!). Then there's "If I'm drunk and don't remember, it doesn't count." And "Old girlfriends don't count." They go on: "Just one time doesn't count." Or, "If it's just a sex act with no love involved, it doesn't count." Or, "If I tell about what I've done, it doesn't count." Or, "Mercy humps don't count." Or, "If I tell ahead of time that I might be tempted, then it doesn't count."

The truth is that it all counts. Infidelity is any intimate physical or emotional interchange between a man or woman who is someone other than their mate. If a couple has a commitment, that almost always means sexual and emotional fidelity. There are, of course, couples who mutually agree on another approach, such as a swinging couple who might agree to "be faithful, unless we both agree on the outside partner(s) and we're both present."

The key is mutual agreement, and unfortunately, you and your boyfriend don't agree on a level of commitment and on what constitutes infidelity. That's a big problem. You have made it clear that you want true fidelity. He has also made himself clear that he wants wiggle room and is willing to give it to you in exchange.

Let me translate for you. He is telling you -- as gently as he can -- that he's just passing the time with you until an irresistible temptation comes along. It's nice that you feel you are attuned to each other, emotionally, intellectually, or physically. However, what you have to recognize is that all this attunement is to a young man who is not ready to settle down.

Truly committed men are serious about resisting all temptations and don't want to risk their relationships for a fling. You'd be a fool to give him a 100% commitment without getting one back.

You can choose to stay with him and enjoy your time together without calling yourselves a "committed couple," or if you really want to be committed, move on and find someone who can give you the kind of commitment you want.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Getting to Marriage

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a 28 year old Methodist female nurse who has been dating a 30 year old Greek Orthodox male doctor for the past 4 1/2 years. We have discussed marriage for the past two years, but still no marriage proposal. He is still in residency and I am pursing my master's degree so we have busy lives, (but who doesn't). I came close to ending the relationship a few months ago after spending a few hours at his parent's house. His mother informed me in private conversation that she believed a marriage was successful if the couple shared the same background and roots and honored similar traditions. This conversation broke my heart because I wanted her acceptance of our relationship and it was clear that I did not have it. I also got a clear picture of the advice that she has been giving her son. I don't get to spend much time with his family because we both live 3 hours away from them and due to his job, he doesn't go home too often. Unfortunately, I have not been able to establish a close relationship with his family and sometimes feel uncomfortable when I am at his parent's house.

My boyfriend and I get along great. In fact, we have never really had a fight. We spend all our free time together and spend the night together about 3 nights a week. When we are together I am happy and enjoy being with him and can't imagine spending my life with anyone else. When we discuss the future I have agreed to convert to his religion and honor the tradition of naming our children after his parents.

For the past year, I have felt depressed about this relationship because of it's failure to progress to marriage. Deep in my heart I know that if he truly wanted to be married to me he would have asked. I think he says things that make me believe that is where things are headed but so far I don't have a commitment.

Even though I really want to marry him, I am also nervous about the actual wedding day. His mother also quizzed me about my sister's wedding, i.e. cost of her dress, how much was being spent per person, what type of food, etc. They have alot of money and my parent's are of average income. She is very concerned about how things appear to people and I have no desire to have an expensive wedding.

I have made up my mind to wait until December 1, 2002 for a commitment, I have not told him of this decision. Is this foolish to give my self a deadline? I am embrassed about being asked so often by my friends and family if we are engaged yet or when we are going to be. I am just so confused about this relationship. Is there a way that I can move things along without losing him or scaring him off? What can I do to develop a relationship with his parents (mother).

Dear Depressed,

After 4 years, you have a right to be getting engaged. Certainly, he should know for sure whether he wants to marry you by now. Setting a deadline is a good idea. But not telling him about it is a bad idea. After all, how can he meet your deadline if he doesn't know about it?

Your fantasies are standing in the way of your happiness. First fantasy is that he will voluntarily propose, perhaps getting down on his knees with a big diamond ring. Most men don't do that. They need some prodding, often demanding, and sometimes the threat that if they don't, you'll leave. What works? Finding out why he's procrastinating and overcoming his objections. What else works? Demands work. Tears work. Letting him know what you want works. Even leaving works.

What doesn't work? Waiting for the fantasy proposal. You could have a long wait.

There are other fantasies standing in the way of your happiness. You fantasize that his mother and other relatives will fall in love with you and be happy to have you marry their son. What a joke. Most parents have a fantasy mate, not a real person, in mind for their son or daughter.

The men's mothers are the worst. They almost always think no woman is good enough for their wonderful perfect son. My own mother-in-law hated me from the moment she met me until she died. And I had the same fantasies you have - that we'd be close friends, loving relatives, sharing her wonderful son. Not a chance. Accept that his mother isn't going to take you into her heart - at least not until there are grandchildren, and maybe not even then as much as you'd like.

Now for your third fantasy. You think you're going to have the perfect wedding with all those happy relatives gathered around. Forget it. Every wedding has problems, and so will yours. It's almost impossible to make yourself happy and your parents and his with your wedding arrangements. Forget that fantasy right away. Have the best wedding you can and be prepared for lots of compromise.

When you give up your fantasies for reality, you'll be much happier. Now, about reality. Start looking into what's involved in becoming a Greek Orthodox convert. See a Greek Orthodox priest. Talk to some women who have married Greek Orthodox men and converted, to find out what it's really like. If you're positive that this is what you want, start learning Greek. Surprise your in-laws and your boyfriend with your commitment. Show them you're serious, and give him a serious deadline.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Nagging Wife

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am so confused on how should I respond to a wife who nags at me about things that I have no control of. This particular case is about our unlocked door. She came home and discovered that the latch to the sliding door was unlocked. We inspected the house and it was not broken into and no missing valuables.

I understand her concern about leaving the house unlocked. To begin with I was not the last person to leave the house. Every morning my in-laws come to our house to watch for my first grader daughter and take her to school.

When she got home from work she noticed that the sliding door at the rear of the house was unlocked. She called me up and panicked about the incident. Her behavior seemed to be more angry and she was venting it on me. She was yapping, nagging in front of our 2 kids. I tried to calm her down and rationalize the incident. I kept reminding her being mad at the people around you will not solve anything, think something positive. But she kept inundating me with questions I do not know or questions that put the blame on me that I left it unlocked.

And here is the off the wall reasoning. She said that somebody might have planted some bug or miniature cameras around the house to video us and appear in some reality TV shows or the internet. I said, she is blowing things out of proportion. But it enraged her more and asked me to look for those devices. She also added, it's woman's instinct that I cannot understand.

I was so frustrated that I just held my arms up as a sign of surrender and ignored her. I let the night past without having a nice husband and wife conversation. I usually give her the silent treatment whenever she makes me upset. I did not even talk to her the next morning nor kiss her goodbye (she approached and I turned my face the other way) when she left for work. My feelings were hurt and I was not ready to close the chapter until she apologizes to me.

I have tried my training and common sense approach to deal with her but she seemed to be in a state of tunnel vision. She is so rigid with what she thinks is right without evaluating the outcome. It hurts a lot people, not just me but the kids. This is the fact and I am not trying to make a monster out of her, but I think she needs to address her anger. She sometimes says a lot of things that pierce my heart which involve my side of the family or wishing ill about me. I love her and I want our marriage to grow stronger. Please help.

Dear Confused,

Your wife is angry, not over the incident, but over your reaction to it. You totally invalidated her concerns, instead of saying, "Well, that's possible, I'll look around." How hard would that have been?

Sure, she might be nagging, out of control, and paranoid, but refusing to answer her questions or refusing to talk to her is really going to make her enraged. You are using "passive aggression" by not talking to her, while she is using active aggression. Her aggression might be more obvious, but both of you are wrong.

Stop the silent treatment. Instead, tell her you were hurt. Explain your feelings to her. Listen to her feelings. If you can't talk to each other in a civil way, get counseling. She may need anger management, but you too need help.

When a couple can't talk about what's bothering them, they're in big trouble. If you love your wife and want to preserve your marriage, you two need to learn to communicate reasonably and with love.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

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