Dr. Tracy's Advice Column

Cartoon Kiss

11/11/2001

Different Tastes
Learning to Tell the Difference
Making a Move



Different Tastes

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I have a question that I need to ask you. My boyfriend and I have been together for about a year, and i love him deeply and he is the first man that I have ever been able to picture myself marrying. The problem is...I'm an animal rights activist (vegetarian too) and he eats meat.

He has given up beef and pork for me, and is trying to give up chicken, but it is really hard. He feels like I am changing him, but for me to eat meat is murder. He says that he loves me and that he wants to be with me. More than anything in the world I want to not care that he eats chicken. Please tell me how I can try to not care so much....he has made so many compromises for me, and I just wnat to be able to do the same for him. Thank you for you time.

Sincerely, vege head

Dear Vege Head,

You wouldn't believe the number of letters I get from women who say their boyfriends are abusive and controlling and yet they love the jerk. Your boyfriend's only fault is that he still eats chicken?

You also wouldn't believe the number of letters I get from women who say their boyfriends are stubborn and unwilling to make any changes at all for them. Your boyfriend has made so many compromises for you.

You also wouldn't believe the number of letters I get from women who say their boyfriends are unable or unwilling to tell them that he loves them or that he doesn't want to spend as much time with them as they'd like. And yet your boyfriend tells you he loves you and that he wants to be with you.

I'd say you'd be a fool to let this guy get away just because he still eats chicken. My advice would be to let him eat whatever he wants - and I know the vege heads will be throwing cyber carrots my way for this - and stop trying to make him be like you and eat what you want him to eat. Just because you love someone doesn't mean you get to control them or be in charge of what they eat. Sure, you can try to positively influence him to eat healthier, but don't try to impose your belief systems on him.

So you think it's murder to eat meat. That's fine. Don't eat it. He's not trying to get you to eat chicken, so be glad and leave him to his meat.

Who says that two people must have the same beliefs in order to be happy together, anyway? There are many happy marriages between Catholics and Protestants, Jews and Buddhists - even Republicans and Democrats :) Isn't it apparent to you from recent events that what the world needs is more love and tolerance, and less self-righteous dogma?

So instead of carrying on this crusade to convert him, concentrate on appreciating his fine qualities, enjoy the love he has for you, and agree that you both can eat what you want. And beware: if you ignore my advice, you might "win" this battle of beliefs, only to lose him in the long run. When you force a man to make too many changes for you, he often winds up resenting you and feeling emasculated by your taking charge of his life.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy



Learning to Tell the Difference

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I read your column every Wednesday or Thursday as soon as it's posted. It is now my turn to ask a question that I can't find answers to in your Love Library.

I am 29 and married to the most wonderful man. I have absolutely no complaints and only complete appreciation. My question isn't about my own marriage. It's about my parents'. I am having a difficult time dealing with their problems. My almost perfect marriage makes it even harder for me to see why they can't seem to work things out.

It's hard to explain the relationship between my parents. They're from another country and have an almost master-slave relationship that I don't know if I know how to explain in a short email. Basically, it's a very traditional home setting, where my mom cooks and does everything my dad asks. Even right now, when they're in their "cold war" mode, where they don't talk to each other at all, she still continues to cook for him, and does his laundry, etc. Let me back up and explain how it kind of all happened.

When my parents moved to the states, my father decided that instead of getting a real job, he would just take what they had (they were pretty well off at the time) and start a small business selling woodworks. He invested ALOT of (unnecessary)money into this business, but he doesn't really know how to do business, yet he's too proud or his ego too large to really learn from anyone. So now, 5 years later, they've lost almost everything they've got as far as liquid money goes. My father's a big talker. He's been telling friends and family how great his business is, and how much money he's been making, when really they haven't made even a cent and only lost so much. My mother wanted to close shop the very first year when they started business. She just wanted a good retirement life without having to work so hard. Now she just resents the fact that dad didn't ever listen to her and they're totally out of money unless they sell some real estates. She's also really angry that he never spends time with her, never did he buy her any gifts for birthday or anniversary, never took her out to eat or anything. Recently when mom's paintings were displayed at a local art gallery, she asked dad to go take a look and show support, asked and asked, he never went. And what bothered her most, she said, is that he criticizes her in front of other people.

Lately, my father picked up a new hobby... watching videos. Usually til 5AM at least. He's completely left his business behind but he won't just shut it down. He needs the "front" to continue to show friends and family that he's got a great business going. I think he's in denial so watching videos nonstop all day all night is his only way to escape reality. My mother says she's living like a widow. They don't talk to each other. He jsut sits in front of the TV all day. He blames all of his business failure on her (I don't know how he reasons that!) and she blames all of her unhappiness on him.

So for the past few weeks, my mom has been calling me everyday, asking me what she should do, asking me to go talk to daddy about the property taxes that they can't afford to pay this year, asking me to talk some senses into him. I told her I REALLY don't want to get in the middle. It just isn't fair asking ME to be involved in their marital problems. She then gives me the guilt trip that if I don't help, she has no one to turn to and their marriage is going to fail..blah blah.

If I do say something about how they could start by changing the way they talk to and treat each other, like instead of saying "negative" things, ask positive questions. Avoid using "You never.." etc. But she simply replies "I'm too old to change, and I'm not smart to know what sounds negative what sounds positive" and she stops listening.

Mom also talks a lot about wanting to move out and be on her own. I have let her know that if she moves out, I'll be there for her if she needs help. But I also let her know that if she chooses to completely cut dad out of her life, she needs to be ready to really do that. None of this still-doing-your-laundry, packing-your-lunch kind of crap. But I think she's deathly afraid to be on her own.

When I suggested counselling, she just chuckled. I know my father would never go for that. Plus we'd have to find a counseller that speaks their language and understand the cultural background....what a pain.

I don't expect to solve their problems. I think their problems are so deeply rooted that there's no way for me to clear all of it up in a few talks with them. But, what can I do as their child? I don't want to get involved, but I can't just sit here and listen to her unhappiness every day on the phone. It often ends up being an argument between her and myself. It's frustrating. I want to do something but I don't want ot mess things up even more. Can you help?

Thank you so much for you time and wisdom.

Dear Frustrated,

There's nothing more frustrating than not being able to help your parents work out their problems and have a good relationship. But believe me, you are fighting a losing battle.

I know because I tried for years to get my parents to improve their relationship - and I'm an expert. It was impossible because they were so stuck in their ways, so completely trapped in the patterns they'd established over the years, and so unwilling to really make changes.

Your parent's relationship won't change for the better. It will probably get worse. The best thing you can do is to protect yourself. You don't want their rotten relationship to affect your great one. Also, you don't want your father's financial irresponsibility to become a burden on you and your husband.

If you have siblings, try an intervention, where all the children gather and insist on seeing your parent's financial obligations and finding out where they stand. You could be in for a terrible shock. But knowing is better than not knowing, because at least then you can start to deal with the problem.

If your father is becoming completely out of touch with reality and can't pay his taxes, that's a big red flag. There could be other bills that also aren't getting paid. You could also see an attorney and find out what you would have to do to have him declared incompetent and take over their financial affairs.

Your mother probably won't leave him, and chances of his going to therapy are nil. You might be able to get her to go to therapy and take some responsibility for her life, but that's doubtful as well. You could encourage her to join a woman's group and have some other supportive friends to turn to besides you.

In the meantime, protect yourself. You shouldn't have to listen to your mother's unhappiness on a daily basis. Limit her access to you. Tell her you'll talk to her about her problems, but only once a week. Explain to her that it upsets you too much and you just can't listen to it every day.

I wish I could help you help them, but the best you can do in this situation is help yourself, so you don't feel so victimized by their predicament. Keep in mind the AA prayer that goes something like, "Dear Lord, give me the strength to change what I can, the patience to accept what I can't change, and the wisdom to tell the difference."

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy



Making a Move

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am 20 years old, I've never been involved in an ongoing romantic relationship. I've been told by others that I'm very pretty, and also very smart, but I've never really gotten deeply involved in relationships with men because of my religion, and the location I live in. I live in a remote area with no eligible bachelors, because I only date those of my religion, and there aren't many eligble bachelors (read 25 or under) in my area.

Most of the relationships I've been involved in have been long distance. About three months ago, a family friend introduced me to a nice young man. We had several conversations on the phone, and visit eachother about every other weekend. Because we've seen eachother about 10 times, I keep thinking that he will do something to try to deepen our relationship, (compliment me, tell me I'm pretty, that he enjoys being with me, something, anything, as I've complimented him, but haven't told him I thought he was handsome). If not a compliment, I thought by now he'd at least try to touch my hand, or put his arm around me, and he hasn't. And we've been alone, so he's had the oppritunity. At first I thought that he wanted to wait until we were a couple to show some affection (since we don't believe in premarital sex, and limit expressions of affection until we are courting), and thought we were at the stage that he would be asking to court me soon.

Recently, he told a close family relative to ask if me if I liked him. I answered honestly yes, but later on I began thinking, as old as he and I are...(in our early 20's)..I find it a turn off that he would get a family member to ask me such a personal question.

Every now and then when we are together, he'll walk really close to me, as though he's trying to touch me, and I'll walk close back, but never any expressions of affection. I think up to this point he hasn't had any relationships with any girls.

Do you think that this guy likes me, and just has a weird way of showing it? How can I get him to make the move in the relationship, instead of passing the buck to a relative. I'm not pushing myself on him, he intiates a lot of visits and contact, and he's a nice boy, but I feel sooo disgusted by him getting a family member to ask me if I like him...especially in light of the fact that we've known eachother for months and he's given no signs of affection.

By the way, I read your column daily, and I enjoy it, and I also poked around in the love library, but I can find no advice for my current situation...and I'm getting a little frantic.

Dear Frantic,

Given what you've told me about your religious beliefs, I'd say you're overreacting. If any expression of affection means "courting," then holding hands can be a big decision. Three months is not a long time for your guy to decide to take this step. So slow down. Give him at least six months before you start to worry.

I think he likes you. Men don't hang around you if they don't like you. Relax. Give him a chance. He sounds like a nice guy, and as you say, there aren't that many around that are the right religion and the right age.

I also think you're being a little tough on him. Stop being so judgmental because he asked a family member if you like him. People ask friends questions like that, it's no big deal. He's probably shy. Give him some more compliments and build him up a little. Perhaps he asked because you haven't shown him that you do like him by being a little more touchy and affectionate. Men are insecure and need reassurance, especially if they haven't had relationships with women before.

If you're getting antsy waiting for him to make a move, make it yourself. Put your hand in his. Put your arm around him. Become more physically affectionate with him and he will get the idea that it's okay for him to be affectionate toward you too. Help him get the courage to ask to court you, if that's what you want. If he doesn't ask within three more months, ask him. Women don't always have to sit around and wait to be asked.

Good luck,

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!"

If you can't find your answer in the Library and you feel you MUST have an answer, you can get a personal answer from Dr. Tracy within two business days by availing yourself of her inexpensive private counseling.

You may submit your question to Dr.Tracy's column by e-mail here. (Tips: to increase your chances of having your question chosen, state your age and your marital history, and remember to use paragraph breaks so that your question isn't just one big, hard-to-read clump of words. Also, questions in all caps won't be answered.)




(Featured art from cover of Letting Go, by Zev Wanderer and Tracy Cabot, published by "Bitan" Publishers, Tel-Aviv, Israel)
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