Dr. Tracy's Advice Column

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Dangerous Signals
Putting Herself Out There With No Results
Old Lovers as Friends?

Dangerous Signals

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a 21 year old female that has never been in a serious relationship. Recenlty I started a new job and my Bosses boyfriend and I have been becoming really close friends. Everyday there is a time when we talk and I always feel that he is giving me signals that he likes me and might want to be more than friends. We do a lot of errands together and constantly email each other. This is the situation.

My boss and her boyfriend are not married but have one child and one on the way. The reason they are not married is because he does not want to be tied down.She has said that she wants to get married, but he persists and he always wins the argument. She has a lot of money and sometimes I think that is what keeps him around.

When I talk with him, I am very attracted to him and he gives me signals that he is attracted to me. He tells me what he likes in a women and is very sexually open to me. We have never taken it to the next stage, but sometimes he shows me signs of affection where he grabs me and hugs me or holds me close to him. He is not an openly affectionate type of guy, but with me it seems different. I have never even seen him give his girlfriend (my boss) a kiss, but what do I think when he pulls me into a long bear hug? And when we talk, we just connect, he stares into my eyes and I melt.

I don't know how to read this guy. I like him but I don't know what to do. I would never consider breaking up a marriage, but they aren't married, but they have children together, so in a way, they are connected but not by marriage. I am at a loss of what to do. any advice?

Dear At a Loss,

You say you're at a loss to know what to do about the advances of your boss's boyfriend. Well, if you don't figure out what to do really fast, you're going to be at a bigger loss - you're going to lose your job, your self-respect, and the guy too.

Stop allowing this man to flirt with you. Tell him to keep his hands to himself. Stop flirting back. If he talks about what he likes in a woman, say, "I'm sure you have that in (insert your boss's name)." Don't let him be sexually open, grab you, hug you or anything else.

It's not going to take long for your boss to find otut what's going on, and you'll be out on your ear, jobless and certainly without a good reference. It's true that your boss isn't married, but she has a child with this man and she's pregnant with another of his children. That's a family and a meaningful relationship to her, and to lots of other people, if not to you or her boyfriend.

You're not just hurting her, you're potentially hurting those children. It doesn't take a marriage license or a ceremony to make another woman's man off-limits. It takes common sense, empathy and a desire not to cause pain to other people - all of which you seem to be missing.

Get a grip. He's off-limits because he's your boss's boyfriend and the father of her children, born and unborn. He's off-limits because you should find your own boyfriend. Don't be seduced by his attention. He has nothing to offer you, and he'll cheat on you the same way he's cheating on her. Yes, what he's doing is cheating, even if he's not having sex with you.

You think he's showing signs of affection. Wrong. What he's showing are signs of a horny guy playing grabass with the help while his partner is pregnant.

You're too young to be involved in this tawdry affair. Even if you did succeed in getting him away from her, she'd still be in his life and so would her children.

Frankly, men who cheat on their pregnant partners are the lowest of the low. Why would you even consider such a man? Be smart. Stay away from him.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Putting Herself Out There With No Results

Dear Dr. Tracy,

Well, here goes, I don't know who else to ask.

I'm 36 years old, divorced (no kids, amiable relationship with ex). I've been putting myself out there into the world via online dating, since I'm very busy and don't have a lot of time to "hang out" in the random hope of meeting someone new.

Dr. Tracy, I am nothing short of amazed at the level of deceptiveness I've encountered in the online dating world. I'm very clear about what I want and what I have to offer, and yet I still find that many of the men who contact me are anything but ready and available for a relationship, although their profiles state that they are looking for a serious relationship with the right person.

In my world, which I consider to be based on reality, a person who is preparing to move away to graduate school, who travels extensively for his job, or who is recently divorced with two kids is in no way available for what I'm looking for, which is the possibility of a committed relationship that grows gradually over time. What I've found, however, is that no matter how unrealistic a guy's circumstances, ALL of the men I meet are convinced that they are looking for The One, and that their whole lives will fall into place around her once she appears. I say, Not!

I'm lovely, talented, loyal, witty, and emotionally healthy. I have wasted innumerable hours meeting otherwise attractive, intelligent men from these online dating things who don't seem to have the slightest reality check in terms of what they're bringing to the table. Most of them want to meet again, but with only a few exceptions I see little reason to pursue something that is bound to turn out to be a waste of my time.

I'm tired, I'm discouraged, and I don't really have a lot of time to waste to begin with. Yet I really do want to meet a wonderful guy and fall in love. Any thoughts on how I can either keep my spirits up or better screen the time-wasters?

Thanks, Ready and Discouraged

Dear Ready and Discouraged,

I'm afraid it takes more than just putting yourself out there and waiting for men to contact you. Unless you go about this proactively, by choosing men and then qualifying them, you're not likely to get what you want. One of the problems with dating sites is that a lot of men choose you because they're simply attracted to you -- even if they know they're not what you say you're looking for.

The men get what they want, but you're not getting what you want. The sad truth is that once you reach a certain age, say 36, you're starting to get set in your ways. You're not as flexible as you used to be. So it's almost impossible for you to blend yourself into a man's life who isn't exactly right. You need someone who matches you intellectually, spiritually, sexually and financially and who wants you.

You must do the selecting, and it's a numbers game. You have to do a lot of looking, a lot of screening, and even date a lot, but remember: it only takes one good one.

First, look for men who seem to meet all your requirements. For you, two are primary. The first is that he is available, which it sounds like you understand -- not going to live abroad, not finishing his education, not starting a new business, not married or just getting unmarried, not engaged, living with someone, etc., and not looking for someone who is not you.

The second one is equally important: is he capable of commitment? Has he been married before? Or made long-term commitments before? Does he know how to nurture relationships - does he have old friends, pets, plants, or other living treasures? Does he like women?

These are not physical qualities. Sure, you have to be attracted to a man, but remember, his looks can fade, his hair can go, but if he has a kind heart, it will always be there.

Don't expect the men to provide the reality check. You have to do that. Screen men on the Internet, by email, and then on the phone. Find out their timetable and their circumstances. If a man isn't available for marriage now, then forget him. Next, look into a man's heart, to see if he has the qualities that count.

You're right: when you're ready to get serious, many men aren't worth a first date, let alone more.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Old Lovers as Friends?

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I'm 47 years old and will have been married for 25 years in January. All in all, it's a good marriage, and although every marriage that's 25 years long has had ups and downs, it's been mostly ups, and my husband and I are still in love and happy.

I recently ran into a former lover from before I was married. I hadn't seen this man for 26 years. When I saw him again, it was almost immediately evident that he's been carrying a torch for me for all this time. I was amazed at the things he remembered about me. He had kept all my letters and all his photographs of me. It was very flattering, I have to admit. It was also evident that had we stayed together, we could have had a happy life, but that's not what happened - and I /have/ had a happy life - although his has been less so. (he initiated our break-up, due to family pressure.)

While I was at first sad at what was lost between us, I thought about the time I'd been with my husband, how I've grown and how my life with my husband has shaped me, and it's actually made me feel more grateful, more happy with my husband. The problem is, I really feel as though this other man is now living in the past a bit. He's been emailing me a few times each day, sending old photos, asking questions about whether I remember this or that, things like that. He even called, even though I didn't give my number. The times he's been emailing indicate he's been getting up in the middle of the night to send them, probably to keep his wife from seeing them. My husband is aware he's emailing, and I told him he called, and while he's not all excited, he's not bothered by it either. He realizes our relationship is not threatened by this.

I am happy to have an old friend back in my life, and the reminising is very nice, but I feel uncomfortable. I don't like that he feels it is necessary to hide this from his wife. At the same time, this was a man that was once important in my life, and as I get older, I appreciate how important ties with the past can be. I don't want to just close the door on that. When I answer his emails (not every day) I've enclosed photos of my husband and myself together, or mentions of what my husband and I did together the past few days. It doesn't seem to work... he just sent me some old photos of us together that, while not initimate or revealing or anything like that, certainly are a reminder of the nature of the relationship we once had. He wrote that the photos made him feel like it was just yesterday.

Is it possible to have an old lover as just a friend? I would have thought that after all this time, with both of us now married, it would have been okay, but I'm having my doubts. I sincerely like this man - there was a reason we were so close once. I hate to cut things off, but I feel as though I'm somehow 'cheating' as he's obviously not coming clean to his wife about being in contact with me, at least not to the extent that he is.

What is your suggestion?

Dear Old Lover,

Sure, it's possible to have old lovers as friends, but only if you both respect each other's current relationships. That means that you have to be friends with both your old lover and his wife, and your old lover has to be friends with both you and your husband. If you can manage that, you'll be able to have great relationships with your old lovers for the rest of your lives.

In order for this to happen, there has to be full disclosure. You can't have secrets from your husband about your past and be afraid that your old lover will blurt something out that embarrasses you. Perhaps your old lover hasn't told his wife about his past, so now he has to hide his present. Or maybe she's jealous of you and you're an issue with them. Whatever their problem is, you have to get past it to have a good friendship with your ex.

Since your old lover doesn't know the rules, you have to tell him. Don't be shy. Let him know how you feel. Tell him you value him and the memories of what you had in the past, but that he has to change the way he's leaving his wife out of the equation. Ask him questions about her. Suggest he send pictures of the two of them. Tell him that you absolutely won't allow him to keep you a secret from his wife and that you would like to be friends with her too.

After all, you and she have something in common.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Submitting a Question to this column

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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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