11/16/97 Advice Column
Pondering in KY
Living together before you get married gives you a chance to work the kinks out of your everyday life together -- to decide who does what best around the house, and to make the little compromises that any two people living toether have to make.
The only thing you have to think about is how you're going to feel about having lived together before being married. You may look back and wonder why you didn't get married sooner. Or you could decide after living together that you don't want to get married at all.
My husband and I lived together for a year and a half before we were married and we're about to celebrate our 15th anniversary. Living together first has no effect on our married life, except that it taught us how to get along, how to support each other's strengths and weaknesses and most of all, that we could be together 24 hours a day and still love each other.
You really have nothing to lose. If it works out, you'll be married, and if it doesn't work out you'll have avoided a bad marriage and divorce.
To me the fact that I enjoy spending time with her, and the fact that we have great sex just seems to enhance things. My question is what should I do? Should I back off and go back to a purely proffesional relationship? Is there a possibility she can change her mind if I step away? Please help! I really care about her.
Lonely in NYC
The only way your friend will begin to see you in a more romantic light is if she sees that another woman is in love with you. Then, if she loses you to someone else who offers you a real relationship, she'll wake up and want you back. Unfortunately she doesn't think she'll lose you to anyone, so she can have you for sex and look around for someone else, or not, just as she pleases.
The only real danger is that once you find someone who loves you and wants to have sex with you, you'll probably be so happy you won't have a look backward for your old study partner. But that's not exactly downside, is it? And you certainly wouldn't be lonely anymore.
I wonder, though, if you and your study partner have time for any more of a relationship than you already have. It could be that you both know you really don't, and that's why you both keep this almost satisfactory but certainly convenient relationship going. After all, you both have to agree to participate the way it is.
Three years ago, while in college, I met and started dating a guy I'll call Jack. It was pretty much love--or lust anyway--at first sight for both of us. We dated for a while (a few months), had a fantastic time and became great friends; but he eventually broke up with me in order to try to get back together with an old girlfriend of his. Someone he'd been very serious with and who he still had unresolved feelings for. I was upset, but not devastated and actually got over it fairly quickly. We were even able to continue our friendship and even went out once or twice several months after the initial break-up. After we graduated from college, however, both Jack and I moved away from the town where we went to college. I figured that was the end of him, us, etc. We met to say good-bye, wished each other well and that was it.
Now, fast forward to a year and a half later. Both Jack and I have ended up back in the same college town due to various factors. Job and family for me (it's my hometown) and more school (an advanced degree for him). Despite the fact that we barely kept in touch while we were both away, we got back together almost immediately upon my return and much to my surprise, restarted our relationship. This time, however, things are very different. I have fallen in love with him, but I know that he is not in love with me. Knowing the limitations of his feelings for me (he cares about me on many levels and we have this incredible, red-hot chemistry but he doesn't love me), I have begged him to leave me alone and let me get over him and move on. However, he won't let me go. He will go for a few weeks and then, just as I'm starting to feel better, I'll run in to him and well end up sleeping together or he'll call and tell me he has to see me. Or he'll just show up on my doorstep. I know I should just say no or lock the door or hang up the phone, but it's so hard. I really love him and I keep imagining that his unwillingless to let go of the relationship is a sign that, deep down, he must love me too. Could this be a possibility? Why won't he leave me alone and how can I keep from giving in to him when he does come around. Please help me, Dr. Tracy. I'm really freaking out over the whole thing. My friends are even starting to tell me that I'm becoming obsessed with him and and our dead-end relationship.
The sad reality is that men, whether they love you or not, always come back when the sex was great. It's as if they can't stop checking to see if they can still get it and if it's as good as they remember it was. Old Jack will keep coming back and leaving for the rest of your life if you continue to let him.
Is the sex so good that you're really hopeless? I doubt it. You could move. You could refuse to see him. You could refuse to have sex with him and he would go away, which is not to say that he won't keep checking just in case you change your mind.
Use "thought stopping" to control your obsessive thoughts about Jack. Whenever you start to think about him, distract yourself. Use negative reinforcement by snapping a rubber band on your wrist or smelling something awful like a container with rotten eggs in it. Read Letting Go in my Library for more help about getting over someone.
Remember that everytime you give in to him, he learns that he can come back whenever he wants to and get sex from you, and that it's okay. If it is, fine. But if it's not, then it's up to you to stop because he won't.
Stop acting hopeless and helpless. You're not. Your friends are right. Find a man who'll give you what you want instead of a man who always gets what he wants and never gives you what you want. Love should be a win-win opportunity, not a win-lose one.
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 48 hours by availing yourself of her inexpensive private counseling.