"Ask Dr. Tracy"

12/5/99 Advice Column

Looking For One Good Man
When To Get Out
Mother-In-Law Hell

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I would love to one day be married again, not for the sake of being married, but to have someone to share my life with. Truly share my life with. Today, that almost seems like an impossible task. I'm a divorced mother of 2 with custody of a niece and 2 nephews. I've been divorced for 8 years now and haven't had one man to ask me out on a date.

I've done the self-evaluation; I take care of myself both financially and spiritually and I'm working on the physical. I do not think I'm a bad person, although my ex-husband tells me I'm stubborn (I guess there could be worse thing said about a person). So, I'm not lead to believe there is something seriously wrong with me (not that I could be lead anywhere).

I've been told for years not to look for a man, that when the time is right, one will find you; and develop patience. OK, I took that advice. In the meantime, I'm raising my children, finishing up graduate school (6 months to go), I built 2 houses; learned about investing; bought investment properties; embraced my love/passion for reading; connected with my spirit; changed jobs twice for better opportunities, and learned to crochet. The sad thing is, no matter how I feel my time up with what I consider to be very meaningful things, I'm still missing out on the one thing that I want the most. I long for a healthy loving relationship with a healthy beautiful black man.

I've been told, you're not spiritual enough, you don't have enough faith, and you need to keep yourself busier. I'm saying I believe in GOD with all my heart and I know what faith is because I have more than a mustard seed of it and it is impossible to be any more busy than I am (I guess I could always decide not to sleep). Then there are those who say, you are to busy for a man to get to know you or, you are to independent for most black men, or you have two things holding you back (my 2 children).

People I meet and know seem surprised when they find out I am single (maybe I should wear a banner displaying the words "I'm single and not loving it". I know, it seems desperate, which I am not). I never ask why, it is a common occurrence for me. All I know is I am single and I would prefer not to be.

I'm not sure what question I would like answered or if this is my way of just being heard right now. Maybe I'm blue from the onset of the holidays this year or maybe, just maybe someone else knows what I'm going through. In any event, have a great holiday season and many… many more.

Dear Ready and Waiting,

You've been sold a bill of goods. Forget all that you've been told about not looking for a man because when the time is right he'll show up. It's an Old Wives Tale, kept alive by Hollywood movie plots. And it's caused more loneliness and heartbreak than any other bad advice I can think of.

If you want a man, you have to get him, just like you've gotten everything else. By planning, by working toward a goal, and by achieving that goal. Relationships don't happen by magic, and while they can happen unexpectedly, they don't have to happen by chance to be any good. So it really doesn't matter whether you're looking for a black, white or red man, you have to stop being passive and take action.

So stop listening to your ex-husband and all those other people who have told you to wait for God to bring you a man. No matter how strong your faith is, remember, God helps those who help themselves, and that includes a woman looking for one good man.

Start by making a list of all the qualities you need in a man, such as trustworthiness, fidelity, kindness, tenderness, nurturing, loves kids, etc. Then make another list of all the qualities that would be nice to have but that you could live without, such as good dancer, nice car, a full head of hair, etc. Make list #1 non-negotiable, and be very flexible with list #2.

Then start looking for men who fit your requirements. If a man has a problem with kids, cross him off your list. Immediately. If he has a problem with an independent woman, cross him off. Immediately. Don't waste your time. You're probably not going to change, and why should you? Find a man who fits your needs.

In order to do that, you'll need to sift through a quantity of men. Think of it as a numbers game, and increase your odds by meeting as many different men as possible. Put ads in the paper, check the Internet. Tell your friends you're interested in meeting someone.

Stop worrying about what other people think, and do what's necessary to accomplish this goal, just as you would any other. The holidays are a good time to reassess your life and to set new goals. If you make it a priority and stop waiting for fate to bring you a man, there's no reason why you have to spend another holiday season alone.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I married my husband 18 months ago and now we are separated. He moved out a month ago and rented a house somewhere.

He was verbally abusive from the day I met him. However, outside of this weakness he is very kind and good hearted.

Over the course of three years I've been criticized, blamed, accused, etc. for whatever I say or do that he doesn't like. He still doesn't accept responsibility for his abusive behavior. He either denies what he says, tells me my feelings are unjustified, or says I am the one who is abusive.

His last marriage ended for some of the same reasons. His family thinks I am the bad guy and he is the victim.

I tried counseling and all I hear is that I provoke my husbands abusive behavior. So, the therapist tells me I shouldn't do things that provoke him, or I should calm him when he gets abusive.

I think he needs anger management classes. He truly believes that it is ok to say mean things to someone when a person is mad.

Now we don't communicate, and he still won't acknowledge the problem. He says I'm paranoid which causes me to perceive what he says as critical.

Should I contact him or just let the marriage end? He says he still loves me. How can I get him to see how much his behavior has affected the marriage?

Please give me some advice before it's too late.

Dear Separated,

Some relationships are better off ended. You've only been married 18 months and your verbally abusive husband has moved out and rented a house somewhere? And you don't even know where?

I advise you to let him go and be glad of it. He shows all the signs of being a habitual abuser. All abusers are nice between the abusive episodes. That's why women stay. They're hoping for more of the good times, and the good part of the man that they know is inside there somewhere. However, every time they get close enough to get the good part, they get the abuse too.

Verbal abuse is just as bad as physical abuse. Verbal abuse can destroy your inner self, leaving you depressed and unable to cope with either him or life. If he was that way from the day you met him, believe me, he's not going to change now or in the future, not without lots of work on the problem.

If your counselor told you that you provoked your husband's abuse, get rid of the counselor along with the husband. Your job is not to calm an angry, abusive man. Your job is to get away from him so that he can't hurt you anymore. If your husband had any chance of changing, he would be willing to admit his problem and go to anger management therapy.

Sorry, it's already too late for this relationship. Run for your life. Just because he says he still loves you doesn't mean you should stay with him.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am engaged to the most wonderful man. We connect on so many different levels, and I am certain that our marriage will be a successful one.

The problem isn't him. It's his mother. I know there's the stereotype of 'no one likes their mother-in-law' and the advice I've gotten have all been 'just gotta deal with it'....

I don't think I can explain everything in an email. But she's the type of woman who cannot stand silence. She has to constantly talk, one second of silence would kill her. She's loud and obnoxious. This I can deal with (barely!), what I can't deal with is her attitude toward alot of things. She often invites herself without asking. Just last week she called up my parents and told them she and her husband will be there on so-and-so date, my parents politely told her that it's their anniversary and are not expecting guests. She insists on coming to visit nonetheless (and staying over for the weekend!) and said "we'll celebrate together!" After much dodging my parents finally gave in, because she won't even let them talk. But I know they weren't happy about it.

She also likes to criticize people. At a dinner with my parents she complained that the food is too greasy (she basically eats boiled vegetables and meat, anything cooked with oil is too greasy, and may I say that she's a lousy cook). My mom, because of her visit, cooked a big nice meal to welcome her, you can just imagine how hurtful it is when she complained about the food being too greasy. She would also tell people they're fat, right in their faces, and that they shouldn't eat too much. She also has no table manners, picks her teeth, her nose, etc. She has also told us that she wants us to not have a wedding, just get it done in the courthouse. If we buy a pack of toilet paper at store A where it's more expensive than store B, she will freak out and nag for at least 2 hours on something as insignificant as toilet paper. My fiance and I together make around $200,000, tell me how important it is to save a penny on a role of toilet paper? And we're certainly not young kids. We don't need her to tell us what to buy what not to buy. She also uses her index finger alot to point people in their face to emphasize her points, which we find very rude....

I know she likes me. She has told me this many times. I do think she has a good heart. She never intends to hurt people, she just doesn't think before she talks. She doesn't take other people's feelings into consideration.

My fiance and I are currently looking for a house together. We are sooo worried that once we buy a new house she will invite herself to live with us. Actually I'm almost 99% certain that she will. She has done that with several of her friends until they tell her she must go. I just don't know what to do. I love my man and I would do anything for him. Out of respect for him I have been holding in these resentment for quite a while, but I just don't know how much longer I can hold it. I have talked to my fiance about this. He understands. He knows his mother well and how irritating she can be to everybody. But so far we haven't been able to come up with any good solution... I do respect his mother. Never have I talked back to her or argued with her, no matter how wrong I think she is. Part of the reason is also that if you try to tell her something while she's lecturing you, she'll get louder and louder until your ears finally explode and give up. Can you give me some advice on how to deal with someone who you absolutely cannot stand, but have to learn to get along with? I am very worried about our future in this aspect...

Dear Bride to Be,

You're stuck with her. She's his mother. There's nothing you can do short of hiring the mother-in-law hit man and he's probably very busy during the holiday season :) But you can start planning your life, right now, so that you don't have her in it all the time.

Find a house that only has one big bedroom and no room for guests. Get some huge dogs that frighten her when she visits. Find a place that's really hard to get to, way up in the hills, with complicated directions, no guest parking anywhere around, and lots and lots of steps - just to get to the front door, then lots more steps inside.

Whatever you do, don't give her information to use against you. If she talks about the toilet paper, tell her you got it on sale. If she wants to know how much you paid, tell her you don't remember. Don't give her the idea that she can boss you around. Don't ask her for advice. If she offers some, listen politely and tell her thanks for the advice, and do whatever you want.

Schedule your life so that you don't have time to be with her. Give up your fantasies of spending lots of time in the bosom of a warm, welcoming extended family. If you have to have her around for a family event, make sure there are lots of other people to act as a buffer zone between you and her.

Let your fiancé know that you love him, but not his mom. Have a clear agreement that she will never ever under any circumstances live with you for longer than a weekend. Better yet, if she has to visit, get her a hotel room. You and your fiancé make enough money to get her a fine suite at a nearby hotel - whatever it costs will be more than worth it.

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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