"Ask Dr. Tracy"

10/4/98 Advice Column


Dear Dr. Tracy,

Hello there. I have a prediciment on my hands that I haven't been able to shake for quite some time now, and I've never really wrote publicly to ask for answers but here goes:

I am currently living with someone I met on the internet a little over 2 years ago. It all started like so:

I met her on IRC, we emailed and spoke on the phone for about 2 months, I ended up taking a trip out to finally meet her face to face, we hit it off, 1 month later she moved to my city to live with me. Then I moved with her to her city for about 6 months. And finally now we have settled in SF and are living in a decent sized studio apartment (and paying an insane amount for it BTW) Anyways, we have always gotten along great and I really care for her, as I know she does for me. But I almost think she cares about me way more than I do.

Well in the past few months, I have really started to evaluate my life with her and how we came to be where we are today. Before her, I had been in only 1 relationship for a 3 year period. And I am talking I have only ever dated OR gone out on A date with 1 other person. So needless to say I am a very monogamous person and history has proven me to commit to long term relationships. Anyways, she is 26, I am 22. As I look back I notice that about 5 months after my prior relationship was when I started hooking up with my girlfriend now. Directly out of high school, I started my relationship with my ex, and then went directly into this one. Well, I'm really starting to feel a lot older than I am. I am planning on going back to University to get my degree, and as bad as this may sound, I would really like to do it single. Not because we don't get along, but because I really feel a big part of my "young and carefree" life is being and has been taken from me due to the fact that I:

A- Am dating someone 4 years older than me who has calmed down now and is starting to get ready for the whole life-long commitment thing (actually has been talking about it for at least 1 year now)
B- Have never truly had a "singles" life due to my back-to-back long term relationships.
C- Knowing her personality, I know that I wouldn't be able to devote as much individual time to my studies and well anything else that I really want to do by myself if I were with her at that time. Even now this is a big problem.

I guess basically what I am saying is that I feel like I need for myself to be a free bird, no strings, do what I want...have time to myself (which I get NONE of by the way due to the fact that we live together and have for so long that she has gotten used to how things have been together and it is the norm I guess.) Anyways, before we moved to SF, we had a big discussion and I almost broke up with her because even then I felt as if I was being held back from experiences I felt I needed at this point of my life.

My problem is I know how much she loves me....More than just a lot. She always goes on about how she could never ever imagine her life without me. She mentions marriage here and there, and how we'd raise our children in the future. I don't say much, and I know I should be straight with her about my feelings where that's concerned but at this point, 2 years into it, it feels like too little too late. I mean at one point, yes I could openly dicuss how I felt about those issues because I agreed, but my thinking has changed now. And I know if I were to just say "Look, all this talk about marraige and children makes me uncomfortable" now, well things would get hairy I'm sure.

I know it sounds bad, and I may come off as sounding jerkish, but I really feel like at this point in my life, my needs are starting to become abundantly clear to me, but I just don't have the heart to tell her, or even the knowledge of how I should approach this. I basically have come to the realization that she is not my soulmate, although she feels we are. And I know that sooner or later I will break down and have to break it off to persue my own happiness. Not that I'm unhappy now, but I will resent her a whole lot if I just bite my lip and stick it out. I already resent her a little for not giving me my personal space.

I just really feel trapped. On top of all of this we have shared a LOT of expenses including the computer on which I am sending this to you from. Please fill me in on the best way to approach this. I don't want to devistate her, but I feel at this point there is no avoiding it. And to know that I might cause her so much pain, I just can't deal with that. But at the same time, I need what I need. Please help.


Dear Helpless,

First of all, you're not helpless. You just don't want to face all the unpleasantness that you know is in store for you when you break up. It's never easy, and sometimes the dumpor suffers as much as the dumpee. So resign yourself. You're going to cause pain and you're going to suffer pain. But you're doing more damage right now by leading your girlfriend on to expect marriage and children by not speaking up and saying, "No, I don't want that."

So the fair thing to do is to let her go on with her life and find someone else to love while she's still young, attractive, and fertile. After all, a woman's childbearing years are limited and you are doing her a terrible disservice to take them up if you have no intentions of having children with her.

You are very young and don't sound at all ready to settle down and be married. You should date, sow your wild oats, have a single life and enjoy your time alone if that's what you want.

You and your girlfriend should find a good therapist who will work with you on the emotional problems that you are both going to face. Breaking up and dividing household goods when you've been living together is almost as upsetting as getting a divorce, maybe even more so since there are no laws governing your split -- only your own desire to not become enemies.

If you can't deal with the pain, get help. But don't keep putting off what you need to do. It won't get any easier. If you don't do it now, when will you do it? Thanksgiving? Christmas Eve? New Year's? Valentine's Day? There really is no good time. But you must bite the bullet and break up.

Lots of guys in your position try to make it easy by giving her all the stuff. That may make you feel better, but it won't stop the pain. You are about to have a life experience that will stay with you forever.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a 47 year old married woman living in Ireland with a grown up family. A year ago I didnt know how to turn on a computer until I bought one for my youngest daughter who is wheelchair bound...and I got to know how to use a chat programme and met a 22 year old guy from Washington state. We chatted and got to enjoy chatting with each other very much. We chatted every day for the last year and also talked on the phone, at the very beginnging I sensed there was something worrying him, eventually he told me (it was something that had happened to him when he was young). I tried to help in every way I could, giving him advice. He had never told anyone before telling me. I wont go into what it was, I thought that was the worst that could happen to anyone, but there was more to come... he told me he had cancer, back then it was in the very early stages and we hoped and prayed for the best but as time passed his health has deteriorated and I am fearful for him. He talked about visiting me but that was when the outlook for his recovery was brighter. My feelings for him go deeper than I ever thought possible. I have had many upsets in my life as anyone who raises a family might have to face (my son got burnt when he was 2 years old (he recovered), my daughter being born spina bifida, another son had a bad car accident and I got through it all, but my heart is breaking over this. I want to meet him more than anything I ever wanted in my life and he wants to meet me too..I have never been outside of Ireland, and I am scared of the thought of going half way across the world but I know I will be heart broken if I dont... He was living on his own and independent when we first chatted but now his mom, sister and brother have moved in to be with him and care for him and his independence is gone... His mom is naturally very protective of him now and he is worried that it might be uncomfortable for me if I visited him. Should I disregard his mom`s feelings and visit him anyway or would that be selfish of me? I was thinking of writing to his mom, do you think that would be a bad idea?. I would also have to disregard my own families feelings on this venture if I decided to go ahead and see him, they think im crazy but its too late to turn back the clock.., should I follow where my heart leads? .... sorry that this is so long but I would be very greatful for your advice..

Dear Heart Broken,

I can tell you are in a lot of pain, but don't go chasing off to the far Northwest of the United States without giving this situation some more thought.

Your friend has lots of family support and really doesn't need you hovering at his bedside with his mother, sister and brother. He may want you to remember your fantasy of him instead of the present cruel reality. In any case, it's important to make sure you'd be welcome before embarking on such a long journey.

If you're really not going to be welcome in Washington State, there's nothing you can do but continue to be supportive by phone and by mail. He has lots of people taking care of him and he has told you that he doesn't think it's a good idea -- that you'd feel uncomfortable. If you were to go all that way, you could wind up being disappointed and hurt. He could be too sick for visitors. You could wind up in a very upsetting situation. Please write his mother and get the whole story from her before you take off. Or call her and talk to her on the phone.

Your focusing on him is probably a good way for you to escape emotionally from your ongoing problems right where you are. Your own daughter needs you and so does the rest of your family.

Of course, if you're determined to do this, nothing I or anyone can say will change your mind, but I urge you to think it through and be sure you're welcome.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

Doc, I have a small question. I am a 23 y/o guy who has a date coming up with a girl. The problem, I haven't been on a date for 2 1/2 years, ever since my ex-girlfriend cheated on me. I know now is a good time to get back in the scene, she meets all my standards, and she's really cute. I'm just a bit afraid. I had a date 2 weeks ago and called it off. I haven't had sex in 10 1/2 months. I started to thrive on being alone. I know now I have a deeper respect for women now. I've grown up. I know going out with her would be a good thing, she's intelligent, witty, has an attitude, and cute, I'm just nervous and don't know what to do on the date. A little advice, and some hints would go along way.

Thank you.

P.S.--Ironic thing is, I've been in the Army and am not afraid of anything, untill now.

Dear Nervous,

I get letters from men of all ages wondering what they should do on a date, how to be a good date, looking for do's and don't's. Some things are obvious. Don't dress like a slob, dress in the type of clothing she's going to wear. If she's gonna dress up in heels, you dress up and wear a jacket and tie.

Be a gentleman, open doors, put your napkin on your lap and don't talk with your mouth full. Don't talk about sex and don't tell dirty jokes. Don't talk about yourself all the time. Ask questions about her.

Find out what she likes to do and plan dates that include fun for her. Don't just take her to shoot-'em-up movies where you can't talk. Women like to talk. Make sure there's more talking opportunities than non-talking ones.

When I think about the best dates I ever had, they all have one thing in common: the guy paid attention to me and to me only. He acted like I was the only woman in the world and certainly the most attractive. He listened attentively to everything I had to say and let me know he thought I was both beautiful and smart.

The other thing that really impressed me on later dates was if the guy wanted to help out. By refilling the ice cube trays at my apartment, for instance, instead of just leaving them for me. Or by carrying out my trash if it was full. Or by offering to fix my loose screen door or connect my stereo speakers. So pay attention, do something extra to show your good will and tell her she's smart and beautiful and you'll be well on your way to having a perfect date.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

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