Dr. Tracy's Advice Column

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Commitment Timing
His Past is In Her Present
Father-in-Law from Hell

Commitment Timing

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a 30 year old female, who has been living with my boyfriend for 5 years. We were both married to other people when we were younger. Both marriages were very quick to end, due to our spouses' cheating on us. When we met, we both were a little bitter and had some trust issues, but attempted to overcome these.

The topic of marriage has been brought up numerous times and he never really gives me a time, a date, or anything to go on. He will barely talk about it. He just says, "You know I am going to marry someday."

Well...I am getting old enough to start a family and he is 35, so I am just tired of the excuses. He hasn't even bought me an engagement ring. He tells me that he feels bad about this, but bought me a house instead. The thing is...he buys computers and video games constantly. Here is it right before Christmas and he just called me this morning to tell me he is buying yet another computer.

I love him and believe he loves me, but I am not sure how much longer I should go without the marriage/family commitment. Any thoughts?

Thank you for your time,

Dear Old Enough,

Youíre absolutely right ≠- youíre old enough to start a family and so is your boyfriend. Youíve also been together plenty long enough for him to know if he wants to marry you or not. You certainly donít want to wait another five years for him to come up with an engagement ring.

In most cases, three years together is enough time to find out if you want to spend your life with someone. Five years is getting to be a long time. As long as your boyfriend thinks that he can get away with not marrying you and avoiding the subject, he will. Itís time for you to take action.

Pick a good time to talk to him. Say three nice things, and then let him know that you love him. Next, let him know that itís a natural thing for a woman who loves a man to want to be married to him and to have a family with him.

Tell him that you want to be married and start a family. Let him know that your biological clock is ticking and that you really canít wait. Realistically, if you and he were married in mid 2005 (it can easily take 6 months to plan a wedding), had a 1 year honeymoon period of adjustment, youíd be close to 33 before you had your first child and heíd be pushing 39. Then if you want more than one, youíd either wind up with two toddlers or youíd be very old parents. Actually, youíll be having children in a rush as it is if you want to have them before youíre 35 and heís 40.

Tell him that if he canít make a definite commitment right now to getting married within the next year, you wonít be able to stay together. You have to be strong enough to risk losing this relationship to move it to the next stage. Otherwise it can continue to sink deeper and deeper into inertia, and you could wind up going on for years and years in this same situation -- unmarried, yet hoping for a proposal.

Donít think you need him to do the whole down-on-his-knee-with-the-ring thing. What you really need is for him to agree to getting married on a certain date. The ring can come later.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

His Past is In Her Present

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a separated, 29 year-old Mom of a 7 year old.

I have been going out with a great guy for the past 1 1/2 years. He moved into my home a year ago. The problem I have is with his "son". The child is not really his. He met the child's mother very shortly after he was born. This was his first girlfriend. The very night they met he started sleeping at her place and never left. The child was still in hospital having been born early due to her smoking and partying. She was on welfare. After the child came home "Bill" pitched right in babysitting him when the mother went to work or went out, which was quite frequently. He quickly let himself be called the child's Dad. The mother told "Bill" she would never marry him and refused to let him adopt the child. They fought over the child, frequently in front of him. They eventually broke up when the child was 4 1/2.

I met "Bill" a couple of months later. I sensed immediately that something was strange about their relationship. Since we have been going out he sees his "son" every third weekend unless there is something better to do. I have told "Bill" I no longer want the child coming to my home. The child has ADHD, does not take medication, is irritating, loud, destructive.....The child does not know that Bill is not his father. I think he should. I cannot get over the fact that this child is his ex-girlfriends kid. I want nothing to do with him. It infuriates me that he still takes the kid, especially when he takes no interest in him. I want to marry Bill and have a child ( I have a child from a previous marriage ) but I'm putting everything off because of this baggage he is carrying around. Bill is paying a hefty loan for the car, tv etc his ex kept for the next 2 years.

This problem is consuming my thoughts. I am snapping at Bill quite often. He is such a passive person. I suggested he tell the child the truth and only take him for a couple of hours once a month and spend quality time with him as a 'Big Brother" instead of carrying on the way he is. Am I wrong to want to keep his past from our new life together?

Steaming, In Canada

Dear Steaming,

First of all, children arenít baggage. You wouldnít want a potential partner to think of your child that way. Just because Billís child isnít his birth child doesnít mean that Bill isnít his father. You donít have to give birth to be a childís mother or father.

You seem more upset because the child is Billís ex-girlfriendís than you are by the child himself. Youíre really not showing generosity of spirit or even kindness. If you want a relationship with Bill, youíre going to have to accept this child in his life so long as he does, whether the child has Billís genes or not.

People come with pasts. You have one. He has one. Part of getting together with another person for a lifetime commitment is accepting each otherís pasts. If you canít accept his past, and that includes children, his or adopted by him (officially or unofficially), then you canít be in a relationship with him. Bill has taken this child into his heart. Why canít you?

Okay, you donít have to love the child, although that would certainly be a good idea. But if you hate the child, itís going to be very difficult to love his father and be loved by him in return.

Yes, youíre totally wrong trying to keep Billís past out of your life. Youíre not going to succeed, and you will only make yourself and Bill both miserable. You'd better stop bitching at Bill before you kill whatever relationship you have. Remember, the things that happened in his past made Bill the man you care about.

There is a simple solution to this problem: it's called love and acceptance.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Father-in-Law from Hell

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a 29 yr. old divorced (and newly engaged) mother. All my life I had been a Daddy's girl, until I was a Senior in High School. I lost my Dad, who was my best friend, to Heart Disease. By far it was the hardest thing ever.

I had a failed marriage that resulted in 2 wonderful boys ages 6 and 8. I met the love of a lifetime shortly after the divorce. He treats my boys like they were his real sons and gives them the love of a father that they need. We have been together for 4 yrs, we bought a nice home, and got engaged, and had a daughter about 9 mos ago. So, it sounds perfect, right? Well, almost.

My fiance is originally from NY, and so all of his family is there. His Mom and Dad divorced shortly before we met. It was a sad time for him as he loves and respects both parents, and he needed to get away. He moved to Indiana partly to get away from it. I have never met someone so loving and caring, and I feel so lucky.

About 1 yr. after I met him, I met his Dad. He seemed to absolutely love his "baby boy" and I got along well with him for the most part, but something felt weird. Time passed, and I grew to know and love the whole family, including his Dad's girlfriend who is very sweet and loving. But, I didn't care for the way that he always made little degrading comments. Always referring to her being dumb basically. She laughs at it, but I know it has to bother her.

I have also dealt with the same kind of treatment, but chose to not say anything. It seems that he has this belief about almost all women. It really does hurt my feelings. I always found myself trying to impress him so he would stop, and think differently of women, or at least me. When that didn't work, I tried giving lots of compliments. That didn't matter although he enjoys being right. I tried acting pissed or hurt when the comments are made, but that only helped temporarily (a few minutes). His idea of a good joke came when we were talking and laughing pretty well the last time we saw them, and he asked me why do women have two sets of lips? One to piss with and one to moan with. How was that funny? How did that fit in? How could he say that joke to me, his grand-daughter's mommy? I was soooo angry. I got up and walked out, he laughed it off. My fiance said later that he's just like that and not to worry about it.

I think that when I met him, I figured he had to be the same kind of loving caring person his son is, and it's not the case. I assumed that maybe he would be like a Dad to me, too. I missed and still do miss my Dad so terribly, that I thought it would be nice to have someone to call Dad that I felt loved and wanted to protect me. I made the mistake, and now I pay for it because I opened myself up and now I am hurt.

Tonight was the icing on the cake, and it didn't take much. They are here visiting us for Thanksgiving, and he was bragging about being a great chess player. Well, my fiance and his Dad played a few quick games, and his Dad killed him. I am pretty good as well, and my fiance said he should play me. He said "okay, I have a few minutes" He was bragging that he could beat me in 3 moves. He played very aggressively thinking it would be quick and easy. About 45 minutes later, I was beating him and it was "only because he was distracted" or "well, I could have had you 10 minutes ago, but I messed up" or little sighs after I would move like I should have done something else, but am too stupid to think of it. I was getting so irritated and trying to hide it, and we finally ended up in stale mate.

He quickly set the board up to show me how I could have taken him earlier if I had only done "this." He wanted to play again, and I had him stressing the whole time taking piece after piece. After many comments and sighs like I was dragging it out, I finally said "well, I guess I must be stupid then" and lost all interest, and he ended up winning. After that game, we all went to bed, and I finally broke down and told my fiance. At first he seemed mad, like it puts him in a bad place, and I should tell him how I feel. I was further saddened as I thought he would comfort me and say he would talk to him. We ended up arguing about it, and he told me to just go to sleep. I couldn't do that and couldn't hold back from crying, and he apologized saying he would talk to him since it's his father, and he shouldn't do that. But, still, acted like it was a favor or something.

Needless to say, I wrote this, I've had enough, and don't know how to progress. I would like to tell him about it, but don't feel like he would genuinely feel sorry and make it better. Or, would he be mad at me? And would it start a fight making things worse than they are? I don't want it to affect their relationship or to make him feel uncomfortable when they visit? I am a very strong women 99% of the time, but this is a touchy thing, and I don't want to hurt anyone, and would almost rather keep it bottled up.

It worries me to picture our lives together forever, with a father-in-law who degrades women! I don't know what to do.

Please help... I can't take much more. I find myself in tears so easily around him, and this could spiral out of control so easily, hurting our relationship and my children in the process!


Dear Confused,

Thereís nothing confusing here. Billís father is a genuine jerk. Heís sexist, heís rude, and heís insulting to women. The reason he puts everyone else down is because he feels so insecure about himself. Itís his way of making himself seem smarter or more important. Donít take the bait.

You canít change him, but you donít have to like his behavior or even put up with it. You can let him know when he says something insulting, and you can leave the situation. Simply walk out of the room and let your future husband explain your absence should anyone need an explanation.

Donít be foolish enough to imagine that youíll change his behavior toward his wife or that sheíll insist that he stop degrading her. Thatís their relationship and frankly, itís none of your business how they relate to each other.

Stay out of their marriage and their relationship and concentrate on your own. Donít throw out the son with the father.

The good news about your future father-in-law is that he lives a long way away. This gives you an easy way to survive this obnoxious, insulting man: by avoiding him. Let your husband visit his parents on his own. Many couples do this. Stay home and stay sane.

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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