"Ask Dr. Tracy"

10/22/2000 Advice Column

A Crazy-Maker?
Asking Him Out
Having It All

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a 44 year old single mother who has just ended a dead 9 year relationship. I have found someone I am extremely attracted to and he feels the same about me.

The problem is his current girlfriend keeps threatening him with suicide. She's slashed her throat in front of him and tramatized him. She's put a gun to her head and threatens to kill herself if he leaves her.

She has complete control over what friends he can be with and where he can go. He has called 911 for assistance when she threatened to shoot herself, and they refused to bring her to a hospital for help. They said it's his problem.

Should I just forget this man? What should he do? I don't think he should live his life according to her demands. Please help.

Dear Extremely Attracted,

You've been away from the dating world for at least nine years, and you shouldn't rush into a relationship of any kind. You need to take time to date, to look around, to shop and compare men. Give yourself at least a year of being single to get caught up with what's out there before you decide that any particular guy is the one for you.

As for this guy you've found, his suicidal girlfriend is a big red flag, a danger signal of the first degree. I somehow doubt that she was suicidal when he first started dating her. If she was, what's wrong with him that he would get involved with someone who was so obviously off-balance? I'm suspicious about the whole thing, and I don't believe his stories about her. Here's why.

When she slashed her throat in front of him, surely he took her to the hospital for stitches, and surely the hospital would have put her in a mental ward on a three-day involuntary hold for evaluation. Then, if she were truly suicidal, they would have kept her longer. Also, I don't believe his story about calling 911. I really don't think the police would ignore a call about someone who was threatening themselves or others with a gun.

Right now, you say she controls him totally. Let's say his stories are true, and he's letting his unbalanced girlfriend call the shots about who he can be with and when. If so, what kind of a life has he created for himself? These kind of situations don't just happen. It definitely takes two to sing this kind of crazy-making duet. If it's all true, then both your boyfriend and his girlfriend need help. You definitely shouldn't rush into this mess, or she'll be on your doorstep with her knives and guns.

It also could be that he's a very mixed up person and quite a storyteller. In either case, he's a man to be avoided. I wouldn't be surprised if he has a history of "problem" girlfriends. For the time being, forget him. If you don't, you'll wind up involved in his unbalanced universe, or worse yet, you'll be the next suicidal girlfriend. Even if he calls you and says the problem is solved and the suicidal girlfriend is gone, proceed with extreme caution.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a 36 y.o. SWF never married. I work in a small clinic within a large hospital. I have a crush on a coworker, He's 43 and appears to be single. He's dropped some hints (I think) that he may be interested in me but so far has not made any attempt to ask me out. I am extremely bad at flirting and sometimes say bizzare things around him because he makes me slightly nervous. We are both professionals so I don't know that going out is such a good idea, but at my age it is extremely hard to meet normal unmarried men.

My question is should I make more of a move to ask him out for a drink or something low key? I've asked guys out a few times in the past but somehow it never works out very well. Sometimes I think I don't know what's good for me as most of my long term relationships have been with guys who "chose" me or who've been set up with me. I'm sort of a fatalist so I tend not to push too hard for things. (probably why I'm not married!) I would hate to see this guy get away though, he is a really kind person, nice looking, good manners etc. Thank you

Dear Bad Flirt,

Forget flirting. Stop beating around the bush, and quit trying to be coy. It's time to grow up and simply ask in a dignified and adult manner, "Would you like to have lunch? I'm free next week every day but Wednesday." If he says he's only free on Wednesday and can't make it any of the other days, then you know he's not interested. It's that simple.

Then if you do have lunch with him, find out if he's available and interested. If he is, great. If for some reason he isn't, move on to the next man. You may not have a list to move on to right now, but you can develop one. At 36, it's time to stop wasting your efforts and energies on a crush that may or may not go anywhere. It's also time to stop waiting around for a romantic accident to happen or just being with men who "chose" you. It's time to figure out what you need in a man and start choosing for yourself.

The problem with waiting for a man to choose you is that the man gets what he wants, but you don't necessarily get what you want. Being fatalistic won't get you where you want to be - married with a family of your own. At your age, it's too late to hang out in bars waiting for magic to happen. You can't stand on the bar and yell, "Hey, choose me, I'm interesting, I'm a professional." And you can't compete with 20 year olds.

So get smart. Get proactive. Begin to push to get what you want in your love life just as you would in your professional life. You need a quantity of eligible men to choose from, not just one. It never pays to put your eggs in one basket in the dating game. If you only have one option, you show it in subtle ways, you act slightly desperate, and your disappointment is huge when one guy turns out to be a disappointment.

Start by making a list of what you have to offer and what you need in a mate. Then log on to love@aol.com or match.com and sign yourself up. Begin browsing the ads until you find some men who interest you. Then make contact.

Don't waste another second waiting for fate to bring you the right man. Start now by taking charge of your future.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

First of all, I want to tell you that I actually discovered your web-site only today and I love it. However, I have read two of your books several times and recommended them to so many friends it's not even funny. You are most definitely the woman I look to for guidance. On to my question. It may not be a tragic question but it is one that really bothers me (almost to tears).

I am 32 with one daughter (9) and a baby due on December 8. I am married to the most handsome, wonderful man in the universe (he is husband number 2, my daughter is from husband number 1). My husband treats me wonderfully and we are very happy about our baby. I get cards, flowers and complete affection from him.

My question is about parts in your book that refer to "not always being available". Does it apply in marriage too? You see, my husband works 12 hours (I work 8) a day and on weekends he has hobbies such as surfing (which he adores and has done for 20 years) or he likes to work in the garage sometimes etc. etc. I, however, have no hobbies or interests. I honestly have tried for years to find what I am good at. Painting, classes, exercise etc. I simply cannot find anything that I can branch off and do by myself that I enjoy.

My problem is that I am so afraid that my husband (without realizing it) will grow tired of coming home to me sitting in the same place day after day with not much to tell of my day except that "work was fine". I want to have a talent. I want to be more interesting but can't seem to find anything. He has made NO indications of my being "boring" but when I see women (such as yourself) on TV with so much going on and a "niche", I feel sad. I don't tell my husband this for fear he will actually see it too. I do, however, fear that some "interesting" gal with his same hobbies will come and sweep him off his feet. Sometimes I time myself to where I'm doing laundry or something useful when he walks in the door just so I look like I'm busy as opposed to lazy.

Do you have any advice for me? Should I just relax until the baby gets here and that will be my "thing to do"? After reading your words for years, I hope this is a topic with a light for me.

Dear Worried,

Most women would give almost anything to have what you have: a loving husband, a daughter, and a baby on the way. You are married to "the most wonderful man in the universe." What more could you want? And no, "not always being available" doesn't apply in marriage. He's happy to come home to you, and you're happy to be there for him, so what's the problem?

Are you looking for problems where none exist, or are you having unrealistic expectations about your own life? Believe me, being on television, having a niche, or even lots of hobbies, doesn't guarantee you a fulfilled life. I hear from many successful career women who wish they could find a loving husband.

The truth is that you can have it all, but you can't have it all all at once. You can't have a successful career and run a perfect home at the same time. It just doesn't happen. Look at Oprah Winfrey, for example. One of the most successful women on television. Is her life perfect? Does she have it all? Far from it. She battles her weight. She can't find her way to marriage with a man she's been dating almost forever, she has no children, and I doubt if she has lots of hobbies. Even Oprah, with all her money and all her success, can't have everything all at once.

Don't try to compete with your husband's surfing hobby. You never will. I'm married to a surfer, and I know. Don't insist that you find your talent. Perhaps you already have, as a homemaker and mother. Or perhaps, as the children grow up, you will find an outside interest. But there's no rush; with the baby coming, you'll soon have your hands full.

Apparently whatever you're doing is just right, so stop looking for problems. It's always so easy for people to worry about what they don't have in their lives. Instead of worrying about what you don't have, try to appreciate what you do have. I know lots of women who would trade their hobbies and "interesting lives" for exactly the life you have.

Relax, enjoy your baby and your wonderful life, and be grateful that you don't have to drag yourself around the country being on television shows. It's stressful, lonely, and not at all as glamourous as it looks.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Submitting a Question to this column

Dr. Tracy regrets that it is simply impossible for her to answer all of the hundreds of questions submitted to this column each week. However, she does read every question, and tries to select the three which are of the most general interest to the visitors here.

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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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