Dr. Tracy's Advice Column

Cartoon Kiss


Women Who Give Too Much
Verbal Abuse
Peeking Through Keyholes

Women Who Give Too Much

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am so exhausted by all this, but here goes.

I'm a 33 year old female. After a few failed relationships, I met and married a man. We divorced after 2 years, we were together for about 6. Turns out (after the separation & much therapy) that I realized I was seriously co-dependent. I took care of my husband like a child, and he was already very emotionally immature. After the separation, he went crazy, I had to get a restraining order, etc.

Shortly after the separation, I met a 23 year old man named Chuck. He was calm, he was kind, he was non-judgemental, he could of spotted my husband 10 points on the maturity scale. He told me from the start he had "nothing to offer me" in the way of gifts, etc., but I was fine with that. I was already used to spending all the money anyway, since my husband made a lot less than I did. I realized that I was getting into a pattern here, but I wanted him (my marriage was pretty sexually empty). He was young enough so he DIDN'T want to get married, etc., and that was exactly what i needed then. I knew it was somewhat transitional, but I had hope. Chuck truly helped me thru this rough time.

So, two years have come & gone. Chuck has turned out to be somewhat of a dud. In the beginning, he was romantic and kind, very attentive. Even though he didn't have a lot of money, he would spend a bit on me when he could. But eventually, that all stopped. We weren't growing together. I know he loved me, but he wouldn't include me in his life fully. I was left out of events with his friends because "I wouldn't have a good time" (admittedly, I am a wine drinker, jazz listener, etc. - he felt I wouldn't enjoy a punk music blasting beer bust). After these two years, I still hadn't met his mother or sisters (even though he only saw them himself a couple times year). He would constantly go out for a drink at the local pub after work, and I would always ask him to invite me - he never would. When pressed, he'd say, "Well, I'm just sitting there, decompressing. Not really ready to be social yet."

I actively asked for more attention & love & affection, told him there were all kinds of things he could do to make me happy that would cost nothing. Nothing changed. I continued my warnings and made my wants/needs clear. I wasn't asking too much. It went on and on.

Recently, he went to maybe 4 or 5 rock concerts. I was secretly pissed off; he won't spend anything on me? Yet he can afford to attend the Warped Tour? When I finally asked him about this, he looked at me like I was crazy and said "Hey, I DIDN'T have the money for that. I put those tickets on a credit card." I replied, "What? You couldn't put dinner with me on a credit card?" He just looked at me in reply.

I tried to be patient. I realized he was young, and I remember all too well what being in my twenties was like. The selfishness, the poorness, etc. Anyway, six weeks or so ago, I broke it off. I realized that he just wasn't going to change/grow. In this letter, I haven't gone into the details of my marriage, but the scenario was sort of similiar. I never received flowers from my husband, he never took me out. I was starving for attention & love.

My question is - here's the big mystery question that no one can answer for me - isn't the rule "give, and you will receive?" I thought the whole IDEA of love was to make the other person happy. I've looked thru your library and you state yes, that's true, but not until "much later in the relationship".

Well, in my cases, it was later. I give and give and give and I JUST DON'T GET IT. My husband loved me. Chuck loved me. Why why why couldn't they show it? It's moronically simple and clear and easy. It makes EVERYONE happy, so why won't they? What's the big pitfall of giving?

And when I left, the husband went completely ballistic ("Now I understand! I can change!" You're YEARS too late, pal), and the other, well, I pretty much ripped his heart out and he was "confused". Confused about WHAT? I plainly stated in both relationships: "This is what i need to make me happy. This is what I want from you. Otherwise, this relationship won't last." And then they act surprised/angry when I leave! By that time, the resentment I'd built up was so strong.

I am a great girlfriend/wife material - a "catch" as it were. I'm 33, attractive, successful, intelligent (or so I thought), etc. I cook, I love sex, I love sports, I'm goofy, I have a great family, friends, varied interests, I truly want to make my partner happy. Why can't I find a man who knows what to do? Why can't I find a man who can show me that he loves me, as much as I want to show him? Why do men all act different in the BEGINNING of the relationship and then morph into insensitive clods after a year?

Part of me wants love, wants to find my soulmate (is there even such a thing?), wants another relationship, wants to maybe have a child before my clock stops. Part of me would rather throw myself into a fire then go thru this AGAIN. Can you help, Tracy? I'm at my wit's end. I'm not sure what I can even do here to improve things, or how I can approach my next relationship differently. Right now, I'm feel I'm doomed to either lesbianism or a nunnery.

Thank you.

Dear Exhausted,

You took care of your husband like he was a child and then when he was gone, you found another child. Even though you say your 23-year-old was more mature than your ex-husband, that's obviously not saying a lot. He still wanted to hang out in bars and enjoy punk music with his friends with whom you wouldn't have been comfortable.

In two years, you haven't gotten any kind of commitment from him - even enough to introduce you to his family. It's obvious that you were nurturing a go-nowhere relationship, but you didn't want to see the truth of what you were doing. Now fess up. You used Chuck to get you through a difficult time, and he probably used you too. So figure you're even, and move on.

The trouble is your future. If you keep giving and giving without getting anything back, you're doomed to failure. Sure I say it's okay to give a lot later in a relationship. The problem is that your relationships never get to that point, because you over-give so much in the beginning that the relationship gets off on the wrong foot. And then you never stop giving. Giving is nice, but you're supposed to get something back. If you start out giving and keep giving and don't get anything back, then you're being a fool. Not only that, but you're teaching the other person that they don't have to give you anything back and you'll keep giving anyway.

Why do you keep giving that way? You think that if you give you will receive. You think that if you give someone everything, they'll have to love you. That's a dangerous fallacy.

What really happens when you give everything is that the man you're giving so much to eventually begins to feel resentful and loses his pride. He stops feeling like a man and begins to feel and act like a child. Perhaps the reason men act fine in the beginning with you is because you haven't yet made them feel like a child.

Ask yourself if you're changing the man. Ask if you're the same person you were in the beginning of the relationship. Read my Love Library about giving too much too soon. Then when you choose a man next time, choose one who doesn't need your help. Resist the temptation to give too much. When you give, wait until you get something back before you give more.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Verbal Abuse

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am 24 years old and I have been dating the same guy since I was 18 years old. He is 9 years older than me and our relationship seems to be going under for the last 2 years but we are still holding on. Even though I am so much in love with him I feel he has no respect for me. He calls me names and is always putting me down. I tell him about it and his reply is "I am just being honest".

It has been 6 years between us and so much has happened. The past year he lied and said he was going to Florida to visit his cousins and lied and went to Virginia at a girl's house. After that incident we worked things out but his attitude stays the same. Sometimes he curses at me and I get really angry and curse back. I am frustrated with his attitude and I tell him the way he acts is plain out verbal and emotional abuse. He tells me I have no self-control and react irate sometimes. The reason for my actions is a result of his behavior. I feel like I am on the edge of this relationship and can not take anymore of this. But my love for him prevails becasue he is a good person and does a lot for me. For the past couple of weeks he has renovated my apartment. I feel as though this does not make up for the love, respect and affection I crave from him.

Please help me

On the Edge

Dear On The Edge,

Relationships either get better or worse over time, and your relationship is definitely in a downward spiral. This man has no respect for you, and worse, he is undermining your respect for yourself. If you ever want to feel good about yourself, if you want to be happy, get out of this relationship.

He is verbally abusive, and although you don't say he has been physically abusive, verbal abuse is almost as bad as physical abuse. Besides, most men who start out being verbally abusive eventually become physically abusive.

Once a man finds that he can be verbally abusive, call you names and put you down, he only gets worse, not better. Saying he's just being honest is another form of put-down for you and no excuse for his hurting you. Someone who loves you doesn't want to hurt you. He doesn't cheat on you. He doesn't lie to you.

You say you love him because he's a good person and does a lot for you. What good is it if he renovates your apartment and then destroys your self-esteem while he does it? So you'll have a nice apartment and be emotionally unstable and insecure. It's a lousy trade-off.

Sometimes, the cheapest way to pay for something is with money. You're paying for your apartment renovations with your psychological health and happiness. I'd say the price is way too steep. You'd be better off buying your own power drill and learning to do your own renovations.

Tell your boyfriend that you're not going to take his abuse anymore. Then the next time he calls you names or puts you down, don't argue, just leave. If you're at his place, go home. If you're at your place, ask him to leave. If he won't leave, then you leave. Go to a girlfriend's house until he's gone. Then come home and have your locks changed.

He needs to know that there will be repercussions if he abuses you. If he continues to be abusive, tell him that either you and he go to therapy or you're breaking up with him. If he refuses to go to therapy, then leave. This is costing you way too much for a relationship which probably has no future.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Peeking Through Keyholes

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a 29-year old divorced female. I have just met a new man, the first since my husband that I can see a future with. We instantly "clicked," and for the first time in a long time I am excited about the possibilities. He seems like a good person with good family values, a hard worker, honest and extremely caring.

The problem is that I went looking for that inevitable dark lining -- and found it. Using a search engine that is known for digging up dirt about people, I stumbled upon a bankruptcy court decision in which he was the Debtor. There was no mistaking it was him, due to specific properties mentioned in the decision.

Such practical matters are of extreme importance to me, so I would like some reassurance that he is financially secure today or that he is working hard to regain stability. However, I don't want to appear nosey by revealing that I already know about his prior situation (the decision was a few years old). How can I talk to him about this without wounding his pride or mine?

Thanks for any advice you can give!

Dear Sherlock,

There's an old saying that goes something like, "Don't peek through keyholes, or what you find may vex you." That said, you've been smart and brave to do the research on this man who seems so great and who excites you. Now be smart about the information you have received.

What you do with it depends on your situation. If, as a matter of principle, you absolutely would not consider marrying a man with a bankruptcy on his record, then you should move on before you get more emotionally involved with him.

However, if you think you could live with his bankruptcy, and live with your family and friends finding out about it (it's easy for them to do so, as you know), and live with the problems it might cause in buying a home together, etc., then you need to get this issue out in the open as soon as possible.

As soon as you've both acknowledged that you're not just casually dating (and yes, at your age, you're allowed to ask after the 3rd or 4th date), you should bring up the subject if he hasn't. Don't be apologetic about it. You could say something like, "Look, the good news is I'm very attracted to you. The bad news is that I always check on someone before I get too involved, and the check on you turned up a bankruptcy. What happened?"

If he acts evasive, resentful, or defensive, write him off. After all, he's the one who's bringing a problem to your potential future relationship - a problem you'll have to bear along with him. This will test the "caring" and "honest" nature that he's shown you so far. What he should do is show sensitivity to the problems his prior bankruptcy could cause both of you as a couple, and he should be absolutely forthright in telling you how it occurred.

You might not like his reaction, or you may detect unacceptable dishonesty in what he tells you. If so, better to find that out about him sooner rather than later. On the other hand, he may be understanding about your need to know, and he could have a reasonably legitimate explanation, such as he had medical bills for a sick parent to deal with that proved overwhelming. And hopefully, you'll wind up reassured about him. Sometimes, one financial debacle such as his teaches a man a lesson, and he is doubly certain to never let it happen again.

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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