Dr. Tracy's Advice Column

Cartoon Kiss

12/8/2002

Feelings For Her Ex
Break Up Or Stay Together
Angry At Her Own Choices



Feelings for Her Ex

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I'm facing a problem that I've been told many have encountered, but that surely is not helping me in my situation. I'm a 33 year old mother of 3 and I've been married for 10 years to a wonderful, dedicated, and loving husband and father to my children. My problem is that although I love him dearly and I feel in love with him there is someone else in my life as well.

When I was 16 years old I started a relationship with 'the boy next door'. I had known him all my life and actually felt attracted to him since I was at least 11 years old. Our relationship was serious, probably too serious for our ages, but yet it was. We planned our future together, children, jobs, made albums of our baby pictures, and did everything together. Our parents accepted the situation because they could all see that we had something special.

At the beginning of that school year both my parents died in a car accident. I had no other relatives in the town I lived in so I had to move away with relatives across the country and I had to leave everything behind.

It was a awful time for me and I suppose I should have gone to counseling, however in order to deal with the pain I tried to erase everything from my life connected to my home, including my boyfriend. I started dating someone else my second year away and broke up with my boyfriend, however that new relationship didn't last because I didn't feel anything like what I felt for my first love. Not quite a year went by and my boyfriend called me, I was hoping to rekindle our relationship, but he called to say he was getting married. I didn't know what to say other than to wish him the best of luck.

Throughout his marriage every now and then he'd call, tell me about his wife and child, ect. During one of these such calls he confessed to me that he married his wife because she was pregnant and was trying to do the right thing, but he loved me still and always had. We decided then to get back together, made plans, he planned to end his marriage until his wife threatened to keep him from ever seeing his son if they got divorced. He called me and told me he had to stay in his marriage.

I went away to college and went on with my life, but I could never get him out of my mind. I dated so many guys, mostly those who reminded me of my boyfriend in some way for years until I met my husband. I fell in love with him, but nothing like what I felt for my boyfriend, yet we bonded and have a family together.

My problem is even though I love my husband deeply and I could never hurt him I still feel those feelings for my first love. We recently reconnected and we came close to ending our current relationships, but I couldn't do it because I do have feelings for my husband. I was reading from your library and how you have described true love and communication, mirroring, and so many other things are exactly what happens between my first love and I, naturally like magic. With my husband, it happens but it takes effort. I know staying at home and working on the relationship with my husband is the right thing to do and I really want to do the right thing, but how can I turn off these feelings that have lasted so long through so many situations? Please help!!!

Thank you.

Dear ďIn Love,Ē

You say youíre in love with your husband and you love him dearly, yet thereís no magic. Well, after 10 years of marriage and three children, you canít expect to have the same magic that you had with your high school sweetheart.

You may always have some feelings for your first love. Every woman does. But that doesnít mean that you and he belong together or that you could weather lifeís problems and still have ďthe magic.Ē

So you have to work to have the same communication and closeness with your husband. How bad is that? Doesnít he deserve it? If you really want to do the right thing, as you say you do, then work at having special moments with your husband. Take time away just for the two of you, and resolve to stay with your husband and three children. After all, just because feelings last a long time doesnít mean youíre supposed to act on them.

Itís time for you to accept that you and your high school sweetheart have gone down different paths in life. Heís had an unsuccessful marriage, so he'd like to turn back, but neither of you can; you've gone too far down your separate paths. In life, we have to learn to live with the decisions weíve made. You canít go back and remake those decisions. You canít take them back when there are children involved and a man who loves you.

The key to dealing with those feelings for your ex is not to think they will go away, but to realize that they will live in a part of your heart that belongs to your past. Some days you can bring them out, smile at them, enjoy the pleasure that they bring you, but donít act on them. Simply put them away again and get back to your life youíve chosen as a wife and mother.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy



Break Up or Stay Together

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am 28 years old, have never been married, but have been living with my college boyfriend for 5 years. We have been together for 7 years. Kevin is very loving, kind and helpful. He is a very submissive person and I am a bit of a control freak. We were good friends for 2 years before we started dating, and we still get along very well. Kevin is a school teacher and I work long hours in finance. Therefore, he has taken on many of the traditional "female" roles while I have assumed the "head of the household" responsibilities.

However, in the past year, I have grown very restless. I feel like I missed out on single life, that there might be "something better" out there and am merely living with my roomate. There is no real spark or passion and really never has been. I have begun to resent the fact that I have to make all the decisions and that he behaves like such a doormat all the time. I had spent the last 5 years waiting for Kevin to "pop the question" and now I am not so sure if I would accept. Is it possible that I dealt with my feelings of rejection because he hasn't proposed by convincing myself that I didn't want him to? Or are these reasons valid enough to end this relationship? Can a relationship survive without attraction? Should I leave or be happy with what I've got?

Dear Control Freak,

For the part of you that's a control freak, youíve found a perfect match, a submissive man. But reading between the lines of your letter, I donít think you really want someone that submissive. And I also doubt that your guy is as submissive as you think he is. If he were, he would have done what you want and proposed long ago. He may be passive-aggressive, and not proposing is his way of getting even -- as is his lack of passion.

As a woman in finance who works long hours, you may need ďa wifeĒ as much as Kevin needs someone to be in charge. However, if you want passion and excitement, youíll have to give up being in control. You see, part of the passion of a relationship comes from not being in control, from not knowing from one day to the next whatís going to happen.

You want a spark, yet you want control. I hate to tell you, but you canít have both. Letís say you find an exciting man with real marriage potential. Chances are he wonít let you be in charge, and if he does, youíll soon decide heís boring.

So make your choice, passion or control. If itís spark and passion you want, then cut the cord. But you must realize that you are just as dependent on Kevin as he is on you. You will definitely miss having someone to be the boss of, and youíll miss having a ďwifeĒ too.

If you and Kevin have been together five years and you still canít decide if you really want him to pop the question, then Iíd suggest that you move on and find someone youíre sure you want to marry. Stop driving Kevin crazy and give yourself a break too.

It is possible that you are handling your feelings of rejection by saying you donít want him anyway, but I doubt it. You are young and vital and deserve a sexual relationship. If you donít have passion now with Kevin, youíre not going to get it by marrying him. A relationship can survive without attraction, but it wonít be very exciting, wonít give you fulfillment -- and just surviving isnít enough to stay together.

Yes, leave and find someone who really lights your fires. If you were going to be happy with what youíve got, you would be. Obviously, Kevinís not going to change. So look for someone else, someone who awakens your passions and who you canít control. If you need household help, hire someone. Keeping a man around to take care of the traditional feminine roles isnít fair to you or him, unless thatís what turns you both on. Obviously it doesnít.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy



Angry At Her Own Choices

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I have been seeing a man for about 6 months. The chemistry and attraction are very strong, and the relationship has moved fairly quickly. However, I have some big reservations about whether he would be a good partner for me. I have communicated to him in the past that it is very important to me that I be able to count on him, and rely on that he will do what he says he will do, and that I worry about him if he has said he would call me later or isn't around when we have agreed that I'm supposed to call him. This last weekend, once again, he left me a message saying he is would call me when he got home, which would probably be in about an hour, and then he didn't call. I got very worried, mostly because I didn't think he would do that to me again after I was clear that I worry about him in that situation.

He now tells me that I'm obsessive, and it was no big deal, that his plans changed and I must not trust him, and why do I worry about him anyway? When this same situation happened a few months ago, I thought I had been clear about how I felt; after the situation this weekend, he said he thought that is was "cute" that I had worried about him last time, but he didn't think it was that big of a deal. His plans had changed, he said he would "probably" be home in an hour, and that when he didn't call that I should just trust him and not worry about him. I see it more as a respect issue, as I feel I was clear about how much this kind of situation bothered me, and as a result, I have lost some respect for him and myself in the process.

I'm thinking I might just need someone a little more stable; I tend to be responsible (own my own house, good job, saving for the future) and honestly straightforward (telling him what's important to me, sincerely being honest about my feelings); he tends to be a little scattered, and doesn't "play by the rules," like he doesn't care if his bills get paid on time, he doesn't like banks so he won't use a checking account and drives around without a valid license (it's not suspended, just expired from another state).

I have tried to be open to the idea that I could use some loosening up, but I seem to be getting more and more angry when it seems that he doesn't respect me by not doing what he says he will do. Am I asking too much, and being obsessive (as he puts it) or am I just in a relationship with someone who is a "bad match" for me.

P.S. I found myself thinking, "As soon as he gets his life together, things will be great" - but then I realized I thought the same thing a few years ago about a different guy, and that didn't work out, and I again got angrier and angrier as that relationship progressed.

Help!

Dear Angry,

If itís really important to you that he call when he says he will, then you should insist that he do just that. If he doesnít, then there should be consequences, such as youíll refuse to see him for a month.

On the other hand, if you are going to get angrier and angrier at him, just as you did with your last boyfriend, then you have to rethink whether you should be in this relationship at all. The big question here is why do you choose men who are flakes, when being responsible is so important to you?

He thinks itís ďcuteĒ if you worry, but you donít think itís ďcuteĒ if he doesnít do what he says heíd going to do. You donít think heís cute when he doesnít pay his bills, have a checking account or have a driverís license.

Thinking that things will be great when he gets his life together is a daydream, and I believe you know it. Chances are heís not going to get his life together and will stay as scattered and irresponsible as he is now.

The reason you have lost respect for him and for yourself is because youíre putting up with behaviors you know you really canít stand. Why? For good sex? Is it really worth it? Probably not.

I wonder if you pick these kinds of irresponsible men because thereís a part of you that doesnít really want to make a commitment, and you know you never could with a man like him. Ask yourself if choosing impossible men is a way for you to avoid commitment.

If you really think about it, youíd go crazy married to someone like him. Imagine him screwing up your checking account, getting tickets with your car, and never doing what he says heís going to do when he says heís going to do it. Be as honest with yourself as you are with him, and youíll admit that you're really just using him and are not serious about him as a partner.

Then find someone you can trust.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy




Submitting a Question to this column

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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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