"Ask Dr. Tracy"

12/6/98 Advice Column


RELATIONSHIP DANGER SIGNAL,
THOSE THREE LITTLE WORDS -- WHEN TO SAY THEM,
HOW DO YOU HAVE AN "OPEN" RELATIONSHIP?




(Note from Dr. Tracy: Please forgive the three skipped Columns since Oct. 18th. My Mom, who lives in another city, had a stroke. As the only family member available to arrange for her hospital care, then nursing care, then convalescent care, I've had to spend a lot of time away from home and office. She had a relapse last week, which pulled me away again. I'll try to post a new Column each week, but her recovery is uncertain, so there may be a few gaps. Thank you for your understanding.)


Dear Dr. Tracy,

I've been seeing this guy for about a month now. We used to talk everyday but the last week he has been cutting out conversations short. He says he is busy and to call him later. This happens every time I call him. My question is, should I tell ask him if he want to stop seeing me? How can I handle this situation?

Dear Telephoner,

This guy is giving you a signal -- he doesn't want to talk to you and he isn't that hot for the relationship. If he wanted to talk to you, he'd make time, or he'd get back to you.

You are right to be concerned, but the last thing in the world you should do is ask him if he wants to stop seeing you. You probably won't get a straight answer from a guy who is evasive in his behavior, so don't bother asking. The writing is on the wall for anyone who can read anyway -- you're chasing him and he's running away.

The thing to do when a man runs away is to stop chasing. Men can be like puppy dogs -- chase them and they run away, but run in the other direction and they come running after you.

Handle this situation by doing nothing. That means no phone calls, no visits, no contact. Let him wonder what happened to you and why you stopped calling him instead of you wondering all the time about him. That'll change the dynamics of the situation and give you another chance if you haven't totally blown it already by calling too many times.

Control your urge to have the situation resolved once and for all so that you don't have to be stressed over it. Instead, take control of your behavior. The next time a man doesn't have time to talk to you, don't call him again. Don't offer to call later. If he tells you to call later say, "Why don't you call me when you have time?"

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy




Dear Dr. Tracy,

I have read through your library and thought your advice was great. Particularly in the area of keeping that "in love" feeling by not giving too much too soon. You covered some very interesting points. My question is as follows: I have been seeing a wonderful guy for two months now, and he has began to say "I love you". In your advice library you state that we should not say this too soon in our relationships, but what can I do when he says it to me and he expects me to say it back to him. I do feel that I love him and would feel comfortable saying it back, but won't that be giving too much too soon. How can I convey my feelings to him, but still stay enough removed from him to keep that "in love" feeling alive?

Dear "In Love,"

So far you've been doing everything right by not saying "I love you," until he does. Of course, now that he's saying it a lot, it wouldn't hurt for you to say it back once in a while, if you mean it. But don't say it all the time. That's how you keep the "in love" feeling alive, by always giving him something more to get, by having him yearn to hear you say the words all the time.

So use "intermittant reinforcement." That means sometimes you say it back after one "I love you" from him, and sometimes not until he says it two or three or four times.

If you don't want to say "I love" you all the time, or you're not really ready to say "I love you," try something similar to "I have feelings for you too," or "I'm very very fond of you," or "I feel closer to you all the time,"or "I'm beginning to have loving feelings for you too."

Keep that "in love" feeling alive by not being too available. Have other plans once in a while. Take a vacation somewhere and let him miss you a lot.

In general it's okay to give as long as you're getting enough back -- a return on your giving investment that makes it worthwhile. Keep your giving intermittant and don't raise the relationship stakes with things like expensive gifts. If you're the kind of person who is tempted to give too much too soon, be doubly sure you're not giving too much too soon by always give a little less than the other person gives.

Please read "Are You Giving Too Much Too Soon?" in my library and follow the related clicks for more tips on this.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy




Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am 23 and male, my partner 22 female. We are currently in a long-distance relationship and at one point were very serious. The plan was to continue seeing each other exclusively for a long time. However, she recently informed me that she would like to have an open relationship. This would be fine I guess, but I planned to move out to where she is at (San Francisco) the end of this year. I have a pretty strong feeling that I wouldn't be able to handle her seeing other people if we are to continue our relationship. Now that she has informed me of this, I am seriously reconsidering moving out.

Her main concern is that she currently doesn't want to be in a serious relationship, experience single life, etc. I realize 22/23 might be kinda young to make any real long-term committments, but in the 4 years we have been together, I have been increasingly convinced that she is the one. Judging from what she has told me, I assumed she felt the same about me. My question is, should I still move to SF? Are there any other ways we can handle this? I feel like if we won't be able to agree on something here the relationship might be over for now. How do people go about open relationships? Needless to say, this is the cause of much despair in my life right now (and according to her, she is suffering also). Thanks in advance.

Dear Despairing,

Open relationships mean the couple is committed to each other in many ways, but still see other people. They date and may even have sex with others. Each couple has to work out their own rules of how open exactly their relationship will be.

Some couples agree to have sex with other people but only if it doesn't emotionally interfere with their primary relationship. Some couples will only date when the date is away from the home they share and never introduce the third party to their primary mate. Some couples decide that they only want to have an "open" relationship when both partners have met the third party and approve. That sometimes turns into three-way sexual and living together relationships.

However, the key to open relationships is having a lot of trust and also honesty between the two partners in the primary relationship. It requires a lot of self-esteem and yes, experience.

Frankly, I'm dubious about whether you are prepared for the emotional stress. You already don't think you can handle seeing her with someone else, or even knowing about it. I have known couples who've made open marriages work, but they were all older and prepared to see their mates with someone else.

So work out the questions before you move. Or if you want to move to S.F. anyway, then move for yourself, not for this relationship.

You are both very young and I can understand why, at 22, your partner wants to experience more of life and even other men. After all, she's been with you since she was eighteen, and it may be in your interest to have her compare you with other men to see how terrific you really are and to live a little before she settles down.

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.

Dr. Tracy says, "Is your question urgent? Many of the most beseeching, desperate messages I get are not answered in this column because the answer is just a couple of clicks away in my Love Library. Have you tried my Love Library? I know that nobody goes to libraries anymore, but check this one out -- it's so easily searchable that it's fun and easy to use!"

If you can't find your answer in the Library and you feel you MUST have an answer, you can get a personal answer from Dr. Tracy within 48 hours by availing yourself of her inexpensive private counseling.

You may submit your question to Dr.Tracy's column by e-mail here.






(Featured art from cover of Letting Go, by Zev Wanderer and Tracy Cabot, published by "Bitan" Publishers, Tel-Aviv, Israel)
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