"Ask Dr. Tracy"

12/13/98 Advice Column


Dear Dr. Tracy,

I've been a regular reader of your column for over a year now and have read and reread many of the things in your library (being a librarian and all myself that only seemed fitting).

Here is where I am. I am 32, he is 43. I have 2 kids, 7 & 10. He has 2 kids, 12 & 15. I've been divorced for 5 years, separated for 6. He's been a widower for roughly 1 1/2 years now, and we have been dating for the past year. His wife was sick for 6 years. I have worked very hard at being understanding and loving and caring and helpful in as many ways as I have been able over the past year for all 3 of them, including helping cooking, cleaning, rides here and there, even coordinating a fundraiser for them etc., to help offset the $70,000 in medical expenses from his wife's doctor bills.

However, the boys still resist my presence from time to time and it really hurts. I understand they have suffered the most significant loss of their lives and I have read tons about children's grief and spent time on web chat pages listening to those experiencing grief talk, etc., and I really try to tune into what they are feeling, etc.

Sometimes it is great and I know they are glad I am around, especially the youngest boy, but sometimes, still, I get this, "what are you doing here" look. The holidays are becoming especially stressful and I wish they were over - even thinking about who goes where, with whom, when, puts knots in my stomach. His oldest doesn't want me at the family Christmas party (even though his own mother never even went to that party because of bad blood between her and his family). We are always in "Plan B" mode because of the kids anyway, which we are both O.K. with, but the holidays and all of the "outside judges" of our relationship are really getting to me.

I haven't even said how wonderful our relationship is - we really are good together - we laugh and are serious and he is there for me and I am there for him - we enjoy the mundane things like grocery shopping or renting videos because we are doing it together and have wonderful intimate moments. We share a deep love and know we are lucky to have what we have, but.... now what??

The "M" word is your next question... maybe someday - but when is someday, when his oldest goes to college, when my oldest goes to college? Is that too long to wait, how long will the boys resent me, or will they always resent me?? He worries too and has even talked to someone he works with who experienced the same loss - the prognosis was not good - he never really accepted the new woman in his father's life. Am I beating my head against the wall? I'm 32 (NOT getting any younger) in decent shape, fairly attractive with a good job and career and 2 good kids who are straight A students (brag, brag).

I just want to be happy, and, if possible make everyone else happy too, but I don't know if that can happen...

I'm sorry this is so long.... help...

Dear Stressed,

Holidays are the most stressful time of the year, especially in a family situation such as yours. The kids are upset and depressed, not so much because you are there, but rather because their mother isn't. Remember though, Christmas only comes once a year, it's just one day, and shouldn't be such a big deal. Let him be with his family and you stay with yours.

Your fella's kids are at a difficult age. They may never fully accept you in the way you want, but give them time, and they'll get used to you. In the meantime, don't let them upset you. They're only kids.

Stop trying to make everybody happy. You can't. It's an impossible task. The best you can expect is to make yourself and your kids happy, and to have some private times together with your boyfriend. Stop beating your head against the wall. If you and he have to be separated on Christmas day, pick another day, say December 27, to celebrate and make that day your special Christmas. Cherish the love and special relationship you have and don't let other people's problems sour the deep love you share.

Let Mr. Wonderful know that you don't expect his sons to fully accept you, but that you don't want to wait until his kids are off to college to get married. Since his oldest is the biggest problem, you might agree to marry after he goes to college, but that's a very long engagement. You may find that after you're formally engaged, the boys accept the relationship better.

Meanwhile, you must stop listening to the "outside judges" of your relationship. You're both mature grownups; stop worrying so much about what other people think.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I have been dating my boyfriend for 1 1/2 years. We talk about having children and we talk (indirectly) about rings and marriage, but he has a problem with sharing his space. He wants me to stay every night, but seems afraid that if we "commit" his whole life will be turned upside down. I get mixed messages. He will ask what kind of rings I like, talk about being my mom's Son-In-Law, having babies but then he will turn around and say that he doesn't want new pictures on his wall. He wants me to go home with him for Christmas and be with his family, but he doesn't want my stuff in his house. What can I do to make him feel less threatened? This is his first home and I know that he worked very hard for it, but what good are material items if you can't share them? Will he ever marry me?

Dear Mixed-up,

No wonder you're confused by his mixed messages. He wants to share the Holidays, but doesn't want to share his belongings. He gives you marriage and children signals but refuses to share his space. This is a serious problem. The very essence of marriage is sharing. A man who can't share is not a good marriage prospect. Couples who can't agree to share their belongings and their space shouldn't be thinking about sharing their lives.

Before you consider marrying him, talk to him about finances and about his expectations about marriage and sharing compared to yours. Let him know that you expect him to be able to share if he wants to be married and have a family.

See if you can teach him to share. Start small. Leave a toothbrush, a bottle of nailpolish, a sweater. Ask him to assign a drawer to you. Borrow a sweater from him, wear it, and return it. Let him see that sharing doesn't mean he's going to lose something. Buy something together, splitting the cost, and leave it at his house. That way, you have something there that belongs to you both -- the beginning of sharing. Also, you let him see that sharing means he could have more, not less.

When you spend the Holidays with him and his family, take pictures that include you and him and his family. Then share those pictures with his family and him. Make up little albums and send them to his parents. Frame a nice photo and give it to him. Show by example that sharing is fun. Whatever you do, don't marry him until he learns to share. If necessary, see a therapist together and talk about the problem. Ask him what he thinks he will lose by sharing. Once you know what his problem really is, then you'll have a better chance of overcoming it.

Your primary worry right now shouldn't be "Will he ever marry me?" Instead, please read "Qualifying" Someone in my library for a checklist of the things to think about before worrying about how soon you'll get married.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

Dear Dr. Tracy,

my wife and i have gone to a nudist resort close to our home before and i enjoyed this time with my wife very much it was very fullfilling and a beautiful time to spend with her naked in the sun swimming in the pool and having fun clothing free but now she tells me that this is against her morals and does not want to do this again i am at a loss here because i feel maybe i am at heart a nudist?? i dont find it uncomfortable or even inmoral i think the human body is a very beautiful thing! how can i get her interested again?? will i ever??? if i go by myself i feel it may cause harm to our marriage???

im confused and dont know what to say to her ?? i hint and ask her if she would like to go but she always says no i dont think so am i asking to much or what should i see here i am confused THANK YOU

Dear Nudist,

Being a nudist is a lifestyle that many couples embrace together and enjoy. However, if one half of the couple wants to be a nudist and the other doesn't, one is going to have to give in. Either you have to give up nudism or she has to accept it.

Since you don't want to give up nudism, work on showing your wife the joys of the wonderful world of nudism. Maybe she didn't enjoy that particular nudist resort you took her to. Perhaps she was uncomfortable being so close to home with people who she might see dressed and be embarrassed later. Perhaps she isn't comfortable with her body and feels insecure being nude.

Start by increasing your nudist activities at home so she begins to get used to nudity. Tell her how beautiful she is naked. Get a hottub and enjoy it together in the nude. Spend more time naked together at home and get her more comfortable with nudity in private.

Then look for another nudist resort, one that's not close to home. Show her the different kinds of nudism. For example, there's Hedonism in Jamaica, a fun and somewhat wild nude resort where everyone lets it all hang out since they're so far away from home and figure they'll never see these people again. Or there's Eselan in Big Sur, California, where intellectuals get naked for growth, get massaged with the famous Eselan massage technique, and discuss philosophy and great literature in the hot tubs overlooking the Pacific. Be sure to buy her a nice present at the nudist destination so that she gets rewarded in many ways for going along.

Contact a nudist association and get some literature on nudist activities to share with her. Take her to see the great nude religious paintings in a nearby museum. Show her the higher side of nudism. Let her know this is important to you and offer to share one of her activities too. Stop hinting and have a serious discussion. Tell her you're considering going alone but you really think you should be together. Going alone to a nudist camp can be very dangerous to your relationship.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy

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