"Ask Dr. Tracy"

12/20/98 Advice Column


CHRISTMAS PARTY REGRETS,
HER SON IS DRIVING THEM APART,
WHO PAYS THESE DAYS




Dear Dr. Tracy,

My husband and I had a Christmas party and invited many guests, including his assistants at his office. Most all of the guests left except for two couples, of which the women of these couples were employees of my husbands. We have a hot tub and everyone decided it would be fun to get in. Of course, the employees didn't bring suits so we said they could borrow our teenage daughter's suits. One of the female employees and myself were in the hot tub talking and the two husbands of the employees were also down where the hot tub was. The employee I was talking to brought up the fact that my husband and the other female employee had been upstairs an awful long time. Thinking about it, I decided she was right and went upstairs to investigate. As I came to the top of the stairway, they were coming from the back of the house which is where our bedroom and my husband's home office is. At that time I heard my husband telling this woman how "nice her ass looked in his daughter's suit" I didn't say too much about it.

Then we all ended up downstairs by the hot tub and bar and the female employee that my husband had been upstairs with went up to my husband and pulled down his trunks. I was so angry I couldn't see straight. Anyway, I wasn't real crazy about my husband going back to work with her. My husband acted as if nothing happened and that there wasn't really anything that he could do about it. He swears nothing went on but he had been drinking and sometimes does things that he wouldn't ordinarilly do. I want to believe him but I also don't want to be taken for a fool. What do you think?

Dear Angry,

No wonder you're upset. Your Christmas party definitely got out of control. The woman who pulled your husband's trunks down shouldn't have done so. On the other hand, you have no idea of whether he pulled her top down first -- while they were upstairs alone together.

So what can you do? Nothing. Ignore the whole episode. People regularly make fools of themselves at Christmas parties. And if you make a big issue of it, you'll be making a fool of yourself too. Unfortunately, a lot of people feel like they can do whatever they want at a Christmas party when they're a little drunk and it seems like the hosts have suspended all the rules.

That's where you came in. You contributed to the problem by letting the late group head for the hottub. What were they to think? Perhaps they thought you and your husband were swingers and this was your opening move. Then there's that hot water and the bubbles, and the drinks and food and foolishness -- what on earth did you think would happen? Sitting around in a hottub with flesh touching flesh however accidentally is not exactly the same as sitting around the living room fully dressed.

Next time you have a party, make sure the hottub is off limits. Turn off the heater a couple of days ahead of time. Or if necessary, empty the tub. If you don't want the party to turn wild, see that everyone stays dressed in the clothes they came in with, and confine the party to one area where you can keep an eye on everyone, including hubby.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy




Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a disabled 43 year old male very much in love with a 41 year old woman who has a fifteen year old son. So do I and this brings me to my problem. Her son has a terrible drug problem and the temper that goes along with it. I do know something about this as many years ago I used to have a substance abuse problem as well. Her son (when in one of his fits of rage which occur often) is completely out of control as he screams every four letter expletive known to man at her. Not long ago I went with her to pick him up at the police department at 2 am for possession, disorderly conduct, and various other charges. He was ordered to appear before court and neither one (he or his mother) have even called to find out about the court date. That has been over a month ago. She knows that he smokes dope and does other drugs right in his room but does NOTHING to try to stop it. She punished him not long ago by "taking" his bong away from him. Parents used to take away TV privileges.

My son is supposed to visit for Christmas but I want him nowhere near hers. Last night we went Christmas shopping and she laid down $300.00 for his presents and we stopped for fast-food on the way home. When we got home his order was wrong, he started screaming at her, and when I tried to take up for her (I did not call him any names, I did not touch him, etc. etc.) she externalized the blame of the entire outburst on ME and I had nothing to do with it whatsoever. I am a social work student with a one and a half years left for my masters degree and have tried to give her friendly, uncondemning advice on the steps she needs to take to help her with her problem but she ignores there is any problem, in complete denial. I have never told her this...but as a social worker, I am also a mandated reporter and have been tempted to report the neglect and would do so immediately if I did not love her so much. She is supposed to be a halfway intelligent person as she is an RN on a renal transplant floor at a large hospital.

I suppose I just ended our relationship today when I had thought about it all night and left her house today. I feel so foolish and lost. I love her so much that I ache without her already but cannot condone either of their behaviors one more minute in their present state. I am a heart patient who cannot tolerate abnormal levels of stress unless I want to die from another MI. Please help by telling me what I should do. Thank you for any advice you could give.

Dear Feeling Foolish,

There's nothing as strong and as blind as a mother's love. You really should back out of this relationship for your health and sense of general emotional well-being. Watching the woman you love being abused has got to be wrenching, especially when there's no recourse for you.

Despite being a social worker, you're probably wise not to report this situation. I doubt that being a "mandated reporter" was meant to apply to a lover. Besides, both of them would probably deny everything. You have to realize that she and her son have a symbiotic relationship. In other words, they're both getting something out of it.

She may be a mother who's unable to cut the apron strings and who depends on having her son around to know who she is. Instead of thinking of herself as an adult, a nurse, a lover, she thinks of herself as a mother to this impossible son. Her entire identity could be tied up in this boy and nothing you can do will bring her to her senses.

Unless she's willing to let him pay the price and face the consequences of his behavior, he'll continue to terrorize her. Don't become an "enabler" with her. Just because she enables him by bailing him out at 2 am doesn't mean you have to help.

Suggestions that might help her help herself: get her into a parent support group called "Tough Love." Take the door off his room so he can't smoke dope in his room without being caught. When he screams, don't get involved. Instead, leave.

Screaming back and fighting with him just brings you and her down to his level. If she's unwilling to call the cops and let the authorities deal with him, then stay away from their sick relationship. You will only make yourself sick by being around them. It's not going to stop if she's unwilling to take action. It'll just get worse.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy




Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am a 36 year old woman who is currently dating a 37 year old man. We both make decent salaries and have certain financial responsibilities. He says that it's the '90s and insists that I pay for half or every other time we go out. I have a problem with this. I was brought up that the man pays, (not that I totally agree with this). I feel that I should contribute, but not 50% of the time. Am I old fashioned? Is he being cheap? Have the dating rules/culture changed? I want to be fair about this, but I have never come across this problem before. Any insight would be helpful! Thanks!

Dear Old-fashioned,

Those rules about the man always paying were made when women didn't work or earn as much. Today, however, the rules are much more flexible. There's not a thing wrong with a woman bearing more than her share of date expenses if she makes more than the man. Modern relationships mean that whoever can afford to pay, pays. The other one who can't afford to pay as often should expect to make it up in other ways. By cooking dinner, for example. Or planning an inexpensive outing where you go roller skating or bike riding and have a picnic instead of eating out.

However, you're right to be wary of a man who seems rigid about splitting expenses down the middle. That means every date becomes an accounting exercise, and couples who try that wind up in arguments all the time. You know, "My salad didn't cost as much as your steak, so why should I pay half?" Or, "You had two cocktails. You should pay extra." Or "The date I paid for was much more expensive. What are you going to do to catch up?"

Ugh! That's no way to have a relationship or a marriage. People who lack a sense of loving generosity, who can't share without keeping track of everything, make lousy mates.

So try sharing expenses in a reasonable way and see if Mr. 50-50 eases up and starts acting more like a lover than an accountant.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy





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