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Monday, October 8, 2007

Striking Yet Another Nerve!

Dear Readers,
Thanx so much for passionately commenting on my Match.com columns posted on MSN’s Dating and Personal Page: (http://msn.match.com/msn/article.aspx?articleid=8581&menuid=7&lid=428).

Whenever I respond to a reader’s question, my aim is to motivate that person to get out of his/her own way. My approach is definitely tough, but it’s also compassionate towards all sides involved in a dispute. The Gilda-Gram I use in my own life is: “May my next mistakes be NEW mistakes.” Of course, as we grow, we continue to take plenty of missteps. But it is vital for us to understand where we have gone and why,
to prevent falling into the same potholes again. (I know this lesson well. I almost married the same personality type TWICE—before I came to my senses and changed my life patterns.)

THE COLUMN

Hi, Dr. Gilda,
I began a relationship with a fantastic guy after my divorce 14 months ago. He lived about 100 miles away, and we spent the first four months of our relationship dating long-distance. I moved to his town to be with him, found a new and better job, and am adjusting to a more rural lifestyle. The problem is that he’s an alcoholic. It was easy for him to hide this from me when we lived in separate places, but now that we’re living together, the relationship is on the rocks (no pun intended) because of his constant drinking. We’re in counseling, and he admits he has a problem, but he has no intention of quitting, just “cutting back.” We’ve been through a lot together, and I really want this to work. He’s my perfect guy when he’s not drinking, but I don’t know how long I can keep dealing with this. Please help!
– What Did I Buy Into?

Dear What Did I Buy Into?,
You describe your “fantastic guy” as your “perfect guy when he’s not drinking!” But he is constantly drinking. So he can’t be that “fantastic” after all, nor is he “perfect”—at least for you. Ask yourself some questions now:
1. Am I more committed to this man because I moved 100 miles and rearranged my life for him? If this were the case, your commitment would be an understandable rationalization; it is tough to admit you were duped by your own shortsightedness.
2. Am I willing to accept this man “as is” with his drinking problem? It’s hard to love someone who is more emotionally present for his booze than he is for you.
You say, “I don’t know how long I can keep dealing with this.” Again, notice that he’s not so “fantastic” and he’s certainly not “perfect.” Who are you more upset with now—him for drinking and concealing it, or yourself for not seeing the relationship clearly before you changed your life for love?

The rate of relapse for alcoholism is high. But added to this problem is the fact that your guy doesn’t think he needs to quit. Girl, you have just seen a glimpse of your life as it is today—and how it will continue into the future. Relationships naturally become more complex as two people become closer. They amass family, friends, and possessions, all of which bolster their bond, but also require maintenance. If you’re upset now, and there’s no remedy in sight, the tension you feel currently will turn to anger and depression as time goes on. This situation is an impossible foundation on which to build love.

This man doesn’t believe his problem is grave enough for him to go cold turkey or otherwise work toward quitting—this is a huge red flag. He also won’t want to hear your nagging him about it. You already went the therapy route. So what is left to do? I’d say it is probably worth the 100-mile trip for you to return home. Don’t get caught up in delivering ultimatums; it is already clear where things stand. You’ve tried to support him in quitting, and there’s been little change.

However, don’t consider the end of this relationship a personal failure. As my Gilda-Gram says, “When something happens TO you, it really happens FOR you.” Discover what you learned from this experience. One thing you will have gained is a desire to look deeper into your next relationship before you commit your heart. Next time, instead of entering love with stars in your eyes, tread more tentatively at first—and that will serve you better in the long run.

XXX
Relationship expert Dr. Gilda (www.DrGilda.com) has a private practice, is a motivational speaker and associate professor of business, psychology, and communications at New York’s Mercy College. She is also the founder of the video blog, GildaVision, on her web site. Her best-selling books include Don’t Bet on the Prince! How to Have the Man You Want by Betting On Yourself and He’s Not All That! How to Attract the Good Guys.

XXX
As always, some of your comments were supportive, some angry, and some surprising. Here is a sampling of a few of them:

--Dear Dr. Gilda,
In a recent column, you advised a woman who was dating an active alcoholic. As a recovering addict/alcoholic, now clean and sober for 18 years, I want to comment. If he doesn't think he has a problem, don't walk, RUN away. For years, I destroyed everyone around me, everyone who cared about me because I wasn't willing to change. I drank and used from the time I was 15 until I was 35—and it was everyone else's fault. Until the addict/alcoholic feels it is time to change, no one around him can do it for him. Interventions rarely work. Addicts rationalize with an "everyone is against me" attitude. I hope your reader survives this. Feel free to include my comments on your Blog. There is hope. I was able to go back to school, get an accounting degree, and start my own business. But the person in trouble has to be willing to change.

--Dear Dr. Gilda,
I think your response to “What Did I Buy Into,” should definitely have included finding and going to an Al-Anon meeting. If she moved 100 miles and took a new job to live with this guy she only knew for four months, leaving him and moving back will not do her any good unless she makes some changes herself – she most likely will end up hooking up with another alcoholic. Al-Anon can help her change herself.

--Hello Dr. Gilda,
I happened to read a column you wrote answering a lady’s question about her new relationship. It seems that her newfound romance is an alcoholic. Your response, though appropriate to some degree, failed to point out the only real alternative to such a problem. Alcoholics Anonymous. Maybe it is a "political correctness" issue or "taboo/career suicide issue" like talking about God over a medium like this for you to have neglected to mention AA, but I would think a "DR" whether a PhD or MD, would have known about the most successful avenue for an alcoholic to recover from, and be willing to share this information. By failing to do so, you left this person with no real hope, actually no hope at all for having a relationship with this man. I realize it is his problem, not hers, and that it is his responsibility to take action for his problem, however you didn't give her any solution that that she could pass on to her new "loved one" as a means of help. She didn't indicate that she was willing to leave the guy, so you should have opened the door to the idea of AA and its counterparts, like Al-Anon. Are you a real Dr. or just Dear Abby under another Pen Name?

--Dear Reader,
Thank you for your feedback. I have received so many e-mails from this Match.com column on MSN, I think I will include some of the comments in my next Blog. In the future, if you want to be heard, the wise thing to do is refrain from personal assaults. You only come off angry, far from helpful as you claim to be.
Dr. Gilda

--Dear Dr. Gilda,
Duly noted. Now I know you are for real. Thank you!

--Dr. Gilda,
I read a letter today on the suddenly Single page on MSN and I was hoping that maybe you could share this feedback with the person who wrote in. If not, it is helpful for me to be able to speak about this. The letter I read was from "What Did I Buy Into?" about her alcoholic boyfriend.

When I was about 9, my mom met "the perfect man". We both fell in love with him. It wasn’t until about a year into their relationship that we realized he was an alcoholic. He agreed to get help and began AA classes. This went on for several years and when I was about 13 he entered rehab. He was sober for about 4 years. They were the best years we could have imagined. No more fighting and he was the man we knew him to be. He did "fall off the wagon" and things got very bad again. He was sent to prison and my Mother and he divorced. I still remained by his side (He was my Dad). And we talked many times about when he came home, and he promised over and over that he would not drink. Well he is now home, and has been for a year now.

Unfortunately, he did not keep his promise to me. He continues to drink and it put such a strain on our relationship that we no longer speak. He is now remarried, and his wife is under the impression that she can "fix him" if she just sticks by him. I tried to make her understand that when he drinks, he is not the man she married, but she plans to try. Good for her, but I have been hurt by this man too many times in the last 14 years to continue trying.

Please don’t think that I am saying that no alcoholic can change. But if a person isn’t willing to stop drinking then no, they will not change. I have done so much research on this "illness" that I could probably talk about it until I was blue in the face. Unfortunately, most people think that a drink here and there won’t hurt, and one drink is nothing. But for an alcoholic that one drink is all it takes, and they are back where they started. So if her boyfriend thinks he can just cut back, he obviously isn’t willing to do everything he needs to. I hate to see someone else go through what my Mom did all those years.

I hope this can be of some help. Thank you!

--Hello Dr. Gilda, :)
I saw your column "Suddenly Single? Ask Dr. Gilda." I have the exact same problem as "What Did I Buy Into?," except my "perfect" woman drinks too much and hides it from me. I lived in Mississippi while going to school, and moved back to Arizona to be with my "perfect" woman. I know that she is not perfect for me and that she will continue to drink. It's causing problems for us. What a shame. I thought I had a good thing, too.

I don't drink, and have been a Certified Personal Trainer. Health is truly our greatest gift. Would it be possible to forward my e-mail address to "What Did I Buy Into?" I feel that if there were some other person in the same situation as I am, by support and correspondence, we might be able to help each other out of these situations.

Thank you soooo much for your column’s advice, your hard work, and for caring enough about people to help us though difficult times and decisions.
A New Fan

--Dear Dr. Gilda,
I recently read your advice to a woman who moved to another city for her man, who then found out her "perfect" man is an alcoholic. Your advice was way off course. The best thing you could have told her was to contact a local Al-Anon group and give that a try before she made any decision regarding her relationship with this man. You should have also suggested she educate herself on alcoholism to get a better understanding of what this person is going through. Alcoholics are not bad people, just sick.
A Woman Married To and Loving an Alcoholic

--Dear Dr. Gilda,
I once dated a female model who tried to hide a drinking problem from me. I issued her an ultimatum: either clean up her act or I was going to leave. Her personality would change drastically while under the influence. We quickly went our separate ways. I met an incredibly attractive single woman who is now my tennis partner. This woman has the same philosophical approach I do about good old-fashioned clean healthy living! This is the type of woman I would want to marry and raise a family with!
Regards

--Dear Dr. Gilda,
I just wanted to say that the advice you gave the woman who moved to be with her "perfect" alcoholic boyfriend was right on the money. How I wish I would have gotten the same advice when I was with mine...

--Dear Dr. Gilda,
Thank you so much for giving the advice you did to the girl who moved 100 miles to be with her man, then found he was an alcoholic. You told her to cut her losses and run. How I wish someone had told me that 21 years ago.

I married my best friend. I knew he liked to drink, but never realized how hooked he was. When I was pregnant with our second child, he admitted he was an alcoholic but did not intend to do anything about it. I should have run then. Instead, I stuck it out so that our children could have somewhat of a normal childhood, although their father was not a part of it. He was too busy drinking with friends, or was too uncomfortable being around normal families to participate in all the things involved with raising children: ball games, school functions, proms.

His daughter was on the homecoming court her senior year and refused to ask him to escort her across the field at the game. She said he would probably show up drunk and make an ass of himself. How sad. I wonder what will happen when she marries some day.

Now the children are gone: thank God they managed to grow into strong, independent people (the son is in the Marines, the daughter is in college). I am now alone in one part of the house while he treats "his" part of the house as a flophouse. It is indescribably filthy, but he only uses it as a pit stop to shower and change clothes occasionally.

Divorce? I can't afford it. I am putting the daughter through school alone as well as paying off all the bills that amassed during the times he wasn't working. I am also the sole person responsible for the upkeep on the house. Kick him out? I would, but he has a temper and an arsenal of over 20 guns and I don't want to look over my shoulder for the rest of my life.

So thank you for telling that girl to run. She will avoid what I am living, and will probably find her true love someday. Good for her!!

XXX
This is just a sampling of the hundreds of e-mails I received regarding this column. As you can see, the world is comprised of many different people with many different views. What works for one person won’t work for another.

The most compelling drive we have is to live our best life. If we choose a partner, it should be with someone who is the best for us. To remain in an unsatisfying arrangement is to accept what I call “Less Than” treatment. Is it worth denying your happiness? Is it worth modeling “Less Than” treatment to your kids? You are the only one who can answer that. Do what’s right—and GOOD—for you and for your children! Thank you for all your e-mails!
Love,
Dr. Gilda