Cure Cold Feet with a Dose of Reason / May I Check that Inseam—Once Again?
Dear Dr. Hurd,
I am getting married in a few weeks. We’ve been together for two years, and things have been great between us. But as “the big day” gets closer, I am getting more and more anxious and worried. Am I making the right decision for what I believe could be the rest of my life? I’m so confused. It’s such a big step. Is this just the jitters, or am I making a terrible mistake?
Dr. Hurd replies,
You can’t predict the future. But you can be sure of why you wanted to get married in the first place. Take a deep breath and write down those reasons. Consider and reconsider them.
Emotions have a way of oversimplifying things. Emotions tell us what’s all good or all bad. The euphoria you felt when you first fell in love and first decided to get married sent out signals saying, “All good!” Now the pendulum has swung the other way, and your emotions are saying, “Danger ahead!” Emotions are usually more extreme than actual reality. In all probability, that’s all this is.
Outside of the obvious legal and financial considerations, marriage is just a ceremony. Either you want to be with just one person, or you don’t. If you do want to be with only one person, then it matters little whether you’re married or not. If you no longer want to be with someone, there’s divorce or a breakup. Often, the stress is not so much about getting married as it is about the event itself. Do what you can to make the event as stress-free and simple as possible.
If you really love someone and can’t imagine your life without that person, then how could you be making a terrible mistake by getting married? If I were talking to you in counseling, I’d ask you to just say it out loud and don’t censor it! Face this fear head on. Apply the cool breeze and bright daylight of reason to it—exploring this for real is much better than letting it fester.
Dear Dr. Hurd,
I graduated high school this year and got a job in a clothing store. The manager, who is only a couple of years older than I am, started out being very nice to me, but now he’s making suggestive comments and getting very touchy/feely. My friends tell me that because I’m rather effeminate, I invite this sort of thing. Yes, I admit I am effeminate, but that’s how I’ve always been (and didn’t even know that until people told me). And just because I’m effeminate doesn’t mean that I’m a tramp or an easy mark for sex. I really like this job, but I feel like the only way I can keep it is to give in to this guy. And please don’t tell me to “butch it up.” I wouldn’t know how to do that.
Dr. Hurd replies,
I’m told there are laws against this kind of thing, but don’t rely on me for legal advice. You can take that up with the appropriate human resources-type person at your job, or with an attorney. Psychologically, I’d say it’s important to not be intimidated. And it’s equally important to let this person know you’re not intimidated. You don’t necessarily have to confront him, at least not right away. But be firm—absolutely, immovably firm—in your refusal to return any interest.
People like your store manager are really sad. Instead of seeking out people who can return their affection and interest, they go after people who are probably not interested. At best, it’s the thrill of the chase; at worst, it’s predatory behavior. Sometimes it’s hard to judge. But the best place to start is to simply ignore the interests. Deliberately pull away when he touches you, but otherwise be civil and professional. If that doesn’t work, then plan from there.
I don’t like that your friends blame it on you. It’s like saying, “Well, you were walking around a bad neighborhood at night. Didn’t you expect to get mugged?” I’d rather someone say that while you’re not responsible for someone else’s choice to be a thief, you did use bad judgment by walking down a dark street in a bad neighborhood. But being effeminate isn’t an example of judgment or choice; it’s just the way you are. You should be able to be who you are without retribution—either positive or negative.
If the pressure escalates, you might consider asking this manager if you gave him the wrong idea, i.e., that you’re interested in him that way. If so, say you’re sorry; you didn’t mean to convey that. With some people, that will put an end to it. It’s your way of letting him know that you know what’s going on, and that you don’t feel the same way back. Sadly, if he really is a predator, then this will only encourage him more. Predators seek power, and sexual harassment is a form of power. That’s the point where you’ll have to consider more drastic alternatives, including—but not limited to—finding a different job.
Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D., LCSW is a psychotherapist and author. His office can be reached at 302-227-2829. Email questions or comments to Dr. Hurd.