Dear Deborah

Nice, Decent and But

Dear Deborah,

The three worst words in the English language for a single man are “nice,” “decent” and “but,” as in “You’re a nice, decent man, but let’s just be friends.”

A single man who’s romantically involved with a woman isn’t looking for friendship. Invariably, the woman who wants to be just friends will never call or write her “friend.” The result is that the man feels rejected.

To avoid making a man feel rejected, a woman should simply say, “I’m not ready for a serious relationship at this time.” This would tell him that he is not being rejected and give him some hope that when she is ready, she will resume their relationship.

Disappointed in Love

Dear Disappointed,

An insincere offer of friendship is indeed insulting. Yet saying, “I’m not ready for a serious relationship,” might also be insincere.

No matter how you cut it, having one’s advances declined stings. But must that absolutely mean “rejection”?

If so, rejection of what? Is romantic rejection a statement that you are unattractive, undesirable or somehow a putz because of your decency? Think again.

Mutual attraction is a complex and mysterious soup that contains some or all of the following ingredients (of which conscious choice is but a soupçon) — chemistry, character, emotional blueprinting and serendipity.

So if you choose to experience the random misalignment of souls as “rejection,” the only way it can possibly serve you is that it reinforces some belief you have about yourself — no doubt one you ought to reconsider.

Millennium Assails Tradition

Dear Deborah,

Our 32-year-old son is about to marry a lovely young woman whose parents are, well, different. While they have plenty of money and we don’t, they nevertheless insist that because this is the 1990s, both families should pay for the wedding. They think that the tradition of the bride’s parents paying is obsolete and should no longer apply. They also argue that, since they are going to kick in for a down-payment on a home, we should at least be able to come up with 50 percent of the costs of the wedding.

They are going to put on a fancy wedding, and we cannot begin to afford what they can. We did not save for this, because we didn’t think we needed to. We paid for our daughter’s wedding (except for liquor) and are surprised by their claim.

How can we deal with this without risking offending our future machatanim (in-laws)? What is correct?

If I Were A Rich Man

Dear If,

Correct doesn’t seem to apply here. These people are making a demand, and you must respond, whether or not their request is “correct.” Such are the times.

The deal is this: If you do not wish to estrange these future in-laws, decide down to the penny what you can afford. Then tell them the truth — A) We don’t have it; B) We didn’t plan for it; C) This is exactly how much we are able to contribute; and D) any or all of the following: we do so wish it could be more; we are so grateful about the down payment; We love our future daughter-in-law so very much and wish we could do more. Well, you know the paces.

Let’s hope that these people are not the insensitive goons they appear to be and turn out to be decent machatanim. And to think that after 30 years, you were just getting used to your spouse’s family.

Here’s to love, families and nerves of steel.

Older Men/Younger Women

Dear Deborah,

Why is it that in the personals, most men seek women who are five to 15 years younger? This makes me think that these men are not interested in mature, equal relationships. What do you think?


Dear F.T.,

There is, of course, the reason you stated: Some men don’t want mature women. Other men may have gotten off to a late start nesting and want a younger woman who can deliver the goods. Some think of younger women as a status symbol, a controllable object, and I imagine that there are scores of other reasons, some logical and plenty boneheaded.

So is this a sociological or demographic question, or perhaps a personal complaint? If it is the former, use your imagination. If it is the latter, try this one on: Just think of those personal ads that are seeking younger women as small puddles of odious ink over which you will gleefully hop in your search for Mr. Worthy.

Deborah Berger-Reiss is a West Los Angeles psychotherapist. All letters to Dear Deborah require a name, address and telephone number for purposes of verification. Names will, of course, be withheld upon request. Our readers should know that when names are used in a letter, they are fictitious.

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