I have been dating my boyfriend since I was 17, and we’ve been together three years. He was raised in a fairly strict Catholic household, and when his brother came out as gay, it was ugly. The dust has since settled but the situation reinforced the family’s stance.As my boyfriend grew up, people would ask him if he were gay, based off body language indicators, clothing choice, the tone of his voice – none of which are truly evidence – and he always denied it. He’s very closed off to others, doesn’t talk about himself often, and we’ve done a lot of work getting him to open up to me.While he struggles to use terms such as “gay,” “straight,” or “bisexual,” he has shared things with me that suggest attraction to men – exploring gay porn, pointing out men he finds attractive, watching a plethora of LGBT films – but it has never been acted on whatsoever. I have often wondered, and asked, why he hasn’t broken up with me to do some exploring, but he insists he would/could never, and he also seems to think no one would really want to be with him. He also has told me he could never break up with me because he doesn’t want to throw away what we have.I’m concerned I’m lying to myself and hanging onto a relationship with a closeted man, which is not a life I want for myself.I think he’s tired of discussing it, which is a feeling I share. He has told me he does feel attracted to me. Any insight would be tremendously appreciated.Stuck and Confused
Told you how – in words?
If yes, then there’s your answer.
That he rejects the idea of dating men with, to paraphrase, “Men wouldn’t like me” vs. “I don’t like men”? That’s an answer, too.
As is watching gay porn but drawing a line at saying “gay.”
If you’ve politically corrected yourself into knots, then make it simple and see the answer in your looking so hard for an answer. Happy, healthy, satisfied couples heading in a mutually agreeable direction just don’t agonize over their relationships the way you’re picking apart yours.
Let’s say for the sake of argument your boyfriend is exactly as straight as his parents want him to be. (Picture the emoji with no mouth. That’s me typing this.) How would knowing that status change anything about your relationship AS YOU’RE LIVING IT NOW, day after typical day?
This very relationship, exactly as you’re living it, has set off your alarms. Your impulse to stick with it as you dig for and identify the problem is an admirable one; you’re not looking at him or your feelings for him as disposable. However, at some point the exact nature of the problem becomes irrelevant and all that matters is its tenacity.
Problem arises; problem resists your attempts to fix it; problem wins.
If you’re still not ready to leave: Please promise you won’t take this conflicted person’s word for it (or anyone’s) that urges have “never been acted on whatsoever.” You can love and sympathize with and even trust someone and still be mindful that people in torment sometimes act selfishly in ways they never otherwise would.
I’m in my mid-thirties and in a relatively new, but so far amazing, relationship. In both a slightly sad and incredibly happy way, I realize none of my past relationships radiated this type of positive energy. I’m trying not to get ahead of myself, but I really can see myself with this person long-term.I’ve been in a couple of abusive relationships before that have taken their emotional toll (occasional nightmares or a random trigger). I also suffer from seasonal depression that can get pretty sticky. I’ve worked really hard not to feel like these things make me less deserving of a warm, loving relationship. Though those thoughts creep in occasionally.When do I tell this guy that I might feel unglued once in a while? How long is acceptable to hide it? Right now I go home or take a night off from him if I feel like it’s going to be rough mood-wise. But I sense that someone must have an answer on how to be transparent about mental health without having it ruin a relationship.Anonymous
If having very (very!) normal needs and frailties is a relationship killer for this guy, then it will be a relationship killer whether you say so now or two years from now. And better to find that out now, no?
Or worse, he notices stuff because that’s inevitable, and you don’t explain anything because you think you’ll lose him, and he finds out two years in and your withholding information from him is what kills the relationship.
Please treat your needs as matter-of-fact: Say when you need a night off for mood management. Say why. Mention the seasonal depression. When old relationships come up, say that you’ve had some bad enough that you still get nightmares sometimes. Having various health problems is common; the ability to anticipate trouble and head it off is not common, and in fact it speaks well of you.
You need, as a partner, someone who can see that – which is another argument for finding out whether he can (sorry) handle the truth.
Of course, you don’t want to unspool your entire self on first dates; there is a pace of disclosure that makes sense. But it’s not about some perceived line before which you hold it all in and past which you dump it all out. It’s about trust and investment.
When you first meet someone, unless you’re train-strangers having a mutual no-strings-attached catharsis moment, it’s reasonable to believe the other person cares only so much about your every life detail – and will be only so responsible about respecting your privacy. So you share to a degree, roughly, that reflects basic respect for the level of detail that would interest someone new. Gauge interest from questions, read body language, think candor and brevity.
Then follow this give-and-take path accordingly as you get to know each other. One little nudge closer at a time, as you feel safe to share about you and curious to know about him. Watch for natural openings to bring up difficult things.
If you’re not sure where you are in this progression, consider: When not telling feels like “hiding,” it’s time to tell. There’s your opener, too. “I should have said this sooner.”
Carolyn Hax is a syndicated advice columnist for The Washington Post. She started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. Email her at [email protected].