Dating

By Hannah Joseph

The Situation:

I’ve been with Michael* for about a year and a half and I care deeply about him. During the year our connection is strong but when the holidays come around, he goes off to visit his family while I’m left at my apartment with scallops and frozen stir-fry. You see, he hasn’t come out to his family yet. They’re conservative religious immigrants from Italy so his hesitation is understandable. But he’s already 40 for God’s sake. If he hasn’t told them by now, will he ever? I’ve told my family about him, brought him to the company Christmas party and introduced him to all of my closest friends. When do I get to be a part of his life? I tried talking to him about it and he completely shut down. Even my friends have recommended reconsidering the relationship, but I love him and this is really only an annual issue. All I know is that I won’t spend another holiday alone. What should I do?

Ian* 35, Brooklyn

The Solve:

Dear Ian,

I’m truly sorry to hear about your situation. Relationships are hard enough without factoring in external circumstance, and the addition of family issues will test even the best of couples. On that note, your friend is right. It’s time to reconsider the relationship. Decide whether you truly envision being with your boyfriend for the long run or if it’s more of a long-term fling. Because your problem sounds like it’s going to take a lot of time, patience and possibly a third party (i.e. relationship counselor) to fix. Are you willing to trudge through the trenches for your S.O.? If so, he must be willing to make the same commitment.

First, try to map out exactly what’s bothering you. Is it the fact that you ate bad food on Thanksgiving? If so, I suggest making your own arrangements. Visit your family, friends or take a vacation for yourself. The more fun you have, the less resentment you’ll harbor against your S.O. By the sound of it though, it seems like the imbalance stretches beyond the seasonal front. While you’ve let him into your life completely, he has limited you to a very specific portion of his. So, is it a “family” issue, or something else? If you think the issue is less about his sexuality, and more about his feelings towards you, the answer is clear. Run far and run fast. You obviously deserve better. If his problems are solely about coming to terms with his own identity, however, he will need your complete understanding. Either way, the clearer you are about your feelings the better equipped you will be to communicate your case to Michael.

The key is to stay calm, logical and firm in your position. When dealing with heavy issues such as this one, it’s easy to let emotions run high. Remember to keep your behavior in check! Act like an adult and remember that you love him. Keeping that in mind, you’ll want to assert the importance of communication. While it may or may not be necessary for your boyfriend to keep his sexuality, and you, hidden from his family, it is NOT okay under any circumstance for him to brush you off or become angry with you for needing to have that conversation. When he does finally agree to talk, you may want to find out about what his feelings are about your relationship. If he doesn’t see a long-term commitment in your future, or avoids the question, you’ll have a good idea for why he hasn’t introduced you to his family. If he can picture himself growing old and grey with you, however, he will have to find a way to compromise with you. Either he sucks it up and tells his family (I have a feeling that they already know, given that he’s 40 and has never brought a girl home) or agrees to forgo spending some major holidays with them in order to share some with you as well.

This discussion might last longer than a day, a month, or even a few months. It could take therapy and a lot of patience on your part. The important thing is that he tries to understand where you’re coming from and makes an effort to compromise. In the meantime, why not bring him to your home for the holidays? He may eventually follow your example. Good luck and please keep me updated on how things go!

All the best,

Hannah

* Names have been changed to insure anonymity.

Originally published February 2009
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