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#526: I’m worried that my long-distance fiance a) cheats on me b) is keeping me a secret.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I am a 15 year old male and I’m engaged to someone that I met online. I have been dating him for about a year now and he has cheated on me once. Sometimes I get paranoid and ask him if he’s seeing anyone right now.

I know that I may be too young/ “not know what love is,” but rest assured, I do. My love for him is unconditional and he is definitely the best thing that has ever happened to me.

I am making him come out to his friends because I don’t want to be just a little secret. He is too scared to tell his parents because they will disown him. He is bisexual, just like me. Talking about liking the same sex in his family is forbidden.

My parents know that I am bisexual so it really isn’t too much of a problem for me. They don’t know I am engaged though. Like I said before, I’m scared he will like someone else too someday.

What should I do Captain Awkward?

Dear Letter Writer:

I believe that you really love this person and that you “know what love is.” That’s not a function of age.

The kicker is that we can truly love people who are not necessarily the right long-term partners for us. Or we can make big decisions without having enough trust, or enough information, to feel confident that we’re doing the right thing.

Here’s the stuff that is setting off alarm bells for me in your letter.

I am making him come out to his friends. Coming out is a personal decision and can’t really happen on anyone else’s timetable. If your partner lives with a family who will disown him if he comes out to them, then he is right to guard that information closely, maybe even until after he’s moved out of the house permanently. You are asking him to risk abuse and possible homelessness  in order to reassure you about his feelings. I think there is a hierarchy of priorities in a healthy love relationship, and “be safe & okay” > “prove you love me.” I know it sucks to feel like you are a secret, but it sounds like you are making his coming out experience be about you. Are you really and truly comfortable with that? Are you and your family prepared to provide a home for him if he loses his? Sounds like you need to do some talking to your folks to make sure he has a safety net if the worst happens.

The cheating and the paranoia that he will like someone else. When you are uncertain about someone’s feelings for you or the long-term viability of a relationship it is very tempting to try to lock things down into a shape that you can predict and control. It’s a very human impulse to want to grab onto something hard before it slips through your fingers, but I don’t think we make good decisions out of fear that we’ll lose someone. “I need us to get married so I can be sure you won’t leave me” isn’t the world’s most romantic or stable prospect. If the relationship is working and is meant to last, it will work without all the worry. If it isn’t, the formality of “engagement” or “marriage” won’t stop attraction to someone else.

Logistics matter. Long distance relationships are real relationships, and I can point to a lot of very happy marriages that started online and from a distance. But if we’re talking anecdata, I can think of just as many long-distance relationships that totally collapsed once both people were in the same spot on the space/time continuum. Sometimes, even with all the love in the world and the best intentions, two people just don’t “work” together in the day-to-day. There’s no way to guarantee it one way or the other, but in my opinion you’ll set yourself up better for a good long-term decision if you can find a way to be in each other’s meatspace lives as much as possible before settling down. What’s your plan and timetable for making this happen? This is where age, autonomy, economic independence, support of your family, long-term goals like where to study etc. become really important. Have you talked through all of this, with him and your folks?

I don’t want to harp on your age, and I am going to ask other commenters directly and firmly not to do that. They’re not you, I’m not you, and none of us can tell you what you should do about this or what is in your heart. But you asked what I thought, so here you go:

From where I am sitting, between the trust & control issues and the logistical stuff, you are playing this one on the very hardest setting. It’s hard for me to say reassuring things about the lasting future of the relationship when I know both how many obstacles you have between you right now and how many amazing discoveries and growth opportunities you have in front of you over the next several years. So I will try to say other reassuring things, namely, if for whatever reason this turns out not to be a lifelong committed exclusive romantic relationship, it doesn’t mean that you will have failed or that it wasn’t worth loving. I don’t believe in soulmates, and and I think there is more than one person on the planet who could make you happy. If this works out, great. If it doesn’t, you still have love and happiness in your future.

Your terror of losing him is really coming through your letter, and I don’t know how to take that away. What I worry is not that you’ll break up, but that your fear of losing him will come out as excessive worry and controlling behavior that is not representative of your best self (like “making” him come out ahead of schedule to prove his feelings for you). You can have all the love in the world but if he exchanges one cage for another, it will backfire for both of you. As my boyfriend’s Grampa used to say, “Forever’s a long time, Bronc. And I was married to your Grandma…forever.

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89 comments
  1. Zillah said:

    Oh, LW. That’s really tough. I’m sorry, and I hope you figure it out.

    I think it’s really important to try to keep in mind that even if this relationship doesn’t end up working out, all hope is not lost. You can and almost certainly will find someone else if you want to, and at least in my experience, that someone else is often even better, because with each relationship, you become more confident and clear about what you want in a partner.

    The captain pointed out some major warning signs in your letter, and I think you should reflect on them. You both deserve a relationship that is happy, healthy, and safe. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the relationship will always be easy, and it’s also not to say that your fiance is definitely not someone you will end up with in the long run, but I think it might be helpful for you to take a step back and think about what a good relationship would feel like to you. What would help you feel happy and secure? What would make you feel good about being someone’s partner?

    Does your current partner meet that, or come close to meeting that? If not, try to remember that we shouldn’t go into relationships expecting to change people – that’s not fair to us or to them, and it won’t lead to happiness. I’ve had partners who tried to change me, and I hated it. Even when the person trying to change you is a good person overall, it’s not a pleasant feeling.

    *jedi hugs* Good luck.

  2. tawg said:

    I’m aware that this is largely off the topic of the letter, and I apologise for that, but I just want to chip in to say that you can be happy and fulfilled in a long distance relationship without it becoming a local relationship. There’s this expectation that people in LDRs will always end up in the same physical location, that being geographically together is the final step to being in a “real” relationship! And while being up close and personal with someone you love is pretty great, it’s not mandatory. So while I wish the LW the best of luck if he does have plans for the logistics section of Captain’s reply, it’s also A-OK for he and his partner to be satisfied with the LDR remaining an LDR.

    • JenniferP said:

      True, though I would appreciate it if this were the last comment in this vein in the thread. Suggesting extensive meatspace time for this particular letter writer before making the decision to marry (a suggestion I stand by, but merely a suggestion, not an order or a prophecy of certain doom) is not a comment on the realness or goals of anyone else’s relationship. “People who are in LDRs with no intention of moving” sounds like the perfect topic for a forum discussion. Thank you.

      • tawg said:

        I agree with all of your suggestions and advice. One of my own buttons got hit on that specific note, and I’m sorry for pulling the focus away from the LW’s situation.

  3. While I recognise that it’s much, MUCH easier said than done, I think one of the best things for a relationship where you aren’t being treated the best is knowing that if it falls apart, you’ll be okay. It places less pressure on making the relationship work out, it means you can be more confident in yourself, and that makes you less likely to feel this awfulness and possessiveness. Which is better for YOU as much as it’s better for your fiance, because feeling scared that he’ll turn to someone else is really awful.

    Unfortunately it is really hard to actually get to that head space when you really love someone and want to be with them. “If you love someone let them go” seems like completely counterproductive bullshit. I think the way to get there usually involves making yourself as awesome as possible. Get into hobbies, spend a lot of time with friends, etc etc. It helps that it sounds like you have family support.

    Really, in the end you can’t control what your fiance feels and does. It might be easier if you could, but it probably wouldn’t be a very rewarding relationship. You can only control yourself, make sure you’re someone cool, realise it’s not your fault if he does cheat on you again, and know that if it does happen it will hurt like hell but it won’t hurt forever.

  4. People who dismiss your feelings because of your age suck, as are people who dismiss your knowledge based on that. You may well be completely off base on something but writing it off on people’s age is just crappy. Plenty of people are clueless and make bad decisions with many decades of life under their belt.

    That said, there are some things about your age that are true, though many of them reflect more on why advice givers are off-base and/or unhelpful. Your world is smaller, and I think it’s easy for us to forget that when we’re older. You’re tied to a region even tighter than most adults are by their jobs and families because you’ve got this set of things – schooling, mostly – that you have to accomplish and you’ve got a lot less things you can decide just to say “fuck it” about, as well as a cadre of people with power over you that you don’t have the same ability to change the way you will when you’re older. Telling you to shrug stuff off or that there’s more fish in the sea is little consolation when you have fewer ways to make it happen is just crap.

    You should, though, make the choices you can make within your constraints that are most fair to you. You’ve clearly got a good sense of how important those things are, given your talk about your boyfriend’s closet status and how important it is not to live a lie. He can’t choose his family but he can choose a way of dealing with them that is best for his overall state even if there’s some difficulty doing it.

    You see where I’m going with this, yeah? You’ve got some constraints we olders don’t, but that doesn’t change the fact that you should work within that situation in a way where you’re good to yourself. There’s nothing in your situation that justifies being treated poorly by a partner and being cheated on qualifies as poor treatment in my book. There’s nothing about you, because or in spite of your age, that means you need to accept less than a good relationship.

    So none of us should dismiss your reality because of your age, but that goes for you too. Don’t accept a situation you’d think was nuts if you saw someone else doing it. Ask yourself if you’re writing off something that you’d think was wrong if you saw it written up about someone else.

  5. I have some cliches to contribute. The first one is, if you’re going to be with someone for the rest of your lives, what is the rush? I think the Captain basically covered this with her last comment, but this has always been my thought with regards to engagement and other “formalities.” Adding a solemn vow, or a ring, or some other legal binding is superficial if you are already committed to each other in your heart.

    The second is that you have to be happy with yourself and your life before you can be happy with a partner. I guess what I’m wondering is what need is this relationship filling for you? Is he just such an amazing guy that you need to have him in your life? Does it have to be specifically as your one and only partner? Or is there some element of wanting to be part of a settled relationship here? To have things figured out, so that if nothing else, you’ve got that relationship locked down. ENGAGED, check. I’m not saying that this is definitely the case, I’m just asking questions, so you can think about the answers and see where they lead.

    The last one is that if it is going to work out, it will, and if it doesn’t it wont. Some of my best friends started dating when they were 15, they are now 31 and have 2 kids. They went through phases where they broke up, were with other people, and had all kinds of various drama. But after all that, they always came back to each other. I on the other hand had a dramatic love at 15 that I never dated. But he ended up dating one of my best friends, and has now had a series of girlfriends, none of which are me. And unlike what you see in movies where there is pining and then they get together at the end, we’re both perfectly happy and probably the best off we could be.

    I guess what I’m saying is that while your feelings for each other may not change, circumstances do, And even though you may care for someone deeply, sometimes it isn’t the right time, you’re not in the right emotional space, etc. That doesn’t always mean the end, but sometimes it does. But no matter what it means, life goes on, other people are out there to get to know and love and care about. I’m not saying you need to break up, I’m just saying it is okay to let go of the hold you’re trying to keep on this relationship, because whether it works out or not, you’re going to find happiness somewhere.

    • Ella Ella Ay Ay Ay said:

      “if you’re going to be with someone for the rest of your lives, what is the rush?”

      I super agree with this, and to prove that I don’t think it’s a function of being too young, let me tell you that I’ve been with my boyfriend 6 years, we’re in our late twenties, lots of our friends are getting married, and we’re just kinda like, “Well, we’re committed to each other, what does an engagement add?”

      The love I felt for my first boyfriend when I was a teenager was absolutely real and absolutely life-changing. He was the best thing that had happened to me up until then. Even after ten years, I can look back on it, and it’s still true. We were together for a pretty long time, two and a half years, and when we broke up, I was terrified I would never find love like that again. But I did, and now I’m very very happy with my current boyfriend. And if we ever break up, it’ll be devastating, but there will still be more people in the world who can love me and whom I can love back.

      I think that’s one of the most valuable lessons people can learn—and one that is NOT dependent on age. (I think my mom is only starting to learn it now in her fifties after divorcing my dad.)

      • Zillah said:

        Hmm. I agree with the basic principle you’re both talking about – if you love your significant other, are committed to them, and believe that they are committed to you, there’s no rush to get engaged – your love will last without it.

        However, I do think it’s important not to let that concept veer into putting down people who feel that engagement and ultimately marriage do add something to their relationship. There are a lot of people for whom marriage is a really meaningful thing, and that’s okay, too.

        To be clear: I think there’s a lot of value in giving the OP some perspective on engagement, particularly given that his anxiety seems to be fueling some of it, which isn’t a great situation. I just don’t want to see that turn into us telling the OP that he’s foolish to value marriage as a concept; that’s a totally valid point of view.

        • Thom said:

          Plus, it matters–it matters very much–that this is a young queer man. Who in most of the U.S. cannot legally marry.

          I grit my teeth and roll my eyes when I get “marriage doesn’t matter/marriage isn’t revolutionary” thrown at me by other queer folks. But I go absolutely apoplectic when straight people do it, because SERIOUSLY.

          • espritdecorps said:

            Having the option to marry the adult partner of your choice absolutely matters. That’s a basic civil rights issue.

            It is a privilege those who have a cis-gendered opposite sex partner do often take for granted.

          • Zillah said:

            Yeahhh, thanks for pointing that out. It’s easy to say that marriage doesn’t matter when you can access it whenever you want; for LGBTQ folks, it has a different significance and a different symbolism.

            It’s also worth adding that it comes with a lot of legal benefits.

            None of these things really apply to the LW now in practice, since he won’t be able to get married for another couple years, but it’s worth keeping it in mind.

          • Legal benefits are one key benefit to marriage.
            And, at 15, even if LW is in a country / state where non-cis people can marry, there have to be age restrictions, so its at least a couple of years away, right?
            I think here (where homosexual marriage is allowed), you can marry at 16 with you parents permission, otherwise you have to wait to 18?

          • panda flannel said:

            Ran out of nesting, this comment is in reply to basketcase and hopefully not too off-topic, but just to clarify: non-cis means trans. Trans people have all kinds of different sexualities and can be partners with all kinds of people, but as far as I know, there is no (US) law against “non-cis” people getting married. I’m a transmasculine person and am legally married to a cis man. I’m also dating a trans woman, and (my current marriage aside) we could technically get married in the eyes of the state, even though we’re both “non-cis.”

        • I’m not sure where the putting down part happened. I am not trying to put anyone down when I use the word “superficial” I’m just trying to say that marriage is external, and that the real commitment has to start from within two people..Perhaps that was a poor word choice due to the negative connotations associated with it. Even if the sacrament of marriage (oh hai ex catholic here) adds something special in your belief, that something special is in addition to the internal commitment each person makes.

          Marriage is a civil institution that everyone deserves a right to participate in with the other adult human of their choice.

          Whether marriage confers any kind of mystical status on the relationship of a given married couple is an opinion based on belief systems that are not universal. So there are a number of views on that.. I don’t think exploring those views from “marriage is just a legal contract” to “marriage strengthens your relationship” to “marriage is a spiritual binding that will keep you with your husband when he inherits his planet” is insulting. I think it is important for the OP to know that that there is a huge spectrum there, and that he gets to choose how he views it.

          • Thom said:

            I think this (not said by you) is on the edge of dismissive: “we’re just kinda like, ‘Well, we’re committed to each other, what does an engagement add?’”

            And I’m not saying anything about mystical status of marriage or religious beliefs but simply stating a fact that the issue of marriage has different meanings, symbolism, etc. for queer people than it does for straight people. Given that this is not a specifically LGBTQ+ space–and, quite frankly, given my own witnessing of some transphobia here in the past–I thought that was worth keeping in mind.

            Also, given that the LW is currently engaged, I think it’s probably safe to assume that marriage does hold importance for him personally. So I’m not sure why a big theoretical discussion of Marriage As An Institution is necessary, except to insinuate he’s stupid or wrong to want to be engaged. Not the time, not the place.

          • Zillah said:

            I don’t think exploring the wide variety of things marriage can mean to a person is a problem, nor do I think that there is one “right” way to view marriage. I tried very hard not to make that argument in my reply.

            However, as I said, I do think that it’s important to temper that exploration with qualifiers, particularly when you’re talking to someone who 1) clearly does value it and 2) is a member of a group that has historically been denied that right and, in many places, is still denied that right.

            Again, that’s not to say that you can’t offer an alternative opinion – I think the alternative opinion is quite valuable – but it is to say that using words like “superficial” (which does have a negative connotation) is often not going to be helpful.

            As I said, I agree with the gist of what was being said: “There’s no rush, because if you love each other there will be time later, and even if you break up, there will be other people to love.” I just think that that can be presented in a way that doesn’t indicate that the OP is silly to see marriage as important, which is territory I think both posts were in danger of veering into a bit.

            YMMV.

          • SunnySide said:

            I feel the same way – part of this is informed by my gay brother and his partner. They met the same week as my straight partner and I and the timelines of our relationships are similar as well. We all intend to marry, but there’s no rush as 1) they can’t in our state and 2) it won’t change the core of our relationships. We’re all committed, we’re all respectful, we’re all in love and we will all intend to get married at some point. Oh, and 3) none of us wants to plan and pay for a wedding :p

            I do get that the LW sees the status as important, but it’s also valid to say that marriage isn’t the only way to be happy, committed, and secure. It’s just the most common social vehicle.

            Best of luck, LW, you have lots of good advice to sift through here. My sister had a similar experience and decided she needed peace and respect in her relationship, that someone who cheated on her couldn’t provide that. She’s gone back to school and has grown in leaps and bounds. I’m very proud of how well she’s managed her disappointments and heart break. As someone who cares about her, I’m also reassured that this experience has taught her so much about what she wants and needs – and that she won’t stand for ill-treatment. However your situation works out, I hope you find similar strength and tools for health, happiness, peace, respect, stability, whatever you most need.

  6. This letter hit home for me on so many levels.
    I came out as bi at fourteen. I had a relationship with a girl who was wonderful and I loved her like a forest fire- I had this overwhelming, all consuming passion for her. She went to a sister school for several months, and so we did the long distance thing. We wrote adorable love letters, sent each other presents, talked on the phone, and the fact that she was far away only made me love her more. She was always on my mind. So much of my energy was spent yearning and burning for her. When she got back, I thought everything would be perfect and wonderful, and so when she broke up with me (and hooked up with my ex boyfriend a week later) I was left completely emotionally devastated.

    I think it’s easy to forget, as we grow older, how intensely we love when it’s first love.

    Not many people are out at 15. And knowing you’re queer- and loving someone, is this really powerful thing. It’s us-against-the-world… Supporting someone through the process of coming out, of figuring out who you are, of navigating the complicated experience of being young and weird and possibly ostracized together… it forms a bond that has such emotional significance. It’s a very powerful kind of love. The fact that the LW is engaged at 15 is not surprising to me.

    My worry for the LW comes from my own experience. When we broke up, I felt like I had nothing left. It was as if the one, shining good thing in my life had be taken from me and I was completely alone and worthless because my relationship had failed. I spiraled and contemplated suicide and had to do years of work to learn how to be happy and emotionally healthy.

    LW, if you’re reading this, my advice to you is: protect your heart. Love your fiancé for who he is, and support him without pressuring him. But love yourself first. Find out who you are, and be glorious and creative and funny and joyous. And if things don’t go the way you want them to, take care of yourself.

    • FlyBy said:

      Well said. This is important for anyone in any relationship, really, but it goes extra for people who are “playing on hard mode” as the Captain puts it. Be you. Spend time on yourself, building yourself, your hobbies, your interests, whether they seem to lead anywhere “worthwhile” or not. Being in a long distance relationship is a great time to do this. I met my husband at age 19, knew from the start that I would marry him, and did an immense amount of growing up and learning who I was in the time we spent on opposite sides of the country. Love is awesome, but tends to be all-consuming. As much as it sucked to be apart, I’m glad I had that time to myself during a critical ‘wait, who am I?’ phase in my life.

      You’ll grow together or grow apart. You can’t control which one it’s going to be (neither can your fiance) and it’s really harmful to try to force it. If you grow apart it doesn’t make the love any less real or less valid, it doesn’t mean you wasted your time. It just means that you grew in different directions. Take the lessons and beauty from the relationship with thanks, and move forward.

      If you grow together, enjoy. And keep putting effort into being you.

      • Saira said:

        Take the lessons and beauty from the relationship with thanks, and move forward.
        And a “well said” for you too. There’s so much emphasis in American culture and media on finding “the one” and I think a lot of us have internalized this notion that breaking up is a sign of failure. It’s not. I’ve had relationships that were deeply profoundly meaningful, that changed me forever, that ended after a year, or two, or six months.

        Which isn’t to say breaking up is easy. It sucks, no two ways about it, but you can still hold onto the good the relationship brought to your life.

        • espritdecorps said:

          “I’ve had relationships that were deeply profoundly meaningful, that changed me forever, that ended after a year, or two, or six months.”

          Yes to this!

          One of my best relationships was with a partner that never wanted to marry, but was open, adventurous, and fun. We had an amazing time together. We were opposite in personality, but fit together as friends and lovers.
          I learned never to settle for a partner that didn’t add possibilities to my life. And that while was I drawn to serious, intellectual types, they didn’t bring me joy. I have enough seriousness for five people already. :)

          Just because our love wasn’t intense or lasting didn’t make it less real.

  7. Anisoptera said:

    LW that sounds like such a painful situation. Please have Jedi Hugs if you want them.

    It’s taken me a very long time to realise this (like I was in my 30s when it finally sank in and I so wish I had been reading something like this blog when I was 15), but you can’t control what your loved ones do or change them into the person you want them to be. You can only decide if the person they actually *are* is right for you. Certainly you can express your needs and fears and sometimes that will cause them to change their behaviour to avoid hurting you. Sometimes it won’t. It’s so easy to form an idealised image of a person you love and then see any bad behaviour as a temporary aberration. Trust me when I say you’ll have better relationships when you see people as they truly are right now rather than constantly trying to mash them back into the shape they took when things were better.

    It’s really hard to get trust back when someone has cheated on you. Sometimes you can’t get it back. But you definitely won’t get it back by holding on to them tighter. It takes time to move past it, and building new experiences where your trust isn’t broken. Sometimes what you discover instead is that they’re going to keep breaking the rules of your relationship, and maybe they’re not a trustworthy person at all.

    Captain Awkward has already pointed out the problems with trying to out your guy, so I’ll leave that as said. He will be no more or less loyal to you if everyone knows that he’s your fiancé. Married people still manage to break each other’s hearts in various ways, and I think in this case he has good reasons to be discreet.

    • staranise said:

      I think this is really great advice. Counting on someone else to change to make the relationship okay is a really tenuous proposition.

      • That trick pretty much never works.

    • MovingOn said:

      “You can only decide if the person they actually *are* is right for you.”

      This, absolutely. Every time my (long distance) partner does something I consider a bad or annoying habit, or every time I discover some new character trait or realize something really is a character trait as opposed to a series of incidents, I think to myself: “Assuming he will always be like this, do I still want to be with him?” If the answer is ‘yes’, then great! We can still discuss the thing, and I can still ask him to change, and I can still hope he will, but if he doesn’t I still want to be with him. If the answer is ‘no’, that means that if there is no change after 2 chances for change (or if he just says ‘I don’t want to change’), there is no relationship. (for the record, this applies vice versa as well, of course)

      So, LW, think about this: you can’t, and I think shouldn’t, control whether your partner comes out or not. If your partner never, ever comes out to his family, do you still want to be with him?

    • Just Plain Neddy said:

      This is pretty much what I was going to say, only Anisoptera said it better than I would have managed. It’s terrifying to think that someone else has the power to cause us pain with their actions, and people often spend a lot of time tying themselves in knots trying to figure out what the magical approach is that will make someone feel the same way, or want the same thing, or not cheat, or not treat us badly. Like there’s some kind of special code or something and if we can line up all the numbers just right it’ll all work out. I don’t know if this guy is the one for you, if he’ll be faithful and if it’ll all work out as you hope. I hope it does. But I do know that you can’t make it happen – there is no magic course of action that will change another person’s behaviour. The most you can do is talk about stuff, listen, keep an open mind, try to be a loving and considerate partner, and just generally do your best with the understanding that the other person does have the right to leave if that’s what they want to do. On the one hand, this fact is scary – it’s scary to know that someone else can hurt you and there is nothing you can do to guarantee that that doesn’t happen. On the other hand, it kinda lets you off the hook. Once you stop trying to figure out exactly the right thing to do, you can relax a bit more, be yourself and just enjoy each others’ company so much more.

      • FlyBy said:

        Yes, this. It’s terrifying to realize that the other person may leave you, you may get badly hurt, and you can’t stop it from happening. It often drives people to be clingy, or controlling, or otherwise smother the relationship, which is not good. The better approach is to acknowledge it and spend time building your own resources and confidence so you can say “if they leave, that would be extremely painful, but I would survive it.” Once you can say that, a lot of the panic goes out of the relationship.

        LW, this is why we’re talking about breakups so much in the comments – we don’t think you should break up with your fiance, or that the relationship is doomed, or anything like that. It’s that healthy attitudes about what you can and can’t control in a relationship – and tolerating the fear of losing the other person – is critical to maintaining healthy relationships and your own sanity. We can hear the specter of a breakup looming over you in your letter and stressing you out, so this is our best advice for laying it to rest.

      • espritdecorps said:

        “…it’s scary to know that someone else can hurt you and there is nothing you can do to guarantee that that doesn’t happen.”

        It never stops being scary. You just learn to live with it.

        It’s like driving a car. Learning to drive defensively, and avoiding things that will distract or impair you will reduce your risk of an accident, just like using your words and avoiding assumptions will reduce your risk of a shitty relationship.

        But no matter how careful and skillful you are, someone else could hurt you. In even the best relationships, you still get hurt sometimes.
        In good ones your partner works with you to patch up the damage. In bad ones, they twist everything around to make it your fault, so you end up apologizing for bothering them with your feelings.

  8. Marvel said:

    I fell in love at fifteen, and I can say several years down the line that it was just as much love as my feelings for my life partner are now (which people still question, since I am only 22 and I have been with this person since I was 18). Age is not always a factor in these things. However, and I know this may fly in the face of a lot of people’s beliefs–love isn’t everything. When it comes to a long-term relationship, obviously love is one of the deciding factors, but it’s not the only one. Compatibility matters.

    There are a lot of red flags in your letter with regards to compatibility, as was mentioned. You are at the stage of your life where you both still have to tiptoe around your parents, which complicates things. Overall, I think it’s a bad idea to be engaged to someone when you are still extremely paranoid about them falling in love with someone else, regardless of age.

    Out of curiosity, how would you feel about taking a step back? Possibly calling off the engagement for now until you can move out of your parents’ house and meet in person? I ask because if your response to these questions is panic, or paranoia that without the engagement he would definitely go off and find someone else, that’s a bad, bad sign.

    Either way, I’d definitely rethink pressuring him to come out to anyone, much less his parents. I problem I had often in the past was trying to make “we” decisions at a time in which all of my important decisions should actually have been “me” decisions. This is definitely one of those times. How he comes out and who he comes out to is not a decision you make together as a couple, it’s a decision he makes independently of you. I get how painful it is to be a secret–I am also bisexual, and I was part of triadic (three-person) relationship for a time in which everyone knew my partners as a couple and me as their “roommate”. And that’s where compatibility comes back into it: if you cannot emotionally handle him being closeted and keeping your relationship a secret, maybe this relationship is not for you.

  9. Twitchy said:

    I agree with the Captain that it’s not the best course to pressure someone into coming out before they’re ready. Especially if he still lives with his parents and depends on their goodwill.

    That said, it’s completely fair that you don’t want to be a secret. If you’re not willing to date someone who’s still in the closet, that’s a reasonable boundary to set.

    You might need to weigh your priorities. Is staying with this guy more important than being with someone who’s out?

  10. Kathyn said:

    LW, there is some excellent advice above. I’d like to address your fear that he will “like someone else too someday”. Pretty much everyone, even those who find a good partner early and remain happily with them for life, will at some point find themsleves attracted to someone else. The attraction (which yes, will one day almost certainly happen) isn’t what matters, it is how you handle it and whether or not you choose to act on it. And a relationship with a strong, stable foundation helps weather this type of storm, or any of the other types of hiccup which every long relationship encounters.

    It’s too soon to say if this relationship is *it* for you, and as the Captain says there are some flags here. What you can do to give yourself the best chance of future happiness (with or without him) is to build good foundations. Observe and get to know him (in person as much as possible) as he really is, and don’t put any kind of pressure on him, with respect to marriage, coming out, sexual matters or anything else, no matter how strongly you feel. This is a hard habit to learn but really important. And take the time, apart from him, to get to know yourself and become a strong, interesting, independent human being who can cope however this turns out.

    • Thom said:

      Seconding this. I’m quite happily (and monogamously) married to my partner of five years, and in every long-term relationship I’ve been in, I’ve had attractions to people other than my partner at the time. The same has been true of the people I’ve dated. It can be awkward and even a bit tough to handle, but it’s also very natural common for many people and doesn’t have to mean an automatic death knell for a relationship.

  11. TR said:

    LW, I think with high school (presumably you’re in it?) and with many other adult social stratas, there’s this pressure to define your relationship according to certain socially set “levels”, starting from dating and working up to married. And I know that often, you get a certain amount of respect from outside – and self-validation from inside – by “reaching” a specific relationship level. Engagement’s a big one of those, especially, I feel, for the under-30 crowd.

    But in truth, relationships are primarily defined by the persons in them. You can be just as committed as X-friend/X-friend as spouse/spouse or fiancee/fiancee. Or less committed, or more committed or whatever. To some people, the social definition of one’s relationship is very important internally; to others it’s simply external validation.

    So, I think, as you go about evaluating your relationship and yourself, maybe remember that what you call the relationship – whatever you call it – isn’t nearly as important as how you act in the relationship. Saying you’re engaged to someone isn’t as important as each of you being in a place where you can commit and honor whatever commitments you can make and work in the relationship.

    Just – be careful when you think about labels, I guess. I see a lot of people, around my age, mid-20s, get caught up in the labels more so than the actual mechanics of the relationship. Somehow the label gets more important than the behavior and the relationship gets harder to fix or end because of the label. (Maybe older people do this? I don’t talk to many people much older than me about their relationships.)

  12. Skada said:

    Okay, LW, you wrote:

    “My love for him is unconditional”….and in the VERY NEXT SENTENCE you wrote, “I am making him come out to his friends because I don’t want to be just a little secret.”

    That’s a condition that you have placed on your relationship with him. You want your relationship to be publicly acknowledged, and you want him to be out.

    For the sake of argument, and only the sake of argument, say that he has a drinking problem. You know he has a drinking problem. Several of his friends may have guessed that he has a drinking problem. I mean, there are signs, you know? You love him and you want him to be happy and you want you to be happy, so you start pushing for him to go into counselling and a treatment program. He says, okay, I’ll go, and…..he never does. He says, I’ll go, and blows it off, or makes excuses as to why he can’t go, and so on and so forth. Meanwhile, you’re now worried about his drinking AND frustrated and upset because he’s not going into treatment. It starts to put a serious strain on your relationship, and you’re sick and tired of dealing with the lies and secrecy and the face-saving of dealing with a partner who has a drinking problem.

    You can’t make somebody make a great big change in his life unless he wants to make that change.

    Just to be very clear: being bi and coming out as bi is not at all the same thing as having an addiction. Being in the QUILTBAG somewhere is totally normal, and it is not a destructive thing the way an addiction is. BUT, and it’s a big BUT, there are some things in common. He may be in denial…sounds absurd, if he’s dating you, but people do strange things. He may be scared to admit to himself and to the whole great big wide world that, hey, I’m bisexual, because there may be CONSEQUENCES (just as admitting that one has an addiction does have social consequences). He has legitimate fears that he will be kicked out of his home, he’s told you that. He may be afraid that he will be assaulted. He may be afraid that in addition to being kicked out of his family, he will be ostracised from his entire social circle.

    He will come out when he is ready to come out, and not before. If being publicly acknowledged to be with this guy is a condition of your relationship (not your love, but your relationship), then you need to decide if this is a dealbreaker for you. If it is, then break it off, mourn it, and move on.

    If you decide to out him yourself, I can promise you that things will not get better. I wouldn’t be surprised if he dumped you on the spot–especially since he’s told you that he’s afraid of being kicked out of the only home he’s known–and in order to save face with his family (and continue to live indoors and eat hot food) started calling you a liar and psychopath.

    • Mary said:

      I actually think that “unconditional love” is not a good thing between romantic partners. LW, I don’t know whether this will be helpful in thinking about your relationship, but I see unconditional love and conditional love as two different things in different types of relationships, and I think as humans we need both from different people.

      For me, unconditional love is what parents have for their children (whether step-, adopted or biological – whoever’s in that parental role) – it’s an utterly basic bond that a carer has for a child who is growing up that says, “whatever you do, I will love you. You can hate me, you can rebel, you can fight, and I will love you, because you are worthy of my love.” Children and teenagers need that love to grow and to develop their own self-worth – they need to test it and fight against it and find out that no matter what, Mum / Dad / whoever is there and not going anywhere, and that they are valuable. And once the child is grown-up, even if they do truly awful things, for most people that unconditional love with always be there – even if the relationship breaks down or the child does truly awful things, even if the parent doesn’t like them, that love will still be there.

      I don’t think that kind of love is healthy between adults who are choosing to be together. For me, sexual and romantic and friendship love *should* be conditional: it should say, “I love you because of your brilliant, amazing, excellent qualities. But you can make me stop loving you if you choose to. If you hit me or cheat on me or steal from me or break my trust in other ways, you can kill my love, or I will choose not to be with you in spite of loving you and try and stop loving you.”

      For me, unconditional love is what my mum had for me – it’s the thing that says, “You are human, you are mine, you deserve love, and you would be worthy of love and kindness even if you did something terrible”. Conditional love is the thing that my partner has for me, and it says, “You are great! You are funny and lovely and kind and clever and I like how your brain works and you’re pretty and you treat me well and I like our lives together! Even when you’re being mardy, I see you make the effort to be decent and fair. Every day, I look at you and I see how great you are, and I choose to love you because I think you’re ace.”

      I need both in my life. I particularly needed my mum’s unconditional love when I was growing up, and I miss it awfully now she’s gone. But I don’t want unconditional love from my partner – I don’t want my partner to let me hurt her or treat her badly or nastily, and love me anyway. Her love should be conditional on me being good, and fair, and kind and trustworthy and all those things.

      Does that make sense? Not loving your partner unconditionally isn’t wrong, and it isn’t a failure of love. Setting boundaries and wanting things from your partner is totally OK, but if your partner can’t do those things you have to respect that and let them go. It isn’t OK to make your partner do things.

      Good luck figuring it all out. It is tough stuff, but be kind to yourself and be kind to your fiance.

      • Mary said:

        Apparently conditional love has a lot more exclamation marks? Who knows.

  13. Pterinochilus murinus said:

    LW, how old is your fiance? I ask because if there’s a big age and experience gap between the two of you, that makes it more difficult too – and at your age, age gaps matter more. For instance, my father is nine years older than my mother, and that didn’t matter much because they met when she was in her early thirties and he was in his early forties. But if they’d met when she was eighteen and he was twenty-seven, the odds would have been way against them.

    Also make sure to look into any age of consent issues in his area and your area (wait, are you a LDR? you said you met online, but you didn’t say if you’re in the same area or not) before you urge him to come out. In some places those laws written in a really homophobic and unfair way, with the age of consent higher for same sex couples than for opposite sex couples.

    Um, and I don’t want to assume what sort of email or Skype or texting you do, but there could be legal implications there too. For both of you. Very worst case (depending where you live) you get charged with both distributing child pornography and with giving porn to minors, for privately sending a sexy picture of your underage self to your underage fiance, and then you end up on a sex offender registry.

    I’m sorry to raise this: it’s a level of careful you shouldn’t have to be.

  14. “My love for him is unconditional …”

    This was a red flag for me. Or at least something approaching a red flag. A beige flag?

    A parent’s love for a child can be unconditional. I’m not sure unconditional love works in a romantic context. If somebody repeatedly hurts you and shows no signs of changing their behavior, for instance, it’s time to walk away.

    I’m not saying that your boyfriend is repeatedly hurting you. I don’t get that from your letter at all. I’m just saying that sometimes situations change, and vowing to stay with a person no matter what can open you up to all kinds of abuse.

    Good luck.

    • Ellen Fremedon said:

      And even where love is unconditional, relationships don’t need to be (and IMO should not be). You can love someone and still end a relationship. You can keep loving them, even if you’ve broken up, even if you’ve fallen in love with someone else.

      • Zillah said:

        I love this point.

  15. Jae said:

    A friend of mine used to say “Jealousy is either useless or pointless” (it makes a little more literal sense in my language).- Meaning: Either the other one IS cheating and WILL cheat, in which case your jealousy won’t make a difference (hence useless). Or he doesn’t, never thought of it, in which case you’re worrying for nothing (pointless). Either or, jealousy only makes relationships worse, never better.

    • Jinian said:

      I like that saying, because people shouldn’t dwell on jealousy and let it eat them up, or think that they’re not in love properly if they don’t experience it at the drop of a hat (or at all). But it’s also true that jealousy is an emotion that happens and can be managed usefully. A few times I’ve encountered people trying to shame jealousy out of existence, and that doesn’t work either.

      (I might translate the saying as “fruitless or baseless” to get closer to the point, but you still might have to explain it!)

  16. azurelunatic said:

    I was also engaged at 15 in a same-sex long-distance relationship. She was 14. We did wind up breaking up a year later, but it was no less real than anything I’ve had since, and significantly healthier than my opposite-sex, local, engagement at age 20. One of the factors in our breaking it off was me developing feelings for a local guy; for her part, after the breakup, she started dating one of her close friends (they were both 15 that year) and they are now happily married, in their early 30s, with their second son on the way.

    Here is some of the stuff that went wrong with us, and some of my practical thoughts.

    Maintaining our relationship took a whole lot of time/effort/energy/communication, and our budgets weren’t equal to the amount of long distance phone time we really needed. Email existed, but we didn’t have accounts until a little later. There was always the temptation to spend our phone time on the good sweet stuff instead of the hard “I think I might be getting feelings for this dude; I don’t know what to do and I love you and I don’t want to upset you” stuff, particularly when it was still a little thing that could have been possibly managed if we’d communicated about it openly and honestly. We were polyamorous, and while me having feelings for this guy was not necessarily the end of the world, he wasn’t part of our original agreement and she didn’t trust him (for good reason; he was a very large walking red flag). I didn’t want to upset her in the precious time we had, so I avoided the topic. It was not a good precedent to set and if I could do it differently, I would. (I’m happy in my life now, and she and her wife are the absolute best fit for each other that I could imagine, but I would trade the years of not speaking for a decade of close friendship in a heartbeat.) Email and Skype and stuff are very excellent tools as long as you take some time to talk about your worries and fears before they get huge and world-ending. You didn’t mention exactly how you reacted when you found out that he had cheated on you, but I don’t imagine that went over any too well. If at all possible, avoid reacting in a way that would justify him avoiding difficult topics because he doesn’t want to provoke that reaction in you. It’s okay to go “Wow, that was really difficult for me to hear, and I think I’m going to go process my reaction in private right now; I’ll call you back in about an hour.” It’s also really hard to remember the things that you knew you wanted to talk about sometimes; keeping notes on it can help keep you on track when you have a limited window for communication and have to save up your thoughts all week.

    Do you have a Team You who knows about your engagement and you can chat about stuff with them? It can be really helpful, especially for those times you need to process and it’s not fair dumping it all right back on your fiance.

    Where do you think you are in relation to marriage? A and I had it all planned out: we would be engaged through high school, try for the same college, and then if we felt the same way for each other after college, we would get married. It was 1995. We weren’t really thinking about the legal aspects of it very hard. We didn’t want to take things too fast, and we were deeply aware that it was possible we might grow in separate directions. We figured if there was anything that was going to shake out, it would shake out through college.

    You mentioned that he’s cheated on you once. Cheating is of course by definition violating the terms of an existing relationship, and is not generally great for that relationship, with the distrust and the lying and the violating the terms. And some people really do require monogamy as a part of their relationship. My ex and I were brought together by the fact that we were both absolutely gaga over the same guy. As a term of our relationship, we required that if either of us had a chance to go to bed with him (or his girlfriend at the time) we would, and it would not be cheating, as long as we told the other allllll about it. Several of my subsequent relationships were actively polyamorous. Things went a lot better in those relationships when I knew and liked my partner’s partner; I was happy for them while being secure in my own relationship with my partner. If you think your fiance might in the future want to have another relationship in addition to yours, and you could possibly see yourself allowing it if that third party were someone you knew and liked, you might want to research polyamory and see if it sounds right for you. It’s not a relationship choice that is right for every person, or every partnership, but ethical non-monogamy is a thing that exists, and can be helpful where cheating is hurtful.

    Best of luck, and I really hope it works out for you.

    • Anisoptera said:

      This is sort of a side issue, but I don’t think polyamory is a solution for cheating. In my own experience, people who violate the terms of a monogamous relationship are not going to be more likely to respect the terms of a polyamorous one. In general successful polyamory seems to require an even greater degree of trust and openness and negotiation than monogamy, if only because there are more people and more interactions and sets of expectations involved. Trustworthiness and honnesty is an absolute must, and people you can’t trust and who are sometimes not honest are going to be a problem in *any* relationship.

      My own personal experiences have led me to the conclusion that polyamory is just too complex and problematic to wrangle in my life, but I know people who seem to be able to make it work and who love it. Definitely only go there if it’s something that’s appealing to you and never, ever as a fix for a relationship problem. Also, never, ever allow anyone to tell you that it’s the only logical or rational course or the superior way to have a relationship. It’s a thing that works for some people and doesn’t for others.

      • Just Plain Neddy said:

        Yeah. I’ve known a few couples who’ve agreed to go poly because one of them was really into someone else, and it was go poly or break up. In every case they should have just broken up – it would have saved a lot of heartache. I know polyamory works for some people which is great. I’m not getting the vibe from LW, though, that this is something they should be considering, given his level of insecurity and anxiety about infidelity. If you want a monogamous relationship, and it sounds like he really does, going poly to keep the other person happy is a bad idea.

      • Marvel said:

        It’s also worth mentioning that cheating and polyamory are not mutually exclusive concepts. You can cheat in a polyamorous relationship just as easily as in a monogamous one. The only difference is that in a monogamous relationship, the terms are generally always “no romantic or sexual partners other than me.” Whereas in a poly or open relationships, the terms vary a lot depending on the individuals involved. But they’re still there and they can still be violated.

  17. staranise said:

    Jennifer’s advice to try not to deal with your anxiety by trying to control things is really sound. You’ve got to accept that some things are out of your control. You can’t actually control whether your partner is faithful to you or not–that’s why relationships are so scary. No matter what, he will always have the option of loving someone else and leaving you if he wants to. That’s not something you can or should take away from him.

    So okay, great, says I, “deal with your anxiety on your own.” Easier said than done, I know. What you want are: skills and coping mechanisms to deal with worry; people who can provide you with perspective, support, and wisdom; and the knowledge that if the worst does happen and this relationship doesn’t work out, it will royally suck, but it’s a storm that you’re able to weather.

    LW, it might be time to reach out to community supports to help you feel more stable and capable of coping with the worry this relationship is causing you. It’s really great that your parents are so supportive, and I hope that you have friends who help you deal with the stress of being in a LDR with a partner who isn’t out to his family. Also, you’ve got the Awkward Army rooting for you. :)

    But if you’ve got a local LGBTQ resource centre, it might be worth checking them out. They can be great places to find support from people who’ve been there before. Some of them provide or can help you find things like support groups, workshops on “how do I relationship”, or counselling. Sometimes just talking to other people and getting reassurance can be really powerful.

  18. Jessica said:

    Picking up on something Pterinochilus murinus said above — LW, have you and your boyfriend actually met in person? And I don’t mean just once or twice, I mean regularly. You say you’ve been dating, but for some reason I keep thinking that it’s been all online or maybe over the phone. Have you met his family, in the guise of just being a friend? Have you met his friends? Have your friends or family met him? I mean in person.

    I’m getting alarm bells about this. If you have been seeing the guy in person on a frequent and regular basis and know that he is who he says he is, then disregard this, and call me Ms. Paranoia.

    BUT: If you have met the other person in person only a few times, or fewer, be very sure that he is who he says he is — I mean in terms of personality and background, not just things like is he using his real name — and that he’s not trying to lead you on as a way to humiliate you or just mess with you. I know, I know, it sounds paranoid, but all I can think is, if you rarely see this person in the flesh, then he could be not who he says he is.

    It’s good to be cautious anyway; I’ve known people who married their long-time boyfriends only to have previously kind BF turn into Mr. Possessive-Now-I-Have-You-And-Control-You after the marriage. That’s kind of hard to predict, sometimes. But the risk of him not turning out to be who he claims to be goes up if you haven’t had a lot of in-person dealings with him.

    And I’m sorry, Captain, I’m so sorry, but I have to say it. I know you said not to touch on the LW’s age, but I do have to wonder about someone who wants a 15-year-old to be engaged. Yes, it happens legitimately, too, and maybe there was an agreement to not do anything about marriage until both parties are over 18. But I do wonder why the LW’s fiance agreed to engagement with a 15-year-old. I’m sorry — that is not meant to be a dig at the LW’s age. It’s just something else that makes me stop and wonder.

    LW, I really do wish you the best of luck. Sometimes these relationships really are legit and work out beautifully; you just need to be very careful to ensure you don’t end up with someone who isn’t compatible. I sincerely hope that all goes well for you.

    • JenniferP said:

      My sense was that both parties are around 15, hence the “I can’t tell my parents or they’ll disown me” and the guy not being “out” to friends. If this is an adult man + a 15 year old, all advice changes to “RUN AWAY FROM THE CHILD PREDATOR.”

    • I think this is a really good point. LW, have you read Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan? It’s a young adult novel in which one of the storylines follows a gay teenage boy in an online relationship. I can’t say much more without giving away the plot, but I recommend it, both because it might be relevant to your situation*, and because it’s a really good book. (On an unrelated note, I *love* that it has a very fat main character whose weight is just a fact about him, not a problem to be solved.)

      *I’m not saying that your relationship is necessarily like the one on the book, but even if the specifics are different, there may still be some emotional truths that resonate with you.

  19. yamikuronue said:

    I’m not as good with words as some of the other commenters here, but I can offer some advice from life experience: Due to bullying, I primarily dated online in my teens, and it worked out for me, so LW, be assured there is hope! I know sometimes it can sound like everyone in magazines and so on are saying there isn’t, but trust me, there is.

    One of the things I learned, however, is that you don’t want to be promising forever while you have serious doubts. If he might be cheating on you, you’ll want to get that resolved as soon as possible; I called off an engagement to work on that exact problem with my SO, and years later I did end up marrying him, so taking the time to work out the issues doesn’t necessarily mean the relationship is unworkable.

    The great thing about problems when you are young and living at home is that a lot of them will be solved by waiting them out. Assuming he’s roughly the same age as you, your fiance’s parents, depending how he deals with things like college, can rapidly become less of an issue in the span of a few years. College is also a great opportunity to move closer to someone, letting you find out how you work in person. I would suggest tabling the issue of marriage as well as any problems that are temporary and caused by your current living situations, with the idea that you’ll revisit them when the situation changes. Don’t think of it as waiting for your life to start; think of it as enjoying what you have and looking forward to the future.

    • Yan said:

      OMG yes to “You don’t want to be promising forever while you have serious doubts.” That is the red flag that popped for me, but I wasn’t finding a way to articulate it. I think this happens sometimes because of anxiety — if we promise forever, then my doubts don’t matter. But I think they might matter more because that promise of “forever” then makes “I’m afraid my partner is cheating on me” into “and if my partner isn’t cheating on me NOW then it could happen sometime later.”

      I GET relationship anxiety and wanting to know ASAP if “forever” is in the works. The problem is that I alone don’t get to control forever. I can unilaterally end a relationship, but I can’t (legally) unilaterally continue one. What sort of works for me is working on mindfulness — am I happy with the way things are with me and my SO *right now*? Do I feel respected, do I feel enhanced by this person in my life? Past actions matter. Current actions, feelings, et cetera all matter even more. Future potential actions don’t because they don’t exist yet. If I continually can’t pull back from forever until now, then is my anxiety based on reality or perception? Either way, whether my partner’s given me reasons to feel doubt or I “just” feel that way,if it’s happening a lot, I have to pay attention to that.

  20. manyironsinthefire said:

    I was in a relationship thru college where my emotionally austere boyfriend kept me a secret from his family back home because we were having premarital sex. He claimed that it was so that they wouldn’t disown him and cut him off from his college money.

    I bought it hook, line and sinker.

    That kind of treatment is in no way someone who loves you with all their heart.

    • Zillah said:

      I don’t know. I’m sorry for what happened to you, but I think those two situations shouldn’t be compared.

      Even if his parents truly would have cut him off if they’d known he was having premarital sex, there’s no reason why he would have needed to disclose those details by saying that he was dating you. As well, while I know some families can be overcontrolling, you typically don’t hear about kids getting kicked out, bullied, driven to suicide, assaulted, or killed because they have premarital sex.

      You do, however, hear about all of those things happening to LGBTQ students, and it may well be a reality for him. If that is the case, I don’t think it’s fair to say that if he really loved the LW he’d subject himself to that, especially not when he’s still (presumably) a minor. And, if this relationship is LD – which it seems to be, from my reading – the LW isn’t even there to support him or offer him a safe place to stay.

      I might agree with your point if he was an adult, but as a minor who belongs to a very vulnerable group? Not so much.

      • Marvel said:

        Thank you for this. The two situations are really not the same.

      • atma said:

        Well, actually you do. It’s called honour killings, and it happens to boys too. It may be rarer and not occur in all cultures, but it does exist.

        • Saira said:

          “Honour killings” is a really loaded phrase that unfairly points the finger at specific religions and ethnicities, and that’s kind of gross and upsetting to see. Bullying, throwing kids (usually girls) out of the home, and physical abuse happen in white Western Christian families also — blogs like No Longer Quivering, Recovering Grace, Homeschoolers Anonymous, Sovereign Survivors have tons of sad and awful stories about it.

          More to the point, just because bad and horrible things sometimes happen to straight kids doesn’t negate Zillah’s point that queer kids are playing on a harder setting, and have more obstacles to face, nor does it have anything to do with the fact that the previous poster’s boyfriend could have told his parents about his relationship without disclosing information about their sexual activity.

          • atma said:

            Maybe it’s a loaded phrase, English is not my first language. I was replying to this part:

            ” As well, while I know some families can be overcontrolling, you typically don’t hear about kids getting kicked out, bullied, driven to suicide, assaulted, or killed because they have premarital sex.”

            All I am saying is that , yes, we do hear about exactly this. I don’t think we do anyone a favour by not acknowledge that there is a difference, a harder setting if you will, if you are part of a culture that actively backs up your parents/family when they either drive you to kill yourself or actively steps in with fatal violence. This happens to girls, this happens to boys, this happens to boys in same-sex relationships.

          • Zillah said:

            @ atma –

            I’m not sure where I said that we never hear about this – I said that it wasn’t the norm. Perhaps I should have clarified that I was speaking from a Western perspective.

            What you are talking about can certainly be problematic in some places (though I agree that the term ‘honor killings’ is problematic). However, the fact of the matter is, it is very, very far from the norm to hear about kids being assaulted, bullied, driven to suicide, or kicked out because they have premarital sex, and you would be hard-pressed to find many communities that would view this behavior as remotely okay.

            That’s not to say that none exist, or that it never happens – it’s to say that it is rare, and is not the reality for the vast, vast majority of people who have premarital sex in Western cultures.

            Hearing about LGBTQ kids being assaulted, bullied, driven to suicide, or kicked out, on the other hand? That is depressingly typical. We hear about that all the time. I have no problem believing that the LW’s fiance is afraid of that, nor do I have any trouble believing that it is a real possibility. The number of LGBTQ people who have faced this kind of treatment is very, very high.

      • Mary said:

        I think they can be compared in that if A doesn’t want to be kept a secret, they are within their rights to want openness and to find it unpleasant. However, like everyone else, if B is scared to come out, I think that is a sign that A and B are probably not in the right place to be in a relationship together, rather than that A should “make” B come out.

        The other thing is that even where a relationship is a secret for a sound reason, like a fear of coming out or a fear of violence from an existing partner or family, it does increase the pressure and that can push it towards being unhealthy or even abusive. If you have to hide your relationship, it’s very difficult to seek help or just to get other people’s perspective on it. Quite a few of my friends who had same-sex relationships in their teens experienced coercion in one way or another, just because unlike two-sex relationships they were operating in the dark, felt they couldn’t go to teachers or parents for help, and didn’t have models of healthy same-sex relationships to draw on. We had to make that stuff up for ourselves as we got older.

        So whilst I agree that there can be very sound reasons for a bisexual teenager not wanting to come out, the fact that it’s a good reason doesn’t mean the LW is wrong for wanting to be open about the relationship or mean that secrecy can’t be destructive.

        • Zillah said:

          “If you have to hide your relationship, it’s very difficult to seek help or just to get other people’s perspective on it.”

          Great point, and I completely agree.

  21. Megan M. said:

    Here’s what jumped out at me from your letter, LW: you’re “making” your fiancé come out and are worried he’s keeping you a secret, and yet your own parents “don’t know you’re engaged.” Does that mean that you yourself are keeping your fiancé a secret? Do your parents know you’re in a relationship with him, but not that you’ve become engaged? If that’s true, why are you uncomfortable or afraid to tell your parents that you’re engaged? Is it because you know they will not approve?

    If so, I urge you to stop and consider the reasons for all of this. I had my very first serious relationship when I was in high school. I was also secretly engaged to my boyfriend. We lived in the same place, there was no big age difference (he was two years older, but to me that is not a huge difference, others may disagree) and my family and my friends had met him and knew we were dating. But I was very reluctant to tell my parents that we were engaged. Why? Because my parents just did not like him. They didn’t try to keep my from dating him, but they made it clear to me they didn’t think he was a good person. Obviously, I disagreed – I was very much in love with him and did believe that we would get married. But over the next few months of our engagement, I began to see exactly what it was about him that my parents didn’t like, and I realized that they were right. I broke up with him. Although I can look back fondly on that relationship for a few reasons, I am so, so thankful that I did not actually marry him. SO thankful.

    I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with your fiancé or your relationship – I couldn’t know that. I just want you to think about why you haven’t told your parents about the engagement and whether you might be being a bit of a hypocrite in insisting that your fiancé come out/tell everyone about you. As the Captain and other commenters have pointed out, coming out may have a disastrous result for your fiancé. Not everyone has a supportive, loving, accepting family.

    I hope things work out for you, LW. It is possible for LDR’s to work out. It is possible for “young love” to work out (one of my best friends is happily married to her very first boyfriend ever that she started dating at fifteen and it’s been about fifteen years since then.) Try to be patient and understanding of your fiancé’s situation at home, because it might be very different from yours, and he shouldn’t be rushed into something he isn’t ready for.

  22. Octolol said:

    Ah, LW, I really feel for you.

    I was in a similar situation–dating a girl in a mid-distance relationship (we could visit for weekends but it was impractical to see each other irl otherwise) and being in different stages of being “out.”

    I had never dated a girl before, but I told my Dad within a week of us getting together, and he was very supportive. (He told my Mom when she got back from a vacation. She immediately sent me links about safe lesbian sex practices because she Worries. Thanks, Mom.) There was also a practical thing about this–my cat needed to be given medicine when I was away, and I’d be away a lot.

    She was only “out” in a sense of “yelled it at her parents in the middle of an argument once when she was a teenager.” It took about a year of dating before she told them about me, and when she finally did, they had already pretty much guessed it.

    But still, for all that time I was being kept secret, it hurt. It really hurt. I felt like a dirty little secret, even though rationally I knew that wasn’t true. As it turns out, in her mind, she was trying to keep me separate from the mess that her family could be, and didn’t want to get me involved in all that.

    Your boyfriend also has reasons to stay in the closet and keep you a secret. They’re probably good reasons. But that doesn’t mean that the hurt you feel isn’t legitimate.

    In the end, I’m glad that my girlfriend was able to come out on her own terms. Thankfully, things turned out fine, and our families are very supportive. I hope things turn out well for you too, OP.

    (as a media rec, can I suggest Leading Ladies? It’s a cute lesbian romantic comedy that touches on some of the same issues you’re facing. It got my girlfriend to understand a bit of what I was going through when all this was happening, plus it has a happy ending. Love gay films with happy endings.)

    • M Dubz said:

      Can I just say, that story about your mom is the cutest.

  23. LW, like others I’m uneasy about “making” your boyfriend come out, in tandem with your fears about his faithfulness and his home situation. My worry is that somewhere in your subconscious is a fantasy that he comes out, then his family kicks him out and he turns to you for love and support and you live happily ever after for ever and ever without commas the end.

    I don’t think you’d do this consciously because I think you know that the fantasy is going to end in an ugly unhappy mess, not the fairy-tale ending. If you have had that fantasy, don’t beat yourself up – there’s a big difference between ideas and actions. But make sure you’re acting for *his* actual best interest in the cold light of day.

    • staranise said:

      Yes, when you force your partner to abandon their support networks in service to the relationship, it’s called “isolation”, and it’s something that sets your relationship up to go a bad place.

  24. Vicki said:

    In general, I agree with not wanting to be anyone’s dirty secret, and it’s hard not to feel bad about a relationship being kept a secret, even if you see that there’s a good reason. But it sounds as though your boyfriend’s safety might be at risk here if he told his parents he’s dating you, whether or not he mentioned that you’re engaged.

    At that point, I would decide whether I could accept the secrecy in this case. A partner of mine needed to keep our relationship pretty quiet for a couple of years, which neither of us liked but I accepted because he explained the reasons, they made sense to me, and we agreed that the secrecy would be temporary. Can you accept a secret relationship if you think of it as “he can’t come out to his parents until he’s out of high school and a legal adult”? (Even if they disowned him for it, an 18-year-old on his own would be in a significantly better place than a 15- or 16-year-old on his own, in terms of things like job opportunities and being able to find a place to live.)

    If not, it is reasonable for you to say that you can’t, or won’t, be with someone who won’t tell anyone that you’re a couple. But the right thing to do at that point is to tell him “I love you, but I can’t be in a secret relationship. I know you can’t tell your parents know, even though it hurts. I don’t want to lose you, and we can keep in touch and maybe try again after you feel safe coming out, but I can’t be engaged to someone who won’t tell anyone we’re even dating.” Part of loving each other should be taking care of each other–and that means your emotional safety should matter to him, and his physical and emotional safety should matter to you.

  25. D Beth said:

    LW,

    Other commenters have talked about how important it is to like yourself and do things for you, outside the context of your relationship. I’d like to second that. Sometimes, the relationships in which my feelings have been the most intense are so all-consuming that they drain my energy from everything else. This can become a vicious cycle: the only thing I can feel self-confident about is my relationship, so my relationship becomes even more important to my well-being, which makes it feel even more intense and all-consuming…etc. The good news is that the best relationships make you feel MORE capable and awesome in the rest of your life.

    Some questions it might help to ask yourself:

    1) When I am away from my partner or not interacting with him, do I feel distracted and anxious (as in nervous) to reunite? Or am I able to be present with the people around me?
    2) When an opportunity comes up in another aspect of my life, do I consider it based on my own feelings, or concern as to how my partner will react and how it will affect my relationship? Do I reject opportunities out of hand because they might threaten my relationship?
    3) When I think about the depth of my love for my partner, am I thinking about how bad I feel without him? Am I thinking about how scared I am to lose him? Or does thinking about my love make me smile?
    4) When I think about the future, do I readily imagine accomplishing all my life goals with my partner being supportive beside me–or do I think primarily about my relationship with my partner?
    5) Do I feel more empowered to make progress toward other life goals because of my partner? Or am I putting off progress on other goals until my relationship feels “sorted out”?

    A partner who requires the relationship to be the most important thing in your life, or who is unwilling to support you in your other endeavors, or who requires constant reaffirmation of the intensity of your feelings, is a controlling partner and you should get out of that relationship. But sometimes the requirement that Your Love Be All-Consuming isn’t a demand your partner places on you, but one you place on yourself. If that’s the case, you might be able to adjust how you think about your relationship.

    • JenniferP said:

      I love, love, love your list of questions.

      • D Beth said:

        OMG, thank you Captain. Feel free to reuse/tweak at will–the Army deserves a great deal of credit for my thinking along these lines.

  26. gmg said:

    A lot of comments refer to these two being in an LDR, but I’m not sure where we got that; all the LW tells us is that they met online, which could mean they’re 1,000 miles apart or they live in the same town/city and just go to different high schools. I feel like given all the other issues that we have noted pose potential roadblocks, the answers/advice are going to be pretty different depending on what their actual physical distance is. Would love to hear from the LW if he feels comfortable weighing in.

    Re high school romances, LW, I will say this: I know multiple couples who have made it work over the long haul. But thinking back, one thing a lot of them did at one point or another, when distance or other frustrating factors intervened, was to take a break. A break can really clarify things — if it’s right, it just tells both of you “We belong together!” I know you’re scared to do that — but that might be all the more reason to do it. Fear is a powerful motivator, but as the Captain points out, it’s a very bad reason to stay with someone (or make him stay with you).

  27. Chie Satonaka said:

    You are asking him to risk abuse and possible homelessness in order to reassure you about his feelings. I think there is a hierarchy of priorities in a healthy love relationship, and “be safe & okay” > “prove you love me.” I know it sucks to feel like you are a secret, but it sounds like you are making his coming out experience be about you.

    Thank you for this. That part of the letter made me feel very uncomfortable, especially when LW made it clear that he understood how severe the reaction his fiance might receive from his parents.

  28. Thom said:

    I feel for you greatly, LW. And perhaps I can offer a bit of sympathy and empathy, as I too was someone’s “dirty little secret” because they didn’t feel comfortable coming out to their family. It sucks mightily. It feels awful. I know. But everyone else is right in saying you can’t force him to come out.

    It might help if you talk to him about it, though? Not to give commands but to share thoughts and feelings. “I feel [how you feel] about people now knowing we’re together, but I know coming out is difficult and sometimes dangerous. What are you thinking and feeling about this?” Maybe even ask if he has a timeline for coming out, not to pressure him about it but just to see if that feels like something you can live with.

    Also, though I know none of this is fun or easy, it’s good practice for long-term relationships. There will inevitably be conflict in any relationship, and being able to discuss feelings and desires and needs, in non-accusatory and non-manipulative ways that takes into account everyone’s interests, is of huge importance in making a relationship last.

    Best of luck, LW, to both you and your guy. I wish great happiness and peace of mind for both of you.

  29. espritdecorps said:

    I am my (now) Spouse’s first love. Spouse is younger than me, and once we realized how strong our feelings were for each other things got complicated.

    We broke up because he was insecure about my leaving him because he was not sophisticated/experienced enough, and I was insecure about him leaving me once the rush of first love faded.
    We were both trying to fit the relationship into a mold of “Older Person gives experience to Younger Person” rather than enjoying the real connection we had and seeing where it went.

    We got back together after a while, and have been together a long time now. What we have is real and strong.

    First love can be a meeting of compatible people who will find joy in sharing a life together.

    It can be two people who share a love that is beautiful and right for that time in their lives. And when their lives change, they make a place in their heart for those memories, and move on.

    It can be a battle between incompatible people caught up in an intense sexual attraction.

    It can be an attempt to save a beautiful, but troubled person from themselves.

    It can be a delightful romp, with lots of fun and laughter.

    There are so many first love stories. The ending doesn’t make a story less real.

    In our culture there is the idea that any relationship that doesn’t end in a wedding is a failure. But love between two people is what it is going to be.
    Instead of trying to force this relationship into a mold, let it be the relationship it is.

    Enjoy it for what it is. If it doesn’t work for you, let it go. You will be loved.

  30. Kes said:

    LW, this may be a more cold-blooded approach than you seem to have taken towards this relationship thus far, but what are you getting out of it?

    Do you two have long conversations about your shared interests? Is he a good sounding board for your problems or does he offer you emotional support when you’re struggling? When you chat/call/email, does it brighten your whole day to hear his thoughts?

    Or does the relationship help you check off the “dating someone” box on your list of ‘Things to be Doing’? You don’t seem to talk much about what you two do together, why you want to be with *him* specifically, beyond some vague sentiments about being in love. What is it *about* him that you love? And why is it so important to you that your relationship is publicly acknowledged by *his* friends, but not by *your* parents? I can think of two reasons: You like the idea of him taking risks for you (which can be sexy, but can also be irresponsible meddling in other people’s lives) or you think that if he says, out loud, to his friends that he’s got a fiance, then maybe he’ll stop maybe cheating on you, which let’s be honest, you suspect he is still doing or wants to do.

    The cheating is another question: did he tell you about it to confess after it stopped and apologize? Or did he do it in a way to maximize drama between you two? (“Oh, it meant nothing, I’m still friends with him & we hang out, but I really love you so I wanted you to know!”) I know you love him “unconditionally”, but I’ve known many attractive people who were also world-class manipulators who would play situations like this to make sure everyone (Sig.Other [you], the cheat-ee, the friend group) were all paying attention to the Drama Show, with themselves as the Star. This is not someone you want to be with in a romantic capacity.

    Being in love is wonderful, but the world is full of people who loved someone but let them go. Because they were hurting each other, because they couldn’t agree on major life decisions, because it got tepid or boring. Love is a wonderful thing, but a relationship needs to be about more than just love to survive, especially if, as you’re planning, you want to be together for a long time.

  31. akestra said:

    LW, this may be a more cold-blooded approach than you seem to have taken towards this relationship thus far, but what are you getting out of it?

    Do you two have long conversations about your shared interests? Is he a good sounding board for your problems or does he offer you emotional support when you’re struggling? When you chat/call/email, does it brighten your whole day to hear his thoughts?

    Or does the relationship help you check off the “dating someone” box on your list of ‘Things to be Doing in Life’? You don’t seem to talk much about what you two do together, why you want to be with *him* specifically, beyond some vague sentiments about being in love. What is it *about* him that you love? And why is it so important to you that your relationship is publicly acknowledged by *his* friends, but not by *your* parents? I can think of two reasons: You like the idea of him taking risks for you (which can be sexy, but can also be irresponsible meddling in other people’s lives) or you think that if he says, out loud, to his friends that he’s got a fiance, then maybe he’ll stop maybe cheating on you, which let’s be honest, you suspect he is still doing or wants to do.

    The cheating is another question: did he tell you about it to confess after it stopped and apologize? Or did he do it in a way to maximize drama between you two? (e.g. “Oh, it meant nothing, I’m still friends with him & we hang out, but I really love you so I wanted you to know!”) I know you love him “unconditionally”, but I’ve known many attractive people who were also world-class manipulators who would play situations like this to make sure everyone (Sig.Other [you], the cheat-ee/s, the friend group) were all paying attention to the Drama Show, with themselves as the Star. This is not someone you want to be with in a romantic capacity.

    Being in love is wonderful, but the world is full of people who loved someone but let them go. Because they were hurting each other, because they couldn’t agree on major life decisions, because it got tepid or boring. Love is a wonderful thing, but a relationship needs to be about more than just love to survive, especially if, as you’re planning, you want to be together for a long time.

  32. LW, I’m trying to figure out what, actually, you’re asking for help with here. I mean… you say “I’ve got this relationship, and I love him totally, and I have some fears. I’ve done some stuff, my partner has done some stuff, and there’s some secrets. What do I do?”

    Just because I like outlining things, here is a possible list of things you might do, in no particular order, and without endorsement:
    1. Break up with your partner
    2. Tell your parents you’re engaged
    3. Negotiate a poly relationship with your partner, so you each can date locally
    4. Out your partner
    5. Negotiate with your partner for elopement
    6. Negotiate with your partner to not be engaged, but still be dating
    7. Negotiate with your partner about what constitutes cheating
    8. Decide you do, or do not, trust your partner
    9. Find local and/or online LGBT support
    10. Find a local therapist or counselor
    11. Negotiate with your parents and partner to attend the same college
    12. Negotiate with your parents and partner to spend next summer in the same place
    13. Build up your local friends and support system, Team You

    Some things you cannot actually do, because you do not have magic powers:
    1. Prevent your partner from cheating
    2. Make your partner love you
    3. Make your partner come out of the closet
    4. Make your partner tell you the truth
    5. Make your relationship work forever
    6. Make your partner marry you
    7. Actually love your partner unconditionally forever no matter what*

    So, LW, what should you do?

    I think if you’re going to marry this guy, you should figure out if you actually trust him. You can do this as a choice, or you can discover it as a feeling. But trusting him means to trust his judgment about when to come out; it means trusting him to stick to agreements you make, it means trusting him not to cheat. That can be very hard, because you’re in a vulnerable position, but if you don’t think you can trust him, then I don’t think you should marry him.

    But if you find that trust, you can still negotiate for what you need — time on skype or whatever, specific guidelines for what constitutes cheating (I strongly recommend defining this! Is a hug cheating? How about a kiss? Or a cuddle pile?) — and you can check in with each other later about whether these agreements are working for you.

    Then, I suggest you get as much in person time together as you can. You’re probably not planning a long-distance marriage, so you should find out how you work when you’re together, ideally over weeks and months in the same city.

    And… well, I think if he balks at this stuff, then perhaps he is not actually on board with the engaged-to-be-married relationship that you’re offering. It happens, people agree nominally to something because they don’t want to hurt a partner and then later on realize “oh crap I don’t actually want that after all” and don’t know how to say it.

    Finally, I probably sound like your parents, but don’t let this relationship distract you from school or going to a good college (if you’re college-bound). Love matters so much but it will try to eat your brain and your life with obsessive thinking. You still have to do the work and wash the dishes and all that annoying mundane crap that never goes away no matter how old you get.

    * Seriously. Unconditional romantic love is an attractive concept, but if you’re even a little bit of a healthy human being, it’s an illusion: you’d modify your love for a serial killer or (hopefully) an abuser. Over time, love changes, deepens, and can probably resist more challenges.

  33. riveira said:

    I feel for you, LW. Like others, I strongly suggest that you develop other interests and find ways to make yourself happy outside of the relationship. Not because the relationship might not work, but because you’ll be a happier person overall and you’ll have other things to think about beyond your feelings of sadness and frustration.

    I was in a similar situation to you when I was around your age. When I was in high school, I met a boy online. We had the best talks! He was funny, charming, nice, sensitive. We would chat for hours and send emails to each other. After months of only chatting online, I ended up living in the same area as him for a while. So, we got to meet and our relationship wasn’t long distance anymore. We had a lot of fun together, but it was when we met that I started noticing some things that I didn’t like about him before. He was a bit older than me (not at all in a creepy way) and was finished with school. He’d want me to cut school to hang out with him and I did. Instead of going to school or spending time with the family I was living with, I’d sneak off to be with him all the time. I really thought I was in love with him and he felt the same. We decided to get engaged. We even bought rings and a cake and had a little party with friends. But, as I said, there were some things that I didn’t like – he didn’t really like me spending time with other people instead of him (we only had this short time together!!! how could I spend it with anyone else????) and he would get jealous of my other friendships.

    After a few months, he had to move to a different area. This made it impossible for us to see each other in person and we went back to having a long distance relationship. Once he left, he was always worried about what I was doing, who I was seeing, stuff like that. Any time we talked on the phone (which was very expensive for my teenage ass, by the way), he’d be quizzing me on who I was spending time with and what I was doing. He’d want me to stay home and wait for him to call. He didn’t like me going out with certain friends. He was jealous if I went and did cool stuff because he couldn’t do it with me. We got to a point where he was so insecure and so jealous that we never spoke about anything else. It was 40 “I love yous” mixed with the same amount of worry and anxiety. We seriously never talked about anything else anymore.

    At first, I was flattered. It made me feel special to have someone so jealous for my affection. After a while though, it just made me feel bad and kind of annoyed me. I was living in a new area, making new friends, and exploring the world around me and he didn’t support me. He was always afraid that I was going to meet someone else or like some place else more than I loved him. He wanted me to sit in the house all the time to wait for him to call. I thought I loved him, but I also loved living my life and having friends. The more jealous and anxious he felt, the more controlling he would be. This would frustrate me and I’d pull away. That made him more jealous and anxious and controlling. He was hurting a lot and I felt bad, but by trying to hold on to me so much, he really ended up pushing me away. I felt strangled all the time. I eventually broke up with him and it ended up being really painful and traumatic for both of us.

    I think that part of the problem for him was that he valued *capital R – Romantic!!! Love* above everything else. When he moved, he only wanted us to be talking on the phone or chatting online or whatever. He had friends and family who loved him, but he didn’t really pay attention to that. He just focused on planning our future, getting married, all that jazz and making sure I wasn’t going to fall out of love with him, love someone else, or leave him. He didn’t have any interests or hobbies. The awesome, charming, funny dude that I fell in love with disappeared and turned into an anxiety-ridden, relationship-obsessed controlling guy who was terrified of his girlfriend having friends. It just became too much. (Also, he’s still the same and we’re in our 30s now. He is still full of anxiety and jealousy and hopes and dreams, but he doesn’t have much else to offer beyond that because he won’t cultivate other interests or hobbies that will make him more likable, even to himself.)

    Anyway, it’s not unreasonable for you to feel some sense of anxiety and jealousy over your fiance. It’s hard to get over cheating. It’s understandable to feel insecure sometimes. However, it is unreasonable to use those feelings as a means of trying to control your fiance. And if you become too wrapped up in feelings of jealousy, insecurity, and control, you may end up pushing your fiance away. It’s really hard to be on the receiving end of someone else’s anxiety and not everyone can cope with that. Just to be clear, I don’t think you are just like my ex-boyfriend was. This is more of a warning and saying, don’t be that guy.

  34. J. Preposterice said:

    This is just a caution about LGBTQ resource centers. I’m bi, and I’ve found those places historically…not great with bi people, with a lot of pressure to admit that you’re “really” gay.

    I am not at all saying that you shouldn’t give them a try, as some folks have suggested, just that you might want to be emotionally prepared for them to not be as awesome for you as they would be for a gay person. I am sure that some of them are fantastic, but none of the ones I tried when I was young and figuring myself out are places I would send a bisexual friend.

  35. lowbudgetspaceship said:

    For what it’s worth, my partner was 15 when we got together. Ze’s now 20. We are still together. We were long distance for a large part of the relationship. So I have some experience here.

    LW, so you seem to feel like you’re really lacking control in your relationship, like you don’t know what he’s doing, how he feels about you, how he thinks about your relationship, etc., so the stuff you’re talking about doing (making him come out, marriage) and your expressions of fear are largely centered around that.

    I would really, REALLY strongly recommend doing a lot of explicit negotiation of your relationship.

    I mean, I’d recommend this for anyone, and am currently putting off the “hey, my feelings about how we do things in our relationship has changed, I wanna discuss and renegotiate and more clearly define this stuff” talk with my own partner. (*shuffle* I don’t waaaaaaaaaaanna, it’s haaaaaaaard.)

    BUT. In a long-distance relationship, this is extra important. This kind of thing, when done right, is what made me feel close to my partner, what made me feel like there was really a relationship there, despite the distance. And when I avoided it, that was pretty much the cause of about everything that was making me unhappy. Not completely everything, but most things.

    Stuff to discuss: how much do you talk – do you set up regular times to check in? (This is good. I didn’t do that. It was a mistake.) The smallest thing, like your partner leaving a five-minute voicemail or text or email to tell you what happened in their day will leave you feeling like you’re actually in touch with their life and give you a sense of control over what’s going on in your relationship. Talk about what happens if you’re sad and stressed and your partner’s off doing something – do you get to ask them to duck out of it, or do you find somebody else? If their friends plan an event during a night you’d scheduled to video chat, who gets precedence? Do you want to do something on valentine’s day? For your anniversary? You may think there are obvious answers that you both know, but it’s better to get your expectations out there to find out if there’s a mismatch, and work to resolve it. If you text, figure out how you think of texting, how fast each of you expects replies, and when you’re gonna be doing stuff where you can’t text. Make sure to schedule things in ways where you can also have the rest of your life and not have your free time absorbed in waiting around for your partner.

    I’d actually recommend checking out resources for polyamorous relationships. Not because I think you should make this relationship poly (I really, really don’t) but because they’re better than I am at guiding you through explicitly negotiating expectations in a relationship, and time management and dealing with jealousy are the big big things that people are dealing with there.

    I mean, I get the impression that most people really aren’t that into the meta-relationship, and I’m kind of an odd one in that I suck that stuff up like a sponge, but honestly, I think I’ve glommed onto it so hard because this really felt like it was what held my long-distance relationship together and made it work out. And that feeling of you and a partner working together to build your relationship into something that makes you happier is just seriously satisfying.

    (PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE DO NOT GET YOUR UNDERAGE PARTNER DISOWNED. EEK.)

  36. Erin said:

    I just wanted to point out that LW isn’t talking about an outing to his parter’s parents, but his friends. Yes, one could lead to the other and forcing someone to out themself is not ok, but it’s still a different matter.

    • JenniferP said:

      One could lead to the other….so maybe the partner is sitting tight on that information for a reason that has huge consequences.

    • The big problem with coming out to ANYONE is that it is Excellent Gossip. The kind of Excellent Gossip that your friend tells their siblings or their parents or their friends. Who in turn tell their friends or siblings or parents. This is especially true when you are a teenager and almost everyone lives with their parents or siblings and when people have regular communication with their childrens’ friends parents.

      Once that information is out, you have no control over where it goes, who it is passed on to.

      To force a person to out themselves to ANYONE is forcing them to put themselves at a pretty high risk of being outed to everyone – including the people who would disown them or worse.

      It’s not a ‘different matter’, and the LW with their understanding and accepting parents might be lucky enough not to realise that.

      • That’s a good point. It’s Excellent Gossip even to people who think it’s cause for celebration when somebody comes out.

      • ona555 said:

        This is an excellent point, and why I am keeping under wraps even to my close friends that someone I love dearly has come out to me as trans, until such point as I get the spontaneous and crystal clear go ahead from that person to blab my YAY all over the place.

  37. LW, this definitely sucks, and I feel for you. In a way, coming out is similar to a long distance relationship.

    Your partner can move to be with you, or choose to stay where he is. And I know you know you can’t make him move…besides that being kidnapping, it wouldn’t be very loving to force them.

    You can say “partner, I need you to move to the same city with me”, and from there they say “okay, let’s start working on that”. Or “no, I can’t move”. In which case, either you continue being long-distance, or you let them go. If you stay, you accept the status quo. If you leave, you recognize that they may be a wonderful person you love with all your heart, but they aren’t right for you as things stand.

    And in the same way, you can’t make him come out. It is a thing he has ownership of. You can accept that he will be closeted, and accept what that entails, or you can let him go.

    I know the thought of letting him go is a really, really hard one. I was dating a person for some time, and cared very much for him! But I realized I was ready to start coming out. And he would not do it with me — whether right or wrong in his perception of what repercussions might have arisen. It was his choice to make.

    So we broke up. We both cared about each other, but that was all we could do. And it sucked! It hurt, and I was sad. I’m still sorry about it. But I had no right to force him into something against his wishes. So I didn’t.

    If you did break up, it doesn’t mean you didn’t love your fiance with all your heart. It just means that you needed different things.

  38. I just came home from watching Catching Fire, so forgive the analogy. But Gayle and Peeta both loved Katniss. They both risk their lives for her. She risks her life for both of them. And she doesn’t want to be without either of them, without even allowing herself to think of things in a romantic way.

    But, Gayle wants to fight. He wants to change the world to help keep her, and everyone else safe. And that leads him down a very different path, one that is NOT at all healthy for Katniss. And he, at some point in the series, realizes that while rebellion is good for him, for his family, for her family and the world, it is not healthy for HER.

    Peeta, on the other hand, tells her in this book/movie that she has to live more than he does. She is the only thing worth anything in his life and even if he survives, his life is worthless without her support. And I think it’s in that moment she realizes how much he does for her. Fighting a rebellion is easy, it’s Peeta who sleeps next to her to wake her from bad dreams, who isn’t willing to kill, who is constantly trying to defuse situations to keep her and her loved ones safe, rather than mixing things up more.

    What I take from this, LW, is that sometimes it’s not about how much you love the other person or how much they love you. It’s about whether they help you be the best you and whether you can help them be the best them.

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