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.“