Dear Dan: I’m a gay man in my late 20s finishing up a graduate program and dating a man who is 38. The sex is great. Some context: We met on Scruff and dated for a little bit. Then I suffered a loss in my family — I was sad and confused, and didn’t want a relationship during this time. We talked again in June 2018, we went to Pride in Minneapolis and we have been together since December 2018. Recently he hinted about children and my attitude toward children. I responded that I want to have children of my own someday. However, in a text, he stated that he wants a child in a year or two. This seemed like an ultimatum to me, one that could make or break this relationship, and I wonder why he kept this from me. I do want children, but I’m still a starving
student, a child is a huge responsibility, and I worry about the state of the world. And he texted this information to me! I feel anxious and pressured. What do I need to do?
—Text Ultimatum May Unravel Loving Ties
Dear TUMULT: Maybe you need to chill the fuck out, TUMULT.
People put their long-term goals on the table when they start getting serious about someone — long-term goals like the places they’d like to live or the kids they’d like to have — because if you’re not on the same page about the big stuff, continuing to make a large emotional investment in the relationship sets both partners up for heartbreak. And while you seem to think he should have brought kids up sooner (or in person, which definitely would’ve been better), people who bring up kids on the first date don’t get many second dates. Six months in is a perfectly reasonable time to bring kids up.
And where you see an ultimatum, TUMULT, I see an opening — the opening of negotiations. Your boyfriend would like to be a parent in a year or two. You would also like to be a parent, but not that soon. So make your counteroffer. If two years is too soon, tell him when you think you might be ready. Three years? Four? After you land a job in your field? After President Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez signs the Green New Deal into law?
All your boyfriend is saying — all he’s texting — is that he sees a future with you and wants to know if you’re on the same page about the big stuff. It’s a compliment, TUMULT, not an ultimatum. And while there’s no compromising about whether to have kids — you can’t have half a kid (not legally) — you can hammer out a compromise about when to have kids.
Dear Dan: I’m scared of two things. (1) I’m scared that if I break up with my girlfriend of four years, I will be throwing away the best thing I will ever have because I’m scared that I don’t love her in the way she deserves (in the way people say you will “just know” about) or because we have normal relationship problems and both have our own mental-health issues. (2) I’m also scared that if I don’t break up with her, I am keeping her in a relationship that is not good because of my fear of never finding someone as good as her, and we would both actually be happier with someone else.
—Scared Of Being Alone
Dear SOBA: 1. Nobody “just knows,” SOBA, and everyone has doubts — that’s why commitments are made (consciously entered into) and are not some sort of romantic or sexual autopilot that kicks in when we meet the “perfect” person. We commit, and recommit and forgive, and muddle through — but when we’re asked about our relationships, we tend to lean on clichés like “It was love at first sight,” “I just knew,” “The One” — clichés that often fill others with doubt about the quality of their relationships.
2. Get on iTunes and download the original Broadway cast recordings of Company, Follies, and A Little Night Music. Pay particular attention to “Sorry-Grateful,” “The Road You Didn’t Take” and “Send in the Clowns.”
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