Is he the right guy?

I'm a gay bohemian ready to settle down, but is the sexy flight attendant the one?

Published October 6, 2012 12:00AM (EDT)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

I am a middle-aged gay guy who finally got my life together after being a bohemian in my 20s and 30s, struggling through some depression issues and so forth.  I haven't dated anyone seriously in over a decade, due to trying to get myself together, figure out my life and work on some self-esteem issues.

I finally am living in a city I love and want to settle down in, have great beginnings for a career path, have a handful of great friends, live in a great apartment and life is OK to good in general.  I decided I was ready for a romantic partner, someone I could really settle down with.  A couple of months ago I met a male flight attendant who was in my town on a layover and wanted to meet me.  He found me online and said he was seriously thinking about moving to my city.

It was an instant chemistry thing and we were both instantly crazy about each other.  I spent the night at his hotel and we talked all night and made love.  Since then, we have developed into texting every morning while I'm on my way to work and he calls me every night to talk.  We visit each other every two to three weeks.  He does very caring things like checking in with me before and after a job interview to see how it went, staying up until midnight his time so I could talk to him after I got out of a meeting and keeping me company on the phone while I took a long bus ride home.

The problem?  He won't really put his money where his mouth is.  When we first met, he would tell me how handsome, sweet, sexy, etc., he thought I was.  He would say how much he missed me.  Now he almost never says anything romantic other than the obligatory "hello handsome" at the beginning of a conversation and the obligatory "big kisses" at the end.  I, on the other hand, am very romantic and send him poems I've written, little snippets of lyrics from love songs, etc.  

I occasionally wonder about his character.  Before we met, he had dated a ton of guys, but swears he hasn't been serious about anyone or spent the night with anyone in several years.  He is very attractive.
At the time we met, he was shaving and trimming his body hair a lot.  I wondered why that would be needed if he wasn't dating anyone.  He has since stopped because I like hairy guys.  

One night, I happened to be on the phone with him while he was checking out at the store.  He was joking around with the cashier, telling her she should give him the money she was putting in her drawer.  She said, "Oh, that wouldn't be right."  He said, "Oh, I don't believe in having guilt, I could take it and totally enjoy it."  I realized he was joking, but the no guilt comment gave me some serious pause.

The worst problem, though, is his intensely sarcastic sense of humor.  I'm all for humor and we've had some good laughs, but lately he takes the sarcasm too far and doesn't know when to stop.  He crosses the line into hurting my feelings.  He will say things like, "Oh, there you go again about money, " or "So, you're actually full of BS because you've said opposite things on that issue."  

I've confronted him on the lack of romantic dialogue and he says things like, "Well, I can't be with you right now so why make it worse?" or one week he had a minor illness and was like, I didn't feel well so I wasn't feeling romantic.  When I confront him on the sarcasm he will say, "I was just kidding," or "Whatever" and quickly change the subject.

I recognize these as defense mechanisms he's using and I think he's probably scared of the feelings we are starting to develop for each other.

However, I'm now wondering if the relationship is even worth pursuing.  The distance is very difficult and I'm also wondering if he would ever really move.  He owns a house in his city and his best friend lives on the same street.  He also helps out with a group of rescue cats that he is very much enamored with and talks about constantly.

I am very attracted to him in many ways.  He does have some very good qualities as well and his actions are very caring.  I just don't know if we can bridge the gap between his sarcastic humor and my romanticism.  I'm also concerned about working out the distance issue.  I love my city and want to stay here.  He claims to hate his city but has a lot of commitments and ties there.

I often wonder if it would just be easier to find someone in my own city, though I do think it would be difficult to find someone I am as attracted to or whom I find as interesting.  Do you think we can make this relationship work?

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

Dear Stay or Go,

It may sound facile or mocking, but what I want to say to you is that this relationship is already working. It may not be the relationship you are looking for, but it is playing its part in your life. The way I see it, you have been putting together a life that suits you. You have been assembling it. You now have many of the pieces and have decided that it's time to search for a long-term mate. You have begun that search. You haven't found the person yet but you are on the path. You are now in a relationship with someone who is attractive and likable but does not fit all the criteria. He will probably not be the long-term mate you are seeking but this episode serves a purpose in your life. It's a first step. Since you haven't dated anyone seriously in over a decade, this is a pretty big first step.

He's probably not the lifetime mate you seek but this is a good relationship. It's giving you many things -- pleasure, companionship, a feeling of being loved, of being attractive.

That's what I mean when I say this relationship is working. It is doing exactly what it should.

I suggest you accept this relationship on its own terms for the time being. Just accept it as it is. If structure would help, set a six-month deadline. Decide what you will do at the end of six months. It may well be that it will be too painful to be in a relationship that you know is not going to last. So you might decide to end it even though it meets some of your needs. You might decide to end it so you can continue your search for the right mate. Or you might continue it while you search for the right mate, if that can be done ethically.

Meanwhile, as you go through each day with this situation, take note of just how comfortable or uncomfortable you are with this, on a 1-to-10 scale. Maybe this guy is not the ideal guy. But maybe he is the right guy for now. Maybe when you consider not having a lover, maybe having a lover like him is better than not having a lover at all.

Keep in mind you've only known him for two months. So how about this: Enjoy this relationship for what it is, but set a deadline.

By Cary Tennis

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