In the debut of Dearly Beloved, the advice column by author Michael Arceneaux, a reader writes in to share the plight of an older man dating a younger bae — a side piece who sounds like a better candidate for the main boo thang position — and, perhaps in honor of the “Watching Oprah” exhibition opening at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, a tale of someone living on the down low.
Yes, this is all in one letter, and no, I can’t believe “down low” is still a thing for a few people either.
Anyway, our dear reader sounds like a nice dude who doesn’t want to hurt anyone, but sometimes you have to do what’s best for you. He needs advice on whether or not to pull the trigger, and Michael is here to help.
If you want his advice, just email him at firstname.lastname@example.org with your question. Just be sure to include SPECIFICS, and don’t forget to start your letter with Dearly Beloved!
It’s a thing.
I have a question and I’m a little bit confused.
My boyfriend and I have been together for about five years now. He is quite young – he is 26 and I am 43. When we first met I was deeply in love with him and was crazy about him. Somehow he misunderstood that, as though I was too possessive and the relationship was too intimate; the truth is, I was his first committed gay relationship. He’s been used to one night stands and getting involved with someone just for sex.
About two years into the relationship I was having this feeling that he is young and he will grow up into the person I want him to be. He is not too hot in sex, not romantic and sometimes he just wants to be alone. Also because of the societal challenges and inquisitive neighbors, he needs to have a girlfriend as cover so no one will get to think that he is gay. Whenever I hear about the girlfriend I feel jealous.
I was very committed to him and was doing so many things for him to make him comfortable. He doesn’t come to my house regularly because I’m living with my two children.
Two years into the relationship I met another guy who I fell in love with. He was more mature, romantic, good in bed and makes me feel special whenever I’m with him. I didn’t tell him about this previous guy that I’ve been with. I’ve been dating both of them. The first guy is easy going and doesn’t always have time for me so it makes it easy to date both of them.
My problem now is I don’t want to end the relationship with the first guy who is younger because the first time I attempted to, he was sad and asked his friends to talk to me so that we can settle every issue. He doesn’t want to lose me because he’s fallen in love with me and has gotten used to me. Now I’m not sure if he truly loves me or if it’s because I assist him sometimes so he doesn’t want to lose that. Also because he is young he has plans to have children and maybe marry at some point. I feel like I don’t have a future with him. With all of this in mind whenever he is out, and I’m not sure where he’s gone to or if he’s dating someone, I feel jealous and angry.
How do I break up with him even though I still love him? Also, I don’t want to lose the second guy. I love him more. I’m confused. What can you advise?
Dear Confused Lover,
I appreciate you for giving me a lot to tackle on my very first advice column. And kudos to you for serving me a gumbo made out of an old E. Lynn Harris novel, a problematic episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show of yore, and about 17 R&B songs. I am as impressed by your peril as I am sympathetic to it.
Now, when dealing with an age difference like the one you have in your longest relationship… while it’s not impossible to make it work, it requires a very specific sort of 26-year-old. For starters, one that wants to be in the kind of relationship you envision for yourself. This isn’t Beyoncé and Jay-Z here; it’s more like Mariah Carey when she was in that alleged cash crunch while dating the billionaire. Like, if you have to worry that he doesn’t want to lose you because you provide financial assistance, that is a telling sentiment in itself.
Having said that, he mistakes your actions as “possessive” and “too intimate” because he’s inexperienced, and evidently, not totally secure with himself. It’s not that a 26-year-old who has never had a boyfriend before is incapable of maintaining a successful relationship with a more mature man, but he has proven to be incapable of putting in the effort that any healthy relationship deserves.
And let me just backtrack for a second: “He needs to have a girlfriend as a cover so no one will get to think that he is gay.” With all due respect, this alone is more than enough reason to break up with him. Do you need me to buy you some running shoes so you can go ahead and skedaddle already?
I know that coming out and living freely takes time and often still depends on the individual, but you are settled in your life and know what you want out of it. Let him figure out himself on his own time and stop allocating so much of yours to a situation that just isn’t going to work out in its current state. I understand that you love him and not wanting to hurt him in any way is a testament to that love. However, while it’s admirable to be concerned about his feelings, they should not come at the expense of yours. He may indeed be hurt by the breakup, but dealing with heartache is just another a thing time and experience will have to teach him about.
As for the second person, if you feel this strongly about him, you need to pour your energy into that. You’re saying all of these lovely things about the way he makes you feel yet you’ve been keeping something from him? Is that fair to either one of you? No, I’m not saying expose yourself to him, but I do encourage you to pour your energy into the situation that brings the best feelings out of you.
I think you know which one that is. Isn’t it time to give that one the best shot you can already?