Q: I’m a Seattle local who basically grew up reading your column. I think you’ve always given really sound advice, so I’m reaching out. My boyfriend and I have been together for two years. We started out poly, but I was clear from the start that when I fall in love with someone, I lose all attraction to anyone other than that one person. I fell in love with him, and we decided to be monogamous. But I know he’s still attracted to other people, and it makes me feel like ending the relationship. I love him like I’ve never loved anyone else, but because he doesn’t feel the same way I do on this subject, I don’t believe he loves me at all. I don’t feel like I can bring it up with him, because it will just make him feel bad for something he probably can’t control, and I don’t think I can make him love me. But I also feel like I’m wasting my time and living a lie. Help!
—Heartbroken Over Nothing
A: This thing about you—how being in love with someone renders you incapable of finding anyone else attractive—that’s pretty much a unique-to-you trait. The overwhelming majority of even the blissfully-in-loves out there still find other people attractive. And you should know that if you grew up reading my column. You should also know that a monogamous commitment doesn’t mean you don’t want to fuck other people, HON, it means you’ve promised not to fuck other people. We wouldn’t have to make monogamous commitments if sincere feelings of love extinguished all desire for others.
Since no one is ever going to love you in precisely the same way you love them—since no one else is ever going to meet the impossible standard you’ve set—every person you fall in love with will disappoint you. Every potential love arrives pre-disqualified. You meet someone, you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, you are not attracted to others, they still are, you have no choice but to dump that person and start all over again. Lover, rinse, repeat.
Zooming out: People who create impossible standards for romantic partners—standards no one could ever hope to meet—usually don’t want to be in committed relationships but can’t admit that to themselves. We’re told good people want to be in committed relationships, and we all want to think of ourselves as good people. So someone who doesn’t want a long-term commitment either has to think of themselves as a bad person, which no one wants to do, or has to redefine for themselves what it means to be a good person, which can be hard work. But there’s a third option: set impossible standards for our romantic partners. And then, when all of our romantic partners fail to meet our impossible standards, we can tell ourselves we’re the only truly good person as we move through life breaking the hearts of anyone foolish enough to fall in love with us.
So while my hunch is that it’s not your partner who is incapable of loving you, HON, but you who are incapable of loving him, you’re free to prove me wrong. One way we demonstrate our capacity to truly love someone is by believing them when they say they love us. That’s step one. Step two is accepting that someone’s love for us is legitimate even if they don’t experience or express love in precisely the same way we do.
Q: My father passed away recently. I received a contract to sell his house, and soon I’ll have to clean the place out. My question is this: What to do with a dead relative’s porn? I don’t want to keep it, I don’t want to waste it by just putting it in the trash, I can’t donate it to the library. There’s nothing especially collectible in it, so eBay is out. Maybe someone would buy the lot of it on Craigslist, but I’m not entirely clear what the legalities are for selling secondhand porn out of the back of a car, let alone what the potential market might be. I mean, how many folks are looking to buy a deceased elderly man’s former wank bank? I’m certain I’m only the most recent in a long line of folks to find themselves in this situation. Any advice for finding the porn a new home, or is it a bad idea to even try? Added difficulties: smallish town, Midwestern state, and I’m his only living family member.
—Rehoming Inherited Pornography
A: You would be in the same predicament if you had lots of living family members. I have an enormous family—lots of aunts and uncles, countless cousins—and “Who wants the porn?” isn’t a question I’ve ever heard asked at an elderly relative’s wake. And that can’t be because none of my elderly relatives had porn stashes; the law of averages dictates that at least one and probably more dead Savages (RIP) had massive porn stashes, which means whoever cleaned out the apartment or house quietly disposed of the porn. And that’s what you should do. If you’re concerned about your dad’s porn “going to waste,” dispose of it in a conspicuous manner, e.g., drop it off at a recycling center in open boxes or clear bags. Maybe a worker or someone else making a drop-off will spot the porn and decide to rescue it from the pile. And, hey, my condolences on the death of your father.
Q: I went on Grindr just before Xmas last year, this handsome dude messaged me, and we ended up hooking up at his place. It was apparent from the get-go that this was no regular hookup. We didn’t even have sex. We just kissed and talked and cuddled for six straight hours. Sounds perfect, right? Well, at about hour five, in the middle of this surprisingly deep conversation, he said something that made my head spin. I asked him how old he was. “Twenty-one,” he replied. Holy shit. He asked how old I was. “Fifty.” Neither of us had our age on Grindr. He looked about 30 to me. He said he thought I was in my late 30s. It was basically love at first sight for us. After nine months of trying to keep a lid on our feelings, he moved away and found a guy close to his own age, which I strongly encouraged. Before they became an official couple, we went on a goodbye walk, which was full of love and tears. We agreed to do the “no contact” thing for one month (he thought three was extreme). But here’s my issue: I’m in love with him. I’ve been incredibly sad since we last spoke about three weeks ago. It’s a week until the agreed upon day when we can say hi if we want to, and I don’t want to. I can’t. I have to let him go. I know he’s going to want to talk, but I’m afraid if I have any contact with him, it will set me back and I won’t want to stop. It’s taken all my willpower to not contact him so far. My question: How do I let him know I don’t want any further contact without hurting him?
—Impossible Love Sucks
A: Call the boy, ILS, ask him to meet up, and tell him you made a mistake. Yes, you’re a lot older, and the age difference may be so great that you two aren’t going to be together forever. But maybe you’re perfect for each other right now. A relationship doesn’t have to end in a funeral home with one person in a box to have been a success. If you have three or four great years together before the window in which your relationship makes sense closes, ILS, then you had some great years together. People get it into their heads that they can’t enter into a relationship unless they can picture it lasting “forever,” when really nothing is forever. To quote the great James Baldwin: “Love him and let him love you. Do you think anything else under heaven really matters?”