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He's 40 years older (and in the closet)

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  February 3, 2009 11:09 AM

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He's 21. He's in love. He needs our help. Here's today's letter:

Q: I am a 21 year old gay male who is currently in a relationship with a closeted professional male about 40 years my senior - whom I used to work for. We have been dating for a little over 4 months and our relationship has grown increasingly deeper over the time we have spent together. I initiated the first intimate interaction. He said "I love you" first. We have been on vacation together, spend almost every weekend together, and talk by phone once a day and email throughout the day.

My question is how do I share with him the frustration I am feeling from keeping our relationship a secret - without patronizing him? Am I selfish for wanting to be an out couple? Am I wasting my time? I have strong views on men in the closet and sometimes they cloud my judgement regarding him and I start to resent him for not being honest with the world. I don't want to resent him.

We talk about the future all the time and we make plans - my fear is that we are being unrealistic. I see myself living with this man in the next two years. Getting married within ten. And adopting within fifteen. At this point in my life - and this may just be the naive 21-year old part of me coming out - I cannot think of a future without him.

What should I do? This is both of our first real relationships. We are both new to this"love" thing. Add the closet, his career, and our age difference and you can just imagine how difficult this all is.

I don't want to lose him - and I am afraid I will.
-- Confused&InLove@21, Boston

A: Confused&InLove@21, one of the big problems here is that you're Confused&InLove@21. You're talking about having children with someone -- in 15 years.

In 15 years, this closeted man will be 75, right?

My guess is that this is a first love. It's hard to let go of first loves even though they're usually impractical. You don't have to let him go right this second -- at 21, what's the rush? -- but perhaps you should start getting your mind around the fact that he may not be "the one," especially if you want to raise a family with someone who's at least moderately age-appropriate and comfortable enough with himself to call you his partner.

You're young. You're out. He's too old. And in. The writing's on the wall for this one. Love him for being your first love -- but know that's all he is.

Readers? Am I right? Can you help this young man? Share your thoughts here.

And -- we're still looking for help with this MySpace cheating problem. And to share your own love problem, click here.

- Meredith

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49 comments so far...
  1. Meredith, you're right.

    At 21, this man is looking for a future; his partner is 61, and looking at wrapping up all the loose ends (Don't scream ageism at me...I'm over 55). Even if this is something both wanted - and it's not clear to me that the older partner wants this - we're still talking about getting married in 10 years, when the partner is 71, and beginning a family in 15, when the partner is 76.

    Confused&InLove@21: you're only 21, so this may come as a shock, but do you understand that your partner may not be around for your time frame? Or that he may not be well enough, active enough, or able enough to create a life with you?

    Posted by Im_At_Work February 3, 09 12:19 PM
  1. Confused&InLove@21, I agree wholeheartedly with Meredith. You are young, out of the closet, and have many years ahead of you. Boston has a large pool of gay men to select from, so you shouldn't settle for anything less than honesty. I think what you are feeling right now might feel a lot like love, but I would recommend taking a step back and asking yourself if it's truly love or infatuation with the idea of love. Reiterating what Meredith is saying, you would be marrying this guy when you are 31 and he is 71. I'm not sure it's fair to bring a child into a family when it's likely one of the parents won't be there for some of life's key events, like college, marriage, etc. Enjoy your time together in the now, be honest with him, but don't think too hard about the future. Live in the moment.

    Posted by JN February 3, 09 12:19 PM
  1. Are you kidding me??? You want to have a child with a 76 year old man?

    There are no words for how unrealistic you are being. You're too young for him. Find a more appropriate mate who shares your values and hopes and dreams for the future.

    Posted by AuntBeth February 3, 09 12:42 PM
  1. Um...no, and I mean no, self-respecting 21 year old gay man should be tied down to some closet case grandpa for any reason.

    This isn't about him, it's about you being an idiot.

    Snap out of it!!!

    Posted by JJ February 3, 09 12:44 PM
  1. Sure, wait 15 years...have kids...you'll get a bailout for sure! No problem.

    Posted by Josh February 3, 09 12:46 PM
  1. I agree 100% with Meredith. He's not the one! Does he know about all of your future plans? First loves are indeed hard. But when you find someone who shares the same future goals with you (i.e. marriage and children) AND someone who's out, you'll know when it's right. Good luck!

    Posted by Gretchen Weiners February 3, 09 12:48 PM
  1. Confused&InLove,

    I'm less supportive of the argument that your age is a factor and believe that the bigger issue is that you're out and he's not. While 21 is young, it is possible to find the love of your life at 21, as long as he makes you happy. But, this situation will never make you happy. It's difficult to be comfortable in your relationship when you're not comfortable with yourself, as is true with your significant other. The fact that he's not proud of who he is leads me to the conclusion that he's not proud of his relationship with you.

    The fact that you understand how difficult it is to be in his position shows that you're not a "naive" 21 year old. But you need to make a decision. Your happiness is the most important thing and as long as he keeps your relationship a secret, you will never be truly happy. It may be time to move on.

    Posted by MFJ February 3, 09 12:59 PM
  1. Find a nice WOMAN and get married. This gay thing is just a phase.

    Posted by Chloe February 3, 09 12:59 PM
  1. A guy who's 60 and has never been in a relationship is like that for a reason. Someone who's 21 and never been in a relastionship is 21. His unavailableness is what you are seeking.

    Posted by Paul February 3, 09 01:01 PM
  1. have fun with him now -- but don't picture a future with him -- he's too old -- its incredibly unfair to even think of a having a child with him even ten years in the future - that is way too old to be a parent to a child -- maybe a grandparent -- your are very young -- just have a good time for now and don't worry about your future.

    Posted by laurie February 3, 09 01:11 PM
  1. I suspect there's an important element of this scenario missing, and that it's more green than grey. Sorry to be cynical, but since I've never met a 21 year old gay man with a grampa fetish, I'm thinking that this young man's real concern about breaking up with the ex-boss(!) may have something to do with the subsequent decline in income and lifestyle that would result from a break-up. Or perhaps the geezer lost his money in the recession, and the kid is looking for a more convenient excuse than "you're broke!"...

    Posted by Anonymous February 3, 09 01:25 PM
  1. You can get a stroller and a wheelchair at the same time. So, you want to be the cabana boy? How lovely. You obviously have some issues with your father. This really isn't a realistic letter. I'd be surprised if it's authentic. It certainly doesn't help others in their daily romantic struggles. It's too outrageous. But if the 40+ year difference isn't enough, the closeted 60 year old is using you as his Boy Toy. He's smitten with a young guy and will ride it out until you push the "out" thing too far or until you grow up and date someone your own age. Who is he...Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Kevin Costner or John Henry? Love has no PRIDE.

    Posted by fabulous February 3, 09 01:34 PM
  1. Does anyone check the veracity of these letters? This reads more like a prank than anything else.

    Posted by Raffi February 3, 09 01:35 PM
  1. if you were not gay, I think you would not have these issues.
    What can you possibly know at 21?

    Posted by Jay February 3, 09 01:38 PM
  1. And here is another approach...He is probably 40 Years Old, not Older and yet even when I do my math I still come up with a 55 year old just having a first child with a gay 36 year old. While I have a younger wife and a child I have taken life insurance out to make sure they are taken care of should I die early for any reason seeing as I have a few years on her (I am still under 40). Whatever you do just plan ahead. The child is the issue and personally I don't think I would approve of a couple with those ages being an adoptive parent regardless of how good a parent you both may be. Go meet someone your own age and enjoy life together instead of half in a closet with unrealistic dreams.

    Posted by Joey February 3, 09 01:49 PM
  1. I agree with Meredith. While it's great you are in love, it's not great that he is not willing to share his life with you in public. He might be ashamed to be who he is and that is not fair to you. I think your future plans are unrealistic but don't let that stop you from being happy. He most likely will not be around for the children you plan to adopt with him. You are young, enjoy what you have with him now and then move on. If he is not willing to accept being gay then you need to go somewhere else. There are many eligable bachelors in MA and you should do what you can to find someone who loves you and is willing to share that with the world.

    A message for Chloe, you are a bigot and disgust me....get a life...loser.

    Posted by hatesbigots February 3, 09 01:59 PM
  1. I say go for it! Just make sure he is filthy rich, has no family and does not have a favorite charity. You'll find that 10 years will go by in a heartbeat and you could have a very cushy future...

    Posted by JB February 3, 09 02:21 PM
  1. Chloe, do you have experience with a gay "phase"? Do you know how ignorant and idiotic you sound?

    Posted by Situation February 3, 09 02:27 PM
  1. DUDE! You are 21 and he is 60? First things first.... coming from another gay guy here, get some self esteem and therapy. A 21 year old (gay, str8, purple or green) shouldnt be dating someone old enough to be his/her GRAND-father. Factor in he is a closet case and the "LOVE" word comes out after 4 "whole months" of dating and you have one mess on your hands, kid.
    At 21 you should be out having fun with friends, going to parties and enjoying your youth - not shacking up with someone a few years from social security and talking about kids and marriage! Trust me, IT WONT WORK!

    Posted by agegauge1990 February 3, 09 02:33 PM
  1. Okay, let me get this "straight".... This guy is about 60, and is STILL in the closet? Get a grip girlfriend! He is never going to come out just for you. What is this guy afraid of?

    My partner and I have been together for 20 years, but when I was in my early 20's I remember thinking that each relationship was "the one". It's only with maturity and self-confidence that you'll be able to decipher the difference between the fleeting and the "forever".

    You sound as though you've got your life pre-programmed and structured with someone who may just be interested in spending some "quality" play time with a much younger guy. Find yourself someone who's comfortable with who they are, and shares the same values and goals as yourself.

    If this guy thought that you were the one-he'd move heaven and earth! He's made it pretty clear he's comfortable alongside his shirts in the closet. Get over it!

    Posted by Not Your Grandpa! February 3, 09 02:34 PM
  1. Dude, seriously. Take a step back for a second. While it is true that your goals of marriage and children in that timeline are reasonable, they are not reasonable with this man. He may be an amazing person who can teach you many things, but he is also far too old to be the partner you are seeking.

    By the time you graduate from college, he will be on social security. In ten years, when you finally have a stable career, he will be too tired to travel with you.

    It is a sad fact, but a fact none the less. You are just going different places in this life.

    Posted by AG February 3, 09 02:38 PM
  1. He's probably having his mid-life crisis; and you are impressed by the man's wordly ways and can learn stuff......as long as the guys not married not a big deal, but if you want more & he doesn't then you should back off and look for someone who wants the same things that you want.

    Posted by Anonymous February 3, 09 02:47 PM
  1. I agree with most of the readers on here that the bigger issue is you're out and he's in and he doesn't want to publicly acknowledge your relationship together. Don't you want a man who will respect your feelings from the beginning? that is not ashamed or embarrassed of himself or of you? You sound like a warm, kind-hearted man who has too much of a big heart. You are worthy of someone who will respect your feelings. Further it's only been four months and you're already making plans? Relax on the planning phase. Get to know this man first.

    Posted by lolipopp February 3, 09 02:52 PM
  1. You probably suffer from "wanting sometihng that you cannot have' syndrom.

    Posted by Anonymous February 3, 09 02:55 PM
  1. Get a life. Having a 40-year difference in partners is like trying to span the Grand Canyon. You can't overcome the age thing because you're just starting out and don't have much life experience. By the time you do your boyfriend will be on the other side of the turf. Go find yourself a love interest more your age. At least that will give you a chance to spend some meaningful time with each other. Who knows, in a few years you might decide to cross over to the other side. Girls can be fun.

    Posted by koba February 3, 09 03:00 PM
  1. Phase of life issues apply here, and adding a real generation gap regarding being out or closeted=no long term future. Enjoy it while it lasts, but don't get tied up in thinking it will be forever. I had a nearly 2 year heterosexual relationship with a woman 10 years my senior, and the phase of life issues and different priorities pushed us apart. Don't make it something more than it can be,

    Posted by LeftOut February 3, 09 03:09 PM
  1. Sometimes when you care so much for a person, and are so sure that you want them in your life, you are unable to reconcile the relationship you are actually in with the one you are WISHING you were in. It can be tempting to try to "compromise" some of your goals or beliefs in order to make a relationship work. But frankly, no matter how much you love someone, if you have to compromise major life goals and long-held beliefs, you will end up resenting the other person. That, or you will end up blaming yourself for being...well, yourself. You cannot remain in this type of relationship for the long haul. It's unhealthy for both of you. I would recommend that you end it while it can be done without too much bitterness.
    This is not to say that this relationship doesn't count, or is a failure, or anything of the sort. I am sure that you have both brought a lot into each other's lives that you will probably always appreciate. But i think Meredith is right, and it may be time for you to try and understand that this may not be THE relationship.
    PS. don't give the few bigoted, small-minded, and cruel comments a moment of thought. They aren't even worth the three seconds it takes to read them.

    Posted by Elle February 3, 09 03:13 PM
  1. Whats wrong with keeping your relation ship a secret? You dont need to make a big production about anything. This is why there is such a big controversy about gay marriage. All the gays want to make a big deal about getting married and letting everyone know they are gay. Just go about your life normally. You dont see straight people coming out of the closet and letting everyone know they are straight or making a big deal making sure everyone knows they are getting married. Just be gay....no one else has to know.

    Posted by Bud February 3, 09 03:29 PM
  1. Kudos to Elle's comment. Perfect advice and the p.s. saved me the trouble of thinking up a way to say it...

    Posted by Wendy February 3, 09 04:08 PM
  1. Chloe, tell me, how did YOUR queer phase go? And Bud? Don't talk about "all the gays" being pushy; it's very clear that you have your own issues with queer sexuality, and you need a serious reality check.

    As for the issue at hand, I know what it's like to be 21 and in love (since it was only a year ago). But I'm not a romantic; I don't believe in The One, or the Love of your Life. You say you've been with this man for four months, and you're in love: awkward question, but how early did the "love" part start? Sometimes, especially within one month of a relationship, what seems like love is merely (completely acceptable!) infatuation and excitement. I'm not trying to invalidate your feelings for this man, but I am trying to get you to think critically about the situation. Have you really been in love with each other so early on?

    It seems as if you want to be with a person who shares your attitudes about lifestyle. You want to plan to get married and have children at a certain time in your life, and those times are probably not practical for someone 40 years your senior. And, as other people have already pointed out, your boyfriend is still in the closet and interested in keeping things a secret. While I'm sure that he has his own personal and legitimate reasons for those things, I'm getting the feeling that it's not working for you.

    You might have strong feelings for this man, but it's very, very clear that the relationship is not going to be what you're looking for.

    Posted by sabend February 3, 09 04:15 PM
  1. Bud, I wise man once said, it's better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt. Based on the entirety of your posts, silence is the best friend you'll ever have. Embrace it. Be silent.

    Posted by sidewinder1 February 3, 09 04:15 PM
  1. Gee Bud, what was wrong with that comment. Let me count the ways...
    1. Straight people can't come out of the closet because they were never in it. Thats the point of the closet.
    2. When the societal presumption is that people are straight, you don't have to tell anyone you are straight. Everyone presumes it already.
    3. I'm not sure I should even validate the last comment with a response. Straight people don't make a big deal about getting married? Hello, McFly? That was simply rediculous. Go back to school, son.

    Posted by steve February 3, 09 04:19 PM
  1. the joke's on us of course as there's no way this letter is legit. anyone checking this stuff? so ridiculous....c'mon meredith.

    Posted by not_naive_enought_to _believe February 3, 09 04:31 PM
  1. Infatuation is a very powerful feeling, much more powerful than love, which is constant and comfortable and can last a lifetime. Infatuation spends all its energy in a short, quick burst. In either case, you can't imagine living without the person, but love takes time, while infatuation can be over quickly.

    Posted by Pallykin February 3, 09 04:44 PM
  1. What 21 yr old in their right mind would want to get married?

    Posted by Anonymous February 3, 09 04:50 PM
  1. I am a straight woman, so I can't really relate to the whole problem with your partner being in the closet, but when I was 21 I was in a year long relationship with a 40 year old. I too thought that I was in love. I wanted everything that you want with your partner. Luckily, he was the one who was smart enough to end the relationship. He knew that given our age difference, things could not work out. I had my whole life ahead of me, and he had already settled into his. I'm 27 now, and I am so thankful for having that experience, but let me tell you, I am so glad he ended it when he did! I would have missed out on so much, including the man I am about to marry (he is 6 years older than me...a little age difference isn't too bad!). At 21, you have no idea what life is going to bring you. Treasure the time you have had with him, but realize that there is more out there for you. And for Chloe: you sould like a nasty bitter old woman.

    Posted by becky February 3, 09 05:06 PM
  1. Not to ignore the gay issue which is important, but on some levels, this isn't about being gay. This is about a major difference in fundamental ethical and social values. I don't see how you can even think about continuing a relationship with a man whose values are not only so different from yours, but whose values mean that he can't even acknowledge your relationship. Moreover, by staying in the relationship on his terms (in the closet), you are compromising yourself in a very unhealthy way. His shame about being gay will become yours. Anger is the inevitable result.

    If the in/out issue were your only issue, I'd say this relationship had serious obstacles. Add in the age issue, and I'd argue that this relationship is doomed to end badly. Not every May-December romance is problematic, but this is one that I think is unhealthy - for both of you. You are planning a relationship that his age and circumstance really won't allow. And he is not dealing with the realities of his own situation by engaging in an fantasy romance with you. And each of you is missing out on other more reasonable relationships while you pursue this one. Again, anger is the inevitable result. To say you are being unrealistic is too kind; this is downright delusional.

    In saying all this, I don't mean to imply that your feelings and even your sense of commitment to each other is not real. Elle makes a really good point about the value of this relationship in your lives. This is clearly an important relationship for you and may be for him as well. But it really has no future. I think your best course of action is figure out a way to end it nicely while you still care about each other and can move forward feeling good about each other.

    Posted by Nancy G February 3, 09 06:33 PM
  1. This authenticity of this letter is certainly questionable but if we're dealing in fiction parading as reality then this is the kind of relationship that you will read about in the newspaper or that will in be a Lifetime TV movie. You know the storyline, where the young lover stays with the older, closeted man for ten years only to kill his older lover when 1) the old guy deserts him for an even younger guy, 2) the young man realizes that he has sacrificed his youth, his career and his family to a fantasy or 3) we discover that the older man has a secret life with a wife and seven kids in another state.

    Not to be unkind but - Get out now, leave skid marks.

    Posted by Ritan1 February 3, 09 06:44 PM
  1. I agree with Chloe

    Posted by Bud February 3, 09 09:43 PM
  1. 21, I think the phrase that struck me the most is where you said you had really strong views on closeted men…and your partner does not. This seems to be where most relationships make their mistakes.

    Everyone, imagine, for a moment, something you believe strongly in. Maybe its your Christian faith, your political views, or an incredible dislike of a particular sports team. Now imagine being forced to deny you feel that way. Now imagine having to live the next twenty years pretending to hate what you believe strongly in.

    I’ve said this before, and I’ll probably keep repeating myself. When you go against your core values, deny who you are, simply because you are in love…when you give up your core self….by changing who you are…you are headed for relationship disaster. Eventually you begin to resent your partner – and you may not even know why. You end up feeling as if you gave up everything and they gave up nothing…and you are right. You gave up everything that you believe in, everything that makes you YOU….because you were in love and didn’t want to loose this person. I know I don’t sound much like a romantic, but the hard, cold truth is that love does not make everything better.

    More specifically, 21, you sound like a 13 year old deep in their first flush of love and hormones. You’re writing Dr and Mrs William Smith all over your school books, planning the wedding, picking out names for the kids, and dreaming of growing old together (sort of) sitting in a yellow kitchen talking about how much you both love Total Cereal on a warm, spring morning. More than likely, you are more in love with the idea of forever, and its clouding your judgment. If you simply let go of your desire of “forever” and simply just be, you’ll probably be a much happier man, even if your current relationship does not last.

    Posted by Anonymous February 4, 09 10:18 AM
  1. CHLOE- Why don't you open your eyes and open your mind to a homosexual lifestyle. That heterosexuality you practice is just a blind tradition. Hope you find a nice woman to marry.

    Everyone- This letter is 100% real. I know the guy who wrote it.

    Posted by Jordan February 4, 09 01:32 PM
  1. TO ALL OF YOU WHO THINK THIS LETTER IS A FAKE---I can tell you 100% that it is NOT a fake. My partner and I met Confused & his boyfriend when they were on vacation at the same destination as us. We spent time chatting with them, meals, drinks, etc. Everything he said about their fellings is true. We are all on this planet at the same time. Who we fall in love with is not always a matter of choice. It's how we deal with it that is the issue. My sister is with a man who is 30+ years her senior and they have been married for over 25 years. There were a lot of raised eyebrows when they first dating...but love is love.

    Posted by J February 4, 09 02:47 PM
  1. I stand by my original comment. He needs a woman to love, marry and have kids with. God intended this for a reason.

    Posted by Chloe February 4, 09 06:16 PM
  1. I am a close friend of Confused and it is not a lie.
    As for Cloe you are arrogant and ridiculous. Its people like you that leave hate in this world. And you need counseling.
    As for you darling I say trust your heart. You can see yourself with him forever right now but see where the heart and head take you in One year. One day at a time.

    Posted by Jers February 4, 09 09:59 PM
  1. I do not believe in Gay marriage and I have gay friends that are married and adopted children as well. I think it should be a civil union with all the rights, changing "traditions" with a law is not something I can agree with to be honest. That being said I think adopting a child while being 40 years apart is ludicrous and irresponsible at best and if an agency would allow it they should be shut down regardless of it being a man and woman or a gay couple. As for this "couple" which seems more of a boy and his grandfather infatuated with each other I think the 21 year old should get his head out of his and the old mans butt and go date someone closer in age if "marriage" and child(ren) are what you want. The old man will likely never come out and probably has a girlfriend to keep up appearances for whatever reasons he feels.

    Hopefully the next letters will be better than this one...they both need more than a blog...a Great psychiatrist would have trouble with them.

    Posted by Belushi February 5, 09 11:52 AM
  1. For those of you who think this is a prank, it's not.

    Posted by Anonymous February 6, 09 11:06 AM
  1. Jers, I never once said I hated him, or anybody else, so I believe you owe me an apology. You are entitled to disagree with my opinion, but you of all people are hardly in a situation to judge me.

    Posted by Chloe February 6, 09 11:51 AM
  1. Chloe, You invited this judgment on yourself when you judged not only the wisdom, but the nature of the writer's relationship. Your disregard for him and your continuing imposition of your narrow-minded opinion was, in fact, hateful. In responding to this writer the way that you did, you made it clear that your intention was not to be helpful to him but was to sanctimoniously impose your view of God's will on someone else. There really must e a very special place in hell for people that do this.

    Posted by Nancy G February 6, 09 05:51 PM
  1. Age is just a number. Sometimes life experiences mature us at a much more rapid rate than years. One of my friends 46-y/o currently dating a man at one one friendly senior dating site called "SeekSeniors.com" , who is 35 years her junior but my friend said he makes her laugh, feel safe, respected and loved. Isn't that what they all really want? Who's to say whether it's right or wrong?

    Posted by Boomerfunnn February 10, 09 12:40 AM
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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