How do I navigate my discordant relationship past our differences?

Tapping divergence as fuel, but knowing when discordant relationships are a good challenge to have, and when your differences are actually dealbreakers worth considering.

Q:

I’m dating an awesome guy who aligns with me on so many levels, but the trouble is that I’ve been out of the closet for 20 years, and he came out last year.

We’re around the same age, and we both love sci-fi and video games. We’re both successful and fulfilled at work, and we have both traveled extensively. 

But while being openly gay is exciting and new for him, it’s been-there-done-that for me. He has a lot of questions, and at first I was eager to help him figure it all out, but lately I just want to talk about something else. 

To make matters worse, I increasingly feel that he’s just late to the party and need him to catch up. How do I broach the subject?

Dear Post-Gay:

Differences in taste can help both parties in a relationship grow, but differences over a few core issues are tougher to navigate. Discordant “outness” is one of them.

Your experience is typical of guys at different stages of coming out. It creates a power struggle. The person further along becomes frustrated, and the more closeted or recently out person feels inadequate. 

Now the tough part. The chances of him “catching up” after 20 years are low. If it’s early enough in your relationship, consider this a possible deal breaker. If you’ve already fallen, it will take more patience than you’ve shown so far to make it work. 

There’s no wrong time to come out. Begrudging him his journey is not only pointless but selfish. Your best hope is to constantly communicate where you are and actively listen to where he is. Channel your best self. Use truth and kindness as your guide. 

Q:

My girlfriend and I have been together almost a year and are ready to take it to the next level. For me, that’s monogamy and marriage. For her, that’s emotional monogamy and an open sexual relationship. 

I’m not sure I can be happy her way, and she says that she can’t live up to mine. Should I compromise my deep-seated values for the woman I love?

Dear Rigid:

It’s great that you both are honest about what you want, but it’s another example of a discordant relationship over a core issue. 

Give someone at least 18 months before thinking about marriage.Then shack up to see how it would be. This allows time to unearth critical information – like how each of you defines “the next level.”

Your letter actually asks two questions: Should you change your original idea of monogamy for the woman you love? Maybe. Should you compromise your values? No.

Q:

I’m HIV-positive, and the guy I’m seeing is HIV-negative. I’m terrified of giving it to him. I’m obsessed. I can’t stop thinking about it. Should I just let him go?

Dear Poz:

You are in what is called a Sero-Discordant relationship. It comes with unique challenges, but it’s the one discordant relationship in today’s column that definitely doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. Play safe, talk openly, and by all means have mind-blowing sex together. Use your growing intimacy and trust to calm any fears.

The Q is for entertainment purposes and not professional counseling. Send your burning Qs to [email protected].

Illustration by Brad Gibson

This article originally appeared in Q magazine. Pick it up around town, and read the digital version below: