I’m not ready to be a boyfriend!

DEAR LADY A: I started dating this guy recently… We met around Labor Day and have gone out a bunch of times (he lives three hours outside of the city), but the time we have spent together is amazing, the connection and commonalities are ridiculous. I haven’t felt a connection like this with anyone before. Anyways, he is recently coming out and discovering himself. We discussed this at the beginning because I am ready for the long-term relationship and wanted to make sure that is what he is looking for too. He said yes. Well, his actions show that he cares and wants to be with me and is very interested, but in this recent conversation he mentioned how he’s dating other people and “won’t stop exploring this new life but won’t rule out something more between us.” I also should add that during our conversation he did say that he could see us in a relationship in the future. I guess I’m not sure what to do. Do I continue to date him with the hopes he’ll want to be my boyfriend or is that such a red flag that it’d be better to move on before I get hurt? Thanks so much for any insight.

— LoveFool

DEAR NOBODY’S FOOL: Thanks for the heartfelt question, kitten. I know many of my readers (at least the less cynical ones who still have intact souls) have found themselves in similar conundrums, and for this reason, the good of you and the whole, I will be blunt: You need to move on before you get hurt.

When somebody straight up tells you that they’re dating other people with no immediate plans to stop, you must choose to believe them.

And if you were fine with a casual, non-monogamous situation, I’d congratulate you on your fine catch, remind you to practice safe sex and send you on your merry way. But that’s not what you want. From the beginning, you wisely informed him of that. And damned if he didn’t listen. You see honey, as easy as it would have been for him to half-heartedly pretend at commitment to keep you; to string you along from three hours away while secretly seeking greener pastures, your boy was kind and mature enough to be honest with you. He is looking for a long-term relationship … some day. But that day is in the gauzy, indeterminate future. Your guy is not ready to be a boyfriend. Not until he’s had some real experience at being uninhibited, free, truly out of that closet and into the light (or laser show, depending on the dance club). As for not ruling out “something more” between the two of you …Well, he was forthright with you earlier, so I’m sure he’s not lying, and that the possibility does technically exist. But at what point in time? At what emotional cost to you?

Newly out people generally need more than three months to sow those ecstatic gay oats. The process is much more likely a matter of years. Are you willing to intermittently date him — between his other conquests and huge life decisions; putting off your own timetable and readiness for a long-term relationship — while you wait for him to decide several months, or years later, whether he would *or wouldn’t* like to be your official boyfriend? I sincerely hope not.

I’m sure you’re right about the connection the two of you have. And he obviously cares about you. But that doesn’t mean he should be willing to avoid the long, momentous process of fully coming out of the closet; of exploring what it means to be gay, in every way that he can. Right now, he needs to try on new clothes and friends and hobbies and, yes, partners. He needs to reinvent himself a little, make mistakes, have a few awkward experiments, fail and succeed at a hundred different things and just live out, proud and loud. And while I’m happy for him and the journey he’s beginning, you are the one who wrote me today, my dear boy. So my loyalty ultimately goes to you. I care about my kittenreaders. Especially you, so earnest and sweet, smart and mature you are! I need to know that you are not sitting in some backlit window all black and white and beautiful, lonely, wistfully dreaming of the day your prodigal man comes marching home to you. Because he probably won’t. Or even worse, by the time he’s done exploring and changing and reinventing and growing, you might not know him any more. He could be a completely different person in the end; perhaps someone you’d never choose.

Your best plan of action, if you still want to be in his life (and it’s OK if you can’t do that) is to be his friend. But from a distance. Don’t rush to his side at every emotional rough patch, don’t be his consolation date when someone stands him up — and, for god’s sake don’t secretly wait for him to fall in love with you! In other words, don’t be his boyfriend in every way but title and benefits. Stay compassionate with him, never blame him for being in a different place than you are, but most importantly, do not stop dating other people. Because you will find someone who makes you happy and wants the same things you want. But only if you refuse to settle for someone who’s not ready.

Good luck out there. To both of you.

What do you think?

About Lady A

Lady A is a relationship and sex columnist for OpusChicago. Her blog is dearladya.com. Have a question? Send it to dearladya@gmail.com or tweet @dearladya.