Q: My boyfriend and I have been dating for about three months. He told me that he and his ex-partner broke up before we met, but I just found out that they're still having sex. I'm furious, but I'm not sure I could say everything I want to say to his face. I think that writing it down would enable me to get everything out. Is it OK to break up with him in an e-mail or text?
A: No matter how much of a jerk or liar he may be, you owe it to him and to yourself to actually have a breakup conversation. Sure, it seems easier to dash off a snarky e-mail or a snippy one-sentence text without looking him in the face. And indeed, breaking up by text, IM or even with a one-click relationship "status update" on Facebook is more and more prevalent. One recent study found that one in seven of us had been dumped by e-mail or text. The truth is that getting the last word is not as important as trying to understand better what happened so that you can both find closure.
But before you do anything, I wonder whether you've made the mistake of equating a boyfriend with having a monogamous boyfriend. Until the two of you explicitly make that decision, don't assume that he is. Sometimes they go hand in hand, other times not.
Reach out to your guy and tell him you need to talk. You may be surprised what you find out. Even if nothing new comes of such a talk, at least by being clear and direct you're less likely to have regrets later on about breaking up with him.
Q: Asking someone to become my "domestic partner" doesn't sound nearly as romantic to me as "Will you marry me?" Any thoughts on how to sex up this kind of proposal?
A: You're right, that phrase wouldn't really make me swoon. But just because the government is denying you the freedom to marry doesn't mean it controls how you express what's in your heart. There's no reason your commitment proposal shouldn't be special and memorable, whether it's a candlelit dinner at your favorite restaurant or a weekend away at a bucolic B&B. So put a little time and effort into the planning. Consider presenting a ring, if that suits you, and saying something like, "I wish we could marry, but since we can't, I hope we can be together forever. Will you have me?"
Q: Even in 2010, with decades of openly gay dating under our community's collective belt, I still get confused when the dinner check arrives. What rule of thumb do you go by for what seems like an archaic conundrum but truly is not?
A: Wasn't life easier for everyone when the guy just paid for everything? Oh, right, that wouldn't work for two gay men or two lesbians on a date. That's why there's a great rule: "You invite, you pay." This is especially the case if you've chosen the restaurant as well as made the invitation. Also, consider these phrases as code for "I'll pay": "Please be my guest"; "It will be my treat"; "I'd like to invite you to join me ..." and "Let me take you out to ..."
Of course, it's good manners to offer to pay for yourself or contribute toward the tip, even when you know you're the guest. And it's wise to be prepared to pay your own way, because you never know. By the way, if your date does pay for you, remember that you're under no obligation to go out again, or to become horizontal.
Q: What's the best way to refer to two women raising a child together? Are they both "moms," or do I call the biological parent something different from the adoptive parent? What do I put in the school newspaper when I write about "Jason's moms"? Do I refer to one as his mother and the other as his second mom or his adoptive mom? I don't want to be disrespectful, just clear.
A: Let's assume that both women are the legal parents of the child—and whether that's through biology or adoption is immaterial. Each has just as much responsibility as the other; so let them both share in the loving moniker. They are the child's mothers, and that's how best to refer to them. So in the school newsletter, "Jason's mothers" is correct. If you need to distinguish them, it's perfectly fine to say "Jason's mother, Linda, says ... while his other mother, Susan, adds ... ." In fact, it's always nicer to refer to people by their names when you can.