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Dear Abby: I’ve been with my partner, “Pat,” for 10 years. For personal reasons, we’ve chosen not to marry. I call him my partner because, for most of our 10 years together, we’ve lived together. We share many financial commitments, and he’s truly my life partner.

My problem is, when I refer to Pat as my partner, people ask me if I’m gay. I’m less worried about people thinking I might be a lesbian, but more that people might think Pat is a woman.

I know our friends and family respect our choice to not be married, but I’m not sure what to call him other than my partner. I feel that “boyfriend” is too casual for our level of commitment. I don’t have a problem calling Pat my partner. I do have a problem with all the unnecessary confusion that follows.

What should I call the man I am committed to and who is equally committed to me, when we have chosen to take the “no ring” route together?

Not Single in St. Louis

Dear Not Single: You could use “better half,” but I think the word “partner” describes your relationship very well. If someone asks if you are gay or if Pat is a woman, don’t be defensive — just say no. Giving more information to someone who isn’t close enough to you to already be aware of your situation is oversharing.

Dear Abby: “Young at Heart in Texas” (Feb.) could have written my story. I am also a 70-year-old man who is sexually dysfunctional. I, too, was lonely, having outlived two of my brides. However, I did find someone who appreciates holding hands and whispering sweet words without more physical contact.

Abby, you said: “Not only do I think you can (find companionship), I suspect you may need police protection to control the crowd of applicants. Years ago, my aunt, the late Ann Landers, polled her female readers asking if they would prefer ‘holding and cuddling’ to actually doing ‘the deed.’ The majority of them answered in the affirmative.”

My first wife died of a heart attack after 30 years of marriage. My second wife died after eight years of marriage, of kidney cancer. At 71, I married my third wife, a wonderful woman just as you both describe. She was my next-door neighbor. We have been married three years and nine months. (The Bible says, “Love thy neighbor,” so I married her!) We also enjoy cuddling, even without doing “the deed.”

So I say to “Young at Heart in Texas”: YES, you can find a woman such as you and Abby describe. And when you do, I suggest you rub her back often. Women love it!

Young At Heart in Colorado

Dear Young At Heart: I’m glad your story had a happy ending, and I’m crossing my fingers that “Young at Heart’s” will, too. Thanks for writing to encourage him.

Contact Dear Abby at DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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