A couple of weeks ago, I found out that the man I’ve been dating for about three months has Stage III prostate cancer. He’s about to begin chemo and radiation therapy, which will no doubt be grueling. Right before he broke the news to me, I was about to tell him I didn’t want to see him anymore; now I’m not sure what to do. He’s thanked me repeatedly for being so supportive and keeps telling me how lucky he is to have me. I don’t want to add to his problems and stress by breaking up with him, and my feelings have nothing to do with his cancer. I don’t want to date him, but I would like to be there for him as a friend and support him in any way he needs. Should I hold out for a few months or do it now? —TK, Chicago, Illinois
The Gay Woman’s Perspective: Jody Fischer
I’m so sorry to hear about what this man is going through. Having friends to help him through is so important, and it sounds like you’re more than willing to be there for him in that way.
You need to be honest about your feelings and needs right now. You cannot carry out a lie and expect yourself to fully support him. Not being true to yourself is not being true to him. That being said, I’m pretty sure that he won’t be jumping with joy when you tell him, but honesty seems to come up a lot when one is on a healing path.
He may initially need space from you after hearing the news, but if you can tell him the ways in which you will be there for him, and check in on him consistently and kindly, he may eventually be able to accept your new relationship. This is not an easy place to be, but have compassion for yourself and for him. In time, hopefully he will be able to do the same.
The Straight Man’s Perspective: Chris Kennedy
As we say in Wisconsin, “uff dah.” As the Jews say, “Oy vey.” As the Jews in Wisconsin say, “It’s so cold. How did we end up here?”
This is a difficult situation, and I cringe for you. Staying with him out of guilt isn’t the right thing to do. To be fair, you’ve been dating him for only three months, so it’s not like you’ve been married to him for twenty years and are abandoning him. Despite how uncomfortable it is, let him know you don’t want to date him, but that you do want to be there to support him if he would like you to.
This might be confusing for him, but let him decide. He’s the one with the more serious struggle here, not you.
If I were him, I don’t think I’d want you around, as you’d remind me that you don’t want to date me. But he may feel differently. Either way, you have to tell him at some point.
Back to the Jews, who ask, “If not now, when?”
Do it now.
The Straight Woman’s Perspective: Rebecca Brown
Put yourself in his shoes and imagine how you’d feel if you had cancer and found out that the person you were dating had no romantic feelings for you at all and was just staying with you out of guilt and pity. I’m guessing you’d feel duped, crappy, and a little stupid. Not the kind of feelings someone with cancer needs to have. Nobody wants to be the pity boyfriend, no matter how sick he is. He needs people around him who are 100 percent positive about him, his recovery, and the possibilities for his future good health. And though I’m sure you really do want to support him as a friend, if you continue to stay with him as his romantic partner, you’ll eventually start to get resentful, cancer or not, and that’s just not fair to him.
I think you need to do it now … like, as soon as possible. It’s going to hurt him in the short-term, but emphasize that you really do want to support him as a friend. He may not believe you, and he may not even be open to it, so you’ll need to be extremely persistent with your efforts so he knows that you’re genuine. Good luck, TK.
The Gay Man’s Perspective: Darren Maddox
Well, that’s a tough one! You don’t want to come across as a bitch by going with your gut, but you don’t know how long you can contain yourself, either. My vote is to go the friend route, and really be a friend. Don’t be one of these “but we can still be friends” kind of people. This guy obviously has a lot on his plate right now, to say the least. You can be there for him without being there with him. Who knows? You may fall for him in the end, but for now, he needs to focus on himself. Be there for him. But don’t be in a relationship with him out of guilt. When he notices that you’re pulling away, you have every right to tell him that you have a lot on your mind and to discuss putting your relationship on hold while he focuses on healing.
You should be a friend to anyone in this situation, especially someone you’ve had feelings for. Remember, you just met him three months ago. Relationships take all kinds of directions; this one has just taken a friendship turn, instead of a romantic turn. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Just follow your gut and be a friend first.