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The question

Three years ago, I met someone and fell in love with him. The issue is he lives with his parents who are elderly and he’s worried about them, so he doesn’t want to move in with me. He lives five minutes from my house. He texts me, sees me when he can, we have meals, go to coffee shops and walk around parks. He visits my house once in a while. I’m getting tired of this arrangement but don’t want to lose him. He’s 56 and I’m 65. After losing my mom tragically, I’ve realized life is too short to mess around. What should I do to make this the loving relationship I’m after?

The answer

First of all, please allow me to say I’m a big fan of co-habitation – when it goes well.

I often dream I’m single: living with my mother, or in my old apartment above a store, making myself (this is a composite of the type of dream I might have) a sardine sandwich.

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And then I wake up. Next to me is my wife’s warm, curved form, gently breathing. (Sometimes snoring, to be sure, and often it seems as if the very windows are rattling in their frames – but it’s worth it!) “Phew, it was only a dream.” I reach out, stroke her hair, she stirs and I go back to sleep.

During waking hours it’s also nice to have someone, especially in these “self-isolating” COVID-19 times, when one doesn’t see extended family or friends all that often if at all, to debrief and commiserate with at the end of the day; to have dinner with; to binge-watch with; and so forth.

I know many of my quirks and habits drive her mad, e.g. pulling the covers off her at night, leaving the milk out, putting the ice-cube tray back in the freezer with only one cube in it, the list goes on.

She tolerates it all because she loves me. But lately, many of the people around me are splitting up and/or divorcing, and it strikes me – despite the television and movie portrayals of dramatic rifts caused by infidelity and so on – most relationships seem to founder on the simple mechanics and quotidian realities of co-habitation.

(From the great Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky: “And, as they say, the incident is closed/Love’s boat has smashed against the daily grind/Now you and I are quits/Why bother then to balance mutual sorrows, pains and hurts.”)

Causing me to wonder if yours might not be a case of: Be careful what you wish for. You’ve got the walks, the romantic dinners, coffee-shop encounters, occasional visits to your house – without the warm counter milk and empty ice-cube trays.

It’s a loving relationship by your own testimonial. Remember: Not everyone is accorded this blessing. Some seek it in vain; others find it and lose it again.

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My take: Be thankful for what you have. Maybe it’s not the “arrangement” you were looking for. But sounds like it could be some day. And, begging your pardon, but have you considered whether you’re being a little selfish? Your boyfriend is worried about, and looking after, his aging parents, doing what he can to keep you happy – a good man, sounds like.

Support him. Meet him for coffee, go for windy walks and tell him you appreciate everything he does; then make popcorn, watch something with your chap and hit the hay.

As you correctly observe, life is short – too short, especially these days, not to appreciate the blessings we have. Be happy. Sweet dreams.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to damage@globeandmail.com. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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