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My partner will not come out to his family and it is cutting me up inside

QI met my current boyfriend/partner almost a year ago and we quickly got into a loving and exciting relationship. We went on holidays together early on in our courting, and moved in together after six months. I love him to bits and we even have a couple of cats in the mix now.

We have a wonderful home to share, with plenty of space if we fall out, although when we do it's always short-lived, and not ever really falling out. I'm 27 and he's 36, a bit of an age gap, but I'm pretty mature and we can both have our childish moments. We get on like a house on fire, are really easy-going and share the same hobbies. And now the problem.

I think sometimes that the problem is my failure to speak up, although I have tried, but it fell on deaf ears. I came out of the closet when I was 19 years old, my family took it well, even if they did think I might just be going through a phase, but I always had support. It was a scary experience but my family, and particularly my friends, stuck by me so that it was a pleasant "coming out" experience.

My partner, on the other hand, is not out to his family, although everyone else knows of his sexuality. I find this a little strange, because of my openness. He comes from a nice family but reckons his father and brothers are homophobic, and he is convinced the news would break his mother's heart.

He is not close to his family in general, but he's very close to his mother, talking several times a day to her and visiting at least once a week. When she visits our home, the photos of us are hidden. It's like a knife running through me and it usually ends up with me in our bedroom or bathroom crying my eyes out. He just says we're happy and isn't that enough? Am I over-reacting? It's so painful to be referred to as the "housemate" or "good friend". It's cutting me up inside. I don't know what to do.

And then there's the ex. My partner was with his ex for about eight years and they will always be part of each other's lives, which I can accept. What I cannot accept, or understand, is that he basically finances this ex. He gives him loans, which are never repaid. At the same time, we're strapped for cash. Although it's not about the money, it's about the ex still being such a huge part of his life.

I know I should be sitting down with my partner discussing all this, but I just get told that this is the way things are. He says he will never tell his family about his sexuality. I have dreams of getting married and having everyone around to see how much in love we are. But I don't think I can commit without his family knowing the score. I don't think I can keep reverting to just being his friend whenever they are around.

And if anything happened to him, I wouldn't be able to show my true emotions when in their company. I feel he is living a lie and hiding me. This makes me feel he does not really love me. I don't know what to do.

AYOUR partner is asking you to love him, just as he is. He is not just being rigid, or unloving, or in any bad way selfish. He is living his life as best he can, doing the right thing as he sees it. He is not prepared to tell his mother and risk breaking her heart. Whether or not it would break her heart is another thing. The point is, you have to respect his perception of the world. And he's being honest with you in all of this. He's not making any half-promises, or in any way stringing you along. He's telling you this is the best he can offer, and asking you to accept that, because he wants you around.

It might all be easier for you if you didn't take it personally, which I think you are doing. It's not that he is denying your existence. Well, that's not your partner's primary aim. He's denying the reality of his own existence when it comes to his family. So, it is nothing personal. And it's not in all aspects of your lives, but just in the context of the family. Everywhere else, you are a couple. Of course it affects you, curtails your freedom to show your love, limits your capacity to act. I am not saying there is no emotional cost. Of course there is.

Yes, I think there is a sizeable problem with compatibility between the two of you -- almost a generational gap. You came out under entirely different social circumstances and you want to embrace the whole lifestyle, marriage, the lot. That in itself is not a problem. The problem is that your partner does not want all that.

Yes, that could prove the breaking point for you both. Sometimes needs are so different that even love can't bridge the gap. All you can do is articulate your needs clearly and respect your partner's. When you've done that, reality will emerge, allowing you to see what road you have to take.

Sunday Indo Living