DEAR NATALIE: I have started dating someone new and I really like him. We have a lot in common and I really feel like he could be “the one.” There is just one catch. He owns a ton of guns. I am completely anti-gun and want nothing to do with them. I respect the fact that he grew up hunting with his family, and after he came out to them, I know this was the only thing that he and his dad still had in common. Okay, a couple of rifles I could maybe deal with. But, this is a lot more than that. He says he just likes collecting them and doesn’t see anything wrong with it. I find it disturbing to say the least. I really want to continue seeing him but I cannot bring myself to talk to him about my concerns. I am worried he will dump me. What should I do? --GUN SHY
DEAR GUN SHY: Without getting into a big debate about guns, let’s peek behind the curtain, instead. It sounds as though his sense of masculinity and how he identifies himself is wrapped up in owning these guns. His connection to his father is clearly important to him. After coming out, maybe he felt as though his father would think less of him as a “man”, so he overcompensated. I’m not saying that his father did feel that way, but it seems as though he might have been scared of that prospect. Our limited collective views on masculinity are tied to an individual’s own perception of how they views themselves. And when you think about it, our first images of what “a man should be” are often tied to our own fathers or father-figures in our communities, so seeing his dad hunting and being a part of that world would be integral to his own sense of masculinity. I am really dissecting your letter, but there are a lot of reasons that people own guns, and some of those reasons he may not even be conscious about. So my question for you is: Why do you dislike guns so much? Start to think about that and how your judgment is perhaps clouding your ability to connect with him on this. You absolutely have to tell him your feelings about guns, and how he reacts to that will ultimately tell you whether you can move forward. If he seems understanding and open to your perspective, there’s a good chance you will be able to come to a place of peace on this subject. If, however, he becomes agitated or dismissive, you may want to reconsider jumping into a relationship. Respect is key, and if he can’t at least respect your views, and vice versa, the way forward may be quite a challenge for you both.
DEAR NATALIE: My boyfriend just received an incredible offer to work in London. It would be a big profile job and the pay would be amazing. But, in order to do that, I have to give up my life here in the city and my good job, too. My boyfriend keeps telling me to take the leap with him and move to London together, but he has been resistant to proposing. I told him I won’t move unless he makes a real commitment to me. He says it’s not the right time, but when is it? We’ve been together three years. I don’t want to waste my time. What should I do? --WHAT’S NEXT
DEAR WHAT’S NEXT: Call his bluff. If he really wants you to uproot your whole life for him, and you are willing to do it if he makes a bigger commitment to you, stand by your word. I am not one for ultimatums, but sometimes I think that they are necessary. It is okay if he doesn’t want to propose, but it is also okay if you can’t move forward without one. Be clear about that. Say to him that you love him and you are proud of him, but he needs to know where you stand. If he says he won’t propose or feel pressured to do so, then walk away. You shouldn’t have to chase someone to be with you. Call me old-fashioned, but I truly believe when you love someone, you will move mountains to be with them. If you aren’t a priority now, then when?
Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Not finding the right networking groups? Start your own. Social media makes it easier than ever to connect with like-minded individuals. Start a Facebook group and then encourage a meet-up around the various topics of interest.
Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Follow her on Twitter at @NBSeen and on Instagram @NatalieBenci
(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)