I never had any intention of writing this piece. But--shit, shit, shit!--I waited too long to back out. By the time I started looking for someone else who could write "What I Know Now About Long-Term Relationships," it was too late; no one I asked could do it on such short notice.

Why didn't I want to write this piece? First of all, my LTR really hasn't being going on that L. My boyfriend and I have been together for a while, it's true, but we're only going to be celebrating our bronze anniversary (number eight) this year, and it feels a little premature to go braggin' about an LTR that hasn't taken bronze yet.

And worse than the relatively short time we've been together is the thought--the certain knowledge--that making a big, gay stink about your Everlasting Gay Love is the kiss of gay death. Remember Bob and Rod and "my husband" and Straight From the Heart? Or Melissa and Julie blabbing away on Larry King Live about their rock-solid lesbian love and David Crosby's sperm? Or, if it's not too painful, remember Anne and Ellen gushing away at each other on Oprah? Closer to home, remember the last lesbian member of the Seattle City Council? The one who went through a very messy lesbian divorce shortly after she and her girlfriend and their two kids appeared on a poster about gay families?

(Yes, yes, I know: I wrote a book about adopting my son, The Kid, in which I made a big gay stink about my big gay relationship. But I opened the book with my boyfriend and I fighting, and nowhere in the book do I go into all the oopy-goopy reasons I love him. I even contemplated the odds that our relationship wouldn't last, in an effort to avoid the calling-attention-to-your-gay-relationship jinx.)

So I had two very good reasons to back out of writing about my LTR: Writing this piece was bad form ("He's bragging about eight years!") and it was bad luck ("Don't tempt fate!"). But no one else would write it... and we can't have an empty page in the issue... and... uh... so... without further delay, and with a great deal of trepidation, here is everything gay men need to do to find everlasting gay love.

1. Get drunk in bars. Whenever I speak at colleges--something I do three or four times a year--some well-scrubbed 19-year-old faggot stands up and makes the following speech: "I hate the bar scene, I don't drink, and I refuse to have one-night stands. I want a commitment, kids, stability, and lasting love--like you, Dan. Tell me, where do you meet quality gay men interested in long-term relationships?" Then I have to break it to the boy--who obviously didn't read my book--that I met my boyfriend in a bar, we were both drunk, and we had a one-night stand, which leads to my next tip...

2. Have one-night stands. Most of the guys you'll have one-night stands with won't be boyfriend material--that goes without saying--but don't fall into the trap of assuming that none of the guys with whom you have one-night stands are boyfriend material. All gay guys have one-night stands (even, I suspect, boys who make speeches in college lecture halls about how they would never, ever have a one-night stand), and some most definitely are boyfriend material. This cute 23-year-old I had a one-night stand with after we met one night at Re-bar certainly turned out to be boyfriend material.

3. Take it slow. A true story: I was invited to Christmas dinner at the house of a gay couple I barely knew. They had recently exchanged rings at a big commitment ceremony, and there was a three-foot-by-four-foot framed photograph of them hanging over the fireplace in their living room. They were shirtless in the photo--classy!--and their rings were prominently displayed. How long had they been together? Eight years? Try eight months--and they didn't make it to their first anniversary, much less their bronze. The moral of this story? The road to gay hell is paved with invitations to premature commitment ceremonies.

4. Be his whore. Any and all sexual requests that don't involve shit, puke, blood, kids, or posing shirtless for "arty" photos must be cheerfully fulfilled. If your boyfriend is into something you simply can't get into, you have to give him permission to do it with someone else. If your boyfriend wants to spank someone and you don't want to be spanked, you can either give him permission to spank someone else or stew over the fact that he is, without a doubt, spanking your best friend.

5. Fight. Another story: My boyfriend and I were friends with another gay couple, two men who never, ever fought. This non-fighting couple called us "the Bickersons," and predicted our relationship wouldn't last--look how much we fought!--and we wondered why we couldn't be more like them. Then one day they had a fight--their very first--and promptly broke up. The moral of the story: A little fighting seasons the pot. The couple that has some practice resolving small issues with a little shouting and glass-tossing is better able to fight their way through the big issues.

6. Don't be monogamous. Another true story: At a Thanksgiving dinner almost eight years ago, a monogamous gay couple asserted that non-monogamous gay couples don't last. I loudly disagreed. The monogamous gay couple predicted that no relationship I was in would ever last, and... you can see it coming, right? Monogamous gay couple breaks up three months later. I'm still with the date I brought to that Thanksgiving dinner.

7. Be monogamous--kinda, sorta. By setting restrictive limits--no dating, no overnights, don't spank my best friend--a gay couple makes the actual having of sex with other people highly unlikely. Still, knowing that you could have sex with someone else, if the right circumstances should ever present themselves, is something of a comfort to naturally non-monogamous males. I have found that the possibility of having sex with someone else every once in a long while makes the reality of not having sex with other people every day bearable. It's something of a paradox, I'll admit, but living in hope--even false hope--seems to make staying faithful easier.

8. If telling a lie will keep the peace, tell the lie--but only tell lies about small stuff. For example, it's okay to tell your boyfriend that you had to work late because your computer crashed and ate your half-finished column when in actual fact you went out for a drink with your co-workers. It's not okay to tell your boyfriend that you had to work late when in actual fact you were spanking his best friend.

9. Have other friends. Boyfriend and best friend are two different roles--and, anyway, if your boyfriend is your best friend, you're going to get into a shitload of trouble when you complain to your best friend about what an asshole your boyfriend can be.

10. Finally, however long you've been together, however everlasting your love feels, don't run around tempting fate. Don't yammer on and on about your "wife," ê la Ellen and Anne, or your "husband," ê la Bob and Rod. It's a wonderful thing to be in love, yes indeed, but use some restraint. If you're in love with him, pour your heart out to him, not Oprah.