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I've been dating a guy who I met on Match.com for 10 months, and we're monogamous. He's great overall, and I would say for the most part we both want it to work out, but I am having a problem with his friends and other lifestyle choices.

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All of his friends are straight, and almost all of them are women. All of my friends have always been gay men, like me, so I find this strange. I don't have any problem with women, but I don't hang out with any women, and neither do most of my friends.

He makes dinner plans for us with his straight friends almost every week, and I grin and bear it, but don't enjoy it. They're always old co-workers, so the whole conversation is them talking about old times, or straighty talk about their children. It's incredibly boring. Besides being straight, many of them are just oddballs; between the physical traits and personality quirks, they're like the island of misfit toys.

He's met my friends, and likes some of them but dislikes others. It's obvious that he is not comfortable relating to gay men, generally speaking. He does not seem knowledgeable about gay history or culture. For example, he strongly dislikes drag queens, and never goes to gay bars.

There is one woman in particular who he makes dinner for every Friday night. It's a standing date that he's only occasionally been flexible about changing to accommodate plans for the two of us, and I am never invited to join them. Now, he's planning a week-long vacation with her. When he first mentioned this trip to me, he asked if I would want to spend a week camping and I said no, because I don't like camping. He immediately went forward with planning it with her. I'm pretty sure the two of them had already hatched this plan during one of their dinners, and I don't think he ever really wanted me to go. I think it's WEIRD to want to go camping for an entire week with some old lady.

He does other weird things too, like belonging to a strange new-age church, which is definitely at odds with my strongly held anti-religious views. He has asked me to attend his church services on the occasions when he addresses the group as a lay-person, and I went once, and it made me EXTREMELY uncomfortable to be there. I told him that afterwards, and the fact that I didn't like it just turned into a seemingly unsolvable problem between us. He says I'm not being "supportive."

I need some advice on how to get past my intense feelings of aversion to the weirdness. How can I not let our differences completely destroy the relationship?

Odd Man Out

Differences don't have to destroy a relationship—differences can actually enhance and help to sustain a relationship. But for differences to have those effects, OMO, both partners have to appreciate each other's differences. You don't sound appreciative. You sound contemptuous. And that's a problem. Take it away, Gottman Institute...

You may know Dr. John Gottman as “the guy that can predict divorce with over 90% accuracy.” [After] watching thousands of couples argue in his lab, he was able to identify specific negative communication patterns that predict divorce. He called them The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and they are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Contempt is the most destructive of The Four Horsemen... In his book Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, Dr. Gottman notes:

When contempt begins to overwhelm your relationship you tend to forget entirely your partner’s positive qualities, at least while you’re feeling upset. You can’t remember a single positive quality or act. This immediate decay of admiration is an important reason why contempt ought to be banned from marital interactions.

Contempt erodes the bond that holds a couple securely together. It’s impossible to build connection when your relationship is deprived of respect.

You've only been together 10 months, OMO, and it sounds like contempt has already overwhelmed your relationship. It's not just that you dislike his friends, you're contemptuous of them; it's not just that you don't share his spiritual beliefs, you're contemptuous of them; it's not just that his gayness is expressed in a different-than-yours but still perfectly valid way, you're contemptuous of him as a gay man. Because he doesn't watch Drag Race or hang out in gay bars. Because he's got a lot of female friends. Because he's happy to sit talk with his straight friends about their kids. (There's nothing "straighty" about kid conversations. Gay parents take part in those conversations. And while we're in this parenthesis: I can't understand why anyone would waste their time actively disliking drag queens. But whatever.)

This relationship might work if you were capable of appreciating the areas where you two overlap—your shared interests (including your shared interest in each other)—and content to let him go off and enjoy his friends, his woo-hoo church, and his Friday nights on his own. A growing body of the research shows that divergent interests + some time away from each other + mutual respect = longterm relationship success. You're missing the "mutual respect" part and where this formula is concerned, OMO, two out of three ain't enough.

Here's how it might look if you could appreciate your differences: you'd do the things you enjoy doing together—like, say, each other—but on Friday nights he makes dinner for his bestie and you hit the gay bars with your gay friends to catch a drag show. You would go on lots of vacations together but once in a while he'd go on vacation with one of his "straighty" friend and once in a while you'd go on vacation with all your gay friends. On Sundays he'd go to woo-hoo church and you'd sleep in or binge watch Pose. You'd be happy to let him be him and he'd be happy to let you be you and together the two of you would add up to an interesting, discordant, compelling "we."

But I honestly don't think you have it in you.

P.S. I have lots of straight friends and I'm a parent and sometimes I talk with other parents about our children and I rarely go to gay bars and I haven't gotten around to watching Pose yet—or the most recent season of Drag Race. Saddened to learn that after all these years and all those dicks that I'm terrible at being gay.

Listen to my podcast, the Savage Lovecast, at www.savagelovecast.com.

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