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updated 1/30/2008 4:36:34 PM ET 2008-01-30T21:36:34

Q. I am a single mother of a 3-year-old boy, the result of an unplanned pregnancy. His father is a mess and not much a part of his life. A divorce is in the works.

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Recently, a very close friend of mine who is a gay man has decided to enlist in the military. He has proposed a solution to both of our dilemmas by asking that we marry.

He is a wonderful man who loves my son like his own. We get along tremendously well and have been friends for 10 years. He would be my perfect match were he not homosexual.

To my surprise, I am considering his proposal. I am so exhausted from the last four years that the idea of having a second pair of hands, plus income and love for my son, is infinitely appealing. I also understand and respect his fears about being “discovered” by the military.

I consider myself to be a moral, intellectual and law-abiding individual, and I am having a difficult time separating my need for help from what is sensible and realistic. I am 28 years old and aware that I have so much more time to find a good mate. Can you help me sort this out?

A. When you are emotionally exhausted and have been burned often, it’s hard to see any potential for the future. So it’s tempting to throw in the towel and take the safe route.

Marriage to your gay friend is an entirely safe option, or at least appears to be. There’s no possibility of risk and rejection because there is no investment. You are not investing love, romance or sexual feelings, so you figure you aren’t vulnerable.

While I certainly can sympathize, I think that if you avoid risk, you avoid gain. It would be sad for you, at age 28, to shut the door on any potential for finding love. I think it would be a mistake to marry your friend.

On his end, there are many gay and unmarried men in the military, where they “don’t ask, don’t tell.” It is not imperative that your friend be married to join the military. So you don’t need to do this for his sake.

This seems to be about somebody providing a safety net for you. But it sounds as though he already does this. He is a male role model and an important part of your life and your son’s. You don’t need him to be your husband in order for him to continue in this role.

If you want to marry him for financial help, it is likely this will cause disputes in the future. Couples argue more about money than anything else. And these are couples who love each other and are building a life together. You two, even though you are extremely fond of each other, don’t have such a connection. There’s a great likelihood you will at some point start arguing about money, and one of you will become really resentful.

Not only that, but by marrying you are announcing to the world that you are unavailable. So you are closing the door on having a future sexual partner, and so is your friend. He won’t be in the military forever. When he finishes there, he might want to find love with a man. So you are harming chances for both of you to find what you really want.

Children aren’t dumb. As your son grows up, he will perceive the situation and know you aren’t a real couple. So think about the example you are sending to your son. Do you want him to grow up and have a romance-free relationship of his own?

You are young and have plenty of time ahead of you. It’s premature at age 28 to decide that hope is dead in the arena of love. Love is something that everyone is entitled to try for.

If you really want your friend around, he can move in like an uncle or a roommate. People have relatives and friends sharing their living quarters all the time. But I see no advantage to living a lie.

Though it is unfortunate you have such a difficult time with your ex-husband, this does not mean you are destined to forgo love forever. If you feel really hopeless, I advise you to seek therapy to see whether you are somehow attracted only to men who can never be right for you.

Dr. Gail’s Bottom Line: Marrying a gay friend, who seems to offer many advantages, will close you off to real romance in the future and is unlikely to turn out well.

Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to TODAY. Her latest book is “Anatomy of a Secret Life: The Psychology of Living a Lie.” She is also the author of “Amazing You! Getting Smart About Your Private Parts,” which helps parents deal with preschoolers’ questions about sex and reproduction. Her first book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was published in 2004 by Riverhead Books. It is now available in a paperback version. For more information, you can visit her Web site, www.drgailsaltz.com.

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