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SHOULD I KEEP MY ODD-LOOKING SHORT-BUS BOYFRIEND?
    or
WHAT'S IDEAL VERSUS WHAT'S REAL
DEAR MIDLIFE BACHELOR::
I met a guy online, and after several months of talking on the phone I went to Montana to meet him. My first reaction on seeing him was "I want to go home" because he stunk like cigarettes and just looked, well, kind of low class compared to me. But I have to remember that I live in Orange County, CA and very few places have the type of "perfect people" I am used to seeing.

We had a good weekend. I went home and then went back for a week, and he flew here to be with me in CA for a year (he'd never been here before).

He LOVES me. Is ready to change his life for me. Will be loyal and sweet and good to me. I trust him, I think he has a heart of gold. The sex is good (just wish it lasted longer), the kissing is awesome. His looks are okay, he's a bit outdated (picture the 70's - long hair). He is not as intelligent as me, and knows it. His passion is music and the outdoors.

Things that bother me the most:

1. He has a white trash bbitch for an ex-wife (and I am not usually a name-caller).

2. His intelligence level is low. For example - he

watches Sponge Bob, I watch CNN. I like stimulating conversation on various topics, and he would not be able to meet that need - but I have plenty of friends for that.

3. His speech is a bit odd-sounding - he doesn't talk quite right, which does not help since he's not that bright to begin with.

4. I feel kind of embarrassed to be seen with him. Here in OC, I feel like I need to make excuses like "I know he looks weird, but he's wonderful on the inside." I never thought I cared what others thought but I guess I do.

5. Financially, he struggles there so I don't know how he'd make it work here in SoCal. I lost my job 3 months ago so I am unemployed (which makes it easy for me to travel to see him).

So I have hinted around that it's not going to work but just can't seem to break it off. I fear that no one else will come along, and no one will love me like he does. I have been single all my life (I'll be 50 soon, he's 43). I have never wanted to settle but at this age, how picky can I be? He thinks I am a goddess!

I can't afford professional counseling but this is important enough to me that I am considering it. One friend said this: The reason I never get far in a relationship is because I wait to see if it's going to work before I make a commitment, ... and instead of doing that - I should make a commitment to make it work because all relationships take work, and finding a good man is not easy. He IS a good man when it comes to integrity, etc.

You seem to be somewhat of an expert when it comes to relationships and know what men like. If I let this guy go, will I ever meet someone else? No one has asked me out on a date in 20 frigging years (not counting online dating which I REFUSE to do again because the rejection factor is so high).

Thank you for reading this. I appreciate an unbiased answer. Oh one thing I should add - my 18 yr. old is a drug addict and just got out of jail. He is not daunted by this and cares very much for my son even though he did not get to meet him when he was recently here due to my son's incarceration. So, I have a lot of stress in my life right now: two elderly relatives I semi-take care of, no job, an addicted kid and a relationship I am unsure of. Plus I am turning 50 in Sept! SSSHIT!

MIDLIFE BACHELOR ANSWER: Wow - that was a lot to process ... but I think I got it all! ;o) You have a lot going on in your life ... your son is a recovering addict, you are out of work, you are caring for some elderly relatives, and you have this guy in your life who you obviously feel is beneath you. The sour economy certainly doesn't help any of this - so my heart goes out to you. And I personally spend a lot of time in Orange County so I know it is an expensive place with expensive and perfect-looking people ... which means I feel like I have an excellent grasp of your situation.

Here are my thoughts. Concerning ALL relationships (friendships, work-related, intimate, etc.) - there is what's ideal, and there is what's real. Lately for me - the economy has forced me to contemplate the tremendous value of interpersonal relationships overall. These days more than ever, I believe that people and relationships are the most valuable thing in everyone's life. This doesn't mean you should form relationships with everyone - but it does mean that those relationships which are strategically important to you should be treasured and valued. In other words, decide what is most important to you - and then strive to enhance the relationships with those which align most closely with your needs and goals. It sounds so obvious and simple - but I can tell you that most people don't do that ... I know I didn't necessarily do that until recently ... I am currently making a very conscious/deliberate effort at it.

Now what I just wrote was my philosophical answer. Here comes some reality. You enclosed a photo of the two of you - and yes, you are correct ... he is strange-looking (especially from an Orange County perspective). If he smells like cigarette smoke, then that is a huge negative in my book. And if he is dumb as a rock, then that can either be good or bad. I've had a few very hot hot hot girlfriends in the past that were really focking dumb ... and I used to rationalize it by telling myself "no brains, no headaches" ... and then I'd laugh ... ha ha ha. Anyway - he doesn't have Brad Pitt looks ... so the compensating factor for low intelligence is not there. Being embarrassed to be seen with him is hard to overcome ... I don't think I'd be able to personally overcome this one, but that's just me.

So the aforementioned were some pretty big negatives. He does have some really good positives - and I think you should very carefully think about those. He treats you like a queen, and loves you like you hung the moon. He is high integrity - I think that is huge in today's world. He cares about your son. He must turn you on - otherwise you wouldn't be in this situation. Those are all so brief to describe - but so large in reality.

Now you say that you are almost 50 ... and you're afraid that if you give him the boot, that you won't find anyone else ever. That COULD be true, but the flip side of that is - if you don't cut him loose, then you never stand a chance to meet another Mr. Right. It's a gamble - I know. I can say that you are not a bad looking woman at all ... so I don't think you're in as desperate a situation as maybe you think you are. I think what makes you especially vulnerable right now to leaning toward what is easy and stable are all the other things going on in your life ... unemployment, incarceration of your son, assisting the elderly relatives, etc. In other words, you might be tending toward settling because this man appears to be the one good thing in your life at this particular moment ... but I think your current bad luck is situational and coincidental, and therefore I'd be especially cautious about making long-term decisions right now - in particular about this man (like marriage). Why not simply choose the status quo? Deciding NOT to decide might just be the best decision. That is exactly what I would do.

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