Dear Alice,

How can I support a man with Klinefelter's syndrome emotionally and physically, that I have just begun dating? He was very blunt and upfront with his condition.

Caring Partner

Dear Caring Partner,

You are a very kind and considerate person to think about his needs and how you can be the best partner in this situation.

Learning about Klinefelter's syndrome will help you understand your partner and where he is coming from. Klinefelter's syndrome is a condition that occurs in men as a result of an extra X chromosome (XXY instead of XY). Men with Klinefelter's are commonly infertile. Other traits of XXY men may include breast enlargement (called gynecomastia in men), tall stature, and sparse body hair. See the National Institutes of Health website for more information on Klinefelter's Syndrome.

Some men with Klinefelter's syndrome may use testosterone therapy to foster a more "masculine" appearance. For example, testosterone treatments can increase muscle mass and strength and also promote hair growth. Many men with Klinefelter's also seek out support groups and/or counseling to help deal with some of the psychological issues that can accompany this syndrome. There are websites to help people with Klinefelter's and their loved ones find support groups like the American Association for Klinefelter Syndrome Information and Support and Klinefelter Syndrome Support Group. Couples counseling may also be a good option. Columbia students may contact Counseling and Psychological Services at x4-2878 for either individual or couples counseling.

Being emotionally supportive and open is important. This may mean supporting your partner by being there for him, validating his choices, and accepting his differences. In your case it may mean accepting his treatment choices, being there for him in his decisions and communicating about your feelings. You mention that he was brunt and upfront about his condition — being supportive in this case might mean accepting that this is how he deals with telling people about his condition. Over time you will build up trust and it can become easier to talk about sensitive issues.

Physically supporting your partner is also something you should be open and honest about. Intimacy may take time, and it is important that you communicate your feelings and listen to your partner's needs. He may have been upfront because of the physical effects of Klinefelter's syndrome, and it may be a good idea to take a slow approach to being intimate. The most important thing is that you communicate with one another and do what feels right for you both.

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