Last Fall, I began dating an awesome guy. He’s nerdy, a real feminist, and is just as much in love with me as I am with him. Things have been great and we both know how to use our words to make things even better. As it stands, we’re both in this for the long haul and have discussed plans of moving in together when I graduate from college and eventually of getting married. I am so excited about life with this guy.
My problem is that I come from a super conservative Christian sub-culture and my boyfriend is an atheist. While I’m super cool with his personal views on religion (and he is of mine as well, yay!) most of my friends, family, and people I interact with at church have made it their business to go out of their way to tell me to end things with him. Everyone sees my relationship as something wrong and offensive to God. In their eyes, they’re just helping me “do what’s right” but it’s emotionally exhausting and always makes me upset with the people.
As it stands, there’s literally nothing these people could say to me that would actually make me break up with him. But I’m tired of having to act nice when people tell me off for dating someone who isn’t a Christian. Since you are the master of awesome shut-down scripts, I was wondering if you might have anything up your sleeve for people trying to get me “out of my sinful relationship” when this (super hurtful) behavior is considered acceptable (and encouraged) within the sub-culture I am in.
(On a side note, I’m planning on joining a much more awesome denomination/church when I graduate from college, but as I am going to a college funded by this denomination, I’m stuck in place for a year.)
Thanks for your help,
Dear Happily Dating:
I think this is one of those cases where the best snappy comeback is frank sincerity.
- “I’m very happy with Boyfriend, thanks for asking.”
- “That really hurts my feelings. Please stop.”
- “It is not okay for you to tell me who I can date.”
- “That’s not actually your business. Back off.”
- “Your concern is misplaced. Please stop talking now.”
- “I refuse to discuss this with you.”
- “That wasn’t an invitation to negotiate, that was me telling you to stop talking about this.”
If it’s like, a really sweet old lady or someone you really don’t want to offend, try “Hmm that’s interesting” or “Wow I’ll think about it” but know that there is no perfect feel-good way to say “BOUNDARIES!” to people who are trammeling yours. If you can, whatever you say, use a flat tone and repeat yourself like a broken record. Make it very boring to bring up this topic with you.
With this group, it sounds like WHATEVER you say that is not “Oh yes you’re right thank you so much for your kind concern, I will do what you say immediately” will be taken as a) the HEIGHT of rudeness and b) proof positive that this boyfriend is a bad influence on you and that they are right to try to separate you.The game is sort of rigged so that if they win if you break up with him, they win if you go all out trying to convert him, and they win the longer they get you to pay attention to them and the more you try to convince them that he’s great, because it gives them the illusion that you care about their opinion about this and that they have power in this arena. Any of those outcomes validates the idea that they were right to speak up.
A victory here isn’t getting them to agree with you, it’s getting them to stop bringing it up, or, when they do, to cut those conversations very, very short. So say something short and conversation-ending and then do what you have to do to actually end the conversation if they keep going.
- “I’ve asked you twice to stop bringing this up. New topic, now.”
- “You’ve made your opinion very clear. I still disagree with it. Stop.”
- “This is exhausting to talk about. I don’t want to go through it again.”
- “This is not going to alienate me from my boyfriend, but your refusal to actually listen to me is alienating me from you. Right now. Stop.”
Be boring and sincere. Repeat as necessary. Move away. You’ll find a cooler church next year. If you haven’t seen it, allow me to recommend The Wise Kids, an indie film directed by Stephen Cone (and art-directed by my genius friend Caity Birmingham). It’s about coming-of-age in a small, conservative church community, and while there is indeed pressure to conform to certain beliefs and behaviors, the big stuff is handled with love, compassion, and respect.