My boyfriend grew up around people whom he describes as ‘hateful and angry,’ who would call you [insert slur] if you pointed out their racism and misogyny. Later, he fell in with some really scary addicts. When I met him, the hard drugs and more violent people were gone, but he’s still friends with the non-violent ones.
My problem: Boyfriend’s BFF, ‘Jerkface.’ In no particular order:
1) He’s racist.
2) He’s fat-phobic.
3) He hates anyone who’s not an atheist.
4) He’s sexist. When I call him out for telling rape jokes, he says I’m overreacting.
5) He mansplains. A friend once told him “Don’t be so condescending,” and pushed him through a window. Bystanders shrugged and said, “To be fair, he is really condescending.”
6) He used to hit on me constantly, in front of Boyfriend. He’d angrily mention how he called dibs on me, tell obscene jokes about me, ask me out, and lie about hooking up with me.
7) He encourages Boyfriend to drink WAY too much.
Much of this happens when Boyfriend is drunk, and he (a) does nothing and (b) doesn’t remember anything afterwards. Many people avoid Jerkface whenever possible; one even asked, “How does he get invited places if no one likes him?” I’m afraid people will assume Boyfriend is also a horrible person and avoid us too.
I confronted Boyfriend, and he acknowledges that Jerkface is a bigot, but says he’s just a product of their environment. If they were to meet for the first time today, he wouldn’t become friends with Jerkface, but they’ve been friends for 15 years and he’s like family.
However, Boyfriend also said he wants to be an ally. He’s been very receptive to the reading material I’ve given him. I told him I don’t want to be around Jerkface, and if Boyfriend wants to be with me, he needs to go to counseling and learn to confront Jerkface and his ilk.
Consequently, I haven’t seen Jerkface in months, Boyfriend spends much less time with him, and drinks much less. However, Boyfriend has admitted that he still can’t find the words to confront Jerkface because he’s worried about derails, like “You didn’t mind before” or “Girlfriend is just like Yoko Ono.”
Our relationship depends on Boyfriend’s either African Violet-ing the asshole or learning how to tell him off. So,
1) Can you suggest a script my boyfriend can use to talk to Jerkface?
2) Jerkface is engaged, and Boyfriend will be their Best Man. I don’t know if I’ll go to the wedding. I don’t want to cause stress on their big day, or put Boyfriend in the middle. What do you think?
Thanks so much!
I believe you that Jerkface is completely awful, and I applaud your decision to never spend time with him. Don’t go to the wedding (and don’t apologize for not going). Ask that Jerkface never be invited to your house. If you go somewhere and Jerkface also shows up, ask for your boyfriend’s backup when you say “Let’s get out of here.” If your boyfriend won’t have your back, these are indeed dealbreakers.
But I think you’ve already won this one, right? Boyfriend was receptive to your suggestions, up to and including “reading material,” and you don’t have to deal with Jerkface anymore. So what’s this ultimatum that he has to “confront” Jerkface or stop being friends with him or lose your relationship? What’s this worry that “people” will think your boyfriend is like Jerkface and avoid you?
Because, honestly, “unspecified people might think _____ about you (if you don’t do what I want)” is not-so-secret code for “I almost definitely think _______ about you.”
While we’re decoding secret messages, it’s very possible that “I want to confront him like you want me to, but I just don’t know how/can’t find the words” means “I agree with you and you are right about everything, but despite that he’s still kind of important to me and I don’t feel right totally cutting him off so am stalling for time.”
Jerkface is objectively awful. But if he’s not really in your life anymore, this maybe isn’t about him anymore. This is maybe about you trying to scrub the last vestige of Eau de Jerkface off your boyfriend. This is maybe about his history of irresponsible alcohol use, and about him taking some steps to reassure you that he won’t fall into old ways. (Acting like a dick when drunk and then conveniently not remembering it afterward is a Your Boyfriend problem, not a Jerkface problem).
If your boyfriend confronts or de-friends Jerkface, it’s serving some kind of ritual purpose in proving that he’s transcended his upbringing and is ready to be a good partner for you. And it puts the blame safely on Jerkface, instead of on your anxieties about other things in this relationship, like, will his drinking get out of control again even if he’s not around Jerkface? Will he, in moments of stress, fall back on old habits and say terrible stuff (or watch as his friends say terrible stuff) and then not remember it?
I don’t know, maybe it’s okay to want that proof that your boyfriend really has left his old ways behind. But maybe, if your boyfriend is otherwise doing right by you and is respecting your wishes to never be around Jerkface, this is one where you can be graceful in victory and trust time to solve the rest.
My suggested action for your boyfriend is to RSVP that he’ll be coming to the wedding solo. No need to call attention to it or confront anyone; that’s what they make those little response cards for. I think Jerkface might be onto the fact that you don’t like him and can feel however he wants about the fact that you won’t be there. If Jerkface does make a thing about it, your boyfriend can just keep repeating the basic facts – “Whatever, man, she isn’t coming. But I’ll be there!” and if Jerkface calls you Yoko Ono (like that’s an insult?) your boyfriend can say “Whoa, let’s change the subject” and then change the subject.
The script for you is “He has been rude enough to me that I am sure I never want to be in the same room as him again. As long as you can respect that and not pressure me about it, you run your relationship with him how you want. I love you.”
Because weddings sometimes bring out the worst in everyone, I must ask: Have you socialized much with the bride? Does she know about your dislike of Jerkface? Do you think she’ll get into the middle of things if you refuse to go, or see it as a referendum on their beautiful love? Even if she is totally oblivious to/chill about your history with Jerkface, get ready for him or your boyfriend to try to use her as a trump card to pressure you to go to the wedding, like, “I know you hate Jerkface, but consider the BRIDE on her SPECIAL DAY that you are RUINING.”
Keep these scripts up your sleeve just in case:
- “Oh my god, I didn’t know I had the power to singlehandedly ruin someone’s wedding! That’s amazing. Do you think if I really focused my powers, I could convince her to marry someone cooler?”
- “You’ll probably have way more fun without having The Disapproving Feminist looking down her nose at y’all, and I’ll definitely have more fun at home, reading bel hooks and drinking wine in the bath.”
- “I think hating the groom’s guts pretty much obligates me to refuse the wedding invitation, actually.”
- If talking TO the bride, try for “I hope you will have a great wedding day and be very happy. Sorry, I just won’t be able to attend.” No need to explain why. It’s a party, not a compulsory work meeting.
That way Jerkface and the future Mrs. Jerkface (!?!) don’t have to pay for dinner for someone who hates them, you don’t have to hang out with Jerkface, and boyfriend doesn’t have to drop out of the wedding of his oldest friend.
70 thoughts on “#396: How do I get my boyfriend to dump his Darth Vader BFF?”
I have nothing to say except that I LOVE that image. So hard.
I think your Jerkface is my BIL, who also encourages my sweet husband to drink too much and make poor decisions. The day she showed up at our house drunk, high, and with an illegal weapon, I finally said ENOUGH. And husband agreed, and laid down the boundaries. BIL wont come to my house anymore because I’m an “uptight bitch” but I’m ok with that because whats important is my mate stood up for me. Just like it sounds like your boyfriend has done for you.
No I don’t like my husband hanging out with him at BIL’s house just like you don’t like BF hanging out with Jerkface even if it is away from you. but the Captain is right, if this person is still somehow important to your boyfriend, and he doesn’t come around you or your home, then its OK for BF to have a separate relationship with Jerkface from the two of you.
And I can tell you from personal experience, the more time BF spend away from Jerkface, the more he will see how toxic the relationship is. At least, that’s what has happened with my husband and his brother.
Jedi Hugs! I know how frustrating it can be.
You know LW, I had a similar sitch with my BF but the Jerkfaces were multiple. He was part of a really toxic group in his early twenties, that were all kinds of fucked up (sexist, racist and all mad heavy drinkers). They were also weirdly controlling and very socially coercive (if you didn’t want to drink/go out – too bad! Everyone will bully you for being ‘boring’ AND no-one is allowed to date outside the group – if you do, everyone will mock and be mean to the new partner so that they’ll give up and go away).
Anyway I hated them like…well, like people who refused to use my name and only referred to me as ‘front bum’…and slowly over time and talks my bf realised how much they upset me and maybe weren’t that good for him either?
But even though he was respecting my desires to NEVER HAVE TO SEE THEM, and was standing up for me if they said something mean or rude about me and managed his own drinking without ‘getting’ pressured by them to drink more than he wanted, still, still, it wasn’t enough.
I wanted them GONE, I wanted all bridges burnt and nothing left but scorched earth, so I feel you on this. But I then realised that if I didn’t have to see them, if I trusted my bf to support me in what I needed to feel safe around them (and him) it didn’t matter that occasionally he still wants to see some of the original group. History is so hard to cut off, and even though I think they are ginormous dicks, he still has some good time memories. And I had to respect that.
So I moved my shoulders from up around my ears, confirmed the boundaries I needed, and let *him* deal with the rest of the crap/difficulty/whatever associated with still being friends with them. I never see or speak to them, so really, it’s all good!
Good luck, I know this is really hard.
Excellent reply! I think there may also be an element of “how can I totally feel safe and trust that you have my back against misogynistic, racist, overbearing assholes when you still have one that you call ‘friend’?” Which would be reasonable, and you may need to talk that through.
Do be careful, though, that you don’t get carried away setting the terms and conditions of your relationship. Relationships do involve give and take, and it’s pretty common for a relationship to involve putting up with people you don’t like (all too often with all the additional baggage of them being literal faaaamily!). If your BF isn’t actually making you put up with the guy in person — if all you are having to put up with is the IDEA of the guy still being in your BF’s sphere — and you make that a dealbreaker, you are skirting the border of controlling nightmare territory, where your BF might feel the need to reject your ultimatum not because he’s that invested in the Darth Vader BFF, but because you’re not the boss of him.
Yes! I was having these thoughts too. I think it is reasonable to have these doubts about safety, or about what someone’s core values (especially as they affect decisions about you/people like you/people you care about) *really* are. I have had these doubts myself, about a partner’s friends/faaaaamily being shitty to me, and that making me wonder if my partner really respected me or thought these people were wrong. I am struggling with it now, and it’s not fun. What has helped for me is expressing these doubts, and identifying what I personally can and cannot do. If I can’t make myself sit through Thanksgiving dinner if my partner’s nightmare sister who just tried to use me as a pawn to get at her brother (It didn’t work, Using Your Words is awesome, I remain unmoved by hearing that she cried, thankfully partner is with me there), well, I don’t have to do it. I am not over the moon that we’re not both off the crazy train, but my wishes are being respected and my input is being heard, and I think that doing it this way has helped toxic patterns be seen and no longer validated. It’s not fun and it can feel crappy and it makes you tired, but it’s vastly preferable to ultimatums, which creep me out personally because isolating people is on the list of abusive behaviors, and I do not want that– even if some part of me wants to cry, “But it’s just this one velociraptor, because he/she is so very bitey!” That’s my mileage, others’ may vary, that’s cool.
LW, even though you may have already won by never having to see Jerkface ever again, I think it’s completely understandable to want him out of your boyfriend’s life. I disagree a little bit with the Cap’s suggestion too, too – I don’t think it’s no longer about him and about your boyfriend instead. It’s absolutely fair for you to not want your boyfriend to be friends with someone (and therefore tacitly support) someone that has all of the horrible traits you’ve listed. Maybe if you explained to him that it wasn’t just about *you*, but about those behaviours that Jerkface is exhibiting to presumably *everyone he knows* he might understand and be more willing to cut Jerkface out of his life?
It’s perfectly understandable and reasonable to *want* him out her BF’s life. (Hell, it’s perfectly reasonable to want Jerkface to get sucked into a black hole! In fact, it’s perfectly reasonable to have an active fantasy life featuring Jerkface and horrific deaths!) That’s not the same as saying it’s reasonable to *expect/demand* her BF to cut an old friend out of his life on command.
The LW isn’t the only person who’s allowed to want things in their relationship, even if what he wants is to maintain some kind of relationship with a guy she (quite reasonably) can’t stand.
Flip it about: say the LW had a friend that the BF couldn’t stand. (Maybe a feminist friend who is overtly hostile toward him because of his associates?) And what if he didn’t stop at saying “I really don’t enjoy her company, can you please not make me hang out with her,” and instead said “If you want to be with me, you need to cut that bitch out of your life!” Wouldn’t we agree that he was being a controlling jerk? Because what business is it of his who she pals around with when they’re not together?
One should not claim rights in a relationship one would not be willing to grant one’s partner if the positions were reversed.
I’d say that it’s okay to feel like a particular association is something that you (general/hypothetical ‘you’) can’t handle in a partner. There are certain types of associations that I would not be able to handle my partner having. (For instance, I would not be able to have a partner who associated with my abuser.)
But you also have to accept that, if the person still refuses to cut the other person out of their life, that you can’t make them. You can decide that it’s a dealbreaker and walk, but you still can’t make them. And, unfortunately, in the same way that not deciding is still making a decision, stalling and stalling and making excuses and stalling on cutting someone off is, de facto, deciding not to cut them off.
“It’s absolutely fair for you to not want your boyfriend to be friends with someone (and therefore tacitly support) someone that has all of the horrible traits you’ve listed.”
I completely agree with this sentence, but only if “your boyfriend” is a hypothetical (and non-existent) person, not a real person who has their own friendships and priorities. I wouldn’t want my boyfriend (or girlfriend or partner of any kind) to have a friend like that, but if my partner is a real person then I don’t get to decide who my they are friends with.
You can’t make someone stop being friends with someone else. As Esti said below, LW, your boyfriend has already made it clear that he doesn’t want to stop hanging out with Jerkface, so even if he does break it off for you, he has still shown you that he would prefer to tacitly support Jerkface’s behaviour. If you decide you like him anyway and want to stay together, then that’s fine. Otherwise, though, the only thing you can control is whether or not he’s still your boyfriend.
I’ve had some success in dissuading a coworker from using the word ‘gay’ as a perjorative (at first he insisted that the word ‘gay’ has ceased to be offensive any more, and therefore it’s fine to use it as an insult…? Later he switched tacks and tried arguing that the word ‘gay’ as in ‘homosexual’ and ‘gay’ as in ‘that’s so gay’ actually have completely separate linguistic roots, and are only written and pronounced the same by total coincidence. Or at any rate, that MIGHT be the case, and therefore we should all err on the side of assuming that it is, and therefore no one has the right to be offended. Yeah.)
What worked for me was responding to every use of “this is so gay!” with an almost exaggeratedly deadpan, “yes, that is indeed a very homosexual printer cartridge, Michael*.” “Yes, Michael, it’s definitely an extremely homosexual network connection.” Etc. A few months on, it seems to have worked, in that he no longer uses that phrase around me.
Having said that, this is a guy who is convinced that he isn’t a homophobe, and he’s my peer rather than my boss- if either of those things weren’t true, I probably wouldn’t be comfortable trying this tactic. And my office still contains quite a bit of ambient racism, sexism, transphobia, etc- not sure how to tackle that, since it’s much more nebulous than one specific offensive phrase.
*not his real name
The image of you making the “not impressed” face as you solemnly agree that the printer is very homosexual made my morning.
Oh man, I’ve been trying to figure out how to get my boyfriend’s brothers to stop saying that around me (got the boyfriend to stop with a very simple “Hey, don’t say that around me, it’s mean” but I don’t have that much standing among his family), and this is perfect! It might not work, but I’ll feel better having said SOMETHING. Thanks! Just have to practice my deadpan…
NEAT! I’m dealing with this in my über-male-dominated job, and thus far simply calling out the use of “gay” isn’t doing the trick. So…I’m stealing this tactic. Thanks!
I thoroughly endorse this tactic. Oh man, I used that so much in High School before my progressive friends were progressive. I remember long hilarious conversations at Denny’s about the dramatic lives of our homosexual water glasses, and their struggle to get married like the straight salt and pepper shakers. (In less professional environments I am known to detail the sexual escapades of the aforementioned homosexual inanimate objects, but talking about your printer S ing another printers D is probably not appropriate for work. )
Now I am wondering about the mechanics of homosexual relations between various objects. And also wondering how you could tell. I suppose you could declare salt and pepper different sexes but if you’re gonna do that, each spice is going to be their own and every time we cook there’s some serious hanky-panky going on.
But printers? Assuming you caught printers boinking, how would you tell that it was homosexual boinkage? Is it based on the connector plugs? I imagine them saying, “All you need is an adapter and then it works just fine.”
Well I imagine that at one time printers and fax machines could have hooked up, but who has a fax machine anymore? (Plus, those hybrid coppier printer fax machines, what are those?) It is just further proof that the gender binary is bullshit.
They’re *obviously* the offspring of such illicit pairings. Or groupings. Or both. Or all.
I just laughed so hard I made a colleague jump – I love that printer adapter line! 😀
Curiosity is fine… just remember, no installing webcams!
Even if it’s a gay webcam?
I laughed beer thru my nose at this string :). Old printers all used parallel ports, the connector on the printers was always male so even with an adapter you have a female connector in there somewhere, so would a printer with an adapter be transgender somehow?
There maybe needs to be a tumblr where people submit photos of things that their friends call “gay.” “Here is my gay stapler!” “My coworker’s gaydar is amazing – today he’s identified a gay copier, a gay printer, a gay city ordinance, and a gay t-shirt!”
That would be superb.
This is totally my favorite tactic, and I have also had success with it. I think if everyone started doing that, all of the not-actually-homophobic people would just stop using the word “gay” as a pejorative out of embarrassment.
Yeah, “frown power” works. You don’t need to get into a political debate every time someone says something shitty, just grimace and roll your eyes. Most of the time people make these kinds of shitty comments it’s to get social approval, so just take it away. The people who continue to spew hateful shit are the ones who really believe it.
Oh, god, sorry! This was supposed to go in the comments to the question about dealing with asshole coworkers. I just kept refreshing and thinking it was caught in the spam trap- glad it spurred discussion though!
Something tells me that at a wedding involving this guy, you being unable to attend for unspecified reasons will NOT be on the top ten crises list and no one will make a big deal out of it.
LW, I think the Captain is right that what you want is some kind of proof that your boyfriend has really and truly rejected all of the bad things that are associated with Jerkface: the racism and the nastiness toward you and the drinking too much and the general assholeishness. And to some extent, that makes sense to me — I would probably not be super thrilled if the person I was dating had a best friend who was loudly and proudly racist or homophobic, even if I didn’t have to see them, because the fact that they were friends with the racist/homophobe (or someone who was nasty/harassing to me) would say some things about who they were as a person and how much they respected me as their girlfriend.
But — BUT — the solution is not to create ultimatums about that friendship. Because the problem here is not a friendship that you never have to see happen or a person that you never have to interact with. The problem is what you fear that friendship means about your boyfriend. And that is a problem best addressed directly, by assessing whether or not you otherwise think that your boyfriend is on the right page on the issues that matter to you and will have your back when something is directly affecting you. If you need him to prove he’s on the right page by telling this guy off even though you wouldn’t be there to see it and it wouldn’t affect your relationship in any way, then it sounds like maybe you DON’T trust that your boyfriend is on the right page and you should confront that head on instead of getting bogged down with Jerkface as a proxy for those concerns.
Because even if you somehow convinced your boyfriend to tell Jerkface to go to hell (and seriously, he’s shown you pretty clearly he doesn’t want to, because if he did want to and just didn’t know how to say it, he would be the one writing to the Captain asking for advice on how to tell your oldest friend to stop being a jerk), you would probably be left wondering whether boyfriend did it for the right reasons (as you see them) or because you made an ultimatum about it. You would always worry about what other jerkfaces might be out there, and whether your boyfriend really got it when you were angry about a racist joke someone told at a party, and whether if his uncle made a joke about you being fat he would have your back or awkwardly laugh along.
There are always going to be more jerkfaces, and you can’t expect to have veto power over all of the people in your boyfriend’s life. Sometimes he’ll have good reasons for wanting to put up with a jerkface (who is his boss, or a co-worker he needs to get along with, or a family member he doesn’t want to cut out of his life, or his very oldest friend who he can’t quite let go of), even if you don’t understand them all. If you trust 100% that he is a good guy who is on your side and believes in the things you believe in, then those jerkfaces won’t matter. But if you don’t — if the only solution to jerkfaces that you’re comfortable with is to demand he cut them out of his life because you’re just not sure he isn’t sort of, a little, maybe secretly, a jerkface too — then this Jerkface is really not the problem here.
I agree that the real issue here is what Boyfriend’s continued friendship with Jerkface says about Boyfriend’s values and safety. It’s important to address these deeper issues if you plan on staying with Boyfriend (which you don’t have to do! “I don’t want to date the kind of person who hangs out with bigots” is a perfectly valid reason for walking away from a relationship!). Making it about Jerkface lets Boyfriend think that this is just a matter of you not liking one of his friends, rather than about the fact that Boyfriend seems to think that racism, sexism, anti-religious bigotry, etc are OK. Kicking Jerkface out of his life is a necessary step — you can’t trust Boyfriend as long as Jerkface is around. But ditching Jerkface in isolation from any broader change in Boyfriend’s values will just leave the door open to future problems.
Unfortunately, the onus here is on Boyfriend to be willing to make these changes. You can’t make him change. All you can do is decide how much patience and help you’re willing to extend to him along his journey.
I agree a kajlillion percent with this. One of my personal philosophies that has done me very well in life is to take very seriously as a sign of someone’s character the kind of people with whom they willingly choose to associate, either professionally or personally.
Oops. Don’t know what went wrong there, sorry.
I want to point out that since your BF loves you and jerkface is really a jerkface sooner or later BF will notice and not want to be around him as much any more. As long as jerkface virtually does not exist for you you’re golden. My husband dislikes my girlfriend and chooses not to be around her. As he backed away from her and does not comment I have begun to realize she really is no prize pig and see her very rarely now. If he were always saying mean things about her I would likely become defensive.
I totally understand that you want him out of your boyfriends life, and I do think the Captain is right on with you wanting to know that your boyfriend is genuinely better than that. It’s a valid concern, I think – people can change, but it is a long and hard process. The thing is, if you make your boyfriend cut this guy out, you won’t ever know if it’s because he is.better, or he’s just doing what you want. The best way to get what you want here – to know if your boyfriend is really the person you want, is to wait and let him handle stuff himself, and see how he behaves without your guidance.
Yes; I was trying to put what I was thinking into words, and you’ve just done it, so I don’t need to. It’s got to be his decision. I think if the LW doesn’t make a big thing of it, the friendship may eventually die a natural death anyway because the two of them just don’t have much in common any more. Sometimes it can take both parties a while to realise that this has happened.
Hey LW, I agree with the Captain and other commenters that you cannot, can NOT, manage your boyfriend’s other relationships, no matter how awful the person on the other end is. Telling your boyfriend who he can or can’t associate with in the rest of his life is controlling behavior that takes away his agency and tries to make him dependent on your approval for parts of his life that may have nothing to do with you (or at least hopefully next to nothing to do with you once you’ve managed to excise those people from your immediate environment). The best you can do is to state your boundaries, make sure your boyfriend has your back, and keep the consistent messaging and hope that eventually he will cut the toxic out of his life when he’s ready to, and that such a day will be sooner rather than later. And if you really can’t live with that, if it is a dealbreaker for you, then you need to be the person to walk away, instead of forcing that onto your boyfriend.
I totally sympathize. I really do. My partner has an awful, awful friend that zie acknowledges is awful. However, this person offers mentoring in skills that are very important to my partner and that are difficult or impossible to find in our area. I’ve made my opinion abundantly clear, because I have to yell “asshole” pretty much every time this person comes up in conversation, otherwise the internal pressure of my contempt for him will cause me to explode. Often a diatribe ensues.
I’m not wrong about this asshole, and my partner agrees with me, though we have differed on how to handle the hot mess that this guy creates whenever he opens his mouth. My partner wants to know why I must step in the steaming poo instead of going around it or simply plugging my nose. Stepping in it will simply make me dirty and stinky no matter how good it may feel to squish my toes in it. And then I point out that zie’s the one who keeps inviting the asshole into our house, so that I have no choice but to deal with the poo pile in our living room. If zie doesn’t like my reaction, then maybe zie should avoid creating situations that result in poo where I live.
Anyway, my partner has long believed that the best approach is to take the person aside privately to discuss the problem behavior so that defensiveness in front of audience is minimized. And in fact, my partner and another colleague have both done so, without success as the asshole hasn’t learned or taken the critiques seriously or something. I pointed out that public silence is always interpreted as tacit approval, and it is incumbent on the peers from within the same privileged category to speak out in order to have the most impact. We’ve had lots of conversations about this, and my partner is slowly coming around to my point of view.
The wife of the asshole is a great person, though obviously with some poor judgment, which of course I can’t say, because that won’t help matters. I like her a lot, and so does my partner, but I have kept my distance, because poker face I do not have, and the contempt just rolls off me regarding her husband, and I simply can’t say anything nice about him. I have no desire to set up her back or force her to defend the indefensible. Plus I think he treats her terribly, and I just don’t want to be around that anymore than I want to be around his awful conversation. She knows he’s a problem. She apologizes for him regularly and points out how much improved he is compared to when he used to hang out with his asshole friends. And she offers to punch him whenever he says something awful, but turning it all into a joke just enables the shit to continue. Arrgghh, blood pressure already spiking…
The problem has become much more tolerable because, surprise, surprise, when his funding ran out at work, they weren’t able to to find more money and out he went, had to relocate to the other side of the country. The asshole and enabling/long-suffering wife are talking about coming for a visit, though thankfully it’s been postponed until next year instead of this holiday week. I pointed out to partner that there’s a high probability that the visit could end up with asshole permanently banned from our house. In the meantime, I’m practicing a script to use with him: “That is an act of aggression, please don’t do that around me.” Repeated ad nauseum without further explanation. Maybe escalating to inserting the observation “Also a technique popular with abusers and predators.”
Trust me, I’ve had problems with other people in my partner’s life too. I don’t get to dictate hir relationships with these people, no matter how much better our lives would be without them. I have avoided issuing ultimatums, because I tend to think it’s unfair to force someone into such a dichotomy. But I can point out the consequences of hir decisions for me individually and for us as a couple. I leave hir to make hir own decisions, and when I think they were the wrong decisions, we have a discussion about it and the consequences arising from it and why all of this is a problem. In this way, we adjust our mutual expectations and our behaviors and reach some sort of consensus about the situation moving forward. It’s not me dictating the other person’s “choices” including exactly what to say or do. Love, trust, respect require that my partner have agency equal to mine, even when our tastes and needs differ.
Good luck, and you’re right to stay away from the wedding. No good can come from attending. It certainly wouldn’t be taking care of yourself. Limit your exposure and trust that your boyfriend’s relationship with BFF will evolve into the desired trajectory.
I don’t think it is much to do with LW who her boyfriend is best friends with. It is fine for her not to want to be around this guy, more than fine considering his behaviour, but being in a sexual/romantic relationship with somebody gives you no special rights over their life, in my opinion. Just as the advice would go if you had a best friend whose partner you didn’t like, you have to suck it up and accept that that is who they want to be around, that they must get something out of it, and then just back off. You have no obligation to be around somebody you don’t like, just as your boyfriend has no obligation to stop being friends with his friend.
I wanted to point out that the LW isn’t saying her dealbreaker is “boyfriend keeping the friendship with Jerkface,” but “boyfriend keeping the friendship AND letting Jerkface’s behavior slide.” She’s not saying “him or me,” she’s saying “show me you have my back.” It sounds like she has pretty good reasons to think that her boyfriend does not have her back when this stuff comes up when she’s not around, and I think that is a perfectly excellent dealbreaker for her to have! Not only has Jerkface shown bigotry to all and sundry, he has specifically harrassed her in creepy ways, which is a LOT for her romantic partner to be letting slide, and using alcohol as an excuse only makes it worse (because not remembering the next day? that is blacking out, and that is some not-at-all-healthy alcohol use right there).
I do wish Boyfriend were the one writing the letter and asking for the scripts, here, so we knew what he wanted, but it would be possible to read this letter as accurate about what’s holding Boyfriend back, and the desire for scripts as coming from both of them. It’s also possible to read it as controlling, etc! But I’m noticing no one has supplied any scripts for *him* and he might actually want them.
I’m not as good at script-writing as the Captain, but the approach Boyfriend needs to take is that this is an issue between him and Jerkface, not between LW and Jerkface with Boyfriend playing the role of LW’s sock puppet. Jerkface has behaved disrespectfully in front of Boyfriend in many ways, and when you act like an asshole in front of your friends, that makes them complicit in your assholery in various ways. All of sudden, because of your assholic actions, they’re in the position of either condoning your assholery, apologizing for your assholery and/or confronting an asshole (i.e., you). So this IS a friendship issue between Boyfriend and Jerkface, and if Jerkface derails to make this about LW, Boyfriend needs to come back with something that conveys the sentiment “this is about the disrespect you show me when you do [offensive thing] around me. It offends me to witness it and embarrasses me to be associated with it, so you need to knock it off.” Again, Boyfriend isn’t going to be able to reform Jerkface, but he can draw the boundary of “not in my presence.” If Boyfriend knows that the likely outcome of confronting Jerkface is an ultimatum from Jerkface, then it’s *Jerkface* saying “her or me,” but it’s not the LW saying it. The LW is saying “show me you have my back,” and I think there’s a lot of evidence in the letter than Boyfriend does want to have her back, but doesn’t have the words-skills built up yet to do what needs doing.
LW: depending on how close the date it is now, this may not be something you can expect Boyfriend to take up with Jerkface before the wedding!
Wow, what lucky timing! Over the weekend Jerkface asked Boyfriend, “Why doesn’t Girlfriend like me anymore?” and now Boyfriend wants talking points for a long talk with Jerkface this weekend. I’m way too busy/tired/sick to put together a primer on How Not To Be A Bigoted Ass 101 for someone I don’t want contact with. Does anyone have a link to an article or website along those lines? Shakesville has Feminism 101 but I doubt his attention span is that long.
I had to cut out a LOT of context to fit the word limit. (My first draft was 1600 words!) The original list of Jerkface’s shortcomings had 11 items with examples. Jerkface’s bigotry isn’t just saying ‘gay’ as a pejorative or the occasional slur. He openly complains about how immigrants are ruining our city, how poor people are just lazy addicts, and telling men not to rape is wrong because it might make men feel bad. All Christians are fundamentalists but the Crusades killed lots of Muslims, so Christians aren’t all bad. Jews are greedy, insular and backwards. Rural people and brown people are all ignorant because statistically they’re more likely to be religious and/or overweight. Fat people are lazy and disgusting. Everyone outside of North America or Western Europe is an ignorant religious homophobic savage. And so on, ad nauseaum.
The sad thing is, compared to the criminals they used to hang out with in the crack house, Jerkface almost looks wholesome. There was the heroin addict who stole from her friends and family then attempted suicide behind a hotel on the interstate, and a guy who bragged about shooting people in the kneecaps. There were two guys who used to destroy car windows with a baseball bat for fun. One of them attacked his own brother with a meat cleaver. I want to appreciate how far they’ve come, but I also want Boyfriend to meet a minimum standard of acceptable behavior in our relationship. The whole group was comprised of missing stairs, and to this day the remaining ones have tons of Geek Social Fallacies, like “You can’t choose your friends.” (Direct quote!) They circle the wagons at the slightest hint of criticism.
Regarding the need for an ultimatum, I need to know that Boyfriend has my back. He’s actively undermined me in the past on these issues, and even told rape jokes and joked about raping me. After lots and lots of difficult conversations he understands why that’s wrong but it still bothers me when he instinctively jumps to his friends’ defense. Now he just sits there in silence while they assume he agrees with them. Jerkface isn’t the only problematic person, but I singled him out because he’s the worst of them. Some of them are genuinely kind people with problematic beliefs. I don’t want to excommunicate them all, but I need to know that Boyfriend will either call them out or back me up if I call them out.
Part of it is also about Boyfriend’s own privilege; if Jerkface says something awful about my ethnic group, he’s saying it about me, but Boyfriend is white, so he has the luxury of not taking Jerkface’s hatred personally. When I bring it up with Boyfriend, he shrugs and says stuff like, “Oh, Jerkface’s dad is racist so I guess a little rubbed off.” That tells me that he thinks it’s okay to be racist if your parents are racist, and I’m not okay with that. If he can confront racism when it happens, then I’ll know he gets it.
I also need to see that Boyfriend is capable of resisting peer pressure. He can be verbally abusive when he’s blackout drunk so I made him promise not to drink that much. He’s been pretty good about it, but then he went out with Jerkface and one other person, and came home totally hammered. He said, “Sorry, I didn’t want to drink so much, but they made me take three extra shots.” He’s an adult. He’s twice as big as them put together. They can’t ‘make’ him do anything. He just has trouble saying ‘no.’
This ultimatum is the closest I can come to a compromise. I think a person and their friends are an indivisible unit; if you don’t like someone’s friends, then you’re just not compatible with them because their friends reflect on their character. I can’t change his friends but I can ask him to change how he interacts with them. If that doesn’t work, then we’re not compatible but at least I will have tried. Basically, his terrible taste in friends combined with his reluctance to disagree with them reflects poorly on him. If he can at least disagree with their awful aspects while hanging out with their good aspects, I’ll be satisfied that he’s grown away from their unfortunate roots.
“What’s this worry that “people” will think your boyfriend is like Jerkface and avoid you?” I worry about that because I’m not the only one who avoids Jerkface. I worry that friends and acquaintances will eventually say, “Ugh, don’t invite Boyfriend; he always brings Jerkface with him. Don’t go to Boyfriend and Girlfriend’s party; Jerkface might be there.” Not to mention, the (fairly legitimate) guilt-by-association. If Boyfriend stands idly by while Jerkface says that killing Muslims is a good thing, I doubt our Muslim friends will trust Boyfriend.
The Bride of Jerkface and I aren’t close but we’ve always gotten along. (Complicating matters: she has a crush on me.) She’s smart, funny, sweet, and can do much, much better. Unfortunately, I’ve lost a lot of respect for her because she hates fat people as much as he does and tells lots of rape jokes too. I think she’s trying to be the Cool Chick Who Guys Want to Hang Out With, and part of that is telling racy jokes. They’ve been a bad influence on each other because their mutual validation has just encouraged them to keep getting more offensive in the name of ‘humor.’ Over the weekend, Jerkface told Boyfriend, “But Bride tells rape jokes. Your sister tells rape jokes. Sarah Silverman tells rape jokes. Why can’t I tell rape jokes?” To be honest, I’m just waiting for him to cheat on her. He’s cheated on every other girlfriend he’s ever had, and when people get hurt he shrugs it off with, “Whatever, women are crazy.” Boyfriend shrugs it off too, saying, “Well, it’s really hard for guys to resist aggressive women. And his girlfriend really was crazy.” That’s just plain ableist, seeing how she has BPD…
So here we are. Boyfriend claims he’s on my side and willing to do the right thing by standing up for me and being an ally against the various -isms at play here. What would some good talking points be?
Good luck with that, and I can definitely see why you’re considering breaking up with boyfriend if this doesn’t come right.
I’m having trouble seeing why you’re not breaking up with boyfriend now. I know that wasn’t your question, but I can’t imagine any amount of 101 that would make Jerkface get it or would make it acceptable for your boyfriend to be friends with him. And it sounds like Jerkface is only the tip of the iceberg, both in terms of unacceptable friends and in terms of your boyfriend’s own behavior.
Exactly, Esti. YMMV, but one of my personal rules is this: It is not my job to educate *any* grown-ass adult on kindergarten-level behavior rules. i.e., don’t say mean things, don’t hurt people, don’t be sneaky, don’t lie, don’t take things that aren’t yours without permission. No, no, and NO.
If an adult person needs to have basic behavior/etiquette spelled out for them, they are either a)being deliberately obtuse/’playing dumb’ to try to avoid responsibility. or b) in need of the services of a mental health/medical professional. My .02. Take care of yourself, LW.
I had the same reaction after LW’s initial letter, and even more so after this one.
i don’t think he needs talking points, i think he needs to do a lot of learning and figuring his own shit out around privilege & oppression & acceptance & solidarity. it sounds like he does want to do the work for himself, but it’s a lot of pressure to feel like you have to both figure stuff out for yourself *and* teach it to those around you who don’t give two shits all at the same time.
i know i couldn’t explain a fraction of this stuff to the people in my life who don’t get it (family) for years… i would just get so frustrated and emotional whenever i tried, which my family then interpreted as me being wrong and illogical. now i feel a lot more solid in my own beliefs and knowledge and i can do some teaching/calling out when i have the energy, but it took a long time to gain that confidence & ability.
so long story short, support your bf in his own learning & growth! it will extend to dealing with friends when he’s ready, and eventually his desire to stay in contact with jerkface will probably trickle off as realizes that this guy has zero interest in becoming a better person like your boyfriend is trying to do.
that said, here are some variations of scripts that i have used many times that might help as stopgaps for having your back until boyfriend is at a more confident place in his own understanding & ability to convey that understanding:
“i’ve been learning a lot lately about how stuff like that [comment/behaviour/”joke”] is actually [____ist/prejudiced/makes people feel unsafe/etc] and i’m not okay with that, so please don’t say/do those things around me.”
and if he gets pushback about having been okay with it before or overreacting, the rebuttal can go something like this:
“hey, i’m just trying to learn about this stuff and be a better person. i’m not saying you have to do the same, but it makes me really uncomfortable when you act like this around me, and i don’t want it to ruin our time hanging out together, so please stop.”
if he gets pressured to explain why & he’s not sure how to explain it, it’s back to the ‘i’m learning’ response:
“i’m still doing a lot of reading & learning about this, so i’m not sure exactly how to articulate why right now, but that doesn’t mean it’s not wrong. and like i said, it makes me really uncomfortable/i’m not okay with it… i know you care about me as a friend so please respect that. and there’s lots of stuff already written about why it’s not okay if you want to look it up for yourself later.”
here’s my stock answer to ‘you’re being too sensitive’:
“i get that you see it that way, but i actually think most people aren’t sensitive enough.” OR “it’s not about being sensitive, it’s just about being a decent person.”
and my response to ‘you have no sense of humour/can’t you take a joke’:
“i have a great sense of humour… i have a really great sense of what’s *actually* funny!” OR “i can take a joke, but [racism/rape/making fun of people/etc] isn’t funny.”
I don’t have much to offer. All the talking points and weblinks in the world are not going to fix Jerkface this weekend, or probably ever. And as you say, Jerkface is only part of the friend-circle’s problem — what a toxic bunch! I can’t imagine enjoying five minutes in their company, much less more than that.
And frankly, I have my doubts you are ever going to get the proof you need that BF has your back — because I don’t think he does.
– he’s actively undermined you in the past, including making not just rape jokes but rape jokes targeted at you!
– he uses alcohol as an excuse to avoid accountability
– he doesn’t call people on horrific shit they say in front of him
– he lets them peer pressure him to drink more than he (supposedly?) meant to
– he instinctively jumps to his pals’ defense when they’re being foul
– he minimizes & excuses racism as a family legacy
– he puts the blame for a guy screwing around on his girlfriend on the woman the asshole’s cheating on (she deserved it, she’s “crazy”) and the woman he cheated with (“she was aggressive!”)
I know, I know — I was against the ultimatum approach. But I really can’t imagine being with a guy for whom all that was part of the package.
Maybe what you do is you ask BF to tell YOU what Jerkface needs to know. It’d be one way to figure out whether he’s been absorbing what you’ve been saying. or whether he’s just been like “yes dear, whatever you say, dear.”
I like that.
I like that a lot. Because, to be brutally honest here LW, I think your boyfriend does sound like he has a case of the ‘yes dear’s. ‘Yes, dear, I won’t drink too much’, ‘I won’t tell rape jokes’…and then when he’s out of your hearing, it seems like that is maybe falling to the kerbside?
I hate to say it, but I think maybe you need to look at what you really want in a partner, and to what extent your boyfriend matches up to that
People are inclined to wear different hats, personality-wise, depending on who they’re with or what the context is (you behave differently with your college roomie than your churchgoing granny, for instance). The problem is when someone has a lack of personality integrity–they have no core that remains the same, no matter who they’re with or where they are. I don’t know if the LW’s bf has a strong sense of who he is, and that is a safety issue for the LW. Believe me, you do not want to be in company with someone who has no boundaries when it comes to his personal safety (people like Jerkface tend to bring the Drama and then some). It is then impossible for you to have your own boundaries about safe people when someone like Jerkface has inner-circle access to your significant other. It’s like you have built tall lovely castle walls, but your s.o. has the drawbridge down and won’t raise it even when invading hordes are at the gates. It’s just no good. And it isn’t anyone’s right or responsibility to try parent-like enforcing of your s.o.’s associates. They need to be able to determine who is good company without any help from you. There is an old, shopworn saying that ‘your friend are either who you are, or who you want to be.’ Worth thinking about.
Alphakitty : I am with you 101% here. There are too many serious, SERIOUS red flags to ignore.
I have known a few people who I can only describe as shapeshifters : people who seem to have no actual personality or identity of their own, who absorb then mirror the personalities, belief systems, etc. of the people that they are around. So while the boyfriend claims(to his girlfriend, who expresses that racism, etc. is wrong) that he wants to unlearn the racism, etc., while he is around the LW, around his horrible pals he seems to be easily led to do all kinds of things he says he doesn’t want to do anymore.
I was married to one of the ‘shape-shifters’ you so aptly describe. Not good. As soon as they find themselves in company with unsavory people (and they tend to gravitate right toward them), all bets are off. People with weak or non-existent personalities are drawn like a magnet to people with stronger-seeming personalities–unfortunately, most people like that are Bad News. But they offer the path of least resistance–no change, no effort, take what you want when you want. And that is going to always win, despite your best efforts to show the ‘shapeshifter’ a better way.
I’m not sure these people are shapeshifters so much as they like playing in the middle. It’s never their fault that they did something wrong/offended somebody, it’s the friend/girlfriend, sorry, man/honey, you know how it is. Drink too much? Gee, you know how Jerkface is. Criticize a bro for making a rape joke? Aw, I gotta keep the girlfriend happy, dudes. They like being the Golden Mean everybody is fighting over.
“All the talking points and weblinks in the world are not going to fix Jerkface this weekend, or probably ever.”
They are also not going to fix Boyfriend this weekend. Maybe he can be “fixed” in the future — or we should say, fix himself — if he wants to — but that is something that’s about Boyfriend, not about Jerkface… and not about the LW either. I get this uncomfortable feeling that the LW maybe views Boyfriend as a fixer-upper, as gosh if I could just get him to Understand All The -Isms, then this would be a perfect relationship.
Maybe Boyfriend respects LW as a person and is making an honest and sincere effort to understand and to be a better person. Or maybe he has a case of the “yes dears” as someone suggested. I think we may have our suspicions but LW is the one who’s really in a position to know. And that is ultimately what it comes down to. If Boyfriend does NOT respect LW, nothing she does or says, no script she gives him for Jerkface, is going to help the situation.
I’m thinking about conversations I have had with people recently about social justice issues. Last month a male co-worker walked up while a female co-worker and I (I’m a white female) were having a conversation about — I don’t even remember the details, but it was about some of the many ways the world can be a hostile place toward women. This guy said to us, “I don’t understand why you are saying that, because I don’t think people would actually behave that way.” This was actually one of the first times in my life when a guy has said something like that to me and I was NOT offended or hurt. Why not? It’s because there is not an iota of doubt in my mind that this guy respects me as a human being, and was raising the question because he actually wanted to understand what I thought and why I said what I did.
I’m also thinking about a conversation I had last year with a woman of color in which I said to her, “This thing that you are saying is racist, I’m so sorry but I don’t actually understand what is racist about it, could you please explain?” And she wasn’t offended, and she explained it; and I’m not inside her head but I feel like probably the reason this was not an issue between us is that she knew I respected her and was asking because I wanted to get it, and she also knew some backstory that I wasn’t aware of which is part of why I didn’t get it to begin with.
The point is. We are all human and all of us flawed, and those of us raised with various kinds of privilege have to work to get past it. And that takes time and effort. But if we respect one another as human beings, it’s usually okay.
And it goes both ways. Shitting on people from a great height for not getting it on all the -isms you’ve educated yourself on is not exactly respecting them as human beings either.
Not that I think the LW is shitting on her boyfriend. It doesn’t sound like it. But it does sound like she’s pushing him farther faster than he may be comfortable with or willing to go.
I guess what it boils down to is: LW, does your boyfriend respect you as a human being? If so, I think you should give him a bit more space to work this out and be less directive about it, because he really does have to figure out what works for him, morally, ethically, practically, everything. If not… well I’m sorry but in that case I really think you should dump him, because you deserve someone who respects you!
And you can even decide that he may respect you, but if he’s going to learn everything at his pace (there probably won’t be another way) that’s too slow for you. And that decision would be okay.
First, I think it is excellent that Boyfriend seems to see this as an opportunity to communicate these things with Jerkface.
I would need to think more about specific talking points, but I think that you need to communicate to Boyfriend that HE needs to communicate to Jerkface that these are not just ‘your issues,’ that he agrees with you on a substantial portion of them (if not all of them) and that he totally respects and understands why you don’t want to see Jerkface any more. He needs to make it clear that he is not simply a messenger passing on your words to Jerkface.
Also, I second the Captain’s comment about it being good that breaking up is not off the table for you. You can only wait so much time for Boyfriend to give you what you need, y’know?
I think that your instincts are generally right (that you can’t be in a healthy relationship with this guy as long as these other influences are around) but I’m still having doubts that your boyfriend confronting jerk face and explaining all the ways in which he behaves badly is the right tactic. Especially it isn’t something he would be doing on his own without your nudging. Basically, your boyfriend needs to break up with Jerkface, and the best way to break up with someone does not include enumerating all their bad qualities.
I actually think you CAN ultimatum your boyfriend (it’s Jerkface or me), as long as you really mean it, but I still think that lets your boyfriend off too easy. Honestly, it sounds like you two have been working together to change your boyfriend (which, umm…) and have only gotten so far. Now that it’s clear he isn’t going to be the guy you need him to be while friends with this crowd, you are working together to change his friends.
I can be a fixer too, I get it. But here, I really think you need to clearly state your needs, boundaries and deal-breakers and then back all the way out of intervening into his friendships. If your boyfriend comes home plastered, the problem is that he drank to much after telling you he wouldn’t, not the company he kept while drinking. If he makes a rape joke around you, or doesn’t have your back when you call out sexism THAT is your problem, not Jerkface. It would be a problem if he were hanging out with Feminist Ryan Gosling.
The fact that your boyfriend still WANTS to hang out with Jerkface show me that your boyfriend just isn’t fully ready to become the cool feminist/ally dude you want him to be. I think he really wants to make you happy, but it has to be something that genuinely comes from within himself, not from an external desire to please you.
But here, I really think you need to clearly state your needs, boundaries and deal-breakers and then back all the way out of intervening into his friendships.
I agree with this. It sounds like you need to figure out whether your boyfriend can be the kind of partner you want and need… without referring to his friendships. So no, “He’d be fine, if he just stopped hanging out with X,” or “I think he’s fine, but he could prove it by issuing the smackdown on X.”
Rather, “Is he right for me? Now, not in some hypothetical future where he issues a smackdown on Jerkface? And if not, does he have any interest in making the changes I need–again, in himself, not by proving something via his relationship with Jerkface?”
Yeah, exactly. It isn’t hopeless, though! If the boyfriend decides to really work on himself and grows as a social justice oriented person, he probably will naturally cut ties with Jerkface because he’ll just not have much to say to him anymore.
I really think the LW has the cause and effect backwards here. Boyfriend is friends with Jerkface because he is still holding on to some of his own jerky tendencies. Boyfriend is not holding onto jerky tendencies because he is friends with Jerkface.
I think he really wants to make you happy, but it has to be something that genuinely comes from within himself, not from an external desire to please you.
This is so true. It’s entirely possible for our partners to be sincerely invested in trying to make us happy. But if, on a fundamental level, they don’t understand us enough to actually, you know DO THE THINGS THAT WILL MAKE US FEEL HAPPY AND SECURE, it’s usually just as (if not more) hurtful than if they didn’t try at all. LW, I think that having him explain to you some of what he should say to Jerkface is a really good idea. And if he can’t articulate it, he’s probably not absorbing your message like you would have hoped.
I am agreed. The problem is with the Boyfriend’s behavior, which is his responsibility regardless of who his friends are.
+1 here for DTMFA. The fact that he’s joked about raping *you* is just so beyond the pale, I can’t write anything coherent.
My thoughts exactly. LW, your boyfriend is a Darth Vader who is keeping quiet. Get the hell out of there and stop believing him when he pretends he just can’t say no. He chooses not to say no. He is friends with Jerkface for the very good reason that he is a Jerkface himself, except he has been learning etiquette from you and now knows more or less how to conceal his crappiness.
Get out of there and take care of yourself. There are plenty of good, respectful human beings in the planet. You do not have to put up with this endless string of toxic people around you, starting with Boyfriend.
Alphakitty said it exactly right here:
“I have my doubts you are ever going to get the proof you need that BF has your back — because I don’t think he does. ”
It sounds like your boyfriend is only just starting the long and arduous process of not-being-a-privileged-asshat. It also sounds like what you want here is for him to be further down that path than he actually is. But that’s not really something you can look for or expect from him. He doesn’t have a teleportation device — he can’t just appear miles down the road because you really want him to be there. He still has a long way to go, and there’s not really any way to speed up that process (only HE has control over it).
So the reality right now seems to be this: He doesn’t get it. It might be that he doesn’t get it YET but will at some point in the future, but either way, right NOW, he does NOT get it. So you have to deal with the reality of how he is right now. Right now he doesn’t have your back because he doesn’t get it — are you okay with that in a partner?
From what you’ve said here, I would hazard a guess that really, you’re not. It sounds like you want someone who is further down the path, which is why it is SO important to you that he “prove” he gets these things — because that’s what you need in a partner. But he is not that partner now, and he may not be for a long time. So you have to really consider whether you want to basically be your boyfriend’s teacher and put up with his not-getting it for an unknown length of time, or if it would be better for you to close this chapter of your life and figure it’s a lesson in the kind of partner you need.
I faced an EXTREMELY similar situation, almost exactly one year ago. For the longest time I picked the first option — to fight and try and make him “get” things — and then this time last year I finally chose the latter. It’s hard, it’s SO hard to make that call, but I’m now with a partner who DOES get it, totally, and it’s really affirmed that I made the right move, that my ex just couldn’t be the partner that I needed.
Boyfriend is simply outsourcing his jerkfacery to Jerkface. See, if Boyfriend makes rape jokes and fat jokes, then you get on his case about it and try to make him stop. But his good buddy Jerkface makes rape jokes and fat jokes, why then, Boyfriend can silently nod along while making helpless eyes at you and going gosh, what a shame he says these things, honey. Win-win for Boyfriend!
Just because you love somebody, it is not your job to lead them down the path of shedding their privilege. It is not your responsibility to stay with Boyfriend to make sure that he becomes enlightened and breaks away from the Jerkface way of thinking.
I’m sorry because I get that this is hard, and you are trying to much to give Boyfriend the benefit of the doubt (the other friends used to be worse! he’s come so far!), but as the meme goes, you are not the Jackass Whisperer. If Boyfriend really thought Jerkface making jokes about raping you was awful, he’d have walked away already. He hasn’t because he doesn’t think it’s awful.
You deserve so much better.
I know it’s way late in this thread, but I had a few minutes and I decided to show what a long way BF has to go in terms of leveling up to awesome (such a long way that LW shouldn’t feel any obligation to stick around for the process)!
People start at Level 0 when you know nothing about them. There are MAJOR minus points for things like LW’s BF has done (listed above). But even if you took away some of his minus points (Hey! he has acknowledged it’s not nice to make jokes about raping the person you love!), he’s got a long way to go.
Level 1 – Person does not say/do things you have identified as douchey in your presence because Person does not want to lose you (even though Person doesn’t entirely get why those things are off-limits)
Level 2 – Person does not say/do things you have identified as douchey even outside your presence because Person does not want to lose you and understands that you need to know douche-mode is no longer part of Person’s repertoire (even though Person doesn’t entirely get why those things are off-limits), and knows stuff will get back to you
Level 3 – Person does not say/do things you have identified as douchey in your presence because the thought of you feeling unsafe or devalued as a human being because of something Person has said or done makes Person feel sick and ashamed (even though Person doesn’t entirely get why those things are off-limits)
Level 4 – Person does not say/do things you have identified as douchey even outside your presence because the thought of *anyone* feeling unsafe or valued as a human being because of something Person has said or done makes Person sick and ashamed (even though Person doesn’t entirely get why those things are off-limits)
Level 5 – Person speaks up when others say/do things you have identified as douchey in your presence because the thought of you feeling unsafe or devalued as a human being because of something some bigmouth jerk has said or done makes Person feel sick and angry, and because Person understands that at some point not speaking up equals tacitly condoning (even though Person doesn’t entirely get why those things are off-limits)
Level 6 – Person speaks up when others say/do things you have identified as douchey because the thought of *anyone* feeling unsafe or devalued as a human being because of some bigmouth jerk makes person feel sick and angry, and because Person understands that at some point not speaking up equals tacitly condoning (even though Person doesn’t entirely get why those things are off-limits)
Level 7 – Person does not say/do douchey things because Person understands why they’re douchey and does not want to be that kind of person, having nothing to do with you or your opinion
Level 8 – Person speaks up when others say/do douchey things because Person understands why they’re douchey and understands that at some point not speaking up equals tacitly condoning, and Person wants to be one of the people who make the world a better, safer, more comfortable place for people of all stripes, not one of the bystanders much less one of the contributors to douchedom
The great thing is that there are actually a LOT of Level 7 & 8 people in the world. Why anyone would settle for a Level 1 I don’t know. The sex would have to be awfully flippin’ good?!?! (But how could it be without trust!?!?!)
My (soon-to-be-ex)husband had a Jerkface. Still has the Jerkface as a matter of fact. And I found complete and totally honesty hugely refreshing and cathartic. We once had a conversation that went approximately like this:
Jerk: So… I hear you want to kick me in the kneecaps
Me: (pause to think) Yes. I do.
Jerk: Haha (in a “you’re surely kidding?” kind of way) Well, I’m a musician. It would hurt me much more if you broke my fingers.
Me: (best pokerface) That is so good to know.
Jerk: …………. (looks confused and drops back to walk with others)
I followed this up by buying the group -including him- beer at the next stop, and being perfectly courteous and pokerface for every following interaction. His condescension lessened greatly. I caught him looking at me in complete confusion in every following encounter. It was AMAZING.
Admittedly, that’s not appropriate or helpful in every circumstance. But frankly it was one of the best, most empowering things I’ve ever done for myself.
I’ve seen this kind of thing — Boyfriend seems reformed, so why is he still hanging out with old friends? Then, when the couple inevitably breaks up, girlfriend finds out that Boyfriend was showing his “reformed,” socially acceptable face to her, instead of his dyed-in-the-wool nature. After the breakup, Girlfriend is astonished by how much “boyfriend has changed.”
He hasn’t changed, and Girlfriend knows it. She’s afraid Jerkface will pull him back from the way Boyfriend wants to and promises he will be. But if he really was a new person, he wouldn’t want to be around people like Jerkface and his fiance. He’d have moved on.
This relationship is going to blow up, and OP is desperately trying to save it, for her own reasons. She needs to accept the reality of the situation, grieve her loss, move on, and find someone else.
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