Every week, Daniel Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. How much time is too much time?: I am dating someone who identifies as straight and cisgender, while I’m queer and nonbinary. When he first shared his feelings with me, I made it clear that my pronouns are not a phase, but something I needed him to help share and reinforce with others. He is trying, but I’m the only person he knows who uses nontraditional pronouns. It’s been six months, and he keeps making mistakes. Every time he uses the wrong pronoun, I feel invisible and sad I ever came out as nonbinary at all. He always apologizes and blames it on being “tipsy” or “frazzled from work.” This happened again last night, and this time felt like heartbreak. How much time is too much time for someone who says they love me to acclimate to a change like this before I am sacrificing my own peace of mind and self-acceptance?
A: If you feel sad, invisible, and heartbroken after six months with this guy, then I think you have sufficient reason to end the relationship. There’s no objective amount of time or number of mistakes you have to achieve before it’s OK to break up with somebody. If the relationship makes you unhappy, then you should end it. Hopefully your next partner, straight or otherwise, has other trans and/or nonbinary people in their life. Just as important, I think, is finding a partner whose approach to making mistakes is not, “I didn’t really make a mistake—that doesn’t actually reflect me. It’s the result of stress from work, or that third drink,” but “You’re right, I’m sorry, the fault is mine, I’ll try again.”