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I’ve been in a relationship with “Nick” for almost five years, and for the most part, it’s been smooth sailing. My family adores Nick. But lately, Nick and I have been arguing quite often. I’m a staunch Republican, and two of his friends, “Jordan and “Andrew,” don’t like that. They use all kinds of vile names for me, including “white trailer trash” and “inbred.” This started after I began working for a Republican organization. Before that, they were nice to me. Now they treat me terribly. I’m starting to believe that what they say about me is true. Nick just wants everyone to zip it and get along, but he’s making excuses for people who really aren’t his friends. My friends treat Nick with kindness and respect. My work friends treat him nicely too. My mom thinks I should suck it up because they’re not going anywhere, and my friends think I should stick up for myself—but they think Nick should as well. I’m at the end of my rope, but I don’t want to leave him, and I’m not saying that he isn’t allowed to have friends. My last button has been pushed, and I just don’t know what to do anymore.
—Boyfriend’s Friends Hate Me
Let’s leave aside what your mother thinks you should do. She may very well want the best for you, but Nick isn’t her boyfriend. Jordan and Andrew aren’t saying things like “This organization’s stances on X and Y are abhorrent, and you should rethink your values.” They’re calling you trash and treating you terribly, and your boyfriend’s response is “Gee, I wish everyone would zip it and get along.” Do you find your boyfriend’s response admirable? Does it make you trust him? Does it increase your respect or your regard for him? Do you think he privately agrees with them, at least in part?
I’m afraid the options you’ve laid out are more or less the only ones I can think of, too. You can suck it up and accept Jordan and Andrew’s treatment as something Nick’s apparently comfortable with. You can break up with Nick, even though you don’t want to, and look for a boyfriend who sticks up for you. You can keep dating Nick and refuse to be in the same room as Jordan and Andrew, which may cut down on some of the vitriol but might also postpone an inevitable confrontation if Nick has trouble balancing his various commitments to his partner and his friends. You could also have that conversation with Nick now. Those are the options! None of them are ideal, but they’re what you have. Which one are you prepared to live with?
Help! My Ex-Husband Slept With My Mom.
Danny M. Lavery is joined by Maddy Court on this week’s episode of the Dear Prudence podcast.
I need help figuring out how to talk with my best friend about her boyfriend when I can’t stand him. We’re all 18 or 19. They met on Tinder last summer, and the general (private) consensus in our friend group was that it wouldn’t last. “Jess” is a rom-com devotee with a Pinterest wedding board, and he didn’t seem to want anything serious. Now it’s been eight months, and he keeps messing up. Until last week he didn’t even know her last name. (Apparently he thought it was something else entirely!) He’s never as emotionally present as she needs, she constantly feels like she’s giving more than she gets back, and last December he may or may not have pressured her to have sex she didn’t really want. (Jess seems evasive on that front, and I think she’s trying to downplay it to make him look better, but I’m not sure.)
I’m her first port of call when things are bad in the relationship. We’ve had five-hour phone calls about issues they’re having. How do I navigate ordinary conversations about him? Part of me thinks I should be supportive and cheerful when she tells me about their dates, or that he “used [her] full name when he told me he loved me today,” but it’s tough. Can I criticize him, or just act happy for her? We’re on the same page about nearly everything else in life, and I consider her my best friend. I just want her to be happy, and to do anything I can to help her toward that.
—Love Her, Hate Her Boyfriend
This is a timeless and painful question! As much as you love her and ordinarily may agree on things, when it comes to romance, it can be difficult-to-impossible to persuade someone to break up with a partner they love. The best you can do, I think, is to scale back on the five-hour relationship-scrutinizing phone calls, which sounds absolutely exhausting and is above and beyond the call of even best friendship; encourage her to prioritize her safety and well-being without spelling out exactly what you think she ought to do; and make sure you two don’t spend most of your time together discussing her boyfriend, lest your relationship start to feel like a mere support structure for theirs. Your goal should not be to “act happy for” your friend, but to encourage her autonomy, offer advice sparingly (preferably only when asked), to speak up when you believe her safety is at risk without passing judgment, and to focus on your friendship outside of her romantic relationships.
I’m a nonbinary person, though I tend to call myself a guy for simplicity. I live in a fairly progressive state, so most people I meet are fine with trans people. Aside from my family and how hard it’s been to find work, I’ve luckily had an OK time. I came out to my mom four years ago, and she threatened to kick me out if I “pretend[ed] to be a guy under [her] roof.” Then she put holy water outside of my bedroom door, gave me three different Bibles, and threw me an all-pink birthday party where she kept calling me “the birthday girl” at every turn. When I didn’t react well to that, she emailed me an article that she said explained how she felt. I think she meant it as supportive, but the article was about how the author felt like their kid being trans killed their real daughter. My mom even once tried to revisit the “good old days” by flipping through stuff I wrote as a first-grader … only to get angry when she saw I used male pronouns about myself even then.
She’s Catholic, and says she can’t accept me because God doesn’t make mistakes, that I’m rejecting him, trying to mutilate my God-given body, even that she’ll go to Hell for raising a kid like me. Thankfully since that fateful birthday, she’s settled into a slightly easier stance of “If you want to transition, you’ll have to pay for it and deal with the consequences yourself.” My dad is staying out of this entirely, which stings, but I don’t think badly of him for. He’s someone who thinks in terms of what’s necessary to get by in life, so transition is hard for him to grasp.
My two oldest sisters think I’m placing too much of a burden on my mom, even though I’ve never asked any of those three to use different pronouns or my new name. Just being trans is too much. My third sister is supportive, but that’s partly because she’s always been the go-to scapegoat whenever something goes wrong. Our mom and older sister treat her worse than they do me, because she’s been openly gay for a while.
All my conversations with my mother in the past four years have just been out of necessity. She gets defensive and judgmental if I mention anything even remotely personal. I’m moving out this fall, and I’ve been wondering for a long time if I should even maintain communication with her. It would be rude and cold not to, but I want to not think about this family again, if I may be frank. I don’t want to think about how coworkers and classmates and teachers and literal strangers treat me more humanely than my own blood. Plus, when I move out and change my name, I’m not sure my mom will ever forgive me.
—Barely Spoken Since Coming Out
It’s not rude. It’s not even close to rude! Your mother has spent the past four years harassing and ignoring one of her children for being trans and another for being gay, and teaching her others to follow in her footsteps. Deciding not to speak to her once you no longer have to is an act of great compassion toward yourself, not rudeness toward her. If you’re able to maintain a relationship with your gay sister and offer her any kind of support, especially since you know she’s had to bear the brunt of your family’s bigotry for so long, I hope you’ll do so. But beyond that, there’s nothing rude about declining to suffer abuse, even if that abuse comes from your mother. I would even encourage you to start thinking badly of your father, who has ignored his wife’s decision to demonize and torment two of his children in a cowardly abnegation of his parental duty to care for and protect you both. You and your sister both deserve much better, and I hope you’re able to get it from the coworkers, classmates, teachers, and friends who treat you humanely and with dignity. I wish you both a life rich in friendship, respect, and peace.
Now available in your podcast player: the audiobook edition of Danny M. Lavery’s latest book, Something That May Shock and Discredit You. Get it from Slate.
More Advice From Pay Dirt
I have a high-earning job but struggle with depression. I need to live with other people just for the social pressure of needing to shower. I own a three-bedroom, two-bath condo in the heart of downtown. One bedroom is my office. “Yuli,” who lives in the guest bedroom, came to me because a friend of a friend knew they were homeless, and I needed a roommate. We lived together for three years in harmony. I asked Yuli a third of what a roomshare goes for in our city because they are clean, a good cook, and understand when to press me to get me out of my head or to leave me alone.
Recently, my younger sister got tossed in the streets after her boyfriend bailed on rent. Her options are move home, where she hates our stepfather, move in the suburban hell with our sister and her babies, or stay with me. I offered to put her up free for six months on an air mattress in my room. She declined because she “deserves” her own space and wants my office. I start work at 5 a.m., and my sister is notoriously hard to wake up. The living room wouldn’t work because my sister is a slob and it is the only communal space in the condo. My sister wants me to kick out Yuli for her. She says I “owe” her because I am her family, she is technically homeless, and Yuli is on a month-to-month lease with me. She says if she goes home, our stepfather will “abuse” her—meaning they will fight like cats and dogs. Our lives growing up were not easy and left scars, but am I wrong for not throwing Yuli under the bus for my sister? My sister makes me want to break out in hives, but she is my baby sister.