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Auntie SparkNotes: Operation Boyfriend Upgrade

Auntie SparkNotes: Operation Boyfriend Upgrade

Dear Auntie:

A few months ago, my boyfriend and I met at a church and at school and started dating. We have been dating for 10 months now, and still deeply in love. It's not perfect, but it's great. When you read what I'm about to say, know that I am IN LOVE with him and his future is my priority. I'm just pointing out some things that should change. I'm not trying to sound like a snobby, needy girlfriend who cares about making her boyfriend perfect, because I love my boyfriend mostly as he is.


My boyfriend suffered from clinical depression and is still emotionally unstable sometimes. He dresses differently, and I'm afraid people will generally have a bad impression of him and instinctively stay away from him, and I don't think that'd help his recovery. I've explained this to him, and it's clear he understands but he doesn't do what I ask even once. He also refused to dress up for the day he met my brother and wore his usual clothes, nervously said hi, and shook his hand. That was the only time he ever got to see my brother, and as I expected, my brother told me I could do so much better.

He doesn't know how to ride a bike since his father never taught him. I offered to teach him and pushed him a little because I don't see what the harm can come from learning how to ride a bike, but he refuses over and over, apparently from the "fear" of being 4 inches off the ground. Another problem is that his grades slipped while he was depressed. I can't help him because I moved 5 miles away to a different school, with no access or permission to any sort of transportation. We were planning to go to the same college, but now I'm having doubts that he'll even go to college, and it troubles me every night.

He refuses to change and isn't trying hard enough to keep up. I know this is true because none of my friends liked him at first and are just barely warming up to him, and he's great at math and english but just struggles in school. I want him to have a bright future, but he either can't or won't do it. I don't understand why he won't leave his box and step outside his comfort zone, not even for me as many times as I ask and give him logical reasons. So why won't he leave his box?

Let me make sure I'm getting this. So, what you're saying is, you've told your boyfriend many times over and in no uncertain terms that he's pathetic, unlikeable, illogical, lazy, and generally Different in a Bad Way... and he's not responding positively?

Well, gee whiz. I can't imagine why!

But really, in all seriousness: Sparkler, I know you're not trying to be horrible. But you are, nevertheless, BEING HORRIBLE. Even if you aren't a snobby, needy, change-for-me-or-else sort of girlfriend, it's blatantly, painfully obvious that you do think you're better than your boyfriend, that you're doing him a favor by dating him, and that, as the superior party in your relationship, it's your responsibility to direct his improvement.

Guess what: it isn't.

But more importantly, it won't work. Because no matter how altruistic your reasons, and no matter how logical your argument, and no matter how obvious it is to you that he should change, it is 100% impossible to coax, threaten, beg, wheedle, or otherwise manipulate a person into evolving the way you want him to. Your boyfriend is not your pet project. You cannot change other people. Again, just for emphasis: YOU CANNOT CHANGE OTHER PEOPLE. If your guy is going to evolve, it has to happen from the inside out. And in this case, he's already demonstrated, in myriad ways and in no uncertain terms, that he plans on staying just the way he is.

Why? Probably because he wants to. (Although it's pretty impressive, really, considering your multi-month campaign to convince him that The Way He Is isn't good enough.)

So, what does this mean for you? One of two things:

1) You accept that you can't be satisfied with your guy in all his umotivated, strangely-dressed, academically-struggling glory, and you end the relationship immediately; OR,
2) You realize that this unmotivated, oddly-attired dude is still the man you love— in spite, or maybe even because, of his various idiosyncrasies—and vow that while you will continue to support and encourage him to be the best guy he can be, you will nevertheless stop trying to alter the fundamental nature of his personality. And also, you will tell your friends that like it or not, your boyfriend makes you happy and that you love and accept him as he is. And ALSO, you will apologize all over the place, to your boyfriend, for having been such a wildly insensitive jerk.

I know, I know: both of these options require accepting the fate that hand has dealt, and neither are very appealing. But this is all you've got, because the third option, which you've already explored in far too much depth, is to be driven ever-more-crazy by the exhausting, fruitless campaign to improve your guy. Either he's good enough for you, or he's not. And if you truly feel that he doesn't deserve you? Then cut him loose, because he deserves better.

What do you think of the Boyfriend Improvement Campaign? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at

Related post: Auntie SparkNotes: The Imaginary Perfect Boyfriend

Topics: Life, Advice
Tags: auntie sparknotes, boyfriends

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About the Author

Kat Rosenfield is a writer, illustrator, advice columnist, YA author, and enthusiastic licker of that plastic liner that comes inside a box of Cheez-Its. She loves zombies and cats. She hates zombie cats. Follow her on Twitter or Tumblr @katrosenfield.

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