Auntie SparkNotes: Don't Say The D-Word
I've recently gotten quite close to a boy at my school. We spend a lot of time together and get along quite well (same sense of humor, same taste in music, lots of flirting, etc.), and we've both recognized that this is most likely going to turn into some kind of romantic relationship at some point in the near future. That's all well and good, except for one tiny little huge problem; he is terrified of divorce.
Not just having a divorce himself, but all things and people related to the word “divorce”. If it comes up in casual conversation, he shuts down. Well, my parents have been divorced for most of my life. It's not that I feel the need to complain about this (it's been so long that it's just a part of who I am, I don't need anybody to comfort me) but it's inevitable that I have to mention my step-family or the fact that my parents don't live together every once-in-a-while. Whenever I do, he gets visibly uncomfortable and the conversation gets awkward; I nearly always have to change the subject.
I've asked him about it, and he said that he feels uncomfortable talking about it because he has no way to relate to me or understand what I've been through. I offered to answer any questions, and made it clear that I don't need him to relate to me about this, but he just asked me to change the subject. So my question is, should this be a deal-breaker? So far it hasn't gotten in the way too often, but if at some point I want to introduce him to my family, things could go badly. It kind of feels like he's rejecting a part of me that I can't control. I'm not really sure what to do. Should I be more upset about this? Should I talk with him again about it?
Talk? Talk? Er... well. Yes, okay, you can do that—and I’ll even tell you how. But I’ll be honest, Sparkler: this guy’s behavior is so weird, and so douchey, that I suspect what you’re seeing is just one symptom of a much larger sickness. Because a dude who freaks out and shuts down your conversations every time he “can’t relate” to the subject at hand is a dude with issues that go way, way beyond a mere discomfort with the topic of divorce. I mean, seriously, what the heck? Everyone has friends with life experiences that don’t mirror their own, and nobody (except this guy, apparently) thinks that an appropriate response to the mention of said experiences is to not let them talk about it.
Or in other words, if you’re going to devote yourself to working through this, even though it may well be just the tip of a Giant Iceberg of Douchey Weirdness... well, let’s just say that he’d better be really cute.
That said, there’s also only one solution to this problem: you talk it out, and then he sucks it up. This isn’t an issue on which compromise is possible; it’s not like you can avoid any mention of your step-family, your visitation schedule, or your childhood again because Dude can’t handle it. So, here’s your plan:
1. Sit him down for some Real Talk about the fact that your relationship is going to be over before it begins if he turns into an awkwardness bomb every time you refer even obliquely to the fact that your parents aren’t married anymore. You can say something like, “I’m sorry this makes you uncomfortable, but it’s something you’re going to have to get past on your own. I’m not going to censor myself from mentioning my family or pretend my history isn’t what it is just because you’re freaked out by divorce. And if you care about me, you won’t ask me to.”
2. Then, proceed as normal—which is to say, talk about your life with him as you would anyone, and let references to your parents’ divorced status come up as they will. And if he does get squirrely about it, then...
3. Look directly at him, put on a pair of sunglasses with a flick of your wrist, and tell him to DEAL WITH IT.
And if he can’t? Then darling, please do yourself a favor and cross him off your crush list—because a person who treats part of your history like a terrifying, shameful taboo before you’ve even started dating is a guy who doesn’t deserve the pleasure of your company.
But seriously, this guy is a total weirdo... right? RIGHT? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related post: Auntie SparkNotes: Mama's Got a Brand New Boy