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Auntie SparkNotes: My Boyfriend Is a Jerk

Dear Auntie,
Recently a kid on the autism spectrum has developed a major crush on me (I don’t have the same feelings for him). I was finally able to tell him that. I don’t like him, but every once and a while he makes jabs at me for not going out with him, saying things like, “Nobody loves me, I guess I should just die then,” and saying that he will “be forever alone.” Not only that, but his friends often tease me for rejecting him and say that if my current boyfriend and I break up, then the other guy is always there.

That brings me to my boyfriend. He often makes me feel uncomfortable. Everyone around me says he’s a complete jerk, and sometimes he is. He’s nearly two years older than me, so he’s ready for a more serious physical relationships. He likes to touch me in ways that make me feel uncomfortable, so I avoid being with him at all costs, and when he is around, I make sure someone else is there to because I am afraid of saying no. While I pride myself on my feminist independence, I can’t follow through.

He also constantly argues with me about things he knows nothing about. He makes racist statements and then tells me they aren’t racist, or makes jokes in poor taste about other genders, races, and sexual orientations.  I’ve always gone to school with people of different races, and I’m also partially Jewish, so his problematic comments make me angry, but I don’t want to hurt him so I say nothing (but if someone else had made the same insensitive comments, I usually would fire back a retort). He also made fun of my eating disorder which was an accumulation of lots of health issues and past problems. I recently told him about how I had nearly died because of malnutrition due to ARFID (a type of eating disorder), and he joked about how I was still starving myself and made fun of the foods I choose to eat. I don’t know what to do, Auntie. Please help. 

Here’s the problem, Sparkler: I don’t think I can. Because if you were able to write out all of the above without realizing by the time you hit “send” that you should break up with your boyfriend, then I doubt my telling you to break up with him is going to make much difference.

But hey, since you asked? You should break up with him. You really, really should! We don’t often deal in these kinds of absolutes here at Auntie SparkNotes HQ, but in this case, ending the relationship is the patently obvious solution to your problem. I mean, I didn’t even need to read your whole letter to know that you ought to break up with him. I figured it out halfway through, the moment you said “I avoid being with him at all costs”! Because geez, kiddo. If avoiding this guy is a priority for you, you know what would help? NOT BEING HIS GIRLFRIEND. That, right there. That would help.

The thing is, it’s also just the tip of the iceberg. Because once we get past the part where you ought to break up with this guy, we’re still left with all kinds of important questions about why you need me to tell you that. How did you come to be involved with someone who you don’t like, don’t trust, and don’t enjoy being around? Why haven’t you connected those dots to realize you’re in an undesirable, unhealthy relationship? Even here, you’ve buried the lede of the awful boyfriend under this totally unrelated and comparatively insignificant issue of being teased about another kid’s unrequited crush on you (which isn’t even a problem you need to solve, since you’ve already rejected him.) Why? What are you afraid of? What is going on?

These are important questions that I suspect you’ve been avoiding, because they’re hard to think about whereas complaining about your boyfriend is comparatively easy. But while his behavior is his responsibility, you’re the one who’s choosing to put up with it: to bite your tongue instead of arguing with him, to use avoidance as a strategy in a way that belies your claims of being a confident, independent feminist. And while confronting those choices may not be comfortable, it is going to be necessary if you want things to change—because the way you change things is to make different choices. So whether you break up with the guy now, or later, or much later, make it a point to do a little soul-searching yourself in the process.

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