When You Are Surprised To Find A Relationship Deal Breaker After Three Years Of Dating

Ashley writes in with a personal problem stemming from the Steve Ward/Vh1 mess:

Hi Alessia,

I’ve been following along with the Steve Ward fiasco (what a piece of work that jerk is!) and I wonder what you think of the situation that I now find myself in…

While I was drafting my letters of outrage, my boyfriend of 3 years (you can call him Bob lol) came on over. Because I was feeling pretty intense about things, when he greeted me with the casual, “Whatcha doin’?” I actually answered him. I told him of Ward’s hurtful stupidity, the lack of concern on the parts of show producers etc., and my overwhelming grief to discover (via reading all the comments etc.) just how widely held & deeply rooted such irrational beliefs are in our world.

At first I thought Bob’s lack of concern over the situation was because he hadn’t seen the show and maybe he thought I twisted the words… So I sat him at the computer and ordered him to read. But when he read, he wasn’t as outraged as I had thought he would be.

Not only did he not share my opinions, but he started to argue Ward’s side!

Now, after years of dating I was shocked! I mean we’ve discussed rape and violence towards women (and children too) and he’s always seemed educated, concerned for women’s safety and nearly apologetic in that male way of like “I can’t believe there are men who would do that.” So I was flabbergasted that Bob would hold Arian or any women accountable for what a man or men do.

I want to rant on & on about this, but you’ve covered the issue really well and I know I’m preaching to the choir, so I’ll get to the problem here. ;)

After three years of dating we’ve been talking marriage. (The only reason we aren’t officially engaged is the money thing — until I get to the next level at work, I’m still not able to afford an apartment of my own which is something I insist upon doing before I marry.) But now that I see that Bob is holding onto some archaic, dangerous, misogynistic and mean victim blaming beliefs, I just don’t know…

I sent him away that day and our conversations since then have mostly been short. Anytime the elephant on the phone line is mentioned, we just end up debating at best, arguing at worst.

Bob thinks I’m over reacting; I should know after three years that he’s a good guy. But I can’t get past the fact that good guys don’t ever excuse the behavior of bad guys — let alone hold the victims responsible for what the bad guys do.

I still love him… Otherwise this wouldn’t hurt so much. But I don’t trust him the way I used to — and I’ve lost some respect for him. I think, as hard as it will be, that I need to end things with him.

Am I being overly sensitive? Am I irrational or otherwise sabotaging a good relationship for a small thing?

Biting my nails with anxiety & heartache while I await your reply,

Dear Ashley,

I probably should say that I’m sorry my blogging has disrupted your relationship with Bob — but I can’t honestly say that.

I’m sorry to hear that Bob’s not the good guy you thought he was, but,see, from where I sit, I think you are better off for making this discovery now. Even three years of dating in is better than making this discovery after three years of marriage & building a family. That’s what dating is for, to learn all you can about one another.

I don’t think I even have anything to tell you that you don’t already know…

You know that if trust and respect for your partner diminishes you are faced with two choices: Work it out, with compromise & communication (maybe some counseling), or walk away safely.*

And there are some things we just can’t compromise on.

This situation is not purely one of political difference, like say gun control, where you might compromise by owning a gun but keeping it in a locked gun safe in the garage or something– and by knowing that each of your votes cancels-out the other’s vote.

This is far more than theory, philosophy, or ideals; this is a fundamental framework of every day living. It’s a matter of freedom, equality & safety because, as you know, even if Bob is not personally a threat to you or others, he insists upon perpetuating an environment which places women with the responsibility to control male behaviors — and when that (obviously & maddeningly ridiculously) doesn’t work, he leaves victims to suffer the guilt & blame.

Heaven forbid any violence should ever befall you or someone you love, Ashley (knocking wood!) — but given the odds… How would you cope or assist another survivor in their recovery with Bob at your side? Even if his mouth never uttered a blaming sentence, you’d see it, feel it.

Whether or not you & Bob should have children of your own, building a family between yourselves involves each of your extended families and you community of friends. Can you live with Bob passing along his views about the responsibilities women (or potential victims) have to control the behaviors of rapists and abusers to your nieces & nephews, your friends’ children?

You know Bob’s views help shape our world; and you’ve clearly said that his views help shape a world you don’t want to (continue to) live in. So you know what the math is: If Bob can’t be educated out of this, you’re better off living without him. There’s no sense in living in a toxic relationship.

This is definitely a relationship deal breaker.

In the interest of fairness to your relationship with Bob, and your heart, you owe it to yourselves to communicate this as plainly as you can to Bob.

Wherever the chips fall, I wish you well.


* Note how when a human being has less respect for another human being, that the first human is not entitled to hurt, abuse or force the less-respected human to do whatever they want.


  1. I read your entry on the Steve Ward/VH1 mess and I was equally outraged. However, I have to say I disagree with your response to Ashley’s problem. While Bob clearly has some antiquated and ill-informed views, these alone are not grounds for Ashley to assume that she has a chauvinistic prick on her hands and that her only option is to ‘walk away safely’. A relationship of three years already suggests a fair level of compromise and negotiation – Ashley herself seems happy otherwise – and I don’t see why her man cannot come to see the fallacy of his current opinions. While I usually revel in your delightfully feminist entries, I feel that you may have been quick to judge this one.

    With all due respect to you, I would like to say this to Ashley:

    As human beings, none of us can claim that we escaped being tarred by racial/ethnic/religious/gender prejudices altogether. For most people, life is a matter of re-negotiating the existing social order and learning to do away with such attitudes. My point is that being prejudiced in one issue does not write you off as a bad person. If it did, we’d ALL be a little less deserving of the trust and confidence of society. Good relationships are not a dime a dozen and it is naive to expect your partner to mirror your every ideal or opinion and then be outraged when he doesn’t. Therefore, please don’t be hasty in your decision. Talk to Bob and see if you can find some common ground on this issue. If you can’t, decide for YOURSELF whether this should be a relationship deal breaker or not. At the end of the day, only you are qualified to decide whether or not this makes him a bad guy in the light of all that you may have shared.

  2. Thanks for posting/writing about this, Alessia — you too, Era.

    I agree with Alessia — I wrote to her because Bob (and a few friends of mine) thought I was over reacting and I needed to get a different perspective.

    I don’t expect Bob to be perfect, nor to ascribe to every value or philosophy I have. And while we’ve worked through a few other issues with compromise and the “agree to disagree” attitude, this one issue is huge for me. Like Alessia said, I cna’t imaging raising children with him.

    What’s worse, I cringe on the inside when I’m near him.

    I just can’t shake it.

    Probably because of the things he’s said while defending his position.

    So while I appreciate your concern, Era (and I really mean that), my writing to Alessia was my last ditch effort to both not be hasty and to see if I was out of line with my thinking… He’s as inflexible as I am but, unlike me, he’s not as concerned about the whole issue; which means he can’t/won’t change his position — but doesn’t think it’s a big deal — but to me it’s HUGE. And it has me rethinking other compromises I’ve already made with him — like his reasoning/beliefs are tinged with this world view of his, ya know?

    I just can’t swallow it.

    Alessia was right when she said I she wouldn’t say anything I didn’t know ;)

    I will be talking with Bob (later tonight, actually) and I’m going to present this as clearly & plainly as I can. If we can’t bridge this then I don’t think I can move forward with him.

    Not because he doesn’t agree with me; but because what we don’t agree on is a huge, central issue in my life & value system, how I want to raise my family & have the world be. Being with him no longer feels like a partnership; but at odds.

  3. Well, thanks for the clarification Ashley. I truly hope that things work out for the best. Good luck! :)

  4. Ashley, I have gone through some similar stuff with my husband and I find your descriptions very familiar. We’ve had arguments where he claimed I was overreacting, and I insisted he was underreacting. It was incredibly trying when he was insisting that he was an authority on what is sexist and racist when he is a white guy. I just cannot deal with people who think my full and equal personhood is up for debate. I don’t think it’s even possible to fully love someone when you believe that they are less equal than you. I ended up sending him some collected articles from around the internet and I told him that he needed to read them and think about them before we talked again. I don’t remember them all, but one of them was “Men Who Explain Things” from the LA Times and others came from Shakesville’s Feminism 101:



    He came back much more understanding and aware. He even calls other people out and now calls himself a feminist. His willingness to rethink his assumptions is really key, and I don’t know if your guy will choose to do that. I wish you luck.

  5. Era, I hope I didn’t sound like she should act hastily… I heard Ashley asking if she was wanting out for something inconsequential — and I don’t think she is. I think her concerns are valid deal breakers.

    Marge, I think many men need to be educated on some of the subtleties of living life as a woman. Not to sound condescending towards men, but as the ones with more power & clout, they don’t really have a clue as to how insidious & prevalent the dangers of being second class are. Like you mentioned, it’s similar with regards to race. Some of us can be shown & educated; some of us are unwilling to be, for whatever reason.

    Ashley, we are all on pins & needles waiting to hear word from you…

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