A SWEETIE ANGEL:
Subject Line: I think I’m dating an irony boy Help
Hi!! So I’ve been dating my boyfriend for 8 months. We met through work friends and hit it off almost immediately. I love him a lot, we have great sex, he gets along with my friends, on the surface everything looks great.
But I’m starting to get the feeling he might lack the ability to be sincere about really...anything. We share a certain internet-bred sense of humor with a thick dose of irony mixed in, and we’re very jokey when we talk. He makes me laugh and I love that! Lately though I’ve started to realize that he also uses humor to dodge hard questions, or that he won’t give up a bit even when it’s not funny anymore. When issues arise that should cause fights, I try to talk about them, he makes a joke to deflect, and we go about our days without resolving anything. I sorta wish we actually fought because this is driving me nuts.
We’re both 24, so maybe it’s just immaturity, but I don’t know what to do about it. We care about each other too much for me to just dump him, and I want to believe it’s an early-relationship thing and he’ll grow past it. And honestly most of the time when he jokes around I love it and join in myself. But when it does bother me, I don’t know how to break through the bullshit and actually talk to him. How do I get my dumb funny bf to grow up??
Ok, you don’t want to dump him. Got it. No one ever wants to dump him when they write in. (KIND OF UNFAIR! MY JOB WOULD BE SO EASY!!!) They want an answer that’s like “Oh yeah, this is totally overcome-able and no big deal, here’s the magic words that will make your partner not be disrespectful to you.” I know you don’t think that’s what you’re looking for, but I think your secret little heart wants me to say, “Just address the issue this way and the dipshit will fix himself because he cares about you.”
And I can’t in good faith do that because I think it’s very unlikely that your boyfriend will change any time soon. Yes, 24 is an immature-ish age, but it’s not 17. This man has had TIME and he picked this personality. Do I doubt that you two have fun? No. Or good sex? No. But I do doubt that this relationship can last until our man here does a massive overhaul of his personality. He will likely not change for a very, very long time or without a lot of you dragging and begging him to do so—and is that really changing or is it behaving?—two things which are more likely to make him resent you than to actually be effective.
Most of us don’t actually want to be fixed when we start dating someone else. The whole “they make me a better person!” spiel is a big misleading. We want someone who just makes us feel like what we’re already bringing to the table is the best dish, and your man is bringing a year-old box of Twinkies to thanksgiving dinner and asking you to treat him like he brought homemade sweet potato pie. Now, you can make him go back in the kitchen and whip up a new dish, teach him how to cook, teach him about presentation, about bringing enough food for everyone, whatever. Or you can go fuck the man who deep fried the turkey (if he’s single, it’s an extended metaphor, you get it).
Irony is so dicey because not only is there the joke, there is the irony, and there is often another layer or two of deeper irony drizzled over the top, making the joke really the joking. The real crux of irony seems to be (I try to avoid irony bros, so forgive me if I’m a little off), “hahah! What if I sucked?” Which is not a great thought experiment when you're dating a guy because uhh well…. a lot of dudes suck. And to top of it off, without an off switch for his irony, your boyfriend has actually stumbled most accidentally out of irony and into reality because now he does suck. (This loops around to being ironic, I believe).
He sucks because GUESS WHAT PAL?!? we already know what the world would be like if someone said those crazy things. They say them all the time. We know. It’s not ironic racism or ironic sexism or ironic not talking about your feelings because haha who would take a relationship with this goddess woman who is willing to date me seriously? Pathetic. It is racism. It is sexism. It is a relationship which I personally (with limited information) believe to be sub-standard.
He doesn’t ironically not want to talk to you. He REALLY doesn’t want to talk to you. That should be— and I imagine is— devastating. He also doesn’t know how to drop things that aren’t funny? Really? He’s twenty damn four!!!!!
Sincerity is powerful and beautiful and mature. Irony and cynicism and brush offs are anemic imitations of interaction. They’re for those people who do not yet know how to love fully or well, who do not know that the world doesn’t need more irony. As cheesy and corny as it is, the world needs people who are brave enough to create and be creative to love and be loved. Not some dude who is pretending, “hahahah what if I really said that can you believe?” I have a strong feeling that you’re out maturing him, and that what you will tolerate now will make you cringe in a decade if not much, much, much, much sooner.
If you stay, you will likely be waiting until it becomes unbearable for him to not actually care or express himself like an adult. Good sex and good laughs are two wonderful ingredients for a relationship and we’re all allowed to be in imperfect relationships. You’re allowed to stay, you’re allowed to be with someone who grates on you a lot. But I really think there is a person out there (although I know it can be hard to find in fellow 24 year olds) who is sincerely interested in being around you.
In the meantime, since you “don’t want to dump him,” sit Dipshit—I don’t know his real name—down and say to him, “Guess what? Your whole jokey vibe would be very cool if this were a Seth Rogen movie circa 2008 and not real life.” (Even then, Seth Rogen movies usually have sincerity and emotional beats, but whatever). “If you want to keep dating me I need you to take my concerns more seriously. Taking life with me seriously is not a punishment; it is a prerequisite of being someone I have a relationship with. In fact, I’d hope that you find it rewarding. It’s not dark or bleak or shitty to be vulnerable and honest with me or to work on our relationship.” (If he doesn’t get that, he sucks!!!! If he tries to twist what you’re saying into “you never want me to joke around ever,” he is being intentionally obtuse and he sucks!!!). “So, Dipshit, you and I are going to work on this. And I’m going to ask you to go to therapy so you can start addressing what exactly it is that makes you so scared to be honest and open with me. And you’re going to have to do some work, because right now that’s what it will take to keep dating me.”
Because guess what you two sweetie 24 year olds? Life is gonna be fucking hard, and yes, you want someone who can make you laugh, but you also NEED someone who can tackle problems with you as a partner and not a clown-ass 24/7 irony bro.