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What constitutes a dealbreaker?
A MASSIVE SWEETHEART:
My boyfriend and I have been together for some time now, and we are very in love. He’s sweet and funny, and finds creative ways to surprise me with little things. We never watch TV or movies when we hang out because we enjoy each other’s company so much and just talk for hours. We know we want to be together forever (corny, I know) and talk about our future often. We’re currently looking at finding a place to live together. The problem is, I fell in love with him before I was aware of his political views. He told me that he didn’t vote, so I just thought he didn’t have very strong opinions about political issues. I was wrong.
Turns out, he is anti-choice. A forced birth extremist. We’ve had a few discussions about it, and it seems like he is willing to concede that there are some instances such as child pregnancy in which he thinks abortion should be permitted. Overall, he thinks that women shouldn’t have the right to control their own bodies if they are pregnant, and his main point is that people shouldn’t have unprotected sex if they don’t want to get pregnant (he ignores the fact that it’s possible to get pregnant on birth control). Believe me, I know how wrong and awful his position is. I’ve made many arguments as to why women deserve reproductive rights, and they don’t seem to get through. He really thinks that his view is the most moral, and I’m the one in the wrong. He says that he does care about women and thinks that preventing rape and providing women with accessible birth control are important things, but that doesn’t mean we should also allow innocent lives to suffer for other people’s actions. We pretty much just end up dropping it until it comes up again.
I thought I could live with it, but with everything going on with states passing stricter abortion laws and Roe v. Wade potentially in danger, it’s hard not to think about. We don’t have any plans to have kids, but I think we would if I were to get pregnant. I personally don’t think I could go through with an abortion, so I’m not concerned for myself that his views will ultimately have a negative impact on my health or agency. I’m mostly concerned that his belief shows a deeper problem: a negative view towards women that he does not realize he has. I know better than to think that I can/will change his mind with persistence, because he has to want to change. I’ve been asking myself if this is something I should break up over, a principle that can’t be compromised. But part of me feels that I finally found genuine love, a person who deeply cares about me and supports me, and makes me happier than I ever thought possible, and that’s worth holding on to. I really don't want to lose someone I love so much but I don’t know what I can or should do.
(I included this Jake / Rihanna photo to remind you about other men; it’s an aspirational thing).
This made my heart HURT for you. This is going to suck no matter what, unfortunately. As my mother frequently reminds me, “If there were a good, obvious choice, you would have already made it.” So know—try to remember— that you’re not some massive fool and we’re all gobsmacked that you simply don’t see it. It’s very very easy from the outside of this relationship to be like “What the fuck on earth of course you should break up with this monster!!!” But he’s also (at least kind of) the love of your life. So of course he’s not a monster to you. And of course you can’t just look at the data and make a Spock-like decision to walk away from some good love with no agony.
You have a lot on your side though. You’re clearly brilliant and empathetic and principled and more than that you get it. You’re the kind of person who gets it. (I don’t mean gets the need for abortion access, I mean that you’re self-aware and measured). As I read your letter, I kept thinking of something to tell you and then in the next paragraph, you’d address it yourself. All of these things are going to make whatever path you take a little bit easier. Granted, it will still suck shit for like two months and then suck a bit less for another four months and then be a constant dull ache for another six and then you’ll mostly be over it with some minor lapses into grief.
I still think you should do it, though. (It being breaking up with him). Here’s why: like you said, this may look like an isolated opinion, but it’s not. You know that; I know that. There is no one— NO ONE!!!— who is all for the equality of women, who thinks they ought to make their own decisions, who thinks that housework should be split equally, who values their friendship and not just their sex, who also thinks abortions are unethical in every case other than maybe child rape. That person does not exist, because that is not possible. And even if it somehow were, simply not thinking women should get medical procedures that they want is a bananas belief.
I’m not saying you should dump his ass today and drive off into the sunset. But I think from now on, when the thought of breaking up with your partner floats into your head, instead of catching it and releasing it outside like a spider in your house, invite it in for tea. Sit with the idea. A lot. (This email alone is a VERY good start to that). It’s going to take a lot of your emotional reserve to break up with someone who is so good in so many ways; it’s going to take a lot to not feel like “HE’S GREAT TO ME WHY DO I HAVE TO BREAK UP WITH HIM FOR OTHER WOMEN?!?!” Feel free to wallow for a while about the fact that it feels like that, but please know that you are breaking up with him not because of abortions that you will never have, but because where there’s smoke, there’s fire. You’re breaking up with him for you.
I’m writing this to you with the strong belief that you will break up with him; not because I’m rooting for that option or anything else so egotistical, but because your heart already knows what to do. You know that the world will not be able to swallow you up fast enough when his opinion comes out in front of someone you love who has had an abortion. You know that if you two have kids and you get stuck with the majority of the labor in the household, you won’t feel surprised. You know that if you have a daughter with this man and her birth control fails, your heart will break way more than it is right now.
I think you’re already on the path to the break up. I think the first step of any break up is fantasizing about it, then asking other people about it, then pulling away… and then a lot more small moments until you convince yourself that you can do it. And you can. You will be ok with out him until you’re wonderful without him one day until one day you’re wonderful with another guy who can talk with you for hours on end and who loves you and cares for you and who also wants women to get surgeries they want.
At the very least— the very very very least— don’t move in with him just yet. And please send me your Venmo should you ever break up with him because drinks are on ME (I’m serious about this).