DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I find myself having a bit of an issue as the current political climate here in the US gets more and more tense.
I’ve been in a relationship with a guy for about four years, living together for most of that time. We have our typical couple ups and downs, but mostly things are good between us. He and I have never seen eye to eye politically, but he was always willing to engage in meaningful discourse.
Recently, and I think in large part due to some new friends he’s made, I have noticed my boyfriend's social media account become more and more vitriolic and hateful. He’s been following and supporting the likes of Ben Shapiro and other extreme-right personalities. He’s been spouting the extreme right talking points like gospel across his social media platform (though he never directly posts or shares these things, he is active in comment sections perpetuating this BS). It hurts me that someone I love is being so openly sexist, racist, and classist. I’ve tried talking to him about it, but he shuts down discussions with “I guess we just have to agree to disagree”.
I’m at my wits' end. Even though he doesn’t treat me any differently, with every comment I read it’s harder to see the man I fell in love with. I guess my question is should I be willing to ignore s
tty opinions if they aren’t being brought into the relationship directly? But if he’s willing to say that people like me (disabled, economically disadvantaged, female) are trash in social media posts, what does it say about what he thinks of me as a person? Should I just get off social media so that I don’t see these things anymore? I’m just a little lost and confused right now. I could really use an outside perspective.
DEAR LEFT BEHIND: It's never easy when someone you love seems to have lost their goddamn mind, LB. Especially when you can see them doing that long, slow slide towards fascistic thinking, enabled by self-proclaimed suuuuuuper geeeeeeeeniuses, lobster daddies and failed gorilla-minded pick-up gurus. It's a pattern that's unfortunately not uncommon, especially for people who spend a lot of time getting caught in a YouTube spiral by an algorithm that is custom-built to be gamed by bad actors by equating conflagrations in the comments section with "engagement". It also doesn't help when the stalking horses for the alt-right are the faux-civility "Come, let us REASON together" types who insist that they are ever so civil and logical despite having no actual arguments beyond incoherent shouting. It helps create the illusion that the person in question is somehow being "reasonable", while, in fact, saying horrendous s
t and demanding that people engage with them in bad faith. The arguments are solipsistic garbage, the reasoning are pure appeals to emotion and all of it is a matter of playing to pre-existing prejudices while insisting that they're very smart and iconoclastic for saying things that actual, rational society has deemed as racist, classist and frankly unacceptable.
It's something of a design flaw in white male operating system that they can be so easily duped by someone in a suit saying something confidently over and over again. Even when it makes no goddamn sense.
Part of what makes this so sinister is how much this preys on actually reasonable people's cultural programming to avoid conflict. Case in point: the fact that your boyfriend insists on never engaging with you - likely because he knows that's a game that ends with his no longer having a girlfriend. He's relying on your having been acculturated to wanting to avoid causing offense or make trouble by making him upset. This is why he shuts the conversations down with "agree to disagree". It lets him continue the illusion of being "reasonable", while not actually challenging his beliefs or admitting to how he actually feels. He knows at some level that actually engaging with you about this is a losing game. If he did so, he would have to confront the hateful things he says apply to you just as much as the made-up "other" he's railing against online. In that case, then one of two things happens: either he starts to put a human face (yours) to the stereotypes he insists are ruining America and change his views... or you drop kick his ass to the curb so hard that it goes back in time and his grandparents get divorced retroactively.
Here's the thing: he is bringing those beliefs to the relationship; it's just that he's currently not doing anything directly to you. It's not as though he's an entirely different person from the screed-writing hate-monger he's being online. He's not the mild-mannered Dr. Jekyll until someone puts a keyboard in front of him, whereupon he turns into the Intellectual Dark Web's Mr. Hyde; he is the exact same person, even when he's putting a smile on and pretending that he didn't just deliver a rant about degenerates that just happens to include people like you.
(Hell, I'm willing to bet a not insignificant amount of money that you're his defense against getting called out for his hate. "Well I can't possibly be X, Y or Z, I'm dating Left Behind!")
So no, in no way, shape or form should you ignore his sh
ty opinions. The fact that he participates in the behavior that makes social media a damned hellscape and contributes to hate against marginalized folks isn't something you can compartmentalize off just because he isn't doing it to you yet. It's part of who he is and part of his identity. And frankly he doesn't get to pretend the stink doesn't stick to him just because so far he keeps it to online spaces. Much like folks who reside in troll farms that insist that they're just doing it "for the lulz" or "ironically" and that they don't mean it, "ironic" hate is still hate. You can roll your eyes while you f
k a goat, but you're still deep in ungulate.
You may want to take some time to watch the Alt-Right Playbook series of videos by Innuendo Studios on YouTube. It'll give you an idea of not just how he became radicalized, but how the alt-right's arguments work. It won't necessarily show you how to change his mind back, but at least you'll understand how someone you loved got seduced by bigotry and hate.
But to be perfectly frank, I think you should dump this guy with the quickness; you're not going to be able to deprogram him with your love or your body. One of the first rules of dealing with cult members is that you don't debate cultists. You aren't going to change their mind and they're going to have a much easier time backing you into a corner where you feel like you're obligated to go along with their bulls
t. You don't want to try to out-logic them because they don't care about logic. Logic, to them, means "I make you upset by saying horrible things and you react to them like a reasonable person would." Actual, demonstrable logic and honest intellectual discussion would require them being willing to acknowledge things like the systematic nature of racism or how many racist ideas are post-hoc arguments about situations that minorities were forced into by the ruling class following the abolition of slavery.
He ain't gonna want to do that.
More to the point though is that logic won't change his mind because logic didn't change it in the first place. It was an appeal to emotion that got him there. Now if he was going to actually engage with you about his views - instead of just shutting you down - then you could point out to him what you said to me: that he's calling you, specifically, trash. When he argues that you're different, you can press him for just how he doesn't mean you when he says that the other people - who fit the same description as you - are any less valid or real. Maybe, maybe, it might make him realize how full of s
t he is.
But I doubt it. Unfortunately, our brains have robust defense systems that reject ideas that challenge our perception of our identity. Since he's put himself in the position of being both the aggrieved party and the Superior Man Who Is Speaking Uncomfortable Truths, he's going to ignore the inconvenient liberal bias of reality and respond with insults while he doubles down on his beliefs.
What you need to do is stop letting that cultural programming keep you in a situation you know is untenable. It's time for you to quit worrying about not causing a scene; you should be causing a scene. This is the exact sort of situation where causing a scene and making trouble is called for. Your boyfriend started becoming a bigot. That's a dealbreaker and he needs to face the consequences for those actions... including getting bounced so hard he achieves low-Earth orbit.
I think you should move out and dump him. And when you do - preferably from a safe distance - let him know, in no uncertain terms: you're leaving him because of his hate.
Maybe seeing what this has cost him will make him reflect on his choices. But that's on him to do. You need to do what's best for you, and what's best for you is to GTFO.
Good luck. And write back to let us know how you're doing.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: This year started out pretty rough for me. The girl I had been dating, we shall call her M, and I decided it was best to break up (more like she decided she didn’t want to be with me anymore and I simply felt like I couldn’t make her stay in a relationship she didn’t want) She offered to stay friends but whether it was my pride or my stubbornness I wanted nothing to do with it. I still loved her and being friends was off the table for me. We never spoke since the breakup.
The months that followed were rough. I would keep scrolling through my photos and look at pictures of her and I together and would fall into feeling of loneliness and depression. I decided to head out and hit the gym and spend time with friends. I’ve lost weight to the point that I had to buy new clothes for I went down two sizes. I also decided to apply for a new position at work and got offered an even higher position than the one I initially applied too. I’ve also started talking with other girls and have gone on dates. It feels like life is turning around but, I still can’t stop thinking of M. I do find myself wandering into her instagram page and seeing her life going well without me, and I am happy she is fulfilling all of the things she told me she wanted to do. Contacting her is out of the question as she shut that door, locked it and threw away the key. Sometimes I think I miss the idea of her, the feeling of having another person that connected with me like she did. It got to the point that the excitement of my new job wore off and I felt lonely again.
Is this a normal feeling? How do I overcome it? It just feels like whenever I take a step forward I end up taking two steps back. I’ve tried living my life without “checking up” on her but I get anxious not knowing about her.
In Love With (Her) Ghost
DEAR IN LOVE WITH (HER) GHOST: I hate to say it ILWHG, but you're kind of the author of your own misery here. The reason why you aren't able to get over her is because you keep reopening those wounds. You keep taking a step forward by focusing on some post-breakup self-improvement, and you're making strides physically but you keep undoing all the emotional work you've been doing. Every time you go strolling through her Instagram, you're summoning the Ghost of Futures Past, a painful reminder that the future you two would have had together no longer exists and that hurts.
But here's the thing: the reason why you get anxious about not knowing about her? It's because you're still holding out hope that she's still single. That she hasn't moved on yet. That she hasn't replaced you. You dress it up as being concerned about her and wanting to see that she's living all the dreams she said she was going to live... but it's ultimately about holding onto the hope that maybe there's still a future where the two of you get back together.
Small wonder you're bleeding away all that progress. You're never going to get over her if you're constantly double-checking to see if she's still single or if she's dating someone else or comparing yourself to her new guy.
Part of why this still hurts is that you're still defining yourself by the fact that you are her ex. Getting over someone means putting your relationship with them behind you and moving forward. You aren't doing that. You may be part of her past, but she's still very much part of your present, and that's killing your forward momentum. Every time you build up a head of steam and start making progress, you sabotage it by checking in on her.
You're never going to get over her until you can let go of her. And you're never going to do that until you stop angsting over the inevitability that yes, she will be dating someone else. And I am here from the future to tell you that when it happens, it's going to kick you square in the junk like you just got dumped a second time for funsies.
So it's time to do the only reasonable thing: you need to let her go. And to do that, you need to do the one thing you haven't been willing to do: you need to give yourself closure by taking the Nuclear Option and block her Instagram, her Twitter, her TikTok, everything. It's not that she dumped you and now she's dead to you, it's that you are never going to heal if you keep picking at the wounds. As long as you're going back and letting the ghost of your relationship haunt you, you're never going to be able to put her behind you. This chapter of your story has come to it's natural conclusion. It's time to start writing the next one.
Block her accounts and move forward. It'll be ok. I promise.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)