Life Hax

Carolyn Hax

My fiancé is the greatest person ever ... except he’s racist

Ar 171219995
Carolyn Hax
Ar 171219995
Carolyn Hax

I am engaged to a great guy with many wonderful qualities and I am looking forward to spending the rest of my life with him.But he is prejudiced against one specific race, which also happens to be the race of several of my ex-boyfriends. He works in law enforcement, so part of me wants to attribute the racism to the fact that he has seen this particular race do many horrible things that I haven’t. This seems like a pretty trivial thing – we all have some sort of bias or prejudice – but it’s getting to the point where I can’t even talk to a member of this race in a work meeting about a work-related project without my fiancé turning it into a huge fight and accusing me of trying to be a liaison for all [race] people.He doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong, and I end up being the one to apologize and try to fix things – even though I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong either. The amount of time and energy we have spent arguing about this race is downright embarrassing.I know you can’t change anyone, you can only change yourself, but short of moving to a commune in Massachusetts, I’m not sure what I can do. This seems like such a small thing to break up over, but it also seems like something I can’t argue about for the rest of my life.Fiancee

First thing I’ll do when I finish this column is send my forehead some flowers.

If thinking you’re superior by birth to an entire group of humans is “trivial,” then what exactly is significant?

Do your [race] ex-boyfriends also wave off racism as “such a small thing”? Since they ... haven’t lost out on jobs for being [race]? Or been the butt of dehumanizing jokes? Or been looked down upon as a less-worthy other, wordlessly so as to deny them any recourse against it? Or received harsher punishments than non-[race] classmates for the same antics?

Or been pulled over and interrogated for no discernible infraction besides driving while [race] by your “great guy” [race]-prejudging fiancé?

Would you admit to them, to their faces, that these things register as trivial to you because they don’t affect you personally?

And: When was the last time you saw a race do something horrible?

My forehead just whispered that I need to spell this out.

A person. A person does something horrible. Not a race.

And yes, we all have some biases and prejudices, but the duty of all decent people is to hold ourselves to the highest standards and be vigilant about not acting on them – not to rage at our loved ones in defense of our roiling hate.

The person you want to marry and you say has “many wonderful qualities” is doing something horrible and wrong and needs either to get counseling immediately for his judgment-impairing anger or get out of law enforcement. Ideally both.

Sweet deity. I fear for [race] people in his jurisdiction.

And I fear for you. If you’re not connecting these dots yourself, what others aren’t you connecting? And why?

Meanwhile: “The amount of time and energy we have spent arguing ... is downright embarrassing,” you say, and you can’t do your job “without my fiancé turning it into a huge fight,” and in an earlier part of the same breath you’re “looking forward to spending the rest of my life with him.”

What the what? Forget what the arguments are about, even – would you let a friend say this unchallenged about her relationship? Or would you help her pack?

Not that there’s anything wrong with communes in Massachusetts – chowder, good beer, I’m in – but throwing that out there as the only conceivable solution to your engagement to a racist is like saying, “This paper caught fire, but short of summiting Everest, I’m not sure what I can do.”

Um. You can put the flaming article in the sink and turn on the water.

You can break up with your fiancé immediately. Over these terrible, horrible, not-at-all-trivial things.

And be careful when you do. Anger is notorious for splashing onto whoever stands too close.

I would love to hear your opinion on sexless marriage ... is it possible? Marriage is a lot more than just sex – it’s about a melting together of families and building a life together – but my husband’s absolute non-interest in intimacy is not changing, and I wonder if I’m greedy to think I need that?Married

Whether it’s “possible” is the wrong question.

The right one is whether you’re willing to remain in your sexless marriage. You have to decide whether its benefits are worth staying for, or its deficits are worth leaving for – by your standards only, not by anyone else’s.

Meaning, not by the standards of people who know sexless marriages are possible because they’re in them, or of people who know sexless marriages are unbearable because they’ve left them. Because of course there are plenty of both.

Your facts, feelings, needs, values.

And, your partnership. Stay or go, your actions affect the course of your husband’s life, too, just as his “non-interest in intimacy” now affects yours. Admit to him that you’re at a crossroads and why. See whether your partnership can meet the challenge.

“Greedy,” though? That’s also for you alone to judge – but I don’t think it serves you or your husband to negate your essential self.

Is it really that bad of an idea to have sex with my ex? We disagree about having kids so we got divorced. Neither of us is enjoying dating (it has been a few years since the split) nor looking for a relationship. At some point one of us will find someone new or circumstances will change in some other way, but for now, since we still love each other and have stayed friendly, what is the harm?Sleeping With My Ex

I’m never going to tell someone, “Don’t join a bomb-disposal unit because you might get blown up,” because, duh. And besides, some people want to go into that line of work, which is good because we need them to.

What I say instead is, “Join a bomb-disposal unit if that’s what you want to do – just go into it knowing you might get blown up.”

So, yeah.

Oh, and people having sex who disagree on babies more than they agree on each other? Wear your body armor.

Carolyn Hax is a syndicated advice columnist for The Washington Post. She started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. Email her at tellme@washpost.com.