Old habits die hard.
The problem, of course, is that those old habits end up being passed down instead of disappearing because no one wants to have difficult conversations.
What happens, though, when you stumble across someone else’s old habits and are deeply troubled by them?
This was the problem facing Redditor and Original Poster (OP) Background-Bother349 when she came to the “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for advice.
In a since-removed post, she asked:
“AITA for telling my boyfriend that I don’t want to see his family anymore?”
She began with the background.
“My (18F) boyfriend (19M) met and started dating me in college this year.”
“We have been together for 8 months and he wanted to introduce me to his family.”
Before beginning to explain the problem.
“He knows that I don’t like being the center of attention so he invited me a day that there would be other people already.”
“His mother died many years ago and he has 3 brothers.”
“One of the brothers (35M) is married and was bringing his wife; other two (25M and 22M) were also bringing girlfriends (both of which were already known by the family).”
“His father (56M) sister (47F, Carol) was also going to be there with her daughter (16F).”
“Everyone was nice when we arrived.”
“At one point Carol asked me if I could help setting up the table.”
“Of course, I said yes. I realized that only the women were doing helping with that and thought it was weird but didn’t give it too much importance.”
“After we finish eating, my boyfriend and his brothers went with their father to watch football (my boyfriend hates sports).”
“I tried to follow them but Carol asked me to help cleaning the dishes.”
“I did it but this time I did vaguely ask her why only the women are doing this.”
Everything seemed okay until…
“She didn’t really answer me and just told me I am pretty.”
“I finished my part and went to look for my boyfriend.”
“When I entered the room, one of his brothers randomly told me to bring him a beer.”
OP became uncomfortable.
“He didn’t say it in a rude way but he didn’t really ask, just told me to do it.”
“He also called me ‘red’ (because of the color of my hair) which I didn’t like.”
“I tried to look at my boyfriend but he just put on a blank face.”
“I did bring him the beer.”
“We left and I confronted my boyfriend about all this.”
“He was really calm, just told me that his brothers and father are like that and that he does not like it either but can’t really do anything.”
“He told me that he wouldn’t have a problem helping with that stuff but if he is the only man doing it, it would look pathetic and his brothers would bully him for it.”
“I got mad at that and told him that if things are going to be like that, I don’t want to go to his family’s house anymore.”
“He said that I was being rude and that everyone in his family liked me.”
“I don’t want to create drama but I think that I am right.”
She was left to wonder.
“Am I the Asshole?”
Having laid out the issue, OP turned to Reddit for guidance.
Redditors weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Redditors decided: NTA
Some responses warned of future complications.
“Unless you want to put up with this for decades, run.”
“Get out early before it’s too painful and too much of your prime years are behind you.”
“They WILL NOT change and bf is too spineless to put respect for you above being teased by them.”~Barry_McKackiner
Others took direct issue with the boyfriend.
“So many red flags, but the one you need to focus on is YOUR BF DIDN’T STAND UP FOR YOU.”
“He’s a weak follower who’s fine with you eating sh*t sandwiches as long as he’s comfortable.”
“Cut him loose, OP.”
“You just got a glimpse of what life would be like with such a person. Eek!”~katmcflame
“NTA, but your boyfriend really should back you up here, and stand up for himself for that matter.”
“Sure, it would be an uncomfortable situation with his family.”
“But if it is important to him that you and his family get along, he needs to let his family know if they treat you in a way that’s not okay.”
“If having gender roles like that is normal for them and works for them, that is fine, but they should not expect you to go along with it just because they do.”~Jj11223344
Comments also brought up their own dealings with sexism.
“I’m 28 and married, my in-laws are like this.”
“It’s always bothered me.”
“Every Sunday dinner the women do everything while the guys sit around, drink, and watch sports.”
“I don’t go to dinner very often anymore.”
“I’m the breadwinner and I really don’t want to spend my Sundays cooking, serving, and cleaning so I just don’t go.”
“My husband is great at home and helps out on dinner nights with his family because I was at wits end over it”~idtapthatpinata
There was also encouragement for OP to just do better.
“It sucks that his family is so sexist and expects the women to do all the work.”
“And that he won’t stand up to them.”
“That’s really sad. I can’t blame you for not wanting to be around that.”
“But if you want a future with him, you’re going to have to see them on some occasions.”
“You’re either likely going to have to live with things, or he’s gunna need to suck it up and speak up for himself (and you).”
“Or if neither of those are an option, then maybe this is not a family you’d want to possibly marry into.~crazycatleslie
“NTA. His family is sexist and he needs to tell them to stop doing it. But here’s the thing: he’s been around this so long that either:”
“a.) He knows objectively that it isn’t normal but has no real idea of how abnormal it is. If this is the case, he might start doing these things in your relationship without even really recognizing how problematic it is.”
“b.) He knows exactly how abnormal it is that he’s become desensitized and doesn’t know how to even start to address it with his family.”
“Both of these will be problematic for you because either:”
“a.) You won’t be ok with the fact that he didn’t stand up to them or”
“b.) He won’t be ok with the fact that you don’t want to be around his family, even though he knows this is a bad dynamic.”
“Personally, I would never expect my SO to love my family, but I would want them to be ok with spending a holiday weekend with them once in a while because I would do the same for them.” ~ N0DuckingWay
“I can understand why you wouldn’t like it, and you’re right to think it’s BS.”
“Thing is, if you won’t spend any time with that family, your relationship with this boy who won’t stand up to his own family is doomed.”
“That’s just how it is.”
“If you’re not ok with this, just move along, and leave your weak boyfriend to it.” ~ melouofs
“Here’s the thing. I’ve been around the block a few times and I am here to tell you that this is not going to end well.”
“Your boyfriend is young right now but unless he makes a clean break with these idiots he will be just like them.”
“He is telling you very clearly that he won’t be able to stand up to his brothers and his father and he thinks that your objection to this bullsh*t is the problem.”
“Dump the motherf’ker. Right now.”
“Move on to another guy. This one is broken.” ~ Dreamer-1
“NTA. You did the exact right thing, calling the family out for being misogynist assholes the first time you meet them would not be the best thing.”
“But, you don’t have to visit again, your BF knows why.”
“You may like him, but his family is always going to be an issue, they will exert a lot of pressure on you to conform to what they think the stereotypical gender roles are in that family.” ~ ForwardPlenty
“19-year-old boyfriend is just on the threshold of understanding what it’s like to be an adult. He’s either going to toe the line or ‘man up’ and begin taking a different tack in life.”
“But at 19 there may be family influence factors that seem impossible to overcome (money for college, etc…).”
“The question is do you want to be there while he turns away from that, or be sucked into the way that family continues to behave?”
“Honestly, at your ages, this is a stepping stone.
“One where the 18-year-old girlfriend learns a key point about herself and what SHE doesn’t want. And another where HE learns he’s either missed a good one, or needs to find someone that is willing to play in his world.”
“My advice, 18-year-old girlfriend is NTA and should move on to her next relationship.” ~ wkearney99
“NTA. What really struck me was that the boyfriend said it bothered him, but not more than his brothers bullying him.”
“I went through a similar thing with my former in-laws, but I’m the guy. It only took a couple months of me doing dishes with the women for the other men to get the message and start helping too.”
“It later became the standard that if you helped prepare the meal or set-up you didn’t clean, regardless of gender. I can’t take all the credit, but I do think that I got the ball rolling.”
“OP’s boyfriend should have done the same.” ~ Brewers_Fan7
“Absolutely NTA. Dump him and move on.”
“You have so much time to find a better partner and it’s very unlikely this man is going to be anything like a partner in your relationship if you let this go on.”
“Respect yourself enough to realize this is a red flag and it’s not your job to be the change in that family.” ~ uraniumstingray
“NTA. And your boyfriend showed you some red flags. As a matter of fact, his whole family is a red flag parade.”
“1. There is obvious misogyny in his family. Only women are supposed to work at social gatherings, and they’re even ordered without a second thought to serve the men.”
“2. While your boyfriend professes to not be like them, he had a chance to show you that, indeed, he *is* like them.”
“Should you ever move in together, it’ll be on you to do household chores while he does whatever he does instead of watching sports—and, yes, he’ll probably also expect you to bring him his beer.”
“3. He is not willing to stand up for you, or he would have told his brother to get his own beer. But he didn’t. He just pretended that he wasn’t there.”
“4. You did the right thing in telling your BF that you don’t want anything to do with his family. They will only use you as free labor.”
“However, when you told him that, instead of being understanding (as he should have been), he dropped the mask he has shown you thus far. He tells you you’re being rude when it’s his family who was rude to you by expecting free labor and service from you.”
“And while his family may have liked you, they won’t like you if you don’t go along with their sexist behavior. So, it’s either go along with being used, or ‘creating drama’ by refusing.”
“Either way, they won’t like you very much once you enforce some boundaries. But him making you feel guilty for setting healthy boundaries smacks of a manipulator, at the very least.”
“5. It may be just me, but calling someone you just met by their hair color feels quite demeaning to me. If someone I barely knew called me blondie (for the same reason you were called red), I’d probably answer with, “Yes, a**hole?’.”
“(Just calling them for what I can see of them… which is them behaving like an asshole.) Because I’m not blondie, period.”
“Be very, very careful with this one. And consider every step of the way if it’s worth it to continue with the relationship.” ~ melympia
Old habits are hard to break.
Particularly when those habits are generational in nature.
Still, it’s important to realize the toxic traits in your family and call them out when you see them, or be doomed to repeat those same characteristics into a future where they don’t belong.