It’s in our nature to think the best of our friends and loved ones, but sometimes even they surprise us. We’re all human, after all.
But what are we supposed to do when someone we love does something wildly inappropriate and then acts as if nothing happened?
Redditor “throwRA_badbadcommen” is currently dealing with this question, as the OP’s (Original Poster’s) girlfriend made a completely inappropriate comment about a little girl with Down’s Syndrome.
The OP shared her story on the “Relationship Advice” subReddit, wondering what she should do now that her girlfriend is being nonchalant about what she said.
The OP asked the subReddit:
“My girlfriend made a disturbing comment about someone with Down’s syndrome and then acted like nothing happened. How do I continue?”
While working together one day, the OP was confused by a request.
“My girlfriend (both of us 17[Female]) and I work together. Today, a little girl came up to order. She had Down’s syndrome. She asked for what sounded like ‘warge buttsy’ and we couldn’t understand what she wanted.”
“Eventually her mom came over and said she wanted a large Pepsi. She apologized profusely and said her daughter really wanted to order for herself but sometimes she was hard to understand. I told her I completely understood and told her not to worry. She actually came back a couple minutes later to apologize again but I reassured her that it was totally fine.”
Though everything came out fine, the OP’s girlfriend surprised her with an unnecessary comment.
“After the little girl and her mom walked away, my girlfriend told me ‘that’s what happens when you f**k your sister’. I was f**king horrified. I asked her why she would say something like that and she just shrugged.”
“She went on like nothing happened. I don’t know what to do, I’m disgusted right now but she’s acting like everything’s fine. What do I say???”
Fellow Redditors wrote in to share their thoughts on the situation and what the OP should do next.
Some suggested breaking up with her, plain and simple.
“Listen you’re both 17. Theres likely no future in this relationship if she lacks even that level of common courtesy for other people.” – Variantr
“Seems like a lot of work when she could just break up with her and find someone that doesn’t act that way.” – Thiek
“You are 17. Get over her spur of the moment s**tty joke, and if she continues to make them then you don’t have a comparable sense of humor. Break up and find someone who does.” – Ponderoux
“Well she just showed you what kind of person she is. Believe her and then decide whether or not you’d want someone like that in your life.” – slytherinxiii
“A lot of commenters are giving your girlfriend a pass due to her young age. I understand that but only to an extent. I mean, you’re also 17 and you know better, right?”
“Yes, sometimes young people say something s**tty or thoughtless due to age or inexperience. However!”
“You asked her how she could say such a thing, and she (by your own words) shrugged it off. Didn’t stop to ask, didn’t question herself, didn’t even think ‘Oh maybe that was kinda s**tty [to mock and judge someone with a disability].'”
“So sure, maybe she is young and not-too-terribly experienced. But she is thoughtless and uninterested in being better at least in this instance. And since you know better, don’t you think your SO should too – or at least want to be?”
“Take that for what you will.” – WildlifePolicyChick
A few suggested having a conversation about it and setting some boundaries.
“Whether is was this, rudeness to a server or bartender, or some other social behavior that you can’t abide, the approach is the same. Either in the moment, or later in private:”
“1. point out the behavior (cruel comment at that girl’s expense)”
“2. make it clear that this isn’t a behavior that is ever going to be ok with you. (Being unkind to or about someone whose disadvantage is beyond their control.)”
“3. own the fact that, while other people on the planet may not feel as strongly about the issue as you do, the fact remains that this is something YOU care about.”
“4. request with resolve that it not occur in your presence again.”
“Setting boundaries like this takes practice, but it is an invaluable skill as an adult. ALL romantic relationships require healthy boundaries. You can set them kindly and with love in your heart.” – professorstrunk
“This is great advice! Learn to communicate openly and clearly and to set healthy boundaries now, I’m 33 and just starting to learn this and wish I had sooner! Also try to keep in mind the difference between boundaries and rules, boundaries you put on yourself (healthy), while rules are a way of trying to control others (not healthy).”
“Rule: You are not allowed to talk like that.”
“Boundary: I’m not comfortable hearing you talk like that, please don’t speak like that in my presence. If this boundary is broken, I will be forced to end this relationship/remove myself from the situation.” – SaphyrePrincess
Others agreed and said the conversation needed to include some facts about Down’s Syndrome.
“I was thinking this, she might actually believe that all people with down syndrome are the product of incest. I think you need to bring it up and find out what’s going on and educate her before going on a war path.” – Psychoanalicer
“Even if she believed what she said it was still a heartless comment.”
“I can understand someone making an off color joke, but the context of this comment was particularly crude. It personalizes it to an innocent individual girl who just came up and talked to them.”
“It’s abhorrent.” – Ebb1974
“I am not defending her behavior and I would also be offended if I heard someone saying this (especially after working for one year in a school for disabled children when I did my social service). I still want to point out that her comment was cleary very disrespectful but it was not total nonsense. Incest can increase the probability for certain birth defects but down-syndrom is not one of them.” – DunklerReiter
“I would genuinely inform her that any couple, no matter their demographic, can have a child with a disability. She may have a genuine belief that incest is the only cause of down syndrome, so informing her what the ACTUAL facts on down syndrome are might help her realize what she said was extremely hurtful and misinformed.”
“If she is already aware of what a gamble genetics is, then you have your answer that she is a mean-spirited person towards people with disabilities beyond their control. You can decide from there whether or not the right step to take is to set boundaries or to break up.”
“Sometimes we have to help our partners learn. If they are too stubborn or have prejudices, we either need to set boundaries or decide if that person is healthy for us.” – PsychadelicBandanas
No matter what the OP’s girlfriend’s original intentions were is kind of beside the point.
As some Redditors have pointed out, it’s important for the OP to clarify their girlfriend’s understanding of this subject, and then to be very clear about where she stands with regards to kindness.
It’s always our responsibility to educate others when there seems to be a misunderstanding, but it’s also our responsibility to ourselves to keep our beliefs and morals in line.