Carolyn Hax: Dealing with a cursing boyfriend

Carolyn Hax:

July 15, 2013 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Carolyn: My boyfriend is sweet, kind, and everyone I know adores him. However, it bothers me that he often uses profanity when we are arguing (sometimes directed at me). He always apologizes afterward for doing so, and has admitted he needs to change, but it always slips out during arguments.

I have told him it is rude and something I will not stand for, but it continues to be a problem. Is this something that can change or is it just wishful thinking?

CURBING A POTTY MOUTH

It seems you actually do "stand for" his profanity, because you're still with him and he's still doing it.

That's fine, of course, as long as that's what you want and as long as he's not being abusive - but it does expose the supposed hard line you're taking as so much hot air.

This is true of anything: When you declare that you "will not stand for" something, then you need to be ready to leave the relationship the next time that behavior happens.

If what you mean is that you'll give him time to work on this but you will ultimately leave if he doesn't change, then that's something else. It's also something you need to declare to yourself, primarily - not to him. If you say it to him, then it's an ultimatum. If you say it to yourself, then it's a plan. That's why your first step must be for you to be clear with yourself where the line is between staying and going.

For example, as long as it passes the it's-not-abuse test, you can decide that his profanity actually isn't a breakup-worthy issue for you after all.

You can also decide that you've waited long enough for any sign he intends to work on his anger, that you haven't seen any at all besides empty apologies, and that it's therefore time to break up.

Whether something "can change" or is "wishful thinking" is not universal or absolute. It's dependent entirely on the effort of the person doing the unwelcome thing - and on you, the one who's deciding whether to stick around for it.

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