My boyfriend is a big Trump fan. Ever since the inauguration I’ve struggled to feel as attracted to him because I resent him. I haven’t mustered the courage to tell him, but there is a lot of mental illness in my family related to sexual trauma. I don’t support Hillary, but I struggle to respect my boyfriend for condoning a man who joked about sexually assaulting vulnerable people. What can I do?
I’m so sorry for all that has happened to your family. Trauma of any kind is horrific, and I want to sincerely share my sympathies that your family has had these experiences.
While many of the allegations against Trump regarding sexual assault have yet to be discussed in a court of law as they should be, the very idea of sexual assault, especially given your family’s history, is no doubt upsetting. That you now perceive your boyfriend as supportive of a man who has been accused of behaving in a way that is similar to what your family has survived must be heart-breaking.
Talk with your boyfriend about your family’s history to the extent you are comfortable. You don’t have to name members or go into the specifics of what happened or the mental illnesses with which they are struggling if you aren’t comfortable. You’re not at all obligated to disclose their personal information, but you should inform your boyfriend that this is an issue your family has faced.
To do that, I would urge you to explain so in your calmest voice (it’s hard but important) how people who joke about, trivialize, and engage in sexual assault sadden or anger — or both — you because of your family’s familiarity with the subject. Then explain how those who do nothing about the inappropriate actions of others come across to you, that it’s easy to feel that those people who do nothing are either insensitive or, worse still, even supportive.
By starting there, you’re bringing up a situation with which most people reasonably sympathize — and, if he’s someone worth keeping in your life, your boyfriend ought to be able to respect that, even if this is new terrain to him. Then wait to see how he responds.
Again, if he’s someone worth keeping in your life, political affiliation notwithstanding at this point in time, he should support you in your ability to express your thoughts, concerns, and feelings about something that matters to you. That’s basic relationship 101: no respect, no relationship.
From there, if he responds as we’re all hoping he will, I would suggest you then bring up how it’s been hard for you lately to separate him as your boyfriend — someone who you know and love and trust — from someone who supports a man who you feel disregards the gravity of sexual assault because of how close the issue is to your family and because of how public the accusations are that you can’t ignore what has been said about our new president. From there, you two can have your own discussion about what you think is the best option for you to resolve this conflict in a positive manner. Best of luck!