Hello, world. My name's Stephen LaConte, and this is Hey Stephen — a cozy little corner of the internet where BuzzFeed readers like you can DM me for advice.
Today, we've got this woman, whose boyfriend dumped her in a very turbulent moment of her life — she'd just experienced a death in the family, a financial crisis, and a cancer diagnosis all in a row. Now things in her life are looking up, and a recent reconnection with her ex has her wondering if she should take him back. Here's what she wrote to me via Instagram:
Congratulations on finishing your treatments and becoming a breast cancer survivor. That is really wonderful news. I think you should celebrate by doing something nice for yourself — like not taking back a man who dumped you the moment you got sick.
To paraphrase Maya Angelou: When people show you who they really are, believe them. And this man has shown you exactly who he is. He's someone who will bail on you the minute things get tough, someone who refers to his girlfriend's cancer journey as "too much drama," and someone who will completely ice out a person he's known for 15 years in the darkest moment of their life. This guy has shown you that he's unreliable, unempathetic, selfish, and cruel. The question is, will you believe him? I think you should.
And here's the unfortunate reality of being a living, breathing human on Earth: Even when you're cancer-free, your life will not be problem-free. The years ahead will inevitably bring more difficulties, more losses, more anxieties, more heartbreak, more "drama," as your ex so kindly put it. Hopefully, you'll never again have a year as terrible as the one you've just been through, but you know that some future challenges will be unavoidable. You need a partner whom you can trust to stick around — not just in the good times but in the bad times, too. Someone with the courage, character, and conviction to help you overcome the worst things life may throw at you, as you'll do for them in return.
To be clear, I might feel differently about this situation if you didn't have a 15-year history with this guy before you started dating him. If he were just some random dude you met on Tinder and you'd only been on a few dates, maybe he really wouldn't be the right person to help you navigate such a personal and challenging moment of your life. It's hard to build a brand-new connection with someone amid so much turmoil, and perhaps your ex's suggestion of revisiting the relationship in a few months would have been valid if you were just getting to know each other. In that case, there probably would have been better people for you to lean on anyway. But after 15 years of shared history together, he should have stuck around. He was the person to lean on.
There's also the fact that he promised to remain your friend throughout this process and then completely ghosted you once you started your treatments. He never once checked in on you, asked how you were doing, or offered his help. This man may not have "owed" you a romantic relationship — obviously, if he felt he was dating the wrong person, it was his prerogative to leave, even if most people (myself included) would find his timing abhorrent. But after knowing you for 15 years, he absolutely owed you some respect, compassion, and support as you navigated such a difficult period. Maybe he was avoiding you out of cowardice, or maybe it was straight-up selfishness on his part. Ultimately, it doesn't even matter — either way, his behavior indicates that he is not a person worthy of your time.
You have finally finished your cancer treatments and can call yourself a cancer survivor. That's a hard-fought victory that you should be really proud of. Your own strength and courage — two things your ex clearly lacks — are the reasons you're standing here today. And I think you should view this moment as an opportunity for a fresh start. Do away with anything in your life that no longer serves you. I think this man should be at the top of that list.
Go find a partner who wants to live an actual life with you, with all the ups and downs it will inevitably bring. After all you've been through, you deserve that much and a whole lot more. Congratulations again on your clean bill of health, and good luck. I'm rooting for you.
That's all the advice I've got for today's DM'er, folks. You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter @stephenlc. And if you happened to miss my last column, read on!
Last week, we heard from this woman, who recently stumbled upon a family secret: Her very conservative cousin — who actively speaks out against abortion rights on social media — just got an abortion herself. Should she uninvite this person from her wedding over the hypocrisy, or try to keep things civil? Here's what she wrote to me via Instagram:
You wouldn't even need to know about your cousin's abortion to decide that you want some space from her. The fact that she actively fights against a fundamental human right and mocks a court ruling that's going to destroy lives is more than enough reason to stop hanging out with her anyway. And honestly, using her own secret abortion against her might just muddy your point — sure, the double standard is enraging, but it's not as if her anti-choice views would be more defensible if she were consistent with them. Whether or not she's had an abortion herself, your cousin thinks she's entitled to control the lives, bodies, and futures of other people. She supports forced birth. Her hypocrisy pales in comparison with what she's loudly advocating for on social media.
At the end of the day, it's her views that are disturbing to you, not the fact that she got an abortion. So if you were ever to engage her on this topic, I think you should keep your focus on the anti-choice things she's said and posted online, and leave her own medical history out of it.
The truth is, even terrible, hypocritical assholes deserve to make their own reproductive decisions and have privacy about them. Bringing up her abortion might feel satisfying in the moment, but it would also reinforce the idea that her body and her choices are somehow the public's business. They're not. (One possible exception: If your cousin was an elected official making laws that block abortion access for others, maybe calling her out would be fair game. Lawmakers who wield their power in harmful ways deserve thorough scrutiny, and their hypocrisy is a matter of public concern. But I'm gonna go ahead and guess that's not the case here.)
As for your wedding: I might've been on board with uninviting your cousin and her husband...until you mentioned that you've already asked their daughter to be your flower girl. If this kid is old enough to care about having that role in your wedding and is excited about it, I don't think you should take that away from her. It's not her fault she was born to shitty parents. And frankly, if you have a nice relationship with this kid, I think it's worth keeping some lines of communication open with her as she gets older. She'd benefit from having role models in her life who aren't her parents — she'll need loving, trustworthy, rational adults who can steer her in better directions and instill in her a sense of autonomy over her own body and mind.
I also wonder — maybe too optimistically — whether your cousin's abortion experience might eventually lead her to change her stance. You mention that this abortion was recent. Abortions aren't always traumatic, but they certainly can be — and this one happened for a medical reason, so I'm assuming her pregnancy was otherwise wanted. It's possible your cousin is grieving a tough loss right now and doesn't yet have the clarity of mind to step back and reconsider what are clearly some long and deeply held beliefs of hers. You're struggling with your cousin's hypocrisy right now — maybe she'll struggle with it someday too.
Of course, I'm not suggesting that's the likely outcome here — the so-called pro-life movement runs rampant with hypocrisy, which its supporters seem very happy to ignore. But it's worth at least considering the possibility that your cousin has the capacity to change, especially given that her abortion experience must be fresh in her mind and she's likely still processing much of it.
So here's what I'll propose: Instead of cutting this family out of your life right away, I wonder if you could try setting some new boundaries with them first and see how that goes. For example, you don't have to keep looking at their anti-choice social media posts; you can unfollow them and maybe even tell them why you're doing so. You don't have to hang out with them socially, either; just turn down their invitations until they get the hint. And you don't have to go deep with them every time you see them at Thanksgiving or Christmas; just say hello and then go hang out with their daughter at the kids table. It's more fun there, anyway.
And since the wedding invite has already gone out — and more specifically, since the flower girl invite has already gone out — I say you use this as an opportunity to practice your new and healthily distanced relationship with your cousin. Seat the family at a table far away from yours. Assign a bridesmaid to coordinate the flower girl logistics to minimize your interactions with her parents. And if they hand over a check as their wedding gift, I think you should thank them with the best fake smile you can muster, and then donate it to your local Planned Parenthood or abortion fund. Congrats on the wedding, and good luck.
Editor’s note: BuzzFeed supports a person’s right to an abortion. If you, like us, feel impassioned about abortion rights, learn more or find a local fund to donate to here.
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PS: If you've got any advice for today's DM'er, sound off in the comments! I'll be reading...
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