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Ask The Good Enough Guy: Can You Teach An Old Jackass New Tricks?

Will,

I’ve been dating Kevin for eight months, and he’s a pretty great guy. He’s honest, warm, affectionate, and just really fun to be with, but others just don’t seem to see what I see. Okay, so sometimes he doesn’t say please or thank you or he gets a little loud in public or he talks with his mouth full, but I think it’s just because he was never taught to do these things the right way. My parents can’t stand him and I’ll admit that he embarrasses me sometimes when we go out, but I really don’t think he means to be rude; I don’t think he knows better. But I’m wondering if it’s too late for him to learn (we’re both 26). Can I change him? Should I even try?

Miss Manners

Hey Miss M,

I have a pretty simple philosophy in matters of etiquette:

If you’re making the people around you uncomfortable because you don’t know any better, then you probably were never taught manners. If you’re making those around you uncomfortable because you don’t care, you’re probably a jackass.

Love is blind… and deaf… and sometimes just plain dumb. It sounds to me like you think Kevin is in the first group, even though those around you probably think he’s in the second. Here’s how to know for sure:

FIVE WAYS TO KNOW IF YOU ARE REALLY DATING A JACKASS:

  • He’s getting his “kicks”.  If after he behaves this way, he seems to be embarrassed, then he probably wants to be better, but if he seems to enjoy his offensive behavior or if he likes to bully you or others under the guise of “it’s just jokes” then, yes, he’s a jackass.
  • They’re bred that way.  If his parents weren’t around or just didn’t teach him manners then it isn’t really his fault that he has no home training. On the other hand, if his dad’s a jackass, too, then the horse apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
  • They run in packs.  If you meet his friends and most of them remind you of a certain feminine hygiene product or the bag that it comes in, then there’s a good chance he’s a jackass. Of course, if he doesn’t have any friends there’s an even better chance.
  • He’s mule-headed.  When you bring it to his attention that he’s being rude (and you do bring it to his attention, right?), if he sincerely apologizes to you or whoever he’s offending, then he’s at least trying. If instead, he makes excuses, laughs, or says “well that’s just who I am”, then believe him.
  • If it looks like a donkey and acts like a donkey… Maybe your parents don’t like him. Maybe a couple of your friends don’t like him. But if NOBODY likes him except you, then there’s a really good chance you’re dating a jackass.

So now what? OK, look back over the list and be brutally honest. If any of those horseshoes fit, then you know the rest. But we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say three out of five. The real question here is how much material you have to work with to make a decent guy, and how much pain you’re willing to put up with to get there. At 26 you both still have a lot of growing to do, so your best bet is to sit him down and hash out what you expect of him and what you’re willing to give in return. Tell him the problems you’re having with his behavior and how they affect you. If he really cares the way you think he does, you’ll see him trying to fix himself. From there, it’s simply trial and error: give him time to get better. Of course, if you don’t see him trying, or if he acts as if he still doesn’t care, then you can choose whether to move on, or be known as that woman who’s dating a jackass. That’s your call.

Hopefully, he gets it together and turns into the guy that you see inside of him. If so, write back and let me know. I hopefully I’ll be hearing from you!

More from GEM:

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William Jones is originally from the tiny town of Alton, Illinois, and now lives in the tinier town of Reisterstown, Maryland. He is a happy husband and a proud father of three, and writes as a hobby, in those few moments he finds between husbanding and daddy-ing. Follow him on Twitter @goodenoughguy1.

3 Comments

  1. Mike McGinley

    June 23, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Good advice, Will! I see this all the time: people in relationships blind to the rudeness and less-than-admirable ways of their partner. Sometimes, a swift kick in the butt is in order to make them open their eyes. Hopefully, in this case, since both are young, it’s still possible he can improve his actions and they can have a good relationship — one in which they can enjoy around her family and friends without her feeling embarrassed.

  2. m.e. johnson

    June 23, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    Sounds good, Will (as usual). Sometimes I wonder why it takes people so long to decide there is a problem with something/someone they are dealing with.

    She needs to perfect “the look” that withers the recipient like an old stalk of celery. If he ever got it from Mom or Gramma, he will say “What? What?”

    Something needs to change. Good people are judged by the bad people they associate with (never the other way around).

  3. Erica

    June 23, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    Pretty good advice there. I would agree with you on those key indicators 🙂

    Personally, I’m of the belief that people should want to change for themselves, to improve who they are, not just to do it for someone else. So if a guy is willing to make himself better because he cares and he agrees he should do it for his own self growth – excellent. If he just resists and is bitter then he doesn’t really want to improve himself for himself… and it may backfire. If that makes sense anyway.

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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