When I separated from my ex-husband at the beginning of 2019, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of romance for a long time. I felt jilted and insecure as a single mother with three small children – would I even find anyone who could accept and be a part of my hectic life with three small kids?
For months I casually dated, not finding anyone who I’d really consider boyfriend worthy. Considering the kids, I found it easier to use apps like Tinder and Bumble since I wasn’t really able to hit the town night after night.
On the May 2-4 long weekend that year, I had two back-to-back dates in Toronto’s Kensington Market. The first, at a fun brunch hotspot was an absolute bust with a man much more shy in real life than he was via text. I was able to excuse myself and regroup before my second date – coffee in the market with a cute (younger) man named Chad I’d met on Bumble.
We met and clicked right away. Within a few weeks, we were dating, and by the end of the summer, he invited me to meet his parents and extended family from Europe at a cottage. By the end of the year, we’d told my kids, and had Christmas with his family and mine.
What a difference a year makes: You’re never only dating your partner, you date their family too
After we’d been together for a full year and having spent the first wave of the pandemic holed up at my place with him helping with the kids, we started getting out a bit, doing outdoor distance visits with his family again. Which is where trouble started.
One weekend in early June, while my kids were with their dad, we drove out to visit Chad’s parents in Niagara and have a picnic and walk by the canals. Chad’s dad had a few beers, and our conversation went south quickly with him blaming the pandemic on Chinese people all while insisting he wasn’t racist. I was livid.
It seemed like I was the only one challenging his notions for a while, until Chad finally spoke up and challenged his dad’s racism, too. Eventually his mother also stepped in and asked her husband to stop speaking that way. I wasn’t sure how this seemingly openminded man could be harbouring such hate, but with Chad and his mother eventually stepping up, I wondered if this was a new attitude they weren’t expecting.
On our way home, Chad apologized and suggested to his mother after the fact that perhaps his dad should take a break from drinking, blaming the high stress of the times and too much drink for his dad’s racism. I left it alone, knowing it wasn’t really my place to push, and believing that Chad was actively taking steps to deal with his dad’s behaviour and beliefs.
Several weeks later, on Father’s Day weekend, we had an opportunity for me to socially distance meet one of Chad’s favourite aunts and her husband. I had already put his dad’s previous outburst out of my mind as we prepared to meet more extended family, but I wish I’d been more on guard for what happened next.
When racial violence escalates at a family barbecue
During the barbecue, both Chad’s parents, and his aunt and uncle spewed racist, hate-filled words against Black Lives Matter, Indigenous land protectors, women, and inextricably, vegans? I was arguing with them until I was exhausted and eventually decided it was time to go. The car ride home was silent.
Chad decided my anger was unwarranted and promptly dumped me.
Chad did not bring up anything about his family’s words — and I didn’t push. Although we usually spent evenings together, he opted instead to go home for the evening.
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It all comes crashing down: Making hard decisions
The next day, against better judgement, Chad went on another family outing. I didn’t return messages because I was frankly irritated that his family was treating the pandemic like it wasn’t serious, and I was still mad about the racism exhibited the day before.
When we finally spoke (via text) around 9PM, I told Chad, “Yes, I’m angry at you. You’re ignoring COVID restrictions. You’re ignoring your family’s racism and sweeping it under the rug. I’m working hard to raise anti-racist kids, and if your parents think that their opinions are correct, I don’t want them to be around my children.” Chad seemed shocked, but seemed to be listening.
“Your parents are your responsibility, and as such, you need to talk to them about their racism and behaviour in the last few weeks,” I added.
That, apparently, was me pushing it too far. Chad decided my anger was unwarranted and promptly dumped me.
Broken promises, lessons learned
After quickly realizing his mistake, Chad begged me to take him back. I don’t know if it was the pandemic or what, but I agreed with a caveat – he was not to put me into any situation like that again with his family, and that he had to actively work to educate them in order for me to rebuild trust with him and them. He agreed. We spent the rest of the summer together.
In early fall, after a romantic night of cooking and drinking wine, Chad dropped a bomb on me – he’d decided I was too pig-headed, too “cut and dry” and too “unfair” in how I viewed the world. He thought my anti-racism stance painted his family in an “unfair” light — and that they were nice people. He admitted he never brought anything up with them again and that I’d caused him undue anxiety for standing up to them in the first place. I asked him to leave my apartment. After 18 months together, we never spoke again.
Even though I was really upset, and then very angry, I quickly understood that I was glad that I didn’t bend on my core values. What I did regret, however, was giving Chad the benefit of the doubt in regards to managing his family.
His lack of a backbone when it came to their harmful beliefs should have been firmly acknowledged the first time. His anger at my calling him out to educating his family should have been a huge red flag, but I brushed it off, assuming he was taking what I had to say to heart. Instead, he got angry and took it personally, as it was a reflection of his inability or desire to curb his family’s belief structures.
Looking back, I think he probably did me a favour. He couldn’t avoid talking about it forever, nor hide his inaction from me long term. But I’m glad I didn’t bend on my core beliefs.