Dear Miss Lonely Hearts,

I started seeing this boy last spring and he's great. He makes me feel attractive, he always supports me, and our times spent together are full of laughs. Here's the thing: he keeps fighting me. Literally. Just last week he tried to tickle fight me into submission. When he was about to lose, he shouted "I'll never surrender!" and pulled both me and him off the bed onto the hardwood floor below. Now he has a concussion and everyone in the dorm is monitoring his health to watch for a relapse.

I'm starting to worry that this relationship is gonna be higher maintenance than I initially expected and I don't think it would be fair to leave him. He's severely concussed, but I want to get out and I'm starting to suspect that his behavior is deliberately reckless. I love him, but his decisions are draining me.

What should I do?

– Heartbroken Heartbreaker



Dear Heartbreaker,

Firstly, and most importantly, I want to remind you that your feelings of health and safety are the most important thing in this (and any) relationship. If you really want to part ways with your sweetie, you shouldn’t let any sense of obligation get in your way. Why the heck wouldn’t it be fair to end a relationship you aren’t happy in? This guy obviously has a dorm full of people who are willing to nurse him back to health — it’s not your job to do that. And even if his dormies weren’t monitoring his concussion, it still wouldn’t be your job. I’m not saying that you should ignore the wellbeing of the people around you, but I am saying that self-care should always come first. What will keep you happy and healthy?

If all you wanted was a kick in the butt to get this breakup on the road, you can stop reading now. If you’re not sure whether you want to break up with him or try and sort things out, keep on reading.

You say you’ve been dating this boy since last spring. In that case, you two have had almost a year to get to know each other. Why are you only now worried that this relationship is too much for you to handle? Have you gotten more serious in the last few months, and you’re seeing a side of him now that you never saw before? Or are his pugilistic predilections a new thing?  Because look: I’m always up for a little consensual slap-and-tickle, but that’s not what this sounds like. This sounds like a gent who’s not giving your body and your agency the respect they deserve. It might seem all fun and games to tickle someone when they aren’t expecting it, or to keep going when they say, “stop, I’m gonna pee myself!” but ignoring someone’s “stop” is never, ever ok. It’s not ok when you’re getting sexy, and it’s not ok when you’re getting silly, either. When the word “stop” comes out of your partner’s mouth (or heck, anyone’s mouth), it is a word that’s got to be obeyed instantly and unequivocally.

I don’t know your situation here, and I don’t know how much you want to try and keep this relationship going. If you love the guy and the way he treats you, but you’re concerned about this one new tendency of his, talk to him. Nip it in the bud. Tell him that you need (not want; need) him to respect your body and your “stop,” and that his recklessness is making you feel like he’s not treating you the way you deserve to be treated. On the other hand, if this is a tendency that he’s always had and you’ve just let it slide until now, I’d lean strongly towards the side of ending the relationship. Your mental health is worth more than a tickle fight, and if he doesn’t realize that then he’s not treating you the way he should be.

You deserve a relationship where you feel not only attractive and supported, but safe. Can your sweetie give that to you? If not, don’t feel bad for a second about leaving him behind.

Crushing the haters under my heel,

Miss Lonely Hearts