"All of your friends think you need to grow up"
May 2, 2014 9:22 PM   Subscribe

How do I tell my responsible boyfriend that his behavior is more similar to a fifteen-year old and could be professional disastrous for him?

My boyfriend will turn 21 in August. For a 20 year old, he has quite a bit of responsibility—he works full-time in a leadership position and has paid his way entirely through college. However, he isn’t actually all that mature. The only way I can really think of describing it is Harry Potter in the fifth book—basically, like a fifteen year old. He doesn’t always act like this, but when he does, it goes beyond what is acceptable adult behavior.

I think it is a combination of him being overly confident about some things, but actually very insecure. He gets very extreme and dramatic. Everything is black and white. He refuses to back down from an argument and can be very passive-aggressive during it, and will attack the other person, not the other person’s thoughts. He has very strong morals—and if someone is violating those morals, he lets that person know, regardless of that person’s feelings, and not in a kind way. He refuses to tell white lies to protect someone's feelings. If someone disappoints him, he calls that person out, and if that person is hurt by that, he then calls that person out for being hurt. Of course, this is very belittling. Quite honestly, it’s unacceptable.

The problem is that we are starting law school in the fall, at a school where working for a V50 white-shoe law firm is virtually guaranteed for the top three-quarters of the class. At its worse type of behavior could lead to him not getting an offer after his summer associate position, or being pushed out before his fifth year in the firm. More likely, it will lead him to not having the opportunity to clerk. So far, he only acts like this to his friends, but I can easily see him arguing with other summer associates, holding moral rulings about partners or judges that lead to him not taking work seriously enough, or speaking back against well-established professors, especially when he is criticized (see: overconfidence masking insecurity). If it continues, this behavior will be magnified due to his age.

Some mutual friends—with legal experience—recently asked me to talk to him about his immaturity, specifically because it could potentially affect his career. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to bring this up, and what to suggest? More empathy? I’ve told him to look at the world on a spectrum, but he seems to have difficulty doing that. I have also suggested he defer his start for a year or two, but he absolutely does not want to do that. I’m looking for specific wording suggestions. What would you say if your best friend’s behavior could negatively impact their career?

Note: This is anonymous for a reason, so if everyone could avoid mentioning specific law school names, that would be great. I don’t want him—or any of the other 0Ls—to accidently come across this.

Throwaway email: immaturefuturelawyer@gmail.com (can you believe no one had taken this?).
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (41 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I think your mutual friends should talk to him together rather than make you the sole executor here. In effect, you're asking how to stage an intervention, much like the popular A&E television show, and as anyone who has seen the show will attest--interventions are not done alone.

Best of luck to you and your bf.
posted by raihan_ at 9:43 PM on May 2, 2014 [16 favorites]

He "seems to have difficulty doing that", or he doesn't want to? You are approaching this like it's a problem he also wants to solve, have you considered this isn't necessarily emotional immaturity, it's his actual personality?

Bring it up in a calm and rational manner, don't try to sugar-coat it thinking your approach is what is going to cause this to succeed or fail. Tell him his behaviour is unacceptable to you, and to your mutual friends. Ask him if it's something he wants to work on. Decide if you are okay if he never changes. If you are considering having children with this man, do you objectively think he'd be a good father? (Doesn't sound like it.) Honestly, it sounds like you've already told him and he's made it clear nothing is changing. It's not how you are bringing it up that is the problem.

You need to step back and let him be him. Stop trying to "mother" him, seriously. He'll change only if he wants to change. If you don't want to date the person you are dating as they are, then you don't want to be dating them. And if your mutual friends want someone to talk to him about it, why don't they?
posted by Dynex at 9:45 PM on May 2, 2014 [13 favorites]

I don't know - if he is not having issues with this at work currently, it may be that in a work setting he is able to temper this, and in fact, if it is played right, it might even be seen as an asset in the workplace and may also not seem so out of place amongst other highly competitive law students. However, that argument style can be a tough one to deal with as a girlfriend (or boyfriend, as the case may be).

If you find his argument style to be 'belittling' and 'unacceptable', I think you need to proceed with your relationship on the basis that this is unlikely to change unless he decides it is an issue.
posted by AnnaRat at 9:53 PM on May 2, 2014 [11 favorites]

If this is behavior that affects you, I think you should focus on that ("Hey, babe, it hurts my feelings when you do xyz....")

But as far as the professional side of things, honestly let him worry about his career. Offer advice if he asks for it, but you're worrying about a lot of hypothetical scenarios that may or may not come to pass, and if they do he'll learn the lessons he needs to learn through experience.
posted by Asparagus at 10:04 PM on May 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

My question after reading this was why are you dating someone you have so little respect for? It doesn't sound like you like him very much, and the way you've described him, that seems quite understandable.

I don't think there is any secret to how you should broach this with him. If he behaves unacceptably, you should tell him so, in a straightforward way - in other words, don't give him nebulous advice about how to empathize, tell him that the way he's speaking is hurtful to you or to other people, when he responds by belittling you for being hurt, tell him you won't talk to him/be around him if he's going to act that way, and then follow through. Advise your friends to do the same. Tolerating him behaving poorly isn't doing him any favors - I doubt anything but actual negative consequences for him will cause him to rethink the way he is acting, and he likely will experience some denial and anger before he gets there.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:15 PM on May 2, 2014 [14 favorites]

"I think it is a combination of him being overly confident about some things, but actually very insecure. He gets very extreme and dramatic. Everything is black and white. He refuses to back down from an argument and can be very passive-aggressive during it, and will attack the other person, not the other person’s thoughts. He has very strong morals—and if someone is violating those morals, he lets that person know, regardless of that person’s feelings, and not in a kind way. He refuses to tell white lies to protect someone's feelings. If someone disappoints him, he calls that person out, and if that person is hurt by that, he then calls that person out for being hurt. Of course, this is very belittling. Quite honestly, it’s unacceptable."

Honestly sounds like a fair number of litigators -- not a majority by any means, but definitely enough of them to identify a type. You'll be shocked by how much this behavior is tolerated in law school and at law firms, if the perpetrator is talented. Grown men making hundreds of thousands of dollars screaming at secretaries and throwing tantrums like toddlers, with absolutely no consequences! Adults in suits throwing things! People refusing to speak to another employee for literally ten years over a petty dispute about the office microwave! It's pretty amazing.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:26 PM on May 2, 2014 [31 favorites]

He's young enough that his brain has not yet finished maturing, in a physical/biological sense, and the last parts of the brain to develop are those that help with impulse control, reasoning, and judgment. It's reasonable to assume that he will at least partly grow out of some of these behaviors.
posted by jaguar at 10:41 PM on May 2, 2014 [6 favorites]

I think your mutual friends should talk to him together rather than make you the sole executor here.

You've already made personal attempts to police his behavior / change his worldview and failed, which means you don't have a lot of credibility with him on this front.

Some mutual friends—with legal experience—recently asked me to talk to him about his immaturity, specifically because it could potentially affect his career.

If three of them confront him face to face on this, that may shake him up a bit and thereby actually work. They need to do this and not push it onto your shoulders.

I'd have them suggest a gap year - 6 months vacation and 6 months volunteering working with people, if the 6 months volunteering is sufficiently unlike the previous leadership position.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:44 PM on May 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Nthing that you're not his parent or his professional mentor, you're supposed to be his peer and equal. If these experienced professionals are concerned, they are the ones who should talk to him. I don't think it's an appropriate role for a romantic partner. And that's even besides the fact that you don't make it sound like you like this guy very much.
posted by bleep at 11:06 PM on May 2, 2014 [8 favorites]

The problem is that you want someone to give you words to control his behavior and produce the outcome you want, but he's not a controllable child. He's a self-sufficient adult who has paid his way thus far in life, an incredibly difficult thing to accomplish these days. Have you and your friends done the same? I'm suspecting not given how quickly you elide over that detail.

He's gotten really far using his skills even if he still has some ragged edges. His professors and employers haven't had a problem thus far. You've not witnessed most of that. If you want to approach this like an adult, your exact words should be "I don't like the way you behave with me sometimes and I'm concerned about your job prospects after law school." He's then free to respond how he wants, which might include thanking you for your honesty or telling you to butt out and he'll accept the "professional disastrous" consequences to which "at its worse type behavior could lead him" - he's overcome a lot so far and there are worse fates than not ending up employeed at a white shoe law firm (is this even what he wants or is it what you want for him?)
posted by SakuraK at 11:24 PM on May 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

what you are attempting to do is impossible
posted by Salvatorparadise at 11:27 PM on May 2, 2014 [14 favorites]

Yeah the thing you are mad about him lacking is the same thing he would need for your intervention to have an effect.
posted by johngoren at 11:33 PM on May 2, 2014 [13 favorites]

Speaking of acting maturely, if another objection you and his other friends have to these behaviors is that they feel personally hurtful to you, actually say that to him if you haven't. Don't cloak your own (entirely appropriate) desire for acknowledgement of your feelings and annoyance at his obliviousness or disregard as a theoretical concern about his future employment prospects.

(He may be both hurting your feelings and imperilling his future employment prospects, just don't engage in criticism of one issue as a sort of proxy war about the other one.)
posted by XMLicious at 11:51 PM on May 2, 2014 [6 favorites]

If he's engaging in contemptuous speech and behavior towards you, you should probably do couples counseling. Or dump him.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:07 AM on May 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Humans have a real problem with the Dunning-Kruger effect when it comes to relationships and interacting with one another. The only way we change and improve, usually, is with time- lots of time and lots of experience.

The principle of the Dunning-Kruger effect, in essence, says that if you are unskilled at something, you usually lack the metacognitive ability to understand that you are unskilled, and to understand why you are unskilled.

Here's John Cleese explaining the idea.

So someone who is socially inept and rude, like your boyfriend (as you describe him), lacks the ability to understand how and why they are socially inept and rude. If they understood, then they would have a basis for making a change and stopping that behavior. But they can't understand what they're doing wrong, so they don't change anything. And they stay socially inept and rude.

If you are expecting to have a "come to Jesus" talk with him and to see sudden improvements afterwards, that's just not how these things usually work. It takes time for people to grow up and learn to treat others with that kind of compassion. He may learn it years from now, once his brain chemistry changes, his life changes, and he has more experience to reflect on. He may not learn it until he goes to work somewhere, gets written up for his social ineptitude, and gets fired. Even then he still may not learn it and may see himself as some sort of noble victim. He may never learn it.

He sounds like me in my early 20s. I grew out of it, but not until my late 20s, when I had lost a couple of jobs and lost a relationship because of my immature attitude. It took time for me to wake up. Now I look back and am petrified by how I behaved.

It sounds like his behavior really worries and bothers you. Are you willing to wait for any number of years for him to gain the experience needed to wrap his mind around his behavior? Or are you willing to stay with someone who may never change and grow out of this?
posted by Old Man McKay at 12:19 AM on May 3, 2014 [10 favorites]

Worrying about him being pushed out before his 5th year in a law firm base on this maturity level as a 20 year that will not start law school until next fall is NUTS.

Ask any 26 year old guy/person that is in the position you hope/expect to be in at that age if they changed much maturity-wise since being 20/21. The find the 32 year old and ask about how much they have changed from 26 and 21 years old.

If his current maturity level is upsetting you in the present day then say something and if he does not change to your satisfaction then break up with him. There is no reason why you should put up with someone that is rude/mean to you. But don't hold his maturity level to some future professional standard, especially one that is years away with major life changes in between. The world is full of decent and successful people that were immature dicks when they were 20/21.
posted by Ommcc at 12:35 AM on May 3, 2014 [34 favorites]

Agree with the point above that life will teach him a lot between now and his clerkship. You may or may not be part of "life," but the best way to do that is to deal specifically and honestly with the issues and behaviours that affect you and your relationship.

Presenting yourself as some kind of omniscient figure who can predict his future will probably go badly, whereas coming at it as someone he cares about, who has been hurt by specific things, might get through.
posted by rpfields at 1:31 AM on May 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

He sounds like he's been incredibly successful for a 20 year old already and whatever his behavior issues are, they're probably not holding him back professionally, nor will they. If they're bothering you for other reasons, then you're perfectly within your rights to tell him that, but approaching it the way you've described will almost certainly not change his behavior.

Even if he's successful, he sounds like a complete asshole anyway, so you might want to consider why you're dating the guy.
posted by empath at 3:10 AM on May 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Are you kidding? He sounds exactly like most of my law school classmates who ended up at big firms! Drinking starts on Thursday and basically continues until the wee hours of Monday morning. Functional alcoholism is not exactly the norm, but it's certainly far from uncommon. While I was there, my school actually shifted away from having 2L and 3L classes on Fridays because attendance was so abysmal.

Let me hit you with an argument the substance of which you will encounter in law school pretty quickly: your argument here is pretextual.

You want him to change what you perceive to be immature behavior. Okay. Your stated reason is that you're afraid said behavior will have negative professional consequences. As a law school grad and practicing attorney, I'm pretty confident saying that the stated reason is a bad reason. Bad to the point that if you aren't already aware of that situation then you probably should be. Big shot lawyers get away with truly amazing kinds of immature, petty bullshit on a regular basis, and many would just as soon screw you as look at you as long as it's advantageous to them in some way. Big firms can be pretty shitty places to work. The fact that they're populated by so many assholes is no small part of the reason why.

The stated reason being so wildly off-base, I think that your actual reason for being concerned may have more to do with the fact that his behavior is increasingly affecting you negatively, as in, you're not sure you want to be with this person if he keeps acting this way.

To which I say, "Bravo!" If you're starting to realize that your boyfriend is an asshole--which is not implausible given that there are more assholes in law school than gen pop demography would suggest--that suggests that you might not be an asshole. Good on you. And if you don't think you're okay dating an asshole, well DTFMA.

But for pity's sake, don't come at me with this "He's going to hurt his career" dissembling. I'm sorry, but that's not fooling anybody.
posted by valkyryn at 3:50 AM on May 3, 2014 [47 favorites]

Life experiences may help over time. My 24 year old self was ashamed at how juvenile, naive and occasionally offensive my 20 year old self was; and my 28 year old self was similarly ashamed looking back at my 24 year old self. Yet, I can't be too ashamed, because I realize that's part of growing into adulthood and I know people cut me slack. I think you need to address it, but realize it may take time to develop sensitivity he didn't learn as a younger child.

And now that I'm 32, I finally have it all figured out.
posted by yeti at 3:51 AM on May 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Sadly I think the best way for anyone to gain maturity is experience and time. He needs to learn his actions have consequences he doesn't like. One of those consequences might be losing his girlfriend. If say she had enough of a grown man acting like this. There is no magic way to make him learn, you can't control him you can only control your reactions to what he does.
posted by wwax at 4:09 AM on May 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing that the behavior you describe is not out of the ballpark for successful practicing lawyers. I grew up in a family of them. It is also pretty common with 21-year-olds, and a lot of them age out of it. But it sounds like there's a lot that's good about this man. Strong morals, and he refuses to lie. If someone was acting like this, and they were just a friend, not your boyfriend, would you judge them this harshly? Somehow I think not; you'd be more likely to take the rough edges along with the fine qualities he exhibits. If you're going to be in law school together, this might be someone you want as a friend, not a boyfriend.
posted by BibiRose at 5:11 AM on May 3, 2014

You can't control anything that he does. This is highly annoying, I totally understand.

Do you care about him and want the best for him!? Of course you do.

Solution: there isn't one and you can't do a damn thing about he chooses to act and the repercussions. It's really all him, and it sucks because it sounds like you might even be a little angry/jealous because he gets away with his crap? When I made the realization that my reaction was really jealousy (in a 'How DARE HE?!') type of way it was huuuuuuge.

Also keep in mind that people navigate their careers thorough different channels. He may just be one of the button pushers. He will get burned eventually, but he needs to be the one to experience that and figure it out on his own.
posted by floweredfish at 6:13 AM on May 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is totally not your problem to solve for him. You're the person he's dating, not his parent. If this behavior is affecting your relationship, then yeah, talk to him about it with respect to you and how it makes you feel, but otherwise... hey, it's his life and his career.

If you were married and his behavior were actively threatening his job and your mutual financial situation, that would be a somewhat different situation, but that's a whole lot of hypotheticals away from now. Tell these mutual friends that if they want to address this behavior with your boyfriend, they can do it themselves.
posted by Andrhia at 6:18 AM on May 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I assume that you are happy in this relationship in many ways and I assume that you're a pretty together person if you're in such a good law school. However, even very together young women can believe that it's appropriate for them to be responsible for the behavior of the men they're close to - not least because men around them tell them so. This way lies heartbreak.

1. Why are you ready to be the proxy for this group of friends? You're doing their work.
2. Where is your standing in this? You're a girlfriend, not a manager.
3. Do you want to fall into this habit now, so that fifteen years down the road you're triaging some bad behavior from your husband?
4. Do you want to fall into this behavior now so that fifteen years down the road you're massaging away your boss's bad behavior, making excuses, smoothing people over?

We're all accustomed to a social narrative where women are the keepers of morality and kindness, and where women are responsible for intervening with the badly behaved men in their lives. (Men "can't help it" or "are dumb about emotions"....no one ever says "men generally don't face the consequence for asshole behavior because people, especially women, cut them a ton of slack".)

Would a girl who behaved like your boyfriend have gotten this far? Almost certainly not - probably because the behavior would have been knocked out of her in grade school.

Personally, I would tell your friends that you appreciate their concern, but that this will come best from his peers rather than an intimate. (Which it will, trust me.) Basically, they know this won't be fun, and they want (even if unconsciously) to make you do it.
posted by Frowner at 6:26 AM on May 3, 2014 [27 favorites]

If his behavior is unacceptable, why are you dating him? Why are his friends continuing to be friends with him?

Who knows if it will affect his future career; many people are sorta awful at twenty and outgrow it, and if he doesn't, the rich successful selfish asshole cliché exists for a reason.

But his behavior can affect his relationships now. Currently, from his perspective, it doesn't, so he has no motivation to change.

If you all want him to change, or if you're just sick of dealing with his fuckwad attitude, you - not just you, Anon, as his partner, but you and all your mutual friends who have had enough - need to start giving him consequences. When he starts with the yelling and personal insults, you (again, any and all of you) can say, "I'm not going to continue this conversation if you're going to talk to me like that," and leave. Stop inviting him places. Break up with him if you have to. If his behavior is unacceptable, you can refuse to accept it.

As his partner, though, you need to be especially cautious in case he escalates from verbal to physical attacks. I'm somewhat hesitant to say "hey, this sounds abusive" in case you think I'm being hyperbolic or focusing on only a small part of the picture... but, well, it does, and I wouldn't trust a person who regularly acted like this around people he claimed to love.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:33 AM on May 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Given that you are both starting law school at the same time, one way to start a conversation about this is to start talking in general terms about how people need to change their personalities (or project an alternative work personality) in order to be successful at work. I.e. you approach this as a mutual support issue, where you might both have something to learn.

You could start this conversation from a fairly bland topic. For example, there is an issue in the UK about whether law schools and similar professional training courses should encourage the use of a middle class accent or whether they should be encouraging people to keep their original regional/class accents to encourage long-term diversity in the professions. Something like this might make a good conversation starter to get onto general topics about workplace behaviour.
posted by Jabberwocky at 6:49 AM on May 3, 2014

The term, "white shoe firm," historically describes companies that drew their talent from a pool of largely well-off, WASPy types, from elite institutions. These folks were recognized in part by the light-colored suede shoes commonly worn among that group, which would normally be seen as completely inappropriate for a business setting. But they didn't care, because who was gonna make 'em? These were people who generally didn't fear consequences, but rather, enforced them.

From your outline, it sounds like your boyfriend has a bit on an entitlement problem. I suspect he'll do quite well in his chosen field, then.

More seriously, it sounds like he's a fairly typical 21-year old person; he has a somewhat simplistic, but idealistic view of the world and hasn't learned how to express that diplomatically. Some of that will undoubtedly change as he ages. With any luck, he'll keep his moral center and honesty, but ditch the extreme reactions and "I'm sorry you're offended" crap. The hard knocks of life, and the daily grind of workplace politics will almost certainly smooth out some of his rougher edges.

That's largely for him to struggle with, though. I'll try not to be harsh, but I have to agree with the general thrust of these answers; there's a lot in your question that suggests areas that you can -- and should -- work on. For instance, how much of this is a sort of academic concern for his professional well-being, and how much is really about how his behavior hurts or humiliates you?

What would you say if your best friend’s behavior could negatively impact their career? Well, if I've learned anything about approaching SOs about my perceptions of their professional or academic failings, it's DO NOT DO THAT. Especially if they are notably defensive/insecure. It never works out well. Trying to get out ahead of that sort of problem is kind of impossible, and it indicates a strong desire to control/micro-manage on the part of the person "helping." I understand worrying about how someone you care for is sabotaging themselves. It's hard to watch, and -- being honest here -- it's even harder to be genuinely supportive when they come to you for comfort, afterwards. I mean, you freakin' told them so, right? However, its only in that aftermath period, and specifically in the context of them asking for your help in repairing things, that anyone is likely to be open to hearing constructive criticisms.
posted by credible hulk at 7:14 AM on May 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

By coincidence, I had lunch yesterday with a retired trial lawyer -- a man whose peers for decades ranked him as the #1 or #2 lawyer in his state.
I asked him what he thought that reflected. He said it was not his skill or wit or ruthlessness -- "I'm just a hick with a [top LS degree]." Rather, he said it was his consistent principle of treating every colleague, adversary, underling, and superior with true respect.
I've known him 60+ years, and I can confirm that. When I was a rebel youth we debated politics, and it was from this stone conservative that I first learned how to argue: Don't get mad, don't be a moralist, and attack positions, not people. That clearly served him well, and to the extent I practice it, it serves me well too.
As for your young man, I suspect his peers will have more influence than you. But all any of you can do is show him water; whether he drinks is up to him.
posted by LonnieK at 7:56 AM on May 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

is this HIS problem, or YOUR problem? the way you scripted his future, judicial clerkship, white-shoe firm, making partner, would seem confining to me if i were your bf. maybe he isn't cut out to do that, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with this. i wasn't cut out for it either - i started my own law office after i passed the bar.

in order to be a good lawyer, you need to have an asshole gear. sounds like he's well-equipped there, as well-equipped as i was. he's already exhibited leadership and self-sufficiency, you aren't going to get humility, saintliness and self-sacrifice on top of that. if you love him, you will let him find his own way, if your vision demands a husband who's a partner at a major firm, dump him now, i don't think he'll have any trouble finding a more suitable woman.
posted by bruce at 8:01 AM on May 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

He sounds very arrogant - he is always right, and other people's feelings don't matter? Maybe this behavior is just immaturity and personality. It also is a facet of several mental illnesses and disorders. Narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality, Asperger's, depending on how pervasive it is and how he acts in other parts of his life. I don't know, but what you describe sounds like an unpleasant asshole.

I guess one piece of advice if you approach him about this is: avoid sounding like you and his friends were talking about him behind his back. Not, "here is the problem, and your friends agree." But, "recently your friends approached me with concerns about this behavior, and asked me to speak to you, and I've also had these concerns..." Use "I" statements and all that.

I think the biggest problem is him thinking other people's feelings don't matter, therefore he can act however he wants to them. That's just profoundly antisocial, and won't serve him anywhere in life. I think you need to get to the bottom of that behavior. Most people know that even if they believe they're in the right, you still have to treat others with a certain amount of respect, and not belittle them for disagreeing with you. It almost sounds like a fundie religious mindset, especially with you mentioning morals. It's really impossible to tell from this question if this is something he'll grow out of, or something deeper, but first he needs to understand there is a problem, then be committed to changing it. It's not something you can do for him, or talk him out of, so I think what you really need to be asking is, do you want to be in a relationship with this kind of person? Does he treat you as you describe? I could see that as being possibly verbally/emotionally abusive.
posted by catatethebird at 9:01 AM on May 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't think your employment prospects are as good as you said they are, from any law school in the US. (Sorry.) Which, actually, is important and helps you here. His employment at the kind of firms you're talking about is less of a sure thing, which means his behavior and attitude matter. If hoe doesn't take his job (and the way he acts there) seriously, it very well might not last.

Now that said, this isn't your problem. It's his. And it might not be his, honestly, as most 21 year olds are brats. There's no reason to think he will necessarily be a little snot as he grows up.

But okay, let's say it is your problem. If you want to address it for his benefit, then the more people who can talk to him knowledgeably about this, the better. Especially if you've already spoken with him, it might help if your mutual friends in the legal field talk with him about this.
posted by J. Wilson at 9:11 AM on May 3, 2014

I agree with valkyryn. You AND your friends are most likely having issues with how he treats you (and them) and using the career thing as an excuse in the hopes that he might put more stock into what you are saying. He won't, at least not now, see John Cleese video above.
He has no problem being blunt with you, give him the same courtesy.

About law school: most, but not all, people change a lot during those three years. I remember this one young lady whom during her first semester would show up looking & acting like a street walker. You wouldn't think it if you met her by the next semester, especially not the following summer. Nobody had to tell her anything. Much like your bf, eventually he'll figure it out. Or he won't. His attitude might suit him just fine in the legal profession.

Whether it suits him to stay in a healthy relationship with you or his other friends is an entirely different story.

Oh, and drink the KoolAid. Not even Harvard & Berkley grads have it that great right now.
posted by Neekee at 9:39 AM on May 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Well, I work in biglaw right now, and I disagree that this type of behavior is tolerated among junior associates. Partners are a different story, yes, especially if they're bringing in business. But in this environment, junior associates are highly replaceable.

Nonetheless, I agree with previous posters that this is not your job to fix, and that it's incredibly premature to worry about what will happen to your boyfriend as a fifth-year (!) associate. Many/most people who enter biglaw these days aren't even planning to stay that long, anyway.

The main thing I want to add is that it would be a VERY good idea to ask your school not to place the two of you in the same section for your 1L year. This will help to preserve your relationship and will also save you a lot of grief if your relationship does not survive. And by the way, I don't mean that in a judgmental way, AT ALL - many, many relationships do not survive 1L year, and it's just something you should be aware of if you're starting law school in a long-term relationship.
posted by Carmelita Spats at 9:58 AM on May 3, 2014 [7 favorites]

Umm. Making a special email to talk trash about your boyfriend, "immaturefuturelawyer@gmail", is not exactly the height of mature and reasoned behavior.

I think you really need to take a step back from this situation and think about how much of this intense concern trolling about your boyfriend's career path, including the suggestion that he defer school for one to two years-- which is an insanely presumptuous thing to tell an SO-- is or is not a screen for your personal concerns about his behavior. The problem is not that your bf is starting law school, the problem is that you're dating CAPSLOCK HARRY POTTER and that presumably he's being hurtful and belittling to you. Address the problems in your relationship. If the older legal professionals who are concerned about your boyfriend adapting are actually that concerned, they can mentor him themselves instead of trying to get his girlfriend to do the job for them.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 11:32 AM on May 3, 2014 [7 favorites]

All of the stuff you mention about your boyfriend is very common among intelligent undergrad dudes. I wouldn't say he is "immature" for his age, or that any of this stuff is a real problem to the extent that it's actually your business. Law school and early professional experiences (this is what internships are made for) are going to soften a lot of these rough edges, and I wouldn't worry too much about "white shoe law firm" type future issues. I will guarantee that like 75% or more of your classmates at law school are going to have the same types of social problems as your boyfriend -- those are all attitudes that correlate highly with the general scene of People Who Get Into Law School.

That said. Does this bother you because it could someday impact his career, if he doesn't do a little bit of growing over the next few years? Or does it bother you because he employs all of these habits in his interactions with you, and you don't like it because he belittles you, attacks you, won't back down from even the tiniest argument with you, uses ad-hominem attacks on you, etc? Because that's no way to treat your girlfriend, and if you dislike it, that should be enough for him to shut it down or you to move on if he really can't make an effort to treat you like someone he respects and cares about. Have you guys talked about these issues, and the fact that you are hurt by them, before? Has he said he'd change, or actually tried to change?

TL;DR: If you want this to stop, frame it around how it makes you feel, not some abstract and probably overblown idea about Professionalism in a career setting.
posted by Sara C. at 1:40 PM on May 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Well, your boyfriend must be better than you and your friends are giving him credit for at keeping these immature tendencies in check in the workplace, otherwise he wouldn't have gotten as far as he has to date.

It's strongly reading that you and your boyfriend's friends are hoping that you can try to change how he treats you by intimating that it will affect his professional life. But you know what? You can't change other people. End of story. You can change how you respond to him ("If you continue to do [immature thing] I will leave the room/break up with you/whatever), but that means you will have to accept the possibility that he will decide that he would rather break up with you than change how he treats you.

Honestly I'm having trouble imagining what the appeal of this guy is based on the way you've described him here. You should assume that your boyfriend will continue behaving this way towards you indefinitely and decide on your own how you want to proceed with this relationship.
posted by fox problems at 2:34 PM on May 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also-- it's concerning to me that you have this boyfriend who is belittling you and treating you badly, and you feel like you need to appeal to outside powers like his friends, your mentors, and metafilter, and frame it as something that hurts HIM and his future prospects, instead of being able to say, this behavior hurts ME. You are worth being treated better, without any of the law school drama.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 3:45 PM on May 3, 2014 [11 favorites]

If you, personally, feel his behavior at work is getting in his way...then as he fails (or at least bumps up against issues he's triggered himself) you can be supportive but also suggest that "when I've been in similar situations, here's what I've done to get through it" and so by sharing your own successes, he can (possibly) learn to get through things better. He's young, he has a lot of time, and if you try to address it head-on...well, why should he consider you credible, considering how much success he's had in his employment to date?

Now, if you, personally, feel his behavior towards you is getting in the way of you having a solid relationship, by all means sit him down, talk about it, and set expectations/boundaries. You may not be credible regarding his place of employment (which is to say that even if you are, he won't believe it) but you absolutely are the most credible -- only credible! -- person when it comes to defining whether or not this relationship is successful for you. You don't need to justify your feelings, you just need to make it clear that you have concerns, that you expect certain things to change in specific ways, and that there will be consequences if it doesn't happen.

Good luck.
posted by davejay at 11:52 PM on May 3, 2014

No offense but suggesting he defer a year or two sounds more symptomatic of you either wanting distance from him or you not wanting to deal with law school stress & him at the same time. You are allowed to feel like this. If you want to continue in this relationship, make sure you are in different sections. Address your concerns about his immaturity towards you & your relationship, or you'll just get fed up and it all blows up during reading period before exams.
PS: law profs have a BLAST putting cocky students in their place.
posted by Neekee at 7:20 AM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

There are many lawyers like this. Maybe even most. (disclaimer, I'm also a lawyer). This is something that will work itself out. You are not his mom.

I'm going to make a suggestion--try not to let your anxiety about law school (we all had it!) get you into focusing more on him in law school than you should focus on yourself in law school.

Drop this. He'll figure it out on his own.

If you are upset on how he treats you, just stand your ground and tell him you don't like it--don't try and call in "you'll be in trouble at school" because you deserve to be treated like you want to be treated.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:58 PM on May 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

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