Chuck Klosterman, author of Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas and the better known Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, is our new New York Times Ethicist! I am excited about this. But I didn’t agree with his advice in this week’s Sunday Magazine. Caroline, in Florida writes:
My on-again, off-again boyfriend of three years was on-again at the time he suffered a major illness. Before its onset, I was questioning our long-term potential and decided we were not meant to be. I do not have the caretaking responsibilities (his family assumed that role), and we live on opposite coasts. I intend to see him through this illness from afar, plus occasional visits. My question: With a recovery time of four to six months, how and when can I let him go, ethically, for both our sakes?
Related: The Ultimate Guide To Breakups
Klosterman says it would be wrong to bum out someone in physical pain with the additional (and, he says, “unnecessary”) emotional pain, advising Caroline to wait until he feels “relatively optimistic about his condition.”
If your quasi boyfriend reaches a point at which the two of you can take a walk outdoors while discussing random trivialities, he’s probably at a point that a serious discussion about the future can be reasonably broached.
If the boyfriend’s illness is terminal, Klosterman says Caroline is obligated to stay with him until he dies. (Read his full response here.)
When this happened on Seinfeld episode, Elaine broke up with the guy after trying to half-heartedly care for him. And I couldn’t blame her. I wouldn’t want someone to fake-care for me if I were sick. I have plenty of people who love me who could feed me soup and do Mad Libs with me. I don’t think you do anyone any favors by staying with them just because they’re sick. If you know you are going to break up with someone, the sooner you do it, the better. Hearts don’t become more adjusted to the idea of being broken as time goes on in a relationship, it’s the opposite. And while sick people don’t need additional or unnecessary pain, they don’t need unnecessary pity, either.
If I happened to die from my illness and discovered, as a ghost, that my boyfriend Justin had remained with me because he read in a Chuck Klosterman article that that’s what he should do, I would feel so creeped out — like my final days were a lie. And I would definitely haunt him for the rest of his life. In a scary, not fun, way. You hear that Justin?
But what do you think? Do you think Klosterman is wrong? (In that case, maybe I should be the new Ethicist.) Or is Chuck dead on?