May 16, 2018
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They are like particularly bad pennies. No matter what you do, you always seem to have a jerk in your life. The jerk might be a coworker who seems to go out of their way to make life miserable. You know, the one who drinks the last cup of coffee in the machine and gives you an insincere smile or phony “oops” as they chug that last cup and make no effort to start a fresh pot. Your jerk could also be a family member who just cannot seem to leave you alone. This could be the annoying cousin who falsely claims you were the one who scraped the paint off the car or chases you out of the bathroom in record time every morning only to spend an hour in the shower themselves. The jerk in your life could also be, unfortunately, your significant other who keeps tearing you down or brushes aside your concerns or feelings with a dismissive wave. 

No matter where you are in life, you probably have a jerk inhabiting it. Whether said jerk is the mom at the PTA who swears you are raising your kids wrong or a boss who just cannot give you a break, you have to wonder sometimes, in between grinding your teeth in impotent fury, why in the world you continue to put up with the jerks in your life. There are any number of circumstances that could cause the jerk to enter your life, but here are four possible reasons you have not kicked them to the curb yet. 

They aren’t actually a jerk to you.

Everyone has met that person who is a jerk to half the class and best buddies with the other half. If you are in the unfortunate half of the family or workplace that gets picked on, you are probably looking for ways to get the jerk away from you. If you are in the lucky half that said jerk is bafflingly fond of, you may not have a personal reason to ditch the jerk. After all, they are not being mean to you. 

Keeping around someone who is mean to everyone who is not you is a real quick way to alienate other potential friends. Most people do not like it when someone stands there and lets them get picked on. Besides, people might assume that since you are hanging out with a jerk, you are a jerk, too.

It’s temporary, or at least you think it is.

Jerkdom can be temporary. Sometimes someone is a jerk due to temporary circumstances. The case in point would be those people who have the personality of a pit viper when they get sick. Rather than trying to coddle them in their misery, you put the chicken soup on the bedside table and scramble out of the room as quickly as you can to avoid hateful words and vicious glares. That sort of jerkdom is temporary. They will return to their normal selves when the cold, flu or other unpleasant virus has run its course. 

Other people are jerks for years, but then reality slaps them in the face, and they grow up. Holding out hope for this sort of transformation is not always a good idea, but it is nice to know that it does sometimes occur. 

Not all “temporary” jerks will leave their jerkdom behind. Plenty of people have entered into friendships, work partnerships or romantic relationships believing that the jerk’s terrible personality will magically transform into the temperament of a pleasant human being. They are often wrong. Still, they console themselves with wistful delusions that things are getting better and that the jerk is improving. This is false. Drop the jerk like a hot potato before they steal away any more of your life. 

You think you can fix them.

The belief that you can change a jerk is most commonly found in romantic relationships. This idea often comes with a side helping of a savior complex. You are convinced that you are the special person who can transform a grade-A jerk into a decent human being. Unfortunately, those dreams are just dreams. Jerks do not normally change for anyone, least of all someone that gives every indication of having accepted their terrible behavior. Accept that they are not going to change. You are not going to swoop in and save them from themselves. Instead, your loved ones are going to be wondering if they need to swoop in and save you.

You’re stuck with them.

Sadly, there are some jerks that cannot be escaped. They might be a coworker with whom you have no choice but to share office space. The jerk in your life might also be a family member with whom you are stuck interacting. They might be your sister-in-law or the bratty little brother of your favorite cousin, and where the family member you love goes, so too goes the jerk. It is hardly ideal, but sometimes people have little choice but to put up with the jerks. In those cases, you need to decide how much avoiding the jerk is worth to you and what you will risk to achieve a life free of said jerk. Telling your brother to stop bringing his wife to Thanksgiving will probably not go over so well. Asking if you can trade offices with another coworker might be better received. 

Jerks are an unfortunate reality in life. They wriggle their way into friendships, romantic relationships, family dinners and the workplace. If you are stuck dealing with a jerk, know that you are not alone. Plenty of other people would like to let the jerk get “lost” searching for something in the company warehouse.  Sadly, there is not always a good way to get rid of the jerk. Sometimes all you can do is grin, bear it and thinking longingly of when you can be free of them.