My Live-In Boyfriend Doesn’t Contribute Equally To Our Joint Expenses, And I’m Starting To Resent Him

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My boyfriend and I have been together for 2 years. We’ve decided to rent a place together. We have been living together for 4 months. He rented a room in a house previously and I rented a small house with my two children. Now we are renting a small house together. With his child support, truck payment, etc…. it leaves him only $600 to contribute to the household. That leaves me to contribute the rest, which is about $3000. That is just rent, food, utilities. I work two jobs and he works one. He says he wants to help but is unable. He is trying to find some extra jobs, on the side, but not very hard. He doesn’t cook or clean either. He is the nicest, most wonderful man I know. He treats me nice, he never expects anything from me. I am starting to resent him though. I don’t know if I am right or wrong to feel resentful. Even if he made more money he says he won’t pay half because, in all fairness, I get child support and he shouldn’t have to pay half. He says he will pay a third. I can’t help feeling he is treating me like a roommate and not his woman. If he is a real man shouldn’t he want to work together to build a life? He tells me everyday how much he loves me, he brings me flowers when he can. He never yells at me or criticizes me. Should I just keep paying and just let him pay what he can? He never goes out or spends foolishly on himself. He really doesn’t have enough.

Money is a big topic on this blog.

We’ve talked about how some women take advantage of good-hearted low-earning boyfriends.

We’ve talked about how some women expect men to make more money, even if they make a good living independently.

We’ve talked about how some women refuse to even reach for a check.

These are all arguments I’ve made for equality. In this day and age, with women earning more college degrees and masters degrees, it’s anachronistic to expect men to ALWAYS pay and ALWAYS earn more.

But Lisa’s question really cuts to the heart of women’s issues around money. What happens if you’re dating a man without skills, without ambition, and without the desire to be a better provider?

This is not about who earns more. This is about two things: what’s fair and what you’re comfortable with.

This is my client’s worst nightmare — even though I can’t see any of my clients dating a man with a truck payment and $600 to spare each month. So let me begin, Lisa, by expressing my admiration and sympathy to you. You fell in love with a man based on what’s in his heart and not in his wallet, and that says a lot about your character.

The question is whether it’s enough.

My answer to you will be a gender-blind one, because that’s the way we need to begin to look at financial issues. This is not about who earns more. This is about two things: what’s fair and what you’re comfortable with.

Objectively, this arrangement isn’t fair. But then, in a gender-blind society, who said things had to be fair? I made about four times what my wife made when we met. Would it have been fair for me to ask her to split our rent in half? No, it would not. We split it based on our means to pay. I could have resented the fact that I made four times more than her, but I chose not to. I wasn’t with her for her money or ability to split costs. I was with her because of how I felt in her presence.

These days, my wife doesn’t work at all. She stays at home with the kids, goes to Mommy and Me classes, swimming classes, MyGym and Disneyland, all of which I pay for. Do I resent her? Not one bit. This is what she wants to do, and I’m fortunate to have the means to allow her to do it. This is the bargain we struck as a couple. This is the bargain any woman can strike with a man, as long as she doesn’t resent him for earning less or being a stay at home dad.

I’m guessing every reader here had the same initial reaction to your email, “Lisa, you poor girl! Dump him!” I can see where that impulse comes from, but I don’t think it’s acknowledging your deep feelings for your boyfriend. You’ve spent two years with him. You say that he’s the “nicest, most wonderful man” you know.

In order to salvage this relationship, a few things have to happen.

First, you need to have an authentic conversation with him. You need to start by acknowledging how much you love and appreciate him. Then you need to acknowledge that you’ve been feeling a little bit of resentment. You’re not proud of it, but you’re owning it.

Next, you can break it down for him. You contribute five times more to the household than he does, even though you only make X dollars more. Even though you appreciate his pre-existing payments, that’s imbalanced and is a serious burden for you to carry alone. Get his acknowledgement of this fact.

What you’d like to do is sit down and do a budget of how much each of you makes and would like to pay the rent and bills proportionately, whatever that means. This would include how much money you make from child support and would exclude how much he pays in child support. We’re talking about take home pay only.

There’s nothing wrong with marrying a poor guy if you have the means to support him. There IS something wrong with marrying a poor guy who doesn’t have a sense of fairness and appreciation for your efforts.

If it still comes out to $600 for him and $3000 for you, you can suggest a work around. He can sell his truck and buy something cheaper, if that’s possible. You can go to Mint.com and look at how to better balance your budget. But the one thing that is going to have to change is how much he contributes to the household in non-monetary ways. He’s gotta do 50% of the cooking and 50% of the cleaning at a bare minimum to ease your burden as the primary breadwinner.

Make it clear that you don’t resent him because he makes less than you. Not everyone can have a high paying job. The reason this feeling is building up inside is that you feel taken for granted. And if the roles were reversed and he was paying $3000/month AND doing all the cooking and cleaning, he’d probably feel resentful, too, no?

His reaction to this conversation will tell you whether you have a relationship worth preserving. There’s nothing wrong with marrying a poor guy if you have the means to support him. There IS something wrong with marrying a poor guy who doesn’t have a sense of fairness and appreciation for your efforts.

Please come back and let us know how that conversation goes.

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Comments:

  1. 221
    Mrs Happy

    Thanks everyone.  All very helpful.  I’m taking most of the advice.

    CB, I’m sure your specialty has a conference coming up in Sydney soon.  I’ll take you and Mariks out to lunch.  Adrian I almost offered you the same last summer but then you wrote something which made me wary to – but any regular who is in our town is of course invited.  Emily already knows she has a standing invitation to just get her new job here and have regular drinks nights with Mariks.  And I don’t know where S. and Lynx hail from, but they’re welcome too.  I’d also love to meet YAG, as I suspect he’d be quite fun in real life, just a charming scoundrel and a born flirt.  This is ridiculous not even knowing what you all look like.

  2. 222
    Emily, to

    Lynx,
    “Am I your mom?! That’s exactly what my kids have experienced with their father.”
    Would you like to be my mom? I’ve been hoping to be adopted. 🙂

    “My parents ostensibly stayed together for my sibling and I, but in truth … There is something to be said for loyalty in an indifferent world.”

    My grandmother told me that after my aunt went off to college (she was the youngest), she and my grandfather agreed to stay married but pretty much do their own thing except for family obligations. And I could feel the strain and silence between them when I went to visit as a teenager, which made me sad. I wanted them to be happy. But even then I was very afraid they would get divorced. I did not want them to separate.

  3. 223
    Lynx

    @Emily: I’d be honored to be your faux-mom. The kindest, saddest compliment I ever got was from my son’s first girlfriend as they were breaking up. She had been a foster child from age 11, and undergone all the crap you’ve heard about. At one point, when the break was hardest for her, she cried, “Why does he get to have a mom like you and I don’t?” Still crushes my heart just typing that out – in a belated shoutout to @Adrian, I agree it is frustrating to see people campaign against abortion when there are so many children in the here and now who are in desperate need.

    “I wanted them to be happy.”

    This is the great burden to some children of discontent parents. I know it was for me. You think you can make them happy — and for a while, in my case, with my mother, I could, but then it all came crashing down when I got my first boyfriend and my attention shifted away. Once, during a fight, she told me, “I always thought you were the perfect daughter. I was wrong.” Ouch.

    I have tried very hard to reassure my kids they have zero responsibility for my happiness, it’s completely on me. Of course, they also know I’ll get a little crazed if dirty dishes are left in the sink!

  4. 224
    Lynx

    Mrs. Happy: This is ridiculous not even knowing what you all look like.” There has got to be a dating app out there with this premise, where you don’t see any photos and connect purely by text-based rapport. I wonder what the success stats are?!

  5. 225
    Adrian

    Hi Lynx, Mrs. Happy, and Emily,

    Lynx said, “belated shoutout to @Adrian, I agree it is frustrating to see people campaign against abortion when there are so many children in the here and now who are in desperate need.

    Thanks Lynx, shout-out back at-cha. A couple of us regulars have gone back to college to get our masters or PhD and I’m one of them. On my university campus every year the anti-abortion groups comes and post crosses that represent graves of “supposedly” aborted babies all over the school.  Yet I’ve seen those same people walk right by the teenage homeless, teens and pre-teens asking for change for public transportation, and of course they walk by  young (10 and under) children dressed in layers of shirts but no coat during the winter without even given them a second glance.

    Now I’m  not saying it’s their job to help anyone, all I’m saying is if you fight so hard to make sure women have birth, to the point of calling all women who decide they are too young or don’t have the way of supporting a child a sinner, a child murder, say they are going to or sending that baby to hell… then when a women does knowledge their views and the child is born why not stick around to help or set up something to make sure the struggling (often young) single mom has support? I think people mainly fight for it so strongly because it make them feel good about THEMSELVES to be SELF-RIGHTEOUS!

    It’s the same way with unhappy marriage I believe. Only that couple knows if it is better to stay married for the kids or not, but when strangers (with or without kids) scream how much of a sin it is to divorce because the the poor children. I wonder are they so anti-divorce with kids because they know children are ALWAYS better in unhappy marriages or is it because it makes them feel good about THEMSELVES to be SELF-RIGHTEOUS?…”I would gladly sacrifice for my kids happiness… Eghhh… wouldn’t you? I love my kids enough to endure, don’t you???”

    …   …   …

    Mrs. Happy said, “Adrian I almost offered you the same last summer but then you wrote something which made me wary to

    Emily said, “Oh, yeah. I hear Mariks is down for anything.

    See Mrs. Happy I’m the innocent vanilla one, it’s Marika a.k.a break dancing Mariks that is the wild one! (^_^)

  6. 226
    Adrian

    Hi Lynx,

    You said, “There has got to be a dating app out there with this premise, where you don’t see any photos and connect purely by text-based rapport. I wonder what the success stats are?!

    I think in the UK they do or did have a show like that and from the few things I’ve read about the show, it is one of those things that seem like a good idea in theory but doesn’t work in practice.

    Couples went on several dates in the dark and 9 out of 10 times their was rejection when they saw each other with the lights on… Even though they had long deep conversations, kissed, hugged, and started getting “feelings” for each other when they were in the dark.

    All that time in the dark “bonding” they imaged the person looking different. No matter how mentally & emotionally compatible you are,  you need attraction and no matter how attractive you find a person you need compatibility.

  7. 227
    Emily, to

    Adrian,

    See Mrs. Happy I’m the innocent vanilla one, it’s Marika a.k.a break dancing Mariks that is the wild one! (^_^)

    You’re not innocent. We now know you got a little dirty birdy in you. 🙂 Weren’t you once posting that women thought of you as the husband and not the boyfriend?  If you let a hint of the real you emerge, you could change that perception.   🙂

  8. 228
    Emily, to

    Lynx,
    At one point, when the break was hardest for her, she cried, “Why does he get to have a mom like you and I don’t?” Still crushes my heart just typing that out 
    That is sad.
    This is the great burden to some children of discontent parents. I know it was for me. You think you can make them happy — and for a while, in my case, with my mother, I could, but then it all came crashing down when I got my first boyfriend and my attention shifted away.
    I won’t bore you with the details of my upbringing, but I was raised by a family friend, a single woman who thought of me more like a default husband than a child to raise. She would get mad at me if I went out with my friends. But I was a teenager and even that young I knew her demands on me were too much and I resented it.

  9. 229
    Lynx

    Oh, @Emily, to, I am sorry to hear that. It must have been a challenge to trust anyone to have your best interest at heart. Are you still in touch with her (if it’s not impolite to ask)?

  10. 230
    Mrs Happy

    I’m now contemplating that nobody among us regulars (bar break dancing Mariks) had a loving, caring, normal mother?  An interesting common denominator.

  11. 231
    Emily, to

    Lynx,
    “It must have been a challenge to trust anyone to have your best interest at heart.”
    I hadn’t thought of her having that effect, but you bring up a good point.
    “Are you still in touch with her (if it’s not impolite to ask)?”
    No. I felt guilty about that for a while, but — can I be honest? — after a while just felt glad to be free. She was suffocating.

  12. 232
    Emily, to

    Hi Mrs. Happy,

    I’m now contemplating that nobody among us regulars (bar break dancing Mariks) had a loving, caring, normal mother?  An interesting common denominator.

    Are there videos of Mariks break dancing online? She must be dancing to Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” or I simply will NOT watch it.  🙂

    I had a great mother, but she died when I was young. Then I was left with, to quote George Clooney’s character in “The Descendants,” the “back-up parent.” I have often wondered if having no father is better than having a bad one (as horrible as that sounds). I had a good male role model in my grandfather (other side of the family). That would have been enough.

  13. 233
    Jeremy

    If I ever do make it out to Sydney (which is a dream of mine), I’ll buy lunch for you and Mariks, EW. You can be in charge of spider catching/smushing. Fair is fair, and I’d not want you to feel as though you had nothing to contribute

     

    I often wonder whether any of us would get along in real life. How the conversations would go, whether we would naturally progress to friendship from the basis we have formed here  or whether it would be like a blind date where we’ve over-communicated before meeting and so have little left to talk about.  Anyway, I think it would be fun to find out.  The breakfast club outside of detention.

     

    Now, honest answer  had you seen the movie prior to my comment weeks ago, or did you download it afterward? I have an internal bet with myself about that one …

  14. 234
    Mrs Happy

    CB –
    I’d seen The Breakfast Club decades ago, though it was released when I was a little young for it, not quite a teenager, from memory. Not overly impressed really. I had a “Save Ferris” T-shirt though.
    Of course we would get on in real life you turkey. I’m great at friendships. (Well, when I’m not ruthlessly culling them.) I’ve more than enough social grace and concern to compensate for your friendship-related and self-worth anxieties. I’m really good at friendships with males.
    I just this morning saw The Wiggles with my daughter and asked her, do you think I look like Emma the yellow Wiggle, and she said, no, not without a lot of theatre make up and darker hair and less belly padding. Charming!
    Come to Sydney, Come to Sydney, Come to Sydney. Or at least give me your email address. So I can debate with you outside the public eye why you should’ve let your wife prepare the bitter herbs etc. Stop hesitating, you know it’s going to happen, and nothing problematic will eventuate. Come on. I could sic a private investigator on you with all the demographic data you’ve provided and contact you that way, and boy did I want to send you the bear book at Xmas that way, but restrained myself, it’s just too creepy to do that. And I want you all in. Jump, Yossarian, jump.

  15. 235
    Meagan

    I just have to say to the author that the fact that your wife is a stay at home mother is not akin to her not working or doing anything while you’re doing all the work. Housekeepers are paid for their work. Nannies are paid for their work. Both of those things plus some fall under a stay at home mom’s responsibilities. She may not be bringing in money but it sounds like she doesn’t need to. So comparing a boyfriend who does not cook or clean (which means she’s cleaning his messes plus her own and her children’s) or pay anywhere near an equal part of the bills to a stay at home mother who takes care of the children and the house is not the same at all. I don’t see how that situation compares to the original poster’s at all.

  16. 236
    Jeremy

    Catch-22.  I’ve always identified with Yossarian, never knowing if I was the sane one in a crazy world or the crazy one among the sane.  Such a classic book – such beautiful irony, damned if you do, damned if you don’t….so you gotta pick your poison.  Such a metaphor for life.

    If my wife was on an online chat group I’d support her having an outlet for her interests and socialization.  But if she began socializing privately with a man she met there, I’d likely not understand.  So how could I expect her to do what I couldn’t?

    So tell me why you think I should have let her prepare the bitter herbs.  I’m always up for a friendly debate, and admit I could be wrong. 🙂

  17. 237
    Mrs Happy

    CB,

    “So tell me why you think I should have let her prepare the bitter herbs.”

    Because she wanted to.

    (It would have made her feel good.  She wanted to express her care and love for her family via this act on such an important evening.  It had great significance for her.  Perhaps you were selfish to take that from her just so you’d get your wants met – her attention, energy, time? Most importantly, there shouldn’t be a “let” in an equal relationship – she is not your inferior and shouldn’t have needed your permission or approval.)

     

    On the other query:

    it’s not socialising, it’d be a pen pal (via email) friendship, because we’d never see one another.  My mood sank earlier today when I read your recent post on another thread and realised your stance on male thoughts re emotional support.  I appreciate people have different opinions on friendships, but you’re wrong and it can be done.  I do it.  My husband and I both have multiple friends of both genders.  You could do it.  You haven’t tried.

    You know you’d like more friends.  If you don’t want to, it will indeed be my unfathomable loss, but the thing is, you want to, you just believe it’d be a bad idea.  I almost never encounter someone I so want to communicate with.  I have about 100 questions.   Due to manners if nothing else, I should only ask and get your no reply so many times.  (Plus, each time it shocks then really hurts.)  It’s just so frustrating, because, well, I’m right and you’re wrong, and the cost of your incorrect stance is this great thing which would enhance my life.

    Hey, I’ve just had an idea – try it my way for a year, or half that, or a month, and then reassess, and if you’re right (you’re not, but I’m humouring your reasoning process) then revert to your stance for evermore.  The benefits outweigh the risks; you expect your sick patients to make this leap of trust every day, so you should do it every so often.  Trust enlivens life.

    I’m harmless.  I’m smiling just typing this, it’s so fun conversing with you.  Happiness is contagious and I sit at an 8.  (Chocolate helps.)  I’m feeling vulnerable typing all this into a public space.  Jump.

     

  18. 238
    Jeremy

    I will speak with my wife and see what she thinks. Because while I agree with you about the importance of friendship, her feelings must be of paramount importance.

  19. 239
    Marika

    Jeremy & Mrs H

    You two are the cutest!

    Re the herbs, I see your point Mrs H, but you could see Jeremy’s stance as good emotional labour. Women do it all the time – you know X will upset your husband and the household – he wants to do it anyway, but you suggest an alternative or find workarounds. I can relate to that.

    J’s wife stepped in when it came to their daughter’s sleeping arrangements… in marriages one partner is better at certain things and has the final say. I would guess J is better in his marriage at empathy/self awareness/self reflection.

    I recall my ex sister in law used to put on elaborate kids’ parties, then be exhausted and awful to be around. We all would’ve preferred a simpler party and a happier host.

  20. 240
    Heather

    I receive child support for one child. He pays child support for one. We have 4 adult children together for a total of 6, 3 mine, 3 his. We bring home around the same amount. My job pays less but I receive alimony and child support. We live together. He pays half the mortgage but contributes nothing toward utilities. I feel he should pay half of everything pertaining to our living expenses. He has more kids in the house than I do. Two of mine are away at college. His two youngest come 50% of the time to our house. His oldest with us full time. Only my youngest is with us 70% of the time. I’m also feeling used and resentful. He does contribute to our household chores equally. I don’t know if I should bring it up. Help!

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