I’m Supporting My Boyfriend and Feel Like His Mother!

I’m Supporting My Boyfriend and Feel Like His Mother!
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I have been with my boyfriend for almost two years and I am a bit conflicted about his financial contributions. He moved in with me fairly soon after we started dating (I own my own place and he was living with his dad) and for about 7 months he did not contribute at all, even after he started parking in one of my rental spots for free and I lost the income for it. I eventually got fed up and spoke to him about it and told him I was feeling used. We then agreed on a number that constituted as his rent to me and things got better. Since then though we got a dog, and the expenses went up quite a bit yet his contribution stayed the same. I only make 13K more than him but am paying for 70% of our joint expenses. I know that I should tell him I am feeling used once again but I resent that we are back in the same situation that that this is even a conversation that needs to be had. I don’t want to commit to having to mother him for the rest of our lives but at the same time I know that he is a good person and he is my best friend. What should I do?

Carolina

People are selfish.

Selfish doesn’t have to equal “bad.” If anything, it means self-interested.

We seek pleasure. We seek to avoid pain. We don’t always know we’re doing it. We don’t always know the effects our behaviors have on others.

If your boyfriend is, in fact, a good person, he is interested in making you happy. He is also interested in procuring the best financial arrangement for himself because, well, people are selfish. These two things aren’t an inherent contradiction.

Similarly, you are acting in your own self-interests (even though you’re floating 70% of the joint expenses.) By bending over backwards to support him, by swallowing your tongue to avoid discussing this with him, by refusing to set boundaries with him, you don’t have to have a scary discussion that may result in the end of your relationship.

In Love U, I allude to “the normalization of deviance” – which is to say that your normal relationship started to break down the second he moved in with you rent-free (mistake #1) – and you both established this precedent where you would cover for him like his mommy.

Is it any surprise that he started parking in your rental spot for free (and that you let him)?

Is it any surprise that, as expenses rise, your old terms are no longer working for you?

Yes, it’s a bit lame and shitty that he’s a “free rider” who is gladly taking advantage of your goodwill. But again, if he’s acting in his self-interest, that is predictable. He’s avoiding the pain of going back to 50-50 with you. You’re avoiding the pain of having an uncomfortable conversation – but, in avoiding it, you’re building up the pain of resentment that goes unabated.

You’re avoiding the pain of having an uncomfortable conversation – but, in avoiding it, you’re building up the pain of resentment that goes unabated.

The solution to this is simple:

  1. Without anger, judgment, or attachment to the outcome, let him know you want to have a household meeting to go through your respective earnings and expenses.
  2. Figure out your take-home salaries. Figure out your joint expenses. Both of you come prepared with itemized Excel spreadsheets to be transparent.
  3. Agree to pay for joint expenses proportional to what you take home. Ex. When my wife and I got married, I paid 75% of joint expenses not because it was “fair” (I still only took up 50% of the household resources) but because it was proportional according to our means.
  4. Anything you have left over, you can keep in your own bank account and spend according to your own desires.

With a reasonable man, this will solve your short-term resentment over this situation.

An unreasonable man will continue to negotiate for his own self-interest instead of what’s fair. Dump this man.

One final caveat: do you really want to marry a man who is fine being a taker?

I know he’s a good person and your best friend, marriage requires more than that. It requires two givers. Think about that after you renegotiate and before you get engaged.

 

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Selena

    From the letter “:I know that I should tell him I am feeling used once again but I resent that we are back in the same situation that that this is even a conversation that needs to be had.”

    Does he realize you pay 70% of the joint expenses? Does he know in detail what those expenses actually are? Does he know how much more you spend now since you got a dog?

    If you avoid having conversations about expenses and finances, how is he to know you are unhappy with the current arrangement? If you make more money than he does, maybe he thinks you are fine covering the extra expenses related to the dog and whatever. You seem to expect him to automatically start giving you more money without ever having to say anything. I don’t see this as realistic and a bit odd considering he’s your best friend – you should be able to talk to him about anything.

    EMK offered a practical strategy for splitting the bills, but I think you might examine why you are so afraid to talk about money with him and live with unspoken resentment because of it.

  2. 2
    Aileen

    I lived this situation several years ago. Almost exactly as you have described it. I was in love for the first time and overlooked it for a while (he was trying to start a business, blah blah) but the resentment built and built. Even after a couple of discussions (which I had to force him to have and then he would barely discuss it), the finances never got equitable. I finally had to walk away and it was one of the hardest things I have done…but Evan is right…I realized that (for me and only me), this tendency and comfort with being a taker was a deal breaker for me. I felt like his character would not change and this would be a problem in some form or fashion for as long as we were together. However, I hope your situation is different…I wish you luck and hope you are able to resolve things to your satisfaction!

  3. 3
    Malika

    Whose idea was it to get the dog? Did you guys realize what the expenses are that come from dog ownership? Having a pet seems like such a normal thing that it can come as a surprise just how much it costs to keep it fed and looked after.

    Personally, i always strived to be in a relationship where we would equally contribute, financially. In theory that sounds perfect, but real life can sometimes call for a temporary lopsided contribution. At the moment i am retraining and in between jobs, and my financial aid just about covers my bills and groceries. This has coincided with my partner wanting to go on holiday every single month (his job and financial situation allows for that). He offered to pay for the costs of all our getaways until I find a new job and has been footing the bill for every single one. This might make me sound like a taker, and well… Sometimes i feel like one! I do always thank him for his generosity, and take him out for a romantic dinner during the getaway in order to acknowledge this. I feel that this goes towards his feeling appreciated, and shows that he is far more to me than a provider of fun holidays.

    Does your boyfriend make gestures to acknowledge your generosity? Is he taking steps to ensure a fair distribution of expense payments? Even if he cannot do more than what he can now, a realization that certain expenses have to be scaled back or a realistic timeline of a fairer distribution will lessen your irritation. Quite a few times we do not realize that we are in a taker role as we are wrapped in our daily pecadilloes, and a gentle reminder can do wonders in bringing out the inner giver.
    If he talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk, do consider leaving him, as drastic as it sounds. That’s the point where your generosity crosses into gullibility. There are few more things depleting than being with someone who does not know how to give (emotionally, effortfully or financially) and it can lead to a bitter and acrimonious relationship farther down the road when the well of patience has been wrung dry.

  4. 4
    Kath

    Some good advice has already been posted, so I won’t restate it in different words. I remember being in a similar relationship as a younger woman. I made a youthful mistake and married a guy who later started making more than I did, and he proceeded to control every nickel. And he didn’t hesitate to buy himself every toy he wanted, including flying lessons. Shame on me for allowing and accepting that behavior. Never again.

    Sorry @Carolina, but sounds like your guy is a taker. Even though he may be otherwise wonderful, he knows how to get what he wants from you for as little as possible. If he protests before or after having a financial meeting to discuss expenses, that’s a pretty strong indicator of where he stands and who he is. It will not get better if you decide to marry him. You undoubtedly have worked hard to own your place; hope you come to resolution, whether it means your guy agrees and willingly steps up, or if you decide to cut your losses and let him go.

  5. 5
    Dana

    I was married to a taker. He was lovely in many ways, but in the end he wanted what he wanted — a free ride, with minimal responsibilities — and when I finally said I’d had enough and things had to change, this was his reply: “Well, you knew I was this way when you married me.” And to be fair, he was sort-of right. He gave every indication from the start, from having to take a job out of state in order to pay off the debt he built from long-term underemployment, to taking six months to get another job when he moved back. Throughout he talked a lot about what he wanted to do (creative work, and he was talented), but he struggled to apply himself beyond creating sample works (that I financed) — and then he wouldn’t make the effort to show them. (EMK: “Ignore the good, believe the bad.” True that.) There were lots of sympathetic reasons (insecurity, lack of self worth, etc.), but just as strong was his desire to get more than he gave. Like a child, he loved “getting away with” anything. That’s who he was at the start, and I’m sure he’s still that way — only now, he’s not getting away with me.

  6. 6
    Noone45

    Sounds like a garden-variety hobosexual to me. He was broke and sponging off you when you first got together and shocker, he’s still happy to use your money now. In this situation, this poor woman needs to cut her loses. He’s doing the same damn thing he’s done through most of the relationship. He’s going to keep doing it. If you are ok with spending your relationship putting a fire under this guy to contribute, go ahead. But your number one mistake was dating a guy in this situation to begin with. I’m not saying a broke person is unworthy of love. What I am pointing out is if you are broke you have much bigger problems to deal with. Your priorities are in a bad place if you are dating while in a financial crisis. If you were in a relationship before the crisis, that’s different.

  7. 7
    Mr_B

    At least he is splitting some of the expenses.

    From your question it’s unclear what type of discussion you have had. You haven’t shared any of his responses but seem to expect him to know what you are thinking.

    Have you explicitly shown him your expenses and asked him why he feels he’s paying his share?

    1. 7.1
      Stacy

      Mr_B,

      He did not pay rent for 7 months (which means he did not even offer). He only started to contribute something when she brought it up.

      The expenses went up significantly after having a pet (I guarantee he recognizes this because the weekly food and shots for said pet doesn’t just appear out of thin air).

      He started parking in her spot and I guarantee you without even at minimum asking if she needed financial help for it, he knew it wasn’t free. They had the conversation. He knows what her expenses are. A man who truly cares about you would offer if they aren’t sure. This should be the minimum standard for a relationship.

      But at LEAST he is splitting some expenses? Seriously?

      1. 7.1.1
        Mr_B

        She said he was living with his father at the beginning. She never stated when he moved in so we don’t know if he was not contributing to rent while living with her. Do you charge men a fee for sleeping over 3 nights a week?

        I have a dog and spend about $50 a month on food and medical.

        She didn’t state who wanted to get the dog. If she wanted the dog shouldn’t she pay for it?

        Splitting the cost of a dog could make it unclear who keeps the dog when a breakup occurs.

        As a man in the South I pay for about 95% of the costs of dating. Having to pay for only 70% sounds dreamy.

        1. Selena

          @Mr_B :”Do you charge men a fee for sleeping over 3 nights a week?”

          Heh heh. I’m also a bit skeptical about the claim he moved in right away and didn’t offer to pay anything for 7 months.

          My co-habitating partnerships started with the guy I was dating “staying over” at my place a couple nights a week, then several, then most nights because MY place was convenient and most comfortable for me. By the time we “officially” started living together, we had already been “unofficially” living together for several months.

          The OP owns her own house. She could have asked him not to stay over at any time. If she broke it off, presumably he still kept a room at his father’s so he wouldn’t be left homeless. I would guess they BOTH waited to have a discussion about his moving in because in the early months a new relationship can easily go sideways.

          It’s been a long time since I’ve had a dog, but mine weren’t expensive to feed and keep up with shots even when I was low income. If it was her idea to get the dog, it’s possible he saw it as “hers” and didn’t knowr she expected him to pay for it.

          He may or may not be “a taker”, but she sounds like a person who has trouble communicating.

  8. 8
    MilkyMae

    I’ve witnessed relationships where the woman is supporting the man. Frequently the man is “above average” in the looks or charm department. Its easier to dump a lazy schlub than a lazy hottie. I guess the women are hoping for the man to live up to his manly potential. This leads to another problem noticed with this situation. Good looking men who are supported by a wife or girlfriend have a tendency to cheat.

  9. 9
    Noquay

    Keep the dog and cut this freeloader loose ASAP.

  10. 10
    Stacy

    This advice is spot on. I always question when a man is okay with taking like this from his significant other. I cannot respect such a man. I out earn my significant other by a bit. However, he contributes as much as he can financially AND he is the one who cooks for the family and cleans even better and way more often than I do, and takes care of home ten fold – so, it balances out. A man who is fine with this imbalance would not be worthy of my time. He would not inspire lust or desire. A true best friend would not be okay with this and especially after we’ve already had the conversation at least once.

    1. 10.1
      Marika

      Is this long time commenter, engaged Stacy? When’s the wedding, girl?

  11. 11
    Ames

    If he’s really your best friend, talk it out and give it your all. There’s only a 20% disparity and if he’s the man you hope he is he will gladly split bills. Is he young and used to being taken care of? It could be lack of maturity or awareness of how expensive life is. Have a sit down with bills and ask him to pitch in his half. Assume the best of him until you know otherwise. Mention how his lack of contribution in the beginning made you worry. Talk about the kind of future you want together and start building a plan to make it happen. Wishing you the best! Let us know what happens!

  12. 12
    Mrs Happy

    It’s really uncomfortable talking in detail about money with flatmates/boyfriends/friends, so I can see how you ended up here.
    But to repeat an important point – if he was living with his father, it’s possible he doesn’t know how much it really costs to independently run a household.
    When my husband and I married, he had never lived alone, had always lived with parents or grandparents, and he’d never financially run a home (i.e. mortgage, electricity, groceries (he always ate out), water, rates, phone, internet, cleaning items, everything). Just before the wedding, we sat down to estimate running costs before moving in together, and he thought $40 a week in total for everything would be enough to keep a family of 3 afloat (I was just pregnant). I kid you not. Not ever having paid for a home, he just had no idea. He guessed $40 because he thought that’d cover cereal, milk and some boxes of tissues (which is all he’d bought at his grandparents home for a decade). Our current household costs 10 years on and with 4 people, approximate 30k/month, and that’s just to run the home, i.e. before school fees and kid-related medical, dental, toys, holidays etc. He was so far from reality it was ludicrous.
    So it’s possible your boyfriend doesn’t actually understand how much you’re paying in all those incidentals/bills that just keep cropping up. I’d calmly make a list of running costs, and include rent from the carspace, and then halve the costs. When you’re married you can contribute more IMHO, but in my world, for just a boyfriend it’s 50-50, given there’s only a 13k difference. Others are more generous, but for me, accounts and expenses are not joined until marriage.

    1. 12.1
      Marika

      $40!! Oh my… but didn’t he own luxury cars? The petrol on those alone would exceed $40.

      Good to have you back, Mrs H, Sydney sista 🙂

      1. 12.1.1
        Mrs Happy

        I know – I think I spend more than $40 a week on chocolate alone.
        He owned eight vehicles when we married. Unbelievable. And we had to buy another the day we brought our 1st child home from the hospital … can’t put a newborn baby in a sports car or motorbike. Vehicles and eating out constituted all his living costs when single.
        My point – the OP’s boyfriend is still living like a single-ish man, not running a household or family. He is not necessarily a layabout (but might be), he is just at a different life stage than the OP.

  13. 13
    Gala

    There’s no need to bare each others financials the way Evan described in order to split expenses. I for one would never do that. I have zero interest in disclosing my financial situation to anyone, and that includes my love-in boyfriend. When we moved in together, we agreed on a 50-50 split and have not deviated since. Each of us pays 1/2 the rent to the landlord directly and we have a separate credit card for our joint expenses. We pay the balance 50/50 at the end of each billing cycle. The rest of our financial lives are not each other’s business. Works really well.

    1. 13.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Unless he’s a millionaire and you’re paying for half of everything.

      1. 13.1.1
        Gala

        But the op clearly says they are making about the same amount. How often do couples with such staggering earnings discrepancy really happen? My bet is not that often. Most people are dating within their circle.

        1. SparklingEmerald

          Hi Gala

          She said she “only” makes 13K more than him. Without knowing how much he makes, I really don’t know proportionately what their income descrepancy is. (20k vs 33K or 100K vs 113K ?????)

          BF/GF don’t necessarily have to “bare all” but married couples really should, as they could now be legally liable for their spouses debt.

          Couples should discuss how they will split finances BEFORE moving in. 50/50 probably works for most, but in income discrepant relationships (which I don’t think are as rare as you do) or in VALUES discrepant as well. Maybe one partner could afford to pay 50% on a half million house, but would be happier in a less expensive house and spend more on vacations. Another partner might not value pricey vacations and prefer weekend camping trips. If one partner wants a dog, and the other not so much, why should they pay for 50% of a dog they didn’t particularly want ?

          Perhaps don’t “bare all” about your financial situation, but do have a “bare all” discussion about what you are willing and able to pay for.

    2. 13.2
      SparklingEmerald

      As Evan pointed out, your method works if your finances are roughly equal. If one person makes SIGNIFICANTLY more, do they only pick partners who could pay 50% of their preferred lifestyle, or downgrade their lifestyle to one the lower earner could afford ?

      1. 13.2.1
        Gala

        This question in and of itself sounds like a good argument for picking a partner with a similar earnings capacity, so that this exact issue doesn’t come up. I believe I make more than my b/f. We never discuss the specifics but i have the idea. But not that much more, may be a double of his income – but not by a factor of 10 or something. In other words, we are not a millionaire and a waiter type of couple. Our lifestyle is calibrated so that it’s affordable for both of us. I would really resent it if i was asked to contribute more just because I make more. No. We pay for the mutually agreed upon lifestyle. We stick to the budget that we agreed upon. What i have left is mine to keep and invest for my own future and retirement. If he has less left, or nothing left, that is his problem to figure out and address. It is not my responsibility to subsidize his retirement via picking up more slack right now. Uhm-no. Just no. He’s a big boy and he will figure it out… that’s the only way to go, IMO, as a woman.

        1. SparklingEmerald

          Hi again Gala “This question in and of itself sounds like a good argument for picking a partner with a similar earnings capacity,” in an ideal world yes. Since I never bring my financial statements to a first date, well, if someone accidently falls in love with some with a signifigantly different income levels the strict 50/50 rule would fly out the window or the higher earner would have to settle for a lesser lifestyle. Again there is no cookie cutter approach and every couple has to figure that out.

          It sounds like it works for you two as a couple, as it has been mutually agreed upon. However, I would disagree that it’s the ONLY way to go, as no two couples are alike.

          Also, particularly in a long term situation the original financial situation could change. A job layoff of one partner, through no fault of their own could completely up end the original financial agreement. Should the unemployed (through no fault of their own) continue to pay half (or whatever was agreed upon) ? This is actually a rhetorical question, only the couple who is experiencing the financial shift (through job loss, extreme medical distress, or whatever) can answer that question.

          Also, it is different for married couples than live ins. (or love ins as you put it 🙂 )

          Also some couples choose for one person to stay home and care for children (usually married couples, and usually the woman) At that point, the stay at home parent’s labor will replace the 50/50 financial sharing.

      2. 13.2.2
        jo

        Sparkling and Gala, you bring up an interesting question of how to split finances if one partner earns much more than the other. Evan shares that he always contributed much more (even before kids?) because he earned much more. Yet I don’t feel that Gala is wrong in wanting a 50-50 split, even if she earns more. Maybe it’s because they’re just bf-gf, but do you think there’s also a gender difference in our attitudes about who contributes more? I wonder if it’s a hangover from days when, if couples divorced, the women always had to take care of the kids (or didn’t pursue a career because of kids) and alimony wasn’t guaranteed, so women often suffered a huge financial hit. We heard these warning stories all the time growing up, and maybe we still cling to them, though times have changed.

        This is how I feel about it: If a couple lives together and agrees on a particular lifestyle, they should be prepared to pay equally for that lifestyle. But if one partner wants a richer lifestyle (more alcohol, a dog, travel, etc.) that the other doesn’t, or could do without, they should be prepared to pay relatively more. This holds regardless of who earns more. That seems the fairest way to settle the question.

    3. 13.3
      Marika

      Um…Gala wasn’t it you who said you guys brought your credit scores to your first date?..

  14. 14
    jo

    Evan’s advice is 100% spot-on here. Pay attention especially to what he wrote at the end, about the danger of marrying a taker. I’ve learned the hard way that if you’re in love with a man, you’ll keep justifying to yourself why it’s okay that he is a taker when it comes to ‘only’ things financial. You shouldn’t care so much about money, you shouldn’t keep score, etc. You wear yourself down trying to justify his taking. But if he is a taker in one realm, he is a taker in ALL realms. I think some other women can relate here. And you just can’t live long-term with that level of selfishness. Although I have seen people change sometimes, it’s more the exception than the rule – takers stay takers, and those who marry them suffer in myriad ways.

    Cut him loose, keep the dog, and look for men who show evidence that they are givers. To them, you are safe giving.

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