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