Musings on my bf/money relationship

November 25, 2010 at 10:44 am (mr. maven) (, , )

There have been some changes lately with J that have eased our financial relationship. Since March, he has been on unemployment. He finished up paralegal studies in spring, and had an internship that turned into a 1-2 day a week paid gig. He has received recommendations from that small firm for other positions, of which he is in the middle of applying for. He has been interning (no pay, experience only) with a bankruptcy lawyer, and got an additional/temporary 1 day a week position with a lawyer in the same office for a few months. I haven’t seen a big spike in his income levels lately (he only works 2-3 days, and gets a percentage of unemployment still). He also started to legitimately seek additional employment.

J is an interesting person. He is extremely giving and loyal. He grew up on a farm, can build and make things, knows how to cook, live off the land, and has a serious artistic slant. But he isn’t what modern society would call a go-getter, accomplished, or an achiever. He is ok with lower-paying jobs. He doesn’t ever expect to go beyond the $10-$15/hr salary or think about himself in a high-paying job. He continue thinks about what he could do to survive if he had to, totally the wrong mind-set for achievement, advancement, and a higher salary. Having a paralegal degree is a great start, for the first time he is able to get $15/hr minimum, more as he gets more experience.

Since he was layed off and became unemployed, he has been paying 1/3 of the rent, with me paying 2/3. He has also not been paying a lot of utilities or other bills. Recently, he settled a lawsuit due to an accident we were in 2 years ago and got a settlement for several thousand dollars. We had tentatively discussed having him pay back rent and other expenses. I’ve calculated them at about $1,500 (on the low end, my fault for not keeping track). But that didn’t happen. He is saving that for a down payment on land, in some rural area that he can build a house himself and live off the grid.

This has been a bit upsetting to me, and I’ve tried to broach the subject several times (without success). I’m a bit shocked that he doesn’t consider it a responsibility to pay me back, as if the bank of debtmaven will not ever become due. Basically, it comes down to him not wanting to use that money frivolously like every other time he has ever had money, so he set a limit to just *not* use that money. Instead, he plans on paying me back monthly, as his income increases.

Ok, so that brings things up to date. Because of those multiple conversations, and my asking questions about his plans for work (in the most non-confrontational/helpful way possible), plus my requests to have him start paying equal shares on rent on multiple  recent occasions, his spending habits have changed lately.

This month for the first time, he gave me half the rent. He’s still not paying other things like cable, water, electricity, or gas, but it’s a great start and one I’m very happy with. I can handle the rest. Up until now, when I’ve been frustrated or upset, I’ve looked at my situation as if he is a room mate. If he wasn’t around I’d be paying a lot more out of pocket. Up until now, that has had to suffice, but it hasn’t me feel positive towards him, and I’ve very glad it’s finally changing.

Rent is not the only thing that has changed, either. I’ve previously written about my decision to not go food shopping solo. If I do, I pay 100% and never get his share back, even if I tell him the total. He just doesn’t make the connection between “the total was $80, could you give me $40?” with the action of actually giving me $40. So I only go when I absolutley have to and buy the minimum (“could you pick up a bottle of wine on your way home” equals just that, a bottle of wine and maybe $5 of other stuff, no more, even if we’re out of coffee, butter, olive oil, and if they have a great sale on something we use regularly). I wait to buy all the necessities we are out of when we are together.

Lately, J has started paying for small purchases himself, even when I’m with him, rather than doing the 50/50 thing at checkout. That has been the biggest ease of all the changes. I don’t have bitter, unhappy thoughts when it’s an $8 purchase – not worth the effort to split it, and so I’ll just pay for it. Now I know he frequently gets the small $20 purchases on his own. It’s made me more casual, less angry, and more generous towards him. That financial inequality is becoming more balanced on a daily spending level, and now also with rent. It’s been a huge relief.

Previously, when we would eat out, J would want to get an appetizer and multiple drinks. I’d get less. When the check comes, his portion would be higher. Previously, when I said I was paying my portion (which was less than half), he would be snippy and annoyed and hold a grudge about it. After a bit of this, it became easier to just split it, even with the inequality in our orders. Was I being petty to insist on paying less (since I’m trying to save money here by not getting expensive alcoholic drinks and pay off my debt) over a few dollars? In the past 2-3 months this has become a non-issue. He has started offering to pay more, or leave all of the tip when we do split it. If it’s a few bucks, it’s not worth it. When it’s $10 or more, I let him. Either way, that has also been a really nice change.

If you’ve read all through this you probably have a few choice words to say. Yes, we have a communication issue. I don’t like confrontation. He has serious serious issues with money and doesn’t like discussing them. He gets angry, and shuts down. I try and be forthcoming about my expectations, and he thinks I’m telling him what to do in a dictatorial fashion, and it causes fights (based in money, but actually about communication styles). I’ve become hesitant about the subject, and bring it up obliquely. That allows him to ignore it, not answer, or deflect the subject more easily, and I let him.

Yes, I have a bit of a dysfunctional relationship with money and my boyfriend. But it’s getting better.


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