Thursday, October 30, 2014

How Do I Be Sensitive to My Boyfriend Who Earns Half What I Do?

Dear Jocelyn,
I am writing to you about problems communicating about money in my relationship. I earn more than double my boyfriend’s income, and I own the house that we share. I ask very little from him in rent (the same amount his father charged when he was living at home), and I have been very generous with him (I paid off his debts and have never asked nor expected him to pay me back). Yet he completely shuts down when I discuss money.

For example, if he is short on rent and only gives me a fraction of what we agreed upon and I ask if he will be able to pay the rest, he will get very upset and say he is “doing the best he can.” I have tried to explain that if the current amount is too much, that we need to set the rent at an amount he can afford so that I can adjust my monthly budget accordingly rather than coming up short. But he always makes me feel bad for even raising the issue.

He wants to get married, but how do I fix this communication issue before we take that plunge?
Walking On Eggshells

Dear Eggshells,
It sounds like while you are generous and easy-going with your money, this might be a bit of a sensitive topic for him. In fact, your generosity might make him feel even worse about his situation, since he could feel like a "kept" man. This is not your fault that he feels bad - he needs to either accept your money graciously, or refuse it politely.

You earn twice as much as he does - I don't know if this means that he earns a poor salary and you earn a decent one, or he earns a decent one and you earn an amazing salary. Before you continue in your relationship, you need to discuss a few things with your boyfriend, such as - what are the roles of men and women? Are men to be breadwinners? Do you want to work after having kids? If you are to rely on his salary at any point, it is important that he earns a livable income. That doesn't mean it has to be huge, but enough that you can afford the basics.

It is a problem that y'all can't discuss this issue without him getting hurt or offended. I recommend premarital counseling before engagement to discuss this and other common issues so you both can decide if you should move forward in getting engaged.

I also recommend reconsidering living together. As a Christian, I don't believe it is a good idea (although it is the premarital sex that is the actual moral problem), however, I don't know your religious beliefs and whether that is a concern. But, whatever your beliefs are, it might be a good idea for him to be independent and paying his own way to increase his confidence and make sure he has the ability to provide - at least for himself. If you two decide to marry, money will probably be in a joint account (another thing for y'all to discuss!), and "rent" will be a moot issue.