I’m 28 and have been dating my 34-year-old boyfriend for almost two years. This relationship was “hot and heavy” from the get-go because our personalities really clicked and he is the first man I have ever loved. However, I regret moving in with him a year ago not because I don’t love him, but because I’m not sure he can give me the type of life I want. When we met, we made the same amount of money. However, now I’m way above him in salary and I’m also going back to school for my Masters (I’ve always been an over-achiever). My future looks very bright compared to his. He lost his previous job and his current job pays barely enough to cover his minimum monthly expenses! The worst part is I’m not sure I have faith in his professional money-making abilities. If I stay with him, I can totally see a life where I’m bringing home the bacon while he’s the stay-at-home dad … which might be nice for some women, but that is NOT the life for me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want him to support me. I simply would like my life partner to be able to pull his own weight and possibly “carry” me temporarily should I need it — and I would do the same for him. Bottom line, I don’t feel safe financially with him, but I do love him. Should I marry him (and carry all the financial responsibility) or break up with him (and risk never finding another man who loves me as much)? — Money-Maker
Did I miss something here? Did your boyfriend propose? Have the two of you been talking about marriage? Is he pushing you to make a decision about tying the knot? I guess I’m a little confused about why you have a sudden need to make this either-or decision. Can’t you just enjoy your relationship without worrying right now about whether to marry or break up? Obviously, the answer is “no” or you wouldn’t have written to me, but I suspect the real question here isn’t so much whether you should get married or break up, but whether you can get some guarantee that you’ll find someone who loves you as much as your boyfriend does but who makes enough money to satisfy you and “give you the type of life you want.” And again, the answer is “no.”
Marriage isn’t about finding a partner who has every requirement on your checklist. If you wait around for someone perfect — someone who has every trait you’re attracted to and whose life plan matches yours exactly, you’ll stay single forever. But if you’re open to making some adjustments in the future you imagine for yourself and allow for some deviation in the kind of life partner you envision, you may find that a long, happy, successful marriage is indeed possible for you. The key is to do some soul-searching and set your priorities. You may decide that having a husband who has strong earning potential and is able to “carry you temporarily should you need it” is top of the list, which is fine, and your prerogative, of course, but what happens if you’re wrong about his earning potential? What happens if the guy loses his job, blows through his savings, and doesn’t have the income to support you the way you’d like to be supported? By the same token, what happens if you’re wrong about your current boyfriend and he actually has far more potential that you’re giving him credit for?
I’m still not sure why you feel pressure to make a decision about the future of your relationship right now, but if I were you, before I made any decision I might regret later, I’d give myself several months to meditate on different possibilities. Imagine some different scenarios — both with and without your current boyfriend. If you can’t imagine a happy future that doesn’t include your boyfriend, then for God’s sake, talk to him about how you’re feeling. Does he even know you’re having these kinds of worries? Is he even aware that marriage is so heavily on your radar? Maybe if he understood that having a husband who makes good money is such a priority to you, he’d be a bit more motivated to prove himself as a “breadwinner,” though I imagine that’s easier said than done in an economy like we’re currently experiencing. But if you have that little faith in him and you’re just looking for an excuse to break up with the guy, it’s best to do it like tearing off a band-aid. After all, if you’ve already decided he’s “not good enough” for you, you’re doing him no favors at all by staying with him any longer. I’m sure there’s a woman out there for him who isn’t as concerned with how much her partner makes as you are.
*Do you have a relationship/dating question I can help with? Send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.