Dear Wendy: “My Boyfriend Spends Too Much Money On Me”

My boyfriend spends too much money on presents for me. If he were wealthy, I might be able to get over feeling guilty and just enjoy being spoiled, but he isn’t. He makes significantly less than I do (but works way harder!), and he pays a hefty amount of child support on top of that. We live together, and I pay a larger portion of the rent because I can afford more. Despite his modest income, he has saved up and bought me diamond jewelry for a couple of occasions during the year and a half that we’ve been together. The gifts came with loving, heartfelt words and emotions that moved me more profoundly than expensive objects ever could. My jewelry is beautiful, but when I look at it, I think about how he could have put that money away in savings, or bought something useful for his kids with it. I have tried to tell him that I prefer that he doesn’t spend so much money on gifts for me, that a meaningful gift does not have to be expensive, but I always end up hurting his feelings. We see marriage in our future, and I know he’s been eyeballing engagement rings that are, in my opinion, way out of his price range. I don’t even think a ring is necessary, and although I respect that he does, I’d hate for him to put all his hard-earned money into a really fancy one, or worse, finance it. Can you suggest a tactful and sensitive way to encourage him to express his love in ways that don’t involve lots of money in the future? — The Breadwinner

If you’re serious about planning a future together, you need to get serious about being on the same page, financially. This isn’t an issue that you can continue sweeping under the rug for the sake of your boyfriend’s ego and feelings. Arguably, the biggest part of marriage is the merging of finances, so all that money your boyfriend is spending on gifts for you now? When/if you marry, it’ll be your money he’s spending, too. It’s time to sit down and tell it like it is: that if your guy is going to continue blowing his money on gifts you don’t want or need in an effort to illustrate his manliness or whatever — because, come on, the gifts are way more an expression of masculinity than an expression of love — you can’t, in good faith, consider marrying him.

This is simply too-important a topic to pussyfoot around. Your boyfriend needs to hear that while you appreciate the gesture behind thoughtful gifts, you are far more appreciative of kind, caring and romantic gestures that don’t cost a lot of money. Give some examples of priceless gifts he’s given that you’ve loved more than diamonds and tell him that the best way he can show his love is to show he’s fiscally responsible enough for marriage. And let him know that until he’s able to prove that — which includes saving money, not spending all of it — you won’t discuss marriage any further. And don’t just say that, mean it! Don’t marry this guy if he’s unable to save money. You can continue living with him, but don’t legally wed someone who has a complicated and unhealthy relationship between his ego and his finances. That kind of unresolved issue will only get more complicated once you’re married and it will land you in way more hardship than hurting your guy’s feelings a little now.

And as far as engagement rings go — if you get to a place where you’re comfortable with your boyfriend’s handling of money and you’re ready to consider marrying him, tell him you may accept a proposal, but you won’t accept an expensive ring. Your acceptance of one is just enabling bad behavior and if he can’t show a healthy relationship with money when it comes to your engagement ring, you better believe he wouldn’t be ready to be fiscally responsible when it comes to your marriage either. Your best bet would be to pick out some beautiful rings you love that are within his/your budget. Even better? See if there’s a ring you like in the family that has more sentimental value than anything pricey would be worth.

*Do you have a relationship/dating question I can help with? Send me your letters at [email protected]m.