Dear Wendy: “My Boyfriend Makes A Lot More Than I Do, But Wants To Split The Bills Evenly”

My boyfriend and I have been together for three years, living together for about half of that. We have a fantastic, loving relationship with definite plans for marriage in the future. We’re in the middle of trying to find a new house to rent and are having a tough time based on our budget and specifications (we have two dogs). Here’s the problem: even though my boyfriend makes about $15k more than I do, he wants us to split the rent 50/50, which limits our affordable housing options quite a bit. I have asked him to consider contributing more for rent — not a lot, just a little more — and he kind of laughed at the suggestion and said, “I don’t think so.” I wouldn’t even have asked him, but our lease is up soon, and all we’re finding to move into is sub-par. We both work full-time, and I also have another job on the side. I’m underpaid at a job I probably wouldn’t have taken had it not been for the economy, but I’m making the best out of it. Note that we don’t share a checking account because he doesn’t like the idea of it; our finances are separate and we split everything down the middle. Should I be concerned at his attitude? Or should I just chalk it up to him wanting to save money for our future? I do tend to be all about equality in relationships, so maybe he takes that as a sign that everything has to be equal? — Poor House

I happen to come from the school of thought that if a couple lives together, they should pay the bills according to their respective incomes. So, if person A makes 20 percent more than person B, s/he should pay 20 percent more. I realize that doesn’t work for everyone, and that’s OK. The only person I really need to be on the same page with about this is the person I live with and, luckily, that has never been a problem. It is, however, a problem for you, and the only positive spin I can put on it is it’s better you learn you aren’t on the same page regarding finances now rather than after you’re married.

One of the top reasons married couples divorce is because of money — not so much because they didn’t have enough of it, but rather they couldn’t agree how to make/spend/save it. And I think a lot of those disagreements could have been avoided if there had been fewer assumptions and more communication. So, no, Poor House, don’t just assume your boyfriend is saving for your future if he hasn’t come out and told you as much. Don’t assume his fear of combining finances with you is going to dissolve once you marry. Think of living with him as a dress rehearsal for how your marriage will be. If there are problems now, you absolutely must iron them out before you say “I do.” If you can’t, there’s no sense in staying together.

What that means for you, PH, is that you have to have some serious discussions with your man about money — why he’s refusing to contribute a bit more to the household expenses, and what his plans are for your financial future. Talk about where you see yourselves three, five, and ten years from now. Talk about retirement. Discuss how you might pay for a wedding. What about kids? If you both want them, will one of you stay home with them? Are you in agreement over who that might be? If you plan on getting childcare, do you have a plan for paying for it? I know these are big topics, but if you’re serious about marrying this man, you have to know where he stands on these issues. You can’t just assume you know. What you learn might put some of your anxieties to rest. Or you might just become more concerned. If that’s the case, you need to consider whether you’re ready to sign on for a lifetime of potential fights about money. In the end, you may decide that’s a dealbreaker. I know I would.

I was in really long relationship (10 years) that ended very badly a couple of years ago. When it ended, I was heartbroken and spiraled into a deep depression that took me a while to pull out of. But I’m happy to report that I’m finally recovered and moving on and all that. At least, I’m trying to move on. I don’t want my ex back or anything, but I’m finding that I’m not attracted to other men anymore. I’ve been out on dates, I’ve had male friends express interest in becoming more, I’ve let guys kiss me just to see if it triggered something … but there’s nothing. It feels like I’m dead inside. What happened to me? Is this normal after the end of a long relationship? (Side note: it’s not medication-related since I’ve been taking the same ones for years.) I miss the companionship of being in a relationship and feel like I’d be ready to try again should the right person come along, but how am I going to find that guy if I’m not attracted to ANY of them? — Not interested

It may feel like you’ve moved out the depression stage of grieving the end of your ten-year relationship — although, describing yourself as “dead inside” doesn’t exactly paint a pretty post-depression picture — but that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily “over it” and ready to move on. I know when I’ve had bad breakups, I’ve been very leery about dating again because the pain is still so raw and I don’t want to put myself in any situation that might duplicate those feelings. I suspect your lack of interest in anyone since your breakup is a kind of self-protective thing. As long as you remain single, you save yourself the potential of another painful breakup. This tendency usually goes away on its own with time, but since it’s been two years for you and you’re eager to find the right person again, I’d find a good counselor who can help you work through these lingering “post-traumatic” feelings and help get you to a healthy place where you’re ready to risk getting hurt again in order to find love. After all, opening ourselves up for love is always a risk, and you have to be ready for that in order to reap the benefits.

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