Dear Wendy: “My Boyfriend’s On Disability. Should I Dump Him?”

I’m 24 and my boyfriend’s 28, and although we’ve only been dating about three months, we’ve fallen very deeply in love. He’s kind, nurturing, and loving, and I feel like my best self around him. The only problem is that he collects disability due to a medical condition he’s had since childhood. If he didn’t collect disability, he would never be able to afford his numerous doctors visits and prescriptions. Although he’s worked in the past, and has done odd jobs since we started dating, he has limited education, and the jobs he’s held have never been very high paying. It makes me nervous that he doesn’t have a regular full-time job. I have a college degree and have always been very hard-working, and although I’m not looking for someone to take care of me, I would like to be with a person who can be an equal partner. When I told him my anxiety regarding his financial instability, he reassured me that he would always be able to meet me halfway – if not more than halfway and would always be able to support himself and help contribute towards a potential family in the future. Although he helped to alleviate some of my concern, I must admit that it still bothers me that he isn’t working. Do you think I should work around my feelings of anxiety and find a way to build a future with someone I am growing to love, or should I end the relationship to avoid growing even more attached to a man who may never be able to work steadily? — Can’t Help Being in Love

I’m not sure you and your boyfriend are on the same page here. While he’s saying he can “meet you halfway,” and would always be able to “contribute towards a potential family in the future,” that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s referring to a financial contribution. He’s someone who’s “kind, nurturing, and loving,” who could very well be a wonderful — and “equal” — partner and father, lending emotional support, spearheading the child-rearing, and perhaps even taking the lead in running the home; none of those contributions require a full-time job on his part, and none of the statements you’ve indicated he’s made to you suggest he’s promised he’d be able to get — and keep — one eventually. Even if he is able to financially meet you halfway, he hasn’t specified whose “way,” he’s referring to. If “your way” happens to be financial comfort and not just “getting by,” how exactly does he plan to get halfway there if he’s dependent on disability and can only work odd jobs now and then?

Frankly, even someone who isn’t dependent on disability would be hard-pressed to make that kind of promise to someone. What if your partner gets a fantastic job making big bucks? Are you still going to be able to meet him or her “halfway”? What if you lose your job? What if you decide to go part-time to stay home and take care of the kids? See, there are all sorts of good reasons one might not be able to fully meet a partner “halfway,” if we’re referring only to finances. That’s why I think your boyfriend is talking about much more than the financial contribution he would be able to give to your partnership and potential future family. And for many people, those kinds of contributions may be worth much more than a breadwinner’s salary.

There are plenty of women who would kill for a man who made them feel like their “best self” around him — who provides nurturing care and love and kindness. But, there are plenty of women who need more than that, or whose priorities are different — women who need the security of financial stability from their partners. You may be one of those women. From the sound of your letter, I’d say you probably are. And that’s OK. It doesn’t make you a bad person at all. But you have to be honest about your needs and you have to be explicit about them with your boyfriend. And he, in turn, has to be honest about his ability to meet those needs. Only then can you begin to decide whether it’s worth it to you to “work around your anxieties” of being with him or end the relationship now and find a man who is better able to meet your needs. Just keep in mind, you may find someone who can provide the financial contribution you desire, but that doesn’t mean he’ll make you feel like your best self. You have to decide what is most important to you.

I am a 53-year-old single woman who has been divorced for about one year now. So far, no dates. I don’t consider myself ugly, but I’m not Victoria’s Secret material either. I’m short with shoulder-length, naturally gray hair (some call it platinum blond), hazel eyes and, yes, I could stand to lose a few pounds. It’s not that I’m just dying to find another husband, but dinner and a movie would be nice. Needless to say, looking for single men is something I haven’t done in a long time, since I was married for 25 years. Maybe I’m just being impatient, but I haven’t even had a serious offer. I don’t go to bars since I don’t drink and usually they are filled with much younger people and I feel out of place. What can I do? How can I meet someone? I’m beginning to feel like I’m just too disgusting for anyone to even be interested in! — Nifty At Fifty

You are NOT disgusting — you’re just a little rusty after being out of the singles scene for 25 years. One of the things that has changed since the days you were first single is the advent of online dating, something everyone is doing these days, including divorced and widowed people in their 50s and 60s (and older!) who are in the same boat as you. Facebook, too, is full of people your age and older — uh, much to the chagrin of many youngsters — and is a wonderful place to connect with old friends (maybe even old flames!) and colleagues, some of whom may also be divorced or widowed and looking for love again — or a friendly, familiar face to see a movie with. If you have kids, consider asking them for help in setting up some online profiles, choosing a few dating sites to test out. You’ll want to get a few recent photos of you looking your best self. If you don’t have any, fix your hair, put on something nice and ask a friend to take a few shots of you (close-ups are best). Keep your profile short and friendly, outlining a few of your interests and what you’re looking for in a potential date.

Finally, as much as single people hate to hear it, you need to “get out” to meet people. Find some singles groups in your area for people in your age group. Log on to and see if any groups grab your attention. Join a gym or take a fun fitness class. And ask your friends to set you up with eligible men they may know. The point is, if you want a date, you have to actively seek one out. You can’t be passive and just hope some guy comes to you. That’s not the way it works — at least, not for those of us who aren’t “Victoria’s Secret material.” Get out and mingle. Smile at people. Be interested. And remember, you may be rejected along the way. That’s OK. It happens to the best of us. You just have to shake it off and keep trying — keep “putting yourself out there” — another phrase single people hate to hear. These may sound like trite clichés, but the truth is putting yourself in front of potential dates, whether online or in person, is the best way you’ll actually score that dinner invite.

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