Dear Wendy: “My Boyfriend Is Cheap!”

My boyfriend and I recently got engaged and moved across the country together for his job. We’ve been dating for about two years and known each other for about three and a half. I’ve always known him to be a very generous, giving person, but since our move, he’s been glib about expenses. For example, he’ll go shopping for clothes and then state that he can’t afford food for the upcoming week (leaving me to foot the grocery or restaurant bill). Or, we’ll go out with friends and he’ll make a show of paying for me at the table, but then ask me to pay him back later! Recently, he suggested that we get an animal together, but then stated, “but I don’t want to pay for any of it.”

Another example is he’ll pay the utilities with an automatic payment from his debit account, and then instead of having me pay in equally, he asks me to make purchases for him that far exceed what I owe. If I refuse or say that it’s too expensive, he’ll recall some random time he bought me a soda or something. I’m confused because he is not selfish: he provides unsolicited back rubs and is really supportive of my continuing job search (I quit my job to move across the country with him) and last summer he footed a vacation bill to the Caribbean that I totally couldn’t afford (but contributed to). Maybe I’m being overly critical and am focusing too much on the “bad stuff,” but I want to feel like a team in our relationship! I have discussed this and he brings up the valid point that he still has debt from school and doesn’t feel comfortable spending a lot, but this “excuse” doesn’t support his behavior! The last thing I want to do is keep “tabs” on spending in our relationship, but maybe that’s a naive position. — Money Woes

Let me get this straight — you quit your job to move across the country with your boyfriend/fiancé so he could start a new job. Currently, he’s the only one in the couple who’s employed, but you’re expected to pay not even half, but more than half of the bills? Instead of contributing to your food bill, your dude goes shopping for himself, and while he wants his friends to believe he treats you to meals out, he expects you to pay him back when they’re not looking? And when you try to stand up for yourself and express how incredibly crappy he’s being, he reminds you that he bought you a Coke last week? And you’re seriously thinking about marrying this guy? Oh, honey. I don’t even know where to begin.

Unsolicited back rubs or not, your fiancé is behaving like a straight-up, Grade-A jerk! To think you left your job and moved across the country for him and he’s treating you like this! Without meaning to, you’ve provided a perfect example of why it’s so, so important to sit down and discuss finances with your significant other before you agree to marry him, before you move in with him, and most certainly before you quit your job for him without having anything else lined up. You’ve basically put your financial security into the hands of someone who is quickly proving himself to be not only cheap, but incredibly irresponsible, financially speaking. Rather than suggest you sit down and work out a budget with him now (since you obviously didn’t do it before) and talk about how you plan to merge finances in the future, and what you’ll do if it takes you a long time to find a job and you run out of money, I feel more inclined to tell you to: a) save yourself from what I can only imagine would be a lifetime of hurt, and run far and fast from this insensitive cheapskate, and B) at the very least, put your foot down and insist he contribute equally to your bills, if not cover them completely until you secure employment. Remind him of the risk — both financial and emotional — that you took in quitting your job to follow him for his. If that’s not worth a little sacrifice on his part, you have far bigger problems than how to split this month’s utilities bill. But better you realize that now than after you marry the guy.

My mother-in-law is a 52-year-old woman going on 12. She is a control freak and treats everyone in her life (family, friends, coworkers, etc.) terribly. She actually told her daughter to lose weight for my husband’s and my wedding. She also likes to throw childish fits about not being invited to anything we do. We are so scared to have any get-together because she will throw a fit if she’s not invited, literally saying “Well, thanks for the invite.” But we don’t invite her because all she does is piss and moan about anyone and everything!!!! She even posts rude remarks on Facebook. How do I deal with a woman like this? My husband feels the same way about her attitude and actions, but we are not mean people and don’t want to cause a rift in the family. We keep trying to do the right thing, and get rewarded by being treated like crap. We are going to have children one day and I am terrified that she is going to become even more of a control freak and try to raise our children. What can I do to make her see that she is driving us away? One day I am afraid all of the crap is going to hit the fan and then there will be no room for being nice. I don’t want it to get to that point but I am at a loss for what to do. — Family Sighs

While I do sympathize with your situation, I guess I fail to see exactly how you’re “trying” to do the right thing and not cause a rift in the family. You say your mother-in-law is hurt that you never invite her to anything, but rather than, you know, actually invite her to things now and then, you simply continue not inviting her because “all she does is piss and moan about everything.” That may be true, but if you want her to quit giving you a hard time about not including her in things, wouldn’t it make sense to meet her halfway? Why not explain to her that your place isn’t big enough to have all your friends and family over every time you have a get-together, and you like being able to give her a majority of your attention, so you prefer having her over for smaller family gatherings. Then, invite her over alone for dinner at your place, or with a select group of your other in-laws. It may not stop her from complaining about you not including her all the time, but at least you’ll have a leg to stand on. You’ll be able to say, “Hey, we include you a lot! We just had you over for dinner last week!” It seems like, as annoying as she may be, she just wants to be part of your lives, and surely you can appreciate that, right? So, meet her halfway. And if you can’t even stomach having her over once or twice a month for a bite to eat, you might want to consider moving. Seriously! It will be a lot harder for your MIL to control your life from 500 miles away.

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