Dear Wendy: “My Girlfriend Lets Her Friends Take Advantage Of Her”

I’ve been with my girlfriend for about two and a half years. The one problem I have is with my girlfriend’s friends and how they handle money. From everything I know, everyone is on pretty similar pay levels, but her friends always seem to be short on cash when they do stuff together. My girlfriend always covers everything, whether it’s drinks, dinners, or tickets to events, and gets defensive when I ask about it and says “it’s just a couple dollars between friends.” Recently, I’ve been getting short-changed by them, too. They will invite us out to a fancy restaurant, order up a storm of appetizers and bottles of wine, while I’m content with my single entrée and beverage, and then when the bill comes, they’ll suggest we split everything evenly, and then when it comes time to pay, what they’ve put in is about half of what their evenly divided portion should have been. I’ll offer to pay the remainder to avoid an issue, but it leaves me peeved. I can cover these financial indiscretions without problem since I’m better off financially than most in the group, but my girlfriend is saving up for a big trip soon, and can never seem to get out of debt, yet is still always paying for her friends and is mortally embarrassed when I threaten to call them out on it. Also, if I’m thinking about a long-term future with her, I’m afraid to have joint finances if she can’t seem to manage her own. — Need a Bail Out

Calling your girlfriend’s friends out is not the way to go about dealing with this issue; having a private, face-to-face conversation with your girlfriend in which you share your concerns is. Specifically, you need to address the concern you mention in the last sentence of your letter — the worry you have about potentially merging finances with her one day. You have a valid reason to worry and it’s a reason your girlfriend needs to be privy to. If you think you’d like to get married and/or merge your finances together eventually, it’s very smart to start having these kinds of conversations now. But you need to frame them not with your girlfriend’s relationship with her friends and how you feel they take advantage of her, but what your mutual goals are. Do you want to have a wedding eventually? Buy a home? Have children? Do some traveling together? By keeping things focused on the two of you, rather than the people outside your relationship, you stand a better chance of being heard and not shut down. The story becomes about you as a couple, not about how you disapprove of her friends or whatever.

And as for her friends, if you have a problem paying for them when you go out, stop going out with them. Or, simply stop covering what they owe. Or, when they invite you to a fancy place, tell them you’re watching your spending this month and would they mind going out for pizza instead? Discuss these options with your girlfriend before you’re face-to-face with the check after an expensive meal, so she’s not “mortally embarrassed” when you call out her friends for being cheapskates. Because, make no bones about it, her friends are cheap. But as long as their behavior is continually enabled, they’ll probably keep behaving the way they do. You can’t control how your girlfriend behaves toward them, but you can certainly control your part in the enabling.

I’ve been in a relationship with a wonderful man, for a little under a year now. He is the sweetest, most affectionate person I’ve ever met. Sometimes I wonder if he could be the one, but there are a couple of catches. First, we met while he was still married to his high school sweetheart (whom he says is the biggest regret of his life) and subsequently started dating while he was going through the divorce. We’re also now in a long-distance relationship (we are both active duty military). And because of that, we only get to see each other once every month, but when we do, it’s like we both know we really want to be together.

He finalized his divorce about two months ago. About two weeks ago, we both got into an argument about where our relationship was going, and I let him know that I wanted to end it. He completely disagreed with the idea. A week later, we got back together, and now he’s pushing the idea of marriage for the both of us. My question is, should I trust his word so easily? I have my doubts about it, but he seems completely reassured with the idea that I’m the one for him. Agreeing with the marriage would mean that we could both be stationed together and eliminate the distance between us. But I’m not sure if it’s much too early, or if he’s even ready? He says his past marriage was the biggest mistake of his life and it’s in the past for him, but will that interfere with us? He really is such a sweet and great guy. What should I do? — Active Duty

Forget about whether your boyfriend’s ready; the real question is: are you? And it would seem the answer is a big, resounding NO. One minute you really want to be with him and the next, you simply want to end it? Just like that? I’m not sure what your reasons were, but with this kind of inconsistency, marriage should be one of the last things on your mind. Give yourselves some time to digest your boyfriend’s divorce and continue getting to know each other. Getting married for convenience without being certain about the decision is a pretty good way to rush straight to divorce #2.

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