Dear Wendy: “I’m Stressed About New Year’s Eve”

I’m in school in the UK and my wonderful boyfriend is in school in Michigan. I’m coming to stay with him for a couple weeks over New Year’s (one week in the middle, when he’s in classes, I’ll go to see my parents in NC), but there’s a problem: he wants to go to NYC for NYE where all his friends from undergrad will be and he wants me to pay for our flights and he’ll pay me back for both when he gets money he’s owed in January. I worry that if I pay for the tickets now, it will put me in a very tight money situation for the next few weeks until he pays me, and who knows if he’ll even be able to pay me promptly?! I get very nervous with money and budgeting, and he is very lax about “I owe you” and I worry it may be months or more before I’m paid back. I know when our relationship gets more serious we will have to talk about finances and how we handle money together, but this is hitting me in the face, and I feel unprepared. We were planning to go to Chicago for New Year’s — just the two of us — which would be a lot cheaper than going to NYC ($450 cheaper!), but he’d be upset about not being with his friends. At the end of the day, I’m sure I’ll be just really happy to be with him wherever we are, as I haven’t seen him in three months, but here I am fretting about money and I can’t help myself. What do you think I should do? — Pay it Forward?

First, don’t feel bad for “fretting” about money. It’s a universal worry and certainly something you, as a student who’s in a long-distance relationship with someone who lives on another continent, should consider. It would be worrisome if you didn’t give it some of your attention. And you’re right that as your relationship with your boyfriend gets more serious, you’ll want to talk about finances and how you’ll handle money together, but that doesn’t mean it’s too soon to start having those conversations now. This situation — your boyfriend wanting you to front money you barely have to go on a trip you aren’t particularly excited about — is a perfect opportunity to not only discuss how your respective budgets and attitudes about money affect your relationship, but also revisit any expectations you may have in terms of navigating the distance between you and the time you are able to spend together.

Do you want to go to NYC for NYE? If it were me, I’d have a real issue with flying halfway across the world to spend some quality time with a boyfriend I haven’t seen in three months, only to get back on a plane and share some of that precious time together with a bunch of other people from my boyfriend’s past. In fact, I’d be downright indignant about it — particularly if I were asked to front the money for said trip. But maybe you’re a more understanding or laid-back person than I am. Or maybe you like the idea of being in one of the world’s most crowded cities on one of the busiest, most chaotic nights of the year. But from the sounds of your letter, you don’t. And if that’s the case, you should express that. You should tell your boyfriend that you’re flying all the way from the UK to see him — him — not his friends from undergrad, but him, and if he wants to see his buds so bad, maybe he can plan a weekend get-together another time when he isn’t already hosting you. Furthermore, you aren’t comfortable dipping into your savings to front the cost of a trip to NYC when you’ve already (I’m assuming) paid for tickets to Michigan and NC, no matter when your boyfriend says he can pay you back. The fact is, that money is a cushion for you in case of an emergency and you can’t afford spending it right now. If he doesn’t understand that, or if he continues to pressure you, you may really want to think about whether you have a future together. Money’s a big deal in a long-term relationship and if you have such differing attitudes about it, that could be a dealbreaker.

Bottom line: don’t do anything you aren’t comfortable doing. LDRs are about sacrifice and trade-offs and if your boyfriend can’t appreciate that missing his friends on NYE is an appropriate trade-off for getting quality time with you instead, perhaps he isn’t the right guy for you at this time.

This isn’t exactly a relationship “problem,” but what are some fun and relatively cheap ideas for New Year’s Eve dates? My boyfriend (of two years) and I are stumped on good ideas. In general, we’re kind of homebodies, but we’ve been trying to go out more often, and so far, it’s been working out pretty well. But NYE is such a “high pressure” holiday, and I hate feeling like I have to do something super-cool and over the top. We’ve thought about just getting a nice hotel for the night and hanging out, or possibly going to a friend’s NYE party. We’ve also thought about just going out in the city and see where it takes us (we live near San Francisco), but I feel like every bar will be packed and all the traffic will be crazy, but isn’t that half the fun (really, is it? I honestly don’t know, it sounds like kind of a pain!)? Any other, slightly more creative suggestions? I figure a fun-loving gal like you would know. In the end, I just want to have fun and preferably wear something sparkly. — Not Sure on New Year’s

Well, I commend you on stepping outside your comfort zone and making nights out more of a priority in your relationship. But, honestly, give yourself a break when it comes to NYE. It’s not some contest to see who can have the best time or do the coolest thing. When that’s the goal, you almost guarantee yourself some disappointment. Instead, make the goal spending quality time with good company — just you and your boyfriend or you guys and a few close friends — doing something that actually sounds fun to you. If fighting drunken crowds in packed bars sounds kind of terrible, don’t do it! If getting a nice hotel room and “hanging out” sounds awesome, go for that. You might even consider inviting a few other friends to join you and getting a block of rooms. You can all go out to dinner together and then continue the party back in your rooms. Or, if you like the friend who’s hosting a party and the commute isn’t too bad — add bonus points if you can take public transportation or get a cab — go there. But don’t go simply because you think you should go to a party on NYE if your heart isn’t really into it.

Yes, I realize I’m not giving you any new ideas here. That’s because I don’t think you really need them. Instead, I’m giving you permission to not make a big deal out of NYE. I’m telling you to manage your expectations so you aren’t let down. And I’m saying if all you want is to have fun and wear something sparkly, you can do that with a few friends at your own home if you feel like it. Invite a few people over, host a potluck (or get take-out), chill a few bottles of bubbly, create a hot playlist for the evening, clear a bit of a dance floor in your living room, and voilà!, best New Year’s Eve ever. But if you really need a few suggestions, I’ll leave you with these: get tickets to see a band you like; rent a cabin in the woods; splurge on a fancy 6-course dinner (but make your reservations now-ish!); go to a sexy burlesque show. Readers, what do you have?

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