Dear Wendy: “My Boyfriend Doesn’t Make Enough Money”

My boyfriend and I have been together for a little over a year and a half. For the most part we have a good relationship. He gets me like no one else does and he is always there for me. However, we are at completely different places in our lives. I’m 30 and have a good job with the federal government, a masters degree and have traveled all over the world with my job. He is 31, divorced with two kids, and works more of a blue collar job as a Chef/Line Cook. He absolutely loves his job but it just doesn’t pay much and it’s more of a work-your-way-up job. Instead of finishing college, my boyfriend actually did a good thing and got married young when is girlfriend got pregnant. The two had another child throughout their 7-year marriage but eventually divorced.

The problem with us is that there is a big income discrepancy — I make more than double his salary. He also has lots of debt as result of being the sole provider of his past family (the wife didn’t work). So now here we are a couple and we are making plans for the future and it’s so obvious that financially we aren’t on the same page. He is in a financial rut: his wages were garnished because of student loans; his car was stolen (and he didn’t have full coverage) so he has no car; he has old medical bills and his child support is really high. All that with making under $40,000. He has had to work a second job off and on throughout our relationship but that also takes a toll on how much free time he has (he works most weekends).

To add to this, we are doing a long distance relationship and so there are plane tickets that need to be bought whenever we want to see each other (and of course I end up flying there much more often). So now, since the long distance is killing us and we want to start living life together, we are planning a move to Atlanta to live together. My issue is that we are just on completely different pages financially and I am scared that I won’t be able to maintain my same lifestyle or that he will be broke and we will not be able to do stuff, like travel and enjoy life. I know money should not end a relationship but I am so scared and don’t know what to do. He says that his financial situation will get better but I just don’t see it. I don’t know what to do. — Love Vs. Money

Your fears are valid. If you move in with your debt-ridden, broke-ass boyfriend, you won’t be able to maintain the lifestyle you’re accustomed to unless you pay for everything. You won’t be able to do things as a couple, like go out to nice restaurants or travel unless you foot the bill. You need to decide right now — before you up and move to be with this guy — if that’s something you’re uncomfortable with. Look, if it is, that doesn’t make you a bad person. You’re someone who wants to be with a person who is at least a financial equal. That’s fine. And that’s what you should look for. If money is important to you — and it’s important to most of us! — then why shouldn’t it be a reason to end a relationship if there isn’t a financial match?? If, on the other hand, you see more value in other things he can provide: companionship, emotional support, potential co-parenting, etc., then maybe you’ll decide that the money issue isn’t a deal-breaker. But that’s a decision you have to make and you need to be aware going into it what your boyfriend will and will not be able to provide you (and it doesn’t sound like financial stability is in the “pro” column).

You can love someone deeply and not be a right for each other. If you want something your boyfriend can’t provide — and you know that to be the case — why stay with him? Why invest more time in a relationship that doesn’t have strong potential for a happy future? This money issue is not going to go away. His debt isn’t going to miraculously disappear. He isn’t going to suddenly land a high-paying job with the limited education and skills he has. And his responsibility to his children isn’t going to disappear either (and if he’s moving away from them, as it sounds like he’d be doing, then he’s going to have to pay to visit them and vice versa). For all intents and purposes, the lifestyle he currently lives is likely going to be his lifestyle for a long time. If you’re not OK with sharing in that lifestyle or footing the bill on a lifestyle upgrade for him, then MOA. If you decide to stay with him, get used to spending your vacations entertaining his kids at the community pool, and dining at Applebees for special occasions. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of lifestyle, but if it’s not what you want, better think long and hard before you sign up for it…

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