December 13, 2010

Dear Yenta,

I have been with my boyfriend for over 2 years now and we love each other very much. I am 25 and he is 28 and we were best friends for a couple of years before we even started dating. However, lately some issues have been cropping up that I don’t really know what to do about.

I have always made more money than he does, and both of us are okay with that and it’s never really been an issue. I have a job that I love (but I work long hours and it doesn’t pay very well), and he is a musician who works part time. He pays when he has money, I pay the rest of the time, and we’ve never had a fight about it or anything.

The problem now is that boyfriend lost his job several months ago and while he told me at the time that he was going to do everything he could to get a new job, that hasn’t been the case. His mother convinced him that he should stay jobless and just focus on his music. She has been paying for his apartment, car, etc. to help facilitate his career. This is all great, and he is doing very well with his music career and things are really happening for him. However, this has not translated into him making money…at all. He brings in maybe $100-$200 a month. So, he is constantly asking me for gas money, food money, etc. which I really wouldn’t mind paying for except that I really don’t make enough money to feed two people, keep 2 cars full of gas, and pay my rent and bills. On top of this he is always wanting to go out to the movies, or go get a “treat” after dinner, or go out with friends to places that are a little out of my budget when I’m not paying for two people. I find it really frustrating and I know he is mooching, but at the same time, I love him and if I had the money I know I wouldn’t mind, but I really can’t afford to be spending this much money on him.

The other problem is that now that he is not working, he spends most of his time at home alone (since he doesn’t have the money to go out and do anything) and it has resulted in him being really clingy and constantly complaining about how we don’t have sex often enough and how I don’t hang out with him or sleep over enough. I see him almost every day and we have sex about 3 times a week and I sleep over 1 to 3 nights a week. I feel like this is pretty reasonable considering how much I work and that I have a really stressful job as well as several hobbies I take part in and I am working on starting my own business.

Essentially, how do I talk to him about this in a kind and gentle way so that he doesn’t feel attacked? He is sweet and treats me nicely, we have a ton in common, and I love him very much and I really don’t want to break up with him, but I need things to change.

–Bringing home the bacon

Deart BHTB,

What his mommy thinks is best for your boyfriend might not be what is best for your relationship. Your boyfriend IS mooching, in a sad and selfish way. You, however, don’t seem to be doing your job which is to set limits.

To begin with, you sound like you have been lying to yourself for a while. Your question begins, “I have always made more money than he does, and both of us are okay with that.” Both of you, obviously, are not ok with that. You also say, “he is a musician who works part time,” in the present tense, only to later reveal that he has been jobless for months. How long have you been feeling uncomfortable?

Some men have a tendency when given a little love, a favor, to thirst for more. It is like a disease, the “I remember what it felt like to be my mother’s prized possession” disease, one that can wreak havoc on a girlfriend’s patience.

Yes, we would all like it if people knew never to walk beyond boundaries, to never take advantage of others. But in truth, communication of need is a two person job. How is he to know that he has gone too far if for what sounds like months now, you have been biting back your words?

On the one hand, you need to stand up for yourself. On the other hand, he shouldn’t be acting out in order to wake you up. What part of “small paycheck” does his not understand? It does not translate to exorbitant spending. Your man needs to know when enough is enough, both independently and from your cues. He needs to know that you work hard, and should appreciate that fact if you are busting ass to support his extracurricular habits. So step one, should you wish to keep him, is to sit down and have an honest talk about limits. Your paycheck is not a negotiable reality, it is what is paying for your life, sans stipend from home.

This conversation could be hard because in theory you should have been articulating your limits all along. Your boo is probably testing the edge of your generosity. He might not consciously sense what he is doing, but what you describe sounds like deliberate button pushing, squeezing and molding your generosity and affection in hopes of finding where they might run thin. Think adolescent boy. You need to be the woman you are and tell him how you feel, lest you return to teenagerhood yourself.

To do so, just gently tell it like it is. Don’t accuse him. Explain your needs, your limits, etc, speaking from a personal perspective. The only way this will work is if you don’t make him out to be a jerk, rather show the flat truth of your five figure waning salary.

Also, be realistic and prepare yourself for the possibility of a tantrum on his part, a shutting down, or a lack of adult understanding. If his mommy is treating him like a king, he might expect you to do the same. No one sets rules for the king. Your boundaries, however, are your god-given right. Stand firm for taking care of yourself.

As for the job situation, I would like to give a shout out to my many artist and musician friends who do find a way to bring in cash and focus on their craft. When I worked in Adam’s Morgan in DC there were tons of well-established musicians, rockers, singers, painters and more who tended bar and pulled espresso shots. As I travel from artist residency to artist residency I can’t tell you how many people I meet who straddle artistic success and a side-job. I am not inclined to agree with his mother, not if he wants to keep you in his life. Money doesn’t grow on women.

Your boyfriend’s mom might need to stay out of it, and you need to step up the backbone. You can love someone and tell them, “no.” In fact, good pure love always seems to have a safe expression of when enough is really enough.

” title=”www.send-email.org”>www.send-email.org to merissag[at]gmail[dot]com.

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