How to stop being so anxious when my boyfriend is experiencing financial difficulties?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've been in a wonderful six month relationship so far with my boyfriend. We're both heterosexual, he's in his late 20's and I'm in my mid 20's. It's really great other than the fact that his financial situation has been stressing me out and sometimes would trigger an anxiety that easily could lead to a panic attack.
I had a depressive episode a few months back with the stresses going on in my life, and I also was incredibly anxious and experienced anxiety attacks in public, and was generally miserable and waltzing closer to suicidal ideation. My boyfriend was my only social support, and because of him, I sought out counselling and am currently taking anti-depressants. I'm now in a happier and more stable place in life. He's been wonderful in enabling me taking better care of myself, and I want to do the same for him, but I don't know how to do it without me getting triggered into the anxiety spiral.
I worry about him. He's been living paycheque to paycheque for a while now, but I have more reason to worry about him now because his work contract ended a week ago, he's applied to one workplace but hasn't applied to more since he's burnt out and stressed (because he's spent all his energy taking care of others), and either doesn't eat or eats incredibly poorly.
I try to offer him food or buy food for him, but he's incredibly proud and doesn't want to be "one of those jerks that take advantage of their girlfriend", and he also doesn't ask money from his family. In fact, part of the reason why he doesn't have much savings is that he's been contributing several hundred dollars per month to the health care of a family member (a young child) with a major illness and has been hospitalized for over a year, and pretty much the rest of his family is in debt because of everyone's been helping out with paying off the health care. That's the other reason why he doesn't ask for financial help... because they're also in debt.
It could be worse. At least we're in Canada, not the US where health care expenses would be higher. I understand that he's doing his best, but still, I feel stressed and frustrated. I want to take care of him and enjoy life together with him, but the last time we were together, he refused anything I offered him, and he talked about how he hoped to find a meal later that day because all he had was two pieces of toast and two pieces of fruit the day before. And he also said that we probably no longer go on bike rides together (we both enjoy biking) in the near future, since he doesn't have the energy since he's basically starving.
To add to that, I feel frustrated at how much more difficult it is for us to do things together. I feel bad about hanging out with him, and I'm the only one having coffee in the cafe. Or how he won't let me reimburse him for his bus tickets now that he can no longer afford a month pass.
Another thing too is that I sort of saw this coming, and I kept on bugging him to file his taxes months ago so he could get a tax refund (didn't happen), I bugged him to lower his interest rate to deal with his credit card debt (which he did), I've been encouraging him more to cook for himself instead of letting a huge chunk of his income go to fast food (he eats fast food because he lives far away from his work, family, and volunteer commitments)... he's been cooking more for himself, which is good. I also bugged him to apply for work earlier while he still was employed, but he didn't. I also got angry at him for getting the new iPhone instead of guarding his savings when he needs it most, but he said that it was one of the few pleasures that he has and he uses his phone a lot (which is true). It's not a bad track record for a few months, but I worry about what would happen IF I didn't try to change him. And I don't like the dynamic of trying to change one's partner anyway!
I don't know what to do. I don't want to be a nagging shrew, and I've asked him on how I could be more supportive and less presumptuous. I want to help him out, but considering this is just six months in, I feel like I didn't sign up for Money Problems (tm) and I'd consider leaving in the future if it gets too much for me. But at the same time, he didn't sign up for my issues, and he helped me get through depression.
The other factor that I find it more complicating is I'm not sure what is just a difference of class/culture, versus incompatible financial priorities. He and his friends will make jokes about how much debt they are in, and have anecdotes about how long they've gone without food or the worst thing they've ever eaten from 7-11. I can't relate at all. I've been privileged enough to be receive some financial support from my parents as I look for work (just graduated this year) so my rent and utilities are covered at least, and my savings can go towards feeding me and my self-care. My family is financially well off, so if anything terrible happens to me, I feel comfortable enough to ask for more support. Whereas in his family, there was never enough money, and he takes it as a given, and even has said that the shared experience of debt between his family and friends has brought them closer together. I don't get it and it makes me nervous.
I really really really care for his man, but I'm not sure what are just cultural/class baggage I just need to get over (so I can respect his agency and his life priorities), and what is financial incompatibility. And I want to learn how to be supportive/useful rather than condescending/naggy/presumptuous. Help? Advice? Tips?