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Dedicated boyfriend but unemployed and unambitious, should i end it?
February 15, 2014 12:59 PM   Subscribe

Dedicated boyfriend but unemployed and unambitious, should i end it? I'm 29, have a doctorate, make 6 figures and own my own place. I've been with a guy who is 5 years younger than me for 6 months now. When we first met he was very honest and revealed that he never finished high school but has a GED, he tried 1 semester of college but dropped out; he also disclosed without me asking that his job paid 30k a year. I have to admit it was very refreshing to come by such confidence and honesty. Despite the attraction and chemistry between us I tried to resist getting too close to him due to our age, education and socioeconomic differences fearing the potential relationship problems that could arise from that. However I started falling for him regardless. Around 1.5 months after we first met, he got laid off from his job. We became exclusive shortly after that.

I fell for him because he's very dedicated, supportive, loving, makes me laugh and we have a great time together. He is new to being in a relationship but he tries his best. The problem is that it's been months now and he has not tried to search for a job despite my urgings, he says he doesn't want to work for other people. I also suggest he can go back to school but he says traditional academic settings are not for him and he cannot afford tuition anyways. He wants to build his own online marketing business and says if it doesn't work out, he will consider looking for the usual 9 to 5 job, however it doesn't seem like he's doing much to progress that venture either other than asking advice from a friend who is currently in that business. I tend to think that type of venture is risky in itself and can't understand why he can't just look for a regular retail job while trying to pursue running his own business. It seems he spends most of his free time at the gym, playing video games or hanging with his friends. He has been living off of his savings during this time, when we go out i pay for the more expensive restaurants and he pays for the cheaper things like movie tickets, bar tabs, etc but for the most part we just hang out at my place. I don't mind because he is very appreciative and obviously because i can afford it and he hasn't asked me for money or anything, however his savings will be out in a few months and I honestly don't think I could financially support a guy without feeling resentment somewhere down the line.

So i have been questioning whether to continue the relationship (mainly from judgements and advice from friends and family). I care about him so much and he has been great to me. The only issue other than his lack of motivation in searching for a job is his stubbornness but i have my vices also. I am not a person that falls for someone easily, there has to be the right connection/chemistry which we have, so I keep going back and forth between thinking that i should just end it because of the potential problems or stick this out and be more encouraging and patient with him and hoping the situation changes for the better.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (73 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
He's a bum. It's entirely possible to be a really nice, loving, thoughtful, dedicated partner and still be a bum. I don't want to work for other people, either, but I do, because I want to have money and whatnot while I work on my other endeavors.

I can't tell you what you should do with yourself and it's not like some stranger on the internet is going to be the deciding factor in your relationship decisions, but I can tell you that he's not going to do anything he doesn't have to, and as long as you're there, he doesn't have to look for a job. You might resent financially supporting him if it comes to that, but it won't matter to him how much you resent it as long as you're doing it.

There's a joke I like:

Q. What do you call a drummer without a girlfriend?
A. Homeless.

If I were you, I would not want to be the drummer's girlfriend.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:07 PM on February 15 [54 favorites]


I don't think you would have posted this question if you weren't seeking our permission to righteously tell you in writing what Famous Monster has already written.

Go forth and prosper... end it as friends and move on.
posted by infini at 1:11 PM on February 15 [5 favorites]


Refusing to look for work because you "can't work for someone else" is really, incredibly immature. Being a bum and sitting around playing video games and spouting crypto-libertarian excuses (wanting to be an innovator, can't work for another person, whatever) is not OK unless you are 15 and on summer break from high school. He is 24. You are this guy's girlfriend, not his mom. He needs to sack up and go find a job. PS Refusing to work retail is a pretty big character flaw. Sorry. :/
posted by moonlight on vermont at 1:12 PM on February 15 [16 favorites]


He had more than 4 1/2 months of savings, which is far better than the amount most people have socked away, and he's spending that while starting up his own business? And he's got a good heart, if not a six-figure income and a doctorate? I think you should leave him, not because he's such a loser but because that's what you see.
posted by Houstonian at 1:12 PM on February 15 [35 favorites]


BTW, that "girlfriend not mom" comment was not me judging the age difference; this dynamic shows up in all kinds of relationships, not just ones between two people in their mid twenties.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 1:15 PM on February 15


I don't think this is a bad reason for leaving someone. Basically, when a relationship stops making your happy and starts making you feel bad things, like guilt, resentment, etc. then it may be time to move on.

It sounds like you still love him, so my question is whether you've expressed this to him? I know you've asked him about getting a job and such, but have you told him how important it is to you? Does he possibly realize how much this bothers you or that it might be a deal-breaker? Does he realize how disappointed you are to see him wasting any potential he has and how his lack of ambition is so problematic for you?

My suspicion is that this guy is just a person who doesn't want to try hard at anything or set high expectations for himself -- that is likely never to change and the relationship will never feel balanced and so it's not a good long-term match. However, I would at least express it to him before ending it, perhaps as an ultimatum, and give him the chance to turn things around. He probably won't, but I have known a couple cases where that person did turnaround get their act together. Just set clear goals and timelines so he can't keep putting it off. If he hasn't shown a willingness to make real, concrete change in a reasonable amount of time, do not hesitate to dump him.

Of course, the above paragraph assumes you do still love him and want to be with him. If you don't feel that way, or only kind of feel that way, just dump him, regardless of his financial situation.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:19 PM on February 15 [6 favorites]


If you decide not to end it, where do you see this going? Marriage and kids? I can tell you from experience, as someone married and raising a child with someone who has much less education and earning potential (but is much better than your guy at doing what he needs to do) that differences in socioeconomic status will cause ongoing strains on your relationship. It's not insurmountable (we are happy) but it's definitely an additional problem to deal with that you would not have with someone whose career track was a bit more similar to yours. This is not a problem that is going to go away, even if he does start looking for a job tomorrow.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:30 PM on February 15 [5 favorites]


What are your long-term expectations here? Is this a guy who would be a great stay-at-home dad while you make a high salary, for instance? Is he a guy who could get motivated to run a household? I have a relative who has a mediocre work history - to say the slightest! - and yet this person has been god's gift to our family in terms of stepping up to care for people in emergencies or health crises, and we would have been really up the creek if they'd turned out to be, like, a busy middle-manager. If he is someone who can be reliable as a non-earning partner, that has its own value; if he's just going to goof around and be more of a kept man, that will get frustrating unless you're going to be so rich that you can afford a kept man without getting frustrated.
posted by Frowner at 1:31 PM on February 15 [40 favorites]


I think there's a difference between choices that people make that are theirs alone and ones they make that affect other people. So hey he may not be ambitious but he's supporting himself and seems like a nice guy. At the same time, you are contributing more or seem to feel like you are contributing more when you guys go out and (If I read between the lines a bit) would prefer that he had an income and that you guys were on a more equal footing and could do more things, things that might cost money.

So, hey, you want what you want and he wants what he wants and both of those things are fine, independently, but it sounds like it's a bad fit with you guys. I guess I'd be wondering what happens when his savings runs out? Would he be asking to move in with you or otherwise leaning on you for support? That doesn't sound like something you'd like. Does he have other means of support or some sort of bottomless savings account?

I have a low-level ambition mismatch with my guy but the big thing is that our mismatch doesn't become a relationship issue. We don't live together, he doesn't guilt me into not going out, he understands when I work on the weekend and I have to not mind when he calls in late to his job. But I think for me that is part of it: he has a job and he loves it and he also understands that having a job is sort of what you want to do if you want to be an independent adult. I'm not sure if we'd see eye to eye if we did not share that feeling.

online marketing business

This stuck out for me. There are good (helpful, lucrative) and bad (spammer, scammy) ways of doing online marketing. I'd, personally, want to know a lot more about whether this was a real business plan or just a thinly-veiled ripoff situation.
posted by jessamyn at 1:32 PM on February 15 [7 favorites]


He just sounds really young. He might shape up when he runs out of money, or in a few years' time when he's sick of living on ramen.

However, it doesn't sound like he's ever going to make six figures, so if you do ever get serious or want to move in together you will absolutely be supporting him. If that's a dealbreaker then better to end it now. I personally would find the mismatch in ambition and outlook really offputting in a serious partner, but other people seem to make it work.

On preview, what rabbitrabbit and frowner said.
posted by tinkletown at 1:36 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


I kind of get the opposite impression than infini, it sounds like you are asking our permission to still like him despite not being ambitious.

Being ambitious is not an objective good; and it sounds like you don't really care either way, but your friends are telling you that you should care.

If you think you will resent paying for him, than that's an issue. But are you sure you would? Is he wasteful with your money; does that even matter? Do you just think a man needs to have job? (It's okay if you do; you are allowed to have any standards you want for someone to date.) Fifty years ago, this was totally normal, just with the genders reversed. That doesn't mean it needs to be okay with you, though.

There's no right or wrong answer here, but just be sure you are acting out of what you want, not want your friends and family are saying you should want.
posted by spaltavian at 1:37 PM on February 15 [16 favorites]


If he wants to faff around and live off his savings, that's his lookout. I'd sit down with him and tell him he's welcome to run his life how he wants but you're worried about this because you're not down for supporting him long-term and if it gets to that point --- he runs out of money and starts wanting your help --- you're going to break up with him because you two won't have a future.

Maybe the four months goes by, the online marketing thing obviously hasn't worked out, and he pulls himself together and gets a retail job or something similar to what he had before. Could you live with that, given the other positive stuff? If so I'd be inclined to give him a chance and see if that's what happens. But if the answer to that question is no --- that basically, you couldn't stay with someone long term who doesn't have more ambition for their career --- then you may as well end it now.
posted by Diablevert at 1:39 PM on February 15 [3 favorites]


I cannot fathom how someone with this little sense or ambition has savings to live off of. Is it possible that he's living off of credit cards or has money from his parents or something? It just seens ridiculous that anyone like that would have savings, much less enough to live off of for any decent amount of time.

He sounds great except for this "I don't want to work" issue, but wow is that a big one. I would just leave, honestly. You're going to be supporting him, probably for a while, and that's generally not the sort of thing that can work in a relationship. Obviously he could keep house and cook and whatnot, but it doesn't sound like he would.
posted by Slinga at 1:43 PM on February 15 [7 favorites]


That five year gap is a big one at this age. Lots of people drift in their twenties. Many of those who had the career figured out in their early twenties are going back to school in their late twenties. Working is hard when you don't know who you are and what you want, and thus haven't found a way to line things up in a way that works. But many people who seem hopelessly lost at this time end up really pulling things together in creative unexpected ways. So yeah, maybe this guy is a slacker, but maybe he deserves a bit of slack as well.

With that said, you can ease up on the advice. Your opinions about how he should structure his life make sense for you, but they probably won't work for him, and trying to impose your discipline and values on his choices will only cause resentment and frustration.

It's totally okay to be with someone who is still figuring things out. Don't try to fix his life for him. But also be very clear about what support you're willing to give -- and it should be very little, i.e. do not move in together, do not offer to pay for his basic expenses -- and stick to that. If he has to survive, he will find a way. If he asks you to support him, THEN he has crossed the boundary and shown that he is not capable of standing on his own feet, and then it would be appropriate to leave the relationship. But I say give him a chance to figure things out first, if you really do like him.
posted by PercussivePaul at 1:48 PM on February 15 [6 favorites]


If you were a high-achieving man earning six figures, and he were a less-educated, low-earning woman five years younger than you who wasn't very ambitious and liked to cultivate her hobbies and friendships, it would be perfectly normal and entail very little judgment from your friends and family that you had found a pleasant, loyal, and devoted girlfriend who would probably make a very good housewife and mother who would probably work part-time or not at all and devote herself to homemaking and childrearing.

It's quite common, these days, for high-achieving men to marry high-achieving women and vice versa, but it was totally normative in the past for high-achieving men to look for spouses who would be supportive and a good other half, not an equally-type-A partner. Either one of these models can work in a long-term relationship, as long as you're not nursing resentment about it -- either resentment that your partner ISN'T ambitious, or resentment that your partner IS ambitious and therefore isn't doing enough to support your ambition. And the ambitious-wife/homey-husband is becoming a more common model.

I know lots of high-powered women married to lower-achieving men, and these marriage look a lot like a traditional executive/housewife marriage. I know a female CEO who is married to a truck driver, who is able to move in and out of work rather casually in order to arrange his life around the needs of their daughter and his wife's demanding work schedule. I know a female doctor whose husband supported her through med school and now works part-time, takes care of the kids and the house, and makes a hot dinner every night. In both cases, the spouse's lack of ambition support's the primary earner's ambition -- or rather, I'd say, the fact that they're content in a support-and-caring role and don't need a star-of-the-show role.

This isn't an easy decision to make or an easy thing to come to know about yourself in a world where there are no longer gender-dictated roles for achiever/carer, especially if you're a woman who's an achiever or a man who's a carer. It is OKAY not to want to be with someone who's wonderful because they're not ambitious enough and you'll be resentful. It's also OKAY not to care that they're unambitious even if you're "supposed to" want to be with someone who's your "social and intellectual equal" (I bet is a phrase you've heard). You just need to figure out which. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:53 PM on February 15 [118 favorites]


You are in the relationship you are in. I would not ever advise anyone to stick it out and hope it gets better, no matter what "it" is, because you can't hang your hat on potential or wishes or hopes. Reality is reality.

It sounds like this bothers you. Have you talked to him about how you feel? I know you've urged him to find a job, but you might need to be a bit more straightforward. "Hey, I really like you, and I am worried that I might have to support you when your savings runs out. I honestly don't think I could do that without feeling resentful. What should we do about this?" Try to figure out how you can handle it together, as a couple. The ensuing conversations will give you a lot of information about whether or not this is something that you want to continue. If you two can come up with something that you are both happy with - or more likely a compromise that you can both truly live with - then you may want to stick it out.

Time will tell, too. This doesn't have to be decided now. Just talk. Good luck.
posted by k8lin at 2:08 PM on February 15


You might find that your boyfriend is going to limit you in some aspects. He could definitely limit your social connections and your social life.

he says he doesn't want to work for other people.

This right here is crazy talk from a person his age. If he's not ambitious now, I wouldn't count on him being ambitious in the future, young or not. His history has shown that he's a bit of a slacker and could definitely remain so. What about his family? His siblings and parents? Are they hardworking? Successful? Gather all of the information you can and make a decision based on what you want from your life. Would you be ok if he never changed, never became ambitious, and continued to make excuses?
posted by Fairchild at 2:09 PM on February 15 [2 favorites]


6 months is not that long to end things amicably. Sorry to say, but love doesn't pay the bills. Unless, you're ok with the relationship dynamics others have mentioned. Yes, gender roles might be more flexible now than in the most recent past for some people, but what hasn't changed is a lot of the expectations placed on women to partner up. Women are mostly viewed as flawed if they're not coupled and because of this I ask, is it better to be with this person and feeling uncertain with the mismatch, or to be single? It is perfectly fine to be single long-term, especially if you want the right partner for you. Someone that you can imagine spending the rest of your life with. Is this him? Or is he a place holder? You have a lot of great things going for you that is really attractive to what some people may refer to as the "gold-digger" type. Is this person really that great that you could foresee continuing this dynamic for two years? 5 years? 10? If nothing changed or materialized economically for him and he did rely on you to provide that support, would he still be as attractive to you as he seems now?

Loneliness is a soul-crushing crippling thing that can sometimes impair a person's judgement of another's moral character and integrity. It could even hamper your own. You are the only person who can judge this situation for what it is. Take an objective stance and consider what he truly brings to the table. Sometimes a person isn't a good fit but breaking up doesn't make sense because they didn't 'do anything wrong' and people spend a lot of really valuable time in a relationship that isn't fulfilling. Is your boyfriend a fling, or a future partner?
posted by lunastellasol at 2:11 PM on February 15 [4 favorites]


You prioritize personal ambition in a way that he doesn't. You also prioritize *his* ambition in a way that he doesn't. This seems like a bad fit, and a path that will lead to resentment. It doesn't seem like a good foundation for a serious relationship.
posted by rtha at 2:12 PM on February 15 [3 favorites]


you and he are in vastly different worlds, there is almost zero chance you can merge them compatibly.
posted by bruce at 2:32 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


If you're really okay with him living the life he wants to live, and he can really sustain that life (let's assume he can get another job -- things get more complicated if he's not even able to support himself), okay, cool, awesome. If you feel like you need him to change to fit into your life, then that's a problem. He may someday want to change, he may not, but you aren't going to make him change, and if you try he will likely end up resenting you for it in ways that will be problematic for your relationship.

Voice of experience speaking here -- I think I'm more ambitious than your guy, but less ambitious than you. I dropped out of a Ph.D program with a masters and broke up with my then-girlfriend at about the same time. She was about 5 years older, and strongly committed to finishing the ph.d and pursuing an academic life. She wasn't happy with the idea of me taking a different track (even if it was also financially/career rewarding), especially since I wanted to move where jobs were plentiful for people with my skillset, and work was interesting, rather than to somewhere that she could get a tenure track assistant professorship. We're both better off. I love my job and am dating a really amazing woman; as near as I can tell from our friends, my former girlfriend loves her academic job and just married an older guy with similar priorities.
posted by Alterscape at 2:40 PM on February 15


1. He's 24. he has plenty of time to sort himself out.

2. You're not supporting him financially and he hasn't asked you to either.

3. The problems you're writing about all seem to be 'what ifs' about the future. How far ahead do you intend to plan here?

4. What is your question again? "Should I dump him in case he starts sponging off me?" You can answer that one yourself I think - it's either a yes or a no.

5. If you know you'll only be ok with an ambitious, highly educated high-earner then stick to that type while dating.
posted by glasseyes at 2:41 PM on February 15 [8 favorites]


Some of the posters here seem to read your question and think they see you asking for permission to leave him. I actually read it more as though you want someone to tell you it's okay to stay with him. That's the rub though, isn't it? It doesn't really matter who you ask, if you prioritize what other people think about your decision to stay or leave a relationship, you'll ultimately be lost at sea. What do you want out of this relationship? Do you think you will get it? I know what it's like to want to leave a relationship while everybody thinks you should stay in it. I also know what it's like to want to stay in one while everybody thinks you should end it. Bad. It feels bad!

The only time I ever figured out what I actually wanted was when I stopped letting my perception of what other people thought I should be doing (and feeling) and actually just wrapped my arms around my own desires and the place I really was in.

Give yourself that permission. Being vulnerable is scary and hard, you don't need to complicate it further by worrying whether or not the world around you believes you are making the right choice by following your heart. Meditating on what you want, and pursuing it with confidence and love for yourself and those around you is always the right choice.
posted by pazazygeek at 2:52 PM on February 15 [6 favorites]


I think you're at a middle stage here, where you're not quite to the point of figuring out whether to stay or go; you're coming to terms with who he is.

You can decide that it is or isn't okay with you to support someone who doesn't have a lot of interest in making money. People do that; it tends to raise far fewer eyebrows when women decide they aren't really into working. That doesn't necessarily mean he will try to get you to support him. It might mean that if you don't pay for everything, the two of you are broke. You don't go out. Or if you don't pay the rent, the two of you live somewhere that isn't what you'd choose.

What I think you have to come to terms with is that this is who he is -- he doesn't make his finances a priority, he's cool with being financially improvisational, and he's not willing to make the trade that most people make, which is to work for someone else in exchange for that person giving you money to live on. There are lots of ways to go regarding what to do, but whatever you do, I think it should be built on the assumption that this is what he will be like. That does not mean leave. It does not mean stay. It means whatever you do, it should be something you're happy with if he, as most people do, remains the same person he is now and does not radically change.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 2:53 PM on February 15 [7 favorites]


I keep going back and forth between thinking that i should just end it because of the potential problems or stick this out and be more encouraging and patient with him and hoping the situation changes for the better.
Essentially, you have to weigh the odds of whether, say 6 months from now, nothing will have changed except how you feel about it -- and the relationship.

I think you should ask him what his plan is for when his savings runs out in a few months. Let his answer, or lack thereof, be your guide.
posted by sm1tten at 3:04 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


You don't sound like you're really that interested in him.

You have a huge laundry list of potential dealbreakers that would not be a big deal for others (your age difference is not large, lots of people date across class lines, etc).

His being unemployed is a huge red flag for you, which is perfectly fair.

Personally, I would not be terribly worried about any of this unless he started to expect you to support him. That would be the dealbreaker point, for me.

People say "I don't want to work for anyone else!" all the time when they are down about work and trying to figure out their next move. Usually that lasts a few months and then they come back to earth and find a new job.

I've been unemployed and not sure what my next move was and living off of savings and Unemployment. It doesn't make you a bad person. What would happen if you lost your job? Would you expect your partner to stick by you and let you work through things, or leave because obviously you are a directionless leech?

Either way, you clearly want to break up. I give you my permission to break up.
posted by Sara C. at 3:12 PM on February 15 [3 favorites]


Woo, I honestly can't imagine what my reaction would have been at 24 if I had been dating someone who put a huge amount of worth into how much money they made and were pretty heavily judging my lack of interest in doing the same. I don't think it would have gone well. If it happened today I would just walk away. Having a large paycheck is never going to be a priority for me. Having someone silently steaming in the background about that fact would be like dating tinnitus.

It would be a different matter if he was trying to live off your wealth, but he's not. I'm not sure I understand your concern over that, are you worried if he tried to that you wouldn't be able to say no? Have people done that to you in the past?

I know circles where big money is what matters, and it sounds like your group is of that mind set. It's really up to you to judge if you are able to swim against popular opinion, whether the people in your life would accept it or be constantly throwing barbs at the two of you, and how you would handle it if they did.
posted by Dynex at 3:16 PM on February 15 [6 favorites]


The problems you're writing about all seem to be 'what ifs' about the future. How far ahead do you intend to plan here?

I think this is a good point.

I've heard it said before that, when dating someone, you should only plan ahead as far as you've already been together. So if you're going on your second date, it's a bad idea to buy concert tickets for next month. If you've been together a month, it's a bad idea to make travel plans for next summer. If you've been together a year, it's a bad idea to buy a house together. And so on.

You've been together for six months. It's perfectly OK to look ahead at the next six months. It's a little hasty to start worrying about what if this guy never gets his shit together and your kids can't go to private school and you never get to buy that Maserati you've always wanted.

So if you see this guy getting his house in order over the next six months, and you really want to give things a try, sure. If you anticipate him trying to move into your place next month, yeah, seriously, do what you have to do.
posted by Sara C. at 3:24 PM on February 15 [10 favorites]


It sounds like you already feel a little resentful/disrespectful because he is not as ambitious or "together" as you. That is ok though. I have been in your shoes to a lesser scale (not six figure income but not minimum wage either). You haven't been together that long, it's ok to end it. Can you see yourself introducing this man to your coworkers, mentors, boss, etc.? Can you see yourself being ok with explaining how many hours you worked last week when you see he is doing the bare minimum or is still unemployed, and then when you want to go somewhere nice to relax...he can't afford it and you don't go?

forget it and just date someone who is of your caliber and shares your priorities and values from the get go. it will be so much easier because you won't have any of these worries of "will this man change his fundamental values in time?" not a good idea to stay with someone whom you want to change, anyway.
posted by zdravo at 3:34 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


Once again, Eyebrows McGee hits the nut on the head. Reverse the genders, no family and friends would be raising eyebrows. But oh my, the dire warnings that your situation can draw.

I say this from my own experience: female, 8 years older than Mr. K, better educated, much more ambitious and driven (he doesn't even make lists!). But I was older than you, and had a failed marriage behind me, and knew what a treasure I had. Not always in my head, but my heart always knew. For me, it was that this man has never, once, said an unkind thing to me. Lots of stuff I wish he would say, but coming from my background, honest and accepting has been healing beyond words. It's 34 years and counting....

My only advice would be to try to stop thinking about the future, and ask your heart how you're doing right now. He sounds like a keeper, but only you know.
posted by kestralwing at 3:41 PM on February 15 [17 favorites]


How much money were you making at 24? Would you have had several month's savings to live on if you'd gotten kicked out of school/work at 24?

I think you should let him know that his hesitance to get a job might be a dealbreaker for you. His response might be telling.
posted by The Biggest Dreamer at 3:50 PM on February 15 [4 favorites]


It's not about the money.

It's about being responsible.

Make your decision based on that.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:02 PM on February 15 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry, refusing to get a job because you don't want to work for other people isn't some brave stance against traditional gender roles, it's just being lazy.

OP, you know what he is now. If he never changed, would you be comfortable with him? That's your answer.
posted by winna at 4:32 PM on February 15 [5 favorites]


Would you feel comfortable having this guy raise your kids? Being a role model for them, being responsible for them? Do you want to have kids?
posted by amtho at 5:26 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


he says he doesn't want to work for other people

Several respondents have poured scorn on this attitude, yet I want to stick a meek hand up and defend it. The guy is very young - 24 is very young - and the dream life is not to have to work for anyone else. If you have ambition, it's a complete waste at such a young age to pour ~40 hours per week down the drain when you don't have to and when you have better things to do. It sound like he's got enough savings that he doesn't have to waste his time like this, so good for him. The problem is, you talk about him just playing video games rather than making efforts towards the better life. I don't know the extent to which this is actually the case or whether it just looks that way from your perspective as an older, more responsible person. (In any case, I think playing video games is a more productive use of youth than, for example, working retail.) However, you clearly have different attitudes and this is probably not going to work out. Your leaving him is likely to force him to focus and do whatever it is that he want to do for real, rather than making it easy to drift. If he is ultimately obliged, as sadly most people are, to make the compromise of employment then at least it will be blatantly his own fault. As things stand, it'll feel to him like something you brought on, and then you're done for regardless.
posted by cincinnatus c at 5:42 PM on February 15 [2 favorites]


I don't want to single you out or anything, cincinnatus, but while I agree with you that being self-employed or owning your own business is a fine goal to have, and I respect entrepreneurship, I strongly disagree that the best way to go about it is to shun entry-level work. People who own hotels but don't understand what it's like to be a bellhop are not as good at management. Put in your grunt time, IMO. Learn the industry. Be at the bottom so you know what it's like and can have a mutually respectful relationship with future employees. Break out your own competitive business after first working for someone else at it.
posted by quincunx at 6:37 PM on February 15 [7 favorites]


I once said that in my family, we are all congenitally incapable of working for someone else. Lots of us in the family have small businesses, are independent workers, or have some other position as an independent professional.

I am planning to start a company as soon as I get a prototype working and enough capital together. So what do I do now? I work for someone else. We all have our own dream of what we would like to do and what would be the best fit for our personalities and desires, but we also have to eat and pay rent.

I also get the impression that you prioritize intellectualism and professionalism. He doesn't. That's fine! But you should ask yourself if you see yourself partnered with someone who doesn't share your same intellectual and professional values with you.

Reverse the genders, no family and friends would be raising eyebrows.

Sure they would. If, instead of him being an unemployed high school dropout he was, say, a nursery school teacher of a low level employee at a non-profit, I think the tone of these answers would be quite different. It is not so much about money specifically but about whether this is going to be a good long term cultural/intellectual/mutual responsibility match.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 7:07 PM on February 15 [5 favorites]


He's a bum.

Harsh. He has mental problems that keep him self-destructively trying to fail where most people can make a not-huge effort and succeed. If he had agoraphobia, would you just say "He is a big coward"?


kestralwing: "Reverse the genders, no family and friends would be raising eyebrows. "

bright colored sock puppet: "Sure they would. "

Bullshit. I know dozens of couples where the wife hasn't worked in years. I have never, ever, ever heard anyone say, "Well, she's a bum."

--

You clearly want him to support himself, although it sounds to me like you're a bit uncomfortable with the difference in economic levels.

Are you willing to show him tough love? "Here's the phonebook. Make an appointment with a therapist, or move out. You are shoving all the financial burdens onto me, and that's just not fair. I'm not willing to stay with someone who won't grow."

It's even fair for you to help him with the therapy payments, as long as he covers a "copay". But he must pay. That financial requirement is part of self-sufficiency, and an incentive to get at least the tiniest income flowing to stay in the relationship.

No excuses if he fails; you two are through. Make sure he knows that.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:41 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


@FAMOUS MONSTER: He's a bum. It's entirely possible to be a really nice, loving, thoughtful, dedicated partner and still be a bum. I don't want to work for other people, either, but I do...

I agree with the conclusion, but the logic is flawed. The problem isn't that he's not working for somebody else, it's that he's not working for anybody, including himself.
posted by grudgebgon at 8:19 PM on February 15 [2 favorites]


Bullshit. I know dozens of couples where the wife hasn't worked in years. I have never, ever, ever heard anyone say, "Well, she's a bum."

Yeah. I was recently on a train within earshot of two mothers who talked matter-of-factly about how great it was the the one lady's daughter pursued teaching certification even though "it's not like she's going to work for very long." These were upper middle class suburbanite ladies who lunch.

Here's the difference though: these women are almost always entering into an arrangement where it's assumed they'll be providing the lion's share of child care and household management in return. It sounds like that's not the assumption for the future here?
posted by blue suede stockings at 9:14 PM on February 15 [2 favorites]


Hi, I'm you several years down the road, in that I am ambitious (bootstrapped my way into a freelance career that pays professional wage and back in school) and my wife would've been totally happy working her retail job that paid $8 an hour for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week so long as she could come home and dick around on the internet if the chain she worked at hadn't gone bankrupt and forced her to seek other employment.

Here's the thing you really need to ask yourself: Are you comfortable being the breadwinner and with your life plans having to revolve around one professional income instead of two?

Just as an example, I'm old enough now that my friends that are two-professional income couples can go to Europe or buy nice houses or put their kids in really good schools or drive nice cars. Or one of them can dial back and go for a Master's without their lifestyle changing. Or whatever, you know? One can get laid off without it being a massive catastrophe.

So you hear from your two-income friends about their trip to Europe and come home to find him on the couch playing video games and know you can never afford a trip to Europe with your income and his whatever, how do you feel? I think that's your answer.

Look, pop culture tells you that you should love them despite whatever circumstances surround them but the truth is, most couples fight about money and I don't think it's unreasonable to want to have compatibility in the financial or ambition department.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:27 PM on February 15 [13 favorites]


Try going out with a man who is more in line with your economic class range. See how it goes.
posted by ovvl at 9:43 PM on February 15


Wow, harsh, harsh crowd. I have to tell you, if anyone had been judging my (now married) relationship at the start, you'd be saying similar things about me and boy would you have been wrong. There is nothing wrong with the boyfriend in this situation. I actually think he should be commended. He's a hard saver and has managed to scrape together six months worth of income while he figures out his next plan, how many people do you know who have that.

He's frugal, he is ambitious - he knows what he wants and isn't prepared to settle for less. Why is he a lazy bum because he won't work a retail job. He doesn't have to, he's got funds set aside! He's not sponging off anyone, he's not asking for handouts. Apparently he has a grand plan for his future, the OP assumes he's not following through on it, but she's never bothered having a conversation about it. For all we know, when she's at work, he's filling a notebook full of how to pull this off or mulling it over in his head. Working a crappy retail job might take his focus away from that. Maybe his startup isn't compatible with pulling full time hours in a crappy job as well, especially if financially he doesn't need to. I don't see how he's hurting anyone. If he can afford to chill and play video games for a few months, more power to him.

A lot of people have taken the stance that if he's not working now, he'll never be working but why not see what happens or at least have a chat about if before you decide he's a lazy bum? He knows what he doesn't want to be doing and he has enough money saved to take a break from it. He knows when the money will run out, one can only assume he has a plan for then too. Until that point comes, why is it anyone else's concern. That might be when he launches his business or takes the next step. The OP is not being asked to be the breadwinner or being put out at all at this point.

The OP is quite happy to canvas her friends and family and seek judgement from them when the one person she should be talking to about her relationship hasn't been asked at all. If I were the boyfriend I would consider ending the relationship myself simply because there are so many false assumptions about this person who so far has done nothing but support himself and apparently be an all round good, loving guy. He might be the next Steve Jobs for all we know...
posted by Jubey at 9:58 PM on February 15 [6 favorites]


Do you want to have kids? Would you feel good about parenting with him? With him as a role model? Is he interesting? Not making much money is not bad, but lacking initiative and spending days hanging out and playing videogames may not provide great conversational fodder. Look at your long term goals and look at his. Look at how you deal with life and how he does. When there are problems, will he be engaged in resolving them? Look beyond the money at, look at the long term.
posted by theora55 at 11:29 PM on February 15


I don't want to single you out or anything, cincinnatus, but while I agree with you that being self-employed or owning your own business is a fine goal to have, and I respect entrepreneurship, I strongly disagree that the best way to go about it is to shun entry-level work. People who own hotels but don't understand what it's like to be a bellhop are not as good at management.

And I don't want to single you out, but everyone knows that many people - the majority of people no doubt - think exactly as you do, as evidenced by the answers to the question. Lots of people think it's a good thing to do entry-level work and indeed lots of people do entry-level work. Some people, including me and the OP's boyfriend, disagree. As usual with these questions, which viewpoint is correct is completely immaterial: the difference in attitudes itself is what dooms the relationship. I would find it impossible, for example, to have a relationship with the OP, you, or indeed an owner of a hotel, but saying this need not involve my judging any of you. Likewise, the OP doesn't have to think of this guy as "a bum" in order to understand that this will not work.
posted by cincinnatus c at 4:30 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Reading your question, it sounds a bit like you're trying to be his boss rather than his girlfriend. I had assumed at some point you were going to mention something like "and I am 100% financing him" or "he borrowed $X000 from me" but it doesn't sound like that is happening.

How important is it that he works "for the man"? That he has a stable 9-5 job? Are you a bit jealous, at all, of his free time? It's okay if you are. Based on what you've said though, he's saved up enough to earn it.

I don't think that these differences alone mean your relationship is doomed. Everything that you wrote about you two's interactions makes it sound like he's actually a great guy. Maybe it's worth talking over with a counselor or therapist.
posted by amicamentis at 4:37 AM on February 16


Hey, I'm also a version of you years down the road. I stayed with the guy. My guy also writhed against working for the man. But he was adorable and so smart and empathetic and we had a great time together and I loved him SO much.

YMMV, but here's what happened over time:

*we decided, being in love, etc., that he should move in.
*he never got more than a part-time job at a grocery store because he could walk there (he wanted to save wear and tear on his 12+ year old, falling apart at the seams car) and work part time hours, leaving him free to...I have no idea. Sleep late. Play video games. My teenage kids had higher paying jobs.
*when he moved in he felt that his home contribution of cooking (groceries that I paid for) and cleaning more than made up for an equal share in rent and he offered to pay 1/3 of the bills, not half.
*when I wanted to go on well-deserved vacations and relax, he couldn't afford to come. And that was mostly okay. My kids and I went to Hawaii and London without him. Again, fine, but you know, it would have been awesome if he could have joined us.
*he felt happy enough with our nice home and part time grocery store work to decide that he was a writer. And to that end, he spent a VERY long time writing a collection of stories.
*Here's the kicker: he realized that he had enough money to hire an editor and self-publish his book and then he quit his part time job to spend all of his time promoting the book and ending any stream of income.
*Nobody ever bought his book and he got sad and never worked.

*When I finally had the talk with him and told him he needed to leave, he asked for money to get out.

*And Dear Reader, I paid him off and got rid of him.

It would have been easier and less expensive, years prior, to just break up.
posted by kinetic at 5:39 AM on February 16 [19 favorites]


While it is true that we would not be having this conversation if you were male and he was a woman who just wanted to stay at home and make babies, maybe folks in that situation should have that conversation.
The thing about your situation is that in order to support a bum boyfriend (who isn't working on starting a business now, right?)is that you need to be able to make a shit ton of money so that you never need him to contribute financially, even if things go wrong. If you get laid.off or too ill to work or have pregnancy complications, you will be totally screwed because he can't or won't work. And most women probably don't make shit tons in the way that men do to afford a lady who lunches wife.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:59 AM on February 16 [5 favorites]


"I can't afford to keep waiting. My expectations of you are too high to wait for you."

Having a job just for your sanity's sake is not really taking care of anything, except your own peace of mind that he isn't in your home doing something that you cannot control. Do yourself a favor and end it now when you don't share any debts and you are not playing crowd control when he gets overwhelmed by others' reaction to him striking out on his own.

Once he's on the loose, he might surprise you enough that you'll get back together. If this happens, make sure he keeps his own place to live/work and pays that rent himself.
posted by parmanparman at 8:07 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Have you talked to him about what he wants in a relationship, what you want, and how your needs might or might not jointly be met?

Talk to him.
posted by Dashy at 9:51 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


Can't speak to whether or not to conclude the relationship, but I relate significantly to your bf's mindset. At one point I had applied to over a hundred retail positions and not gotten a single reply. No rejections - just, nothing. I had a BA at that point, and had recently come off a very positive internship experience with a good company, and I was completely unable to find work both in my profession and in entry-level minimum wage jobs. Eventually, I came to believe that the applications were a waste of time - my repeated phone calls to the employers went ignored, my applications went ignored, no one cared. I imagined all of my job applications being automatically forwarded from the inbox to the reject pile, like some kind of "sidi hamet" filter. I came to "realize" that I would always fail, no matter what happened. I eventually stopped trying, and tried to get my friends to stop emailing me jobs classifieds, because it was pointless. The situation only worsened from there, and I will spare you the gory mental health details, but it was bad.

Point is, I think his desire to start his own company is symptomatic of a total sense of hopelessness. I think, on some visceral level, he believes no one will ever hire him (or even consider him), and he has stopped trying. Whether you want to stick it out with him and try to break through this mental barrier of his is your call - if his experience is anything like mine was, it will be a long, brutal, uphill battle.
posted by sidi hamet at 11:26 AM on February 16


I had an experience similar to Kinetic's. My younger, charming "finding himself / can't work for others" boyfriend quit his job, lost his apartment, and moved in, promising to be the househusband while he got his business off the ground. What he actually did was play video games all day.

I'd come home with the groceries that I bought and have to do his dishes in order to make dinner. Like Kinetic, I had to pay mine off just to get rid of him. He left a ton of crap that I also had to pay someone to take away.

I'm self-employed with an online business and know what it's like to not want to work for someone else. However, I'd be seriously concerned about your guy's immaturity and lack of follow-through: not finishing high school, doing only one semester of college, and claiming he's too special or whatever to work for others even temporarily.

When I started my business I was working for others. I hated it but it's part of the process: you do what's necessary to keep yourself together until your business is giving you enough income to quit the job. And having your own business, especially at first, means working A LOT. Your guy doesn't sound like he has the tenacity for it, and I suspect he wouldn't make the most reliable househusband, either.
posted by ceiba at 11:37 AM on February 16 [7 favorites]


Sorry if this reads a little breathlessly, but it hits a bit of a nerve.

One of the things I like to ask myself in a relationship is if I am “all-in” or not. If I am all-in, then my parter and I should become rocks for each other. As sappy and melodramatic as it sounds, we are riding against the storm, no matter what, whatever it takes. Each of us should be giving it everything we have based on who we are. Period. I realize this isn’t for everyone and have made my peace with my personality/needs and what it means for my relationships.

I think this is one of those times I’d ask myself if I were really all-in or not. After only 6 months, it could go either way, it seems.

Having written that: With just a few alterations your question could easily have come from my ex as few years ago. He was the one relationship I’ve had that, although I wasn’t madly in love, we could have had a really beautiful life and not just in a “We got us a lot of stuff!!1!” way. I was all-in. I was 30, he was 34. He was crazily in love with me, but just couldn’t stop all the counting and comparing.

He made crazy money and had very few liabilities. I made no money having just quit a moderately lucrative job to start my own business. He had a large Victorian house on the lake that he was in the process of restoring and rehabbing and I had a tiny apartment in the city. He was super straight-laced Joe Businessman, I was a creative. In my mind, none of this mattered because I was all-in. Anything I had in stuff or abilities was his and I expected the same thing. Not the same things mind you, but the same attitude and dedication to us. So I started helping scrape and sand, polish and paint and he took us to this place and that. I hit one of the rougher patches of my life and instead of helping me be the best me I could be he decided I needed to get a real job, "like an adult". He decided that if he was going to help me he was going to make me work for it at $8/hr as I kept doing what I had been doing around the house anyway. In my head I just shrugged and thought he would get over what I considered very weird, petty, and controlling money stuff. He started trying to push me into his line of work. It just got nasty. He got nasty. He decided that I was being unreasonable and that we should keep tabs. Tabs, tabs, and tabs. All of the register-keeping drove me crazy. Long story short… I realized that he wasn’t all-in, went to a loan-shark and borrowed all the money he had “helped me with”, paid him off and that was that. If we aren’t us, then I’m out.

I wasn’t going to write all of this until I read parmanparman and dashes’ comments. Talk to him. You guys have to sort it out honestly and decide what matters. You have to decide who you are as a couple and what that means. Do you trust him enough for him to be himself? What does that even mean to you? I really wish that my guy would have listened to what I was saying. I wish he would have trusted me and talked instead of getting nasty and weird.

Oddly enough, after all of his riding and rousing - after scores of lectures and accusations about being an adult and money, money, money - I ended up building that business and have done something really special; a year later he ended up in federal prison after a sex binge that ended with a meth fueled murder.

Talk to him. Think about what matters to you, but talk to him. Try to step outside of all the judgement and other peoples expectations.
posted by Tchad at 11:53 AM on February 16 [11 favorites]


How about saving the fancy restaurants to go out with friends on similar doe and going
like for like with eateries for him for now... I know that's hardly the crux of it... but might help even things out a bit while you think about what to do. Stuff like that can knaw away at you a bit, even when it feels like it's coming from the heart.
posted by tanktop at 1:33 PM on February 16


My former husband was this guy. He'd work a job for a few months, quit (or do something intentionally to get fired), languish for 6 months until he was totally out of money, start again. I kept thinking it would get better, and it never did, over 7 years of dating and being married. He also started his own business that failed massively (because he didn't want to work to promote it or hustle at all) and invested $8k of our money in an internet pyramid scheme because it promised to make him rich.

He is a nice guy. Funny, caring, creative. We had a lot of fun together. But I wanted to be someone's wife, not someone's mommy, like moonlight said. It's been almost 10 years since my divorce and I never regret it.
posted by getawaysticks at 1:45 PM on February 16 [11 favorites]


I made no money having just quit a moderately lucrative job to start my own business.

I can vouch for Tchad here: I'm a guy who has zero connection with him other than living in the same city, yet I'm aware of and have an interest in and respect for the creative stuff he does. I 100% guarantee that he has no idea who I am and wouldn't recognize me if we passed on the street etc. but I can still say with confidence he's better off not having made those compromises for his ex.

So, I know Tchad's situation doesn't perfectly mirror the facts as you've laid them out in your question, but the idea that your mid-20s boyfriend needs to be on a conventional job/career path and have a perfect Puritan nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic for your relationship to make it past the 6 month mark, especially in today's economic climate, is completely bonkers. Additionally, you're experiencing success which is vanishingly uncommon, while your boyfriend's situation is that of the majority of guys his age--hanging around Metafilter, you get the impression that STEM degrees are practically universal, but only something like one third of his cohort has finished college. If the facts of his economic situation alone (unextrapolated into a lifetime of loafing around the house while he lives off of your largesse) are enough to disqualify him, you'll be cutting out a huge number of other guys, many of whom are probably fantastic. Finally, crummy retail jobs are not only crummy, they're self-perpetuating in that they rarely lead to anything better or more remunerative, but still sap the energy you need to pull yourself up into something better.

Ultimately, though, I think this post is an excellent example of Ask Metafilter's greatest weakness: when we're making a judgement about something as complicated as this on the thin evidence of three or four self-reported paragraphs, we fall back on the parallels we can draw to our own experience. Is this guy potentially a deadbeat who will never be able to afford to go on vacation, a future web marketer manqué who does little other than play the PS5 he bought with your money? Maybe. Those guys are certainly out there, and some among our membership married them, reader. But you've only known this guy since...what, August? Withhold judgement, talk with him about it, see what his plans are, especially his plans after the point where he's burned through the rest of his savings.
posted by pullayup at 7:44 PM on February 16 [4 favorites]


with confidence he's better off not having made those compromises for his ex.

I mean, even not taking the meth murder into account.
posted by pullayup at 7:55 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


When questions like this come up on this board, the one reference we all have to base our advice on is our own experience - that's expected. Unless you have a therapist to interpret things and give perspective, you learn from your own experience - that's growth - and you're supposed to share what little wisdom you gain.

As for this story, I'm sorry, but I have to roll my eyes a bit. I've had two husbands, the first of whom worked maybe 3 months out of 5 years - he was what amounted to a permanent student. The second husband quit his job effective the day we were married - it took 2 months for me to find out about it and that was the day the marriage ended. I had a good job, though nothing to brag about my tax bracket over, but when a lazy person wants to have a decent place to live and someone else footing the bills, bringing in the groceries, doing the cooking and laundry, and willing to roll in the hay with a minor amount of encouragement - well, why bother with a job? Even the occasional fight is worth such a comfortable life. There have been a few others with the same idea in my own experience, and in today's world the inability to find a "decent" job is a common refrain, so I'm sure my story is not at all unusual.

I don't regret the first marriage, but I was very young. The second one I honestly feel very foolish about. But I'd tell anyone who asked to stay away from that trap - it's a downward spiral with nothing but bitterness at the end of the road.

Find someone who wants to take care of YOU - you don't have to let him, but the thought counts for a lot.
posted by aryma at 10:18 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


You don't respect or like him now, not really. It's pretty telling. Break up before your unspoken resentment curdles into outright hatred.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:38 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Well the facts as far as you know them are that he doesn't have a job, isn't looking for one, wants to start a business but has put little or no effort into doing so, did not finish college and doesn't want to, did not finish high school and doesn't want to.

A lot of people are criticizing you for being too ambitious and demanding and I'm kind of flabbergasted by this.

Yes, he is only 24 and could be in a process of improving his situation over time, but right now he isn't working and isn't looking for work and from what you say, his situation isn't tenable and his plans aren't credible. The hive mind may be right that working for the man does suck, but that doesn't make the actual reality of the situation any better.

If you'd said he *is* working to build his business or he *is* working towards a non-lucrative ambition I'd say yes, maybe you are just an overly controlling capitalist bitch who will be no good for this pure-hearted young free spirit, but that is honestly not what it looks like to me and I'm surprised that so many people see it that way. It's one thing to be nonmaterialistic and quite another to be irresponsible and so far, he is not being responsible. The people saying he's 24 and has plenty of time to turn out differently are telling you to bet your childbearing years on potential, and even that is an extremely optimistic interpretation of his actual behaviour right now. Speaking of childbearing, I don't even know how good of a househusband he might make considering that being a stay at home parent requires doing a lot of things one doesn't want to do.

It may be more socially acceptable for a wealthy man to take on an economically nonproductive wife but a) as others have said, that doesn't necessarily make it a good idea and b) crucially, it's not at all the same as taking on an *irresponsible* wife.

Some say that the savings are substantial evidence that he's a responsible person and they may be, but there's not enough else going on here to make me feel reassured about what will happen when the savings ran out.

I mean going on what you have actually said, and taking it at face value, this guy is showing no evidence that he's a responsible person. I'm going to go a step further and say it's not a good sign that he lost his job within a couple of months of establishing a relationship with someone who makes six figures.

Thinking his current situation is likely to continue into the future does not make you sexist or classist or unrealistic about the job market (I say this as a working class person turned lower middle class ffs!) or overly controlling, it makes you observant. If I were you, I'd keep an eye. MeFi may make it seem like having graduate STEM degrees is more common than it is but it also makes tolerance of (especially young) people (especially men) not working and not looking for work and prioritizing finding the perfect career while not doing anything to actually make that happen... also seem a LOT more common than it actually is.
posted by tel3path at 1:53 AM on February 17 [7 favorites]


Yup, seconding tel3path, the posters above defending your boyfriend make it sound like he is working on getting his business off the ground or working on looking for a job or something, but based on what you've written, neither of those is true. He has a few months of savings left but that really isn't very much if he doesn't actively have a plan for what to do once that runs out. My guess is that he is lazy and irresponsible, but if you want to find out for sure, all you have to do is wait a few months and see what happens when his savings run out. That should be pretty telling. If he spends the next few months playing video games and not applying for any jobs/working on starting a business, and then tries to borrow money from you/move in with you when his savings run out, I think you have your answer. If he surprises you and gets a job/finds some other way to produce income, maybe he was just blowing off steam for a bit in between jobs and he really isn't irresponsible.
posted by sunflower16 at 5:33 AM on February 17 [3 favorites]


I'm in the middle of ending a 9+ year relationship with similar issues. I'd say get out now. I'm so sorry.

I've read a lot of relationship posts on MeFi and there seems to be one huge truth: you can't significantly change anyone else. Evaluate potential partners on what they are, not what you wish they could be.

I'm considering getting DTMFA as a tattoo. The most important letter in that acronym is the A for "already".
posted by Classic Diner at 7:19 AM on February 17 [2 favorites]


I've been in short-term relationships like this, and my best friend married a guy like this. He didn't want to work for someone else, but didn't put in the necessary effort to do his own thing, or understand that he needed income in the meantime to make that happen. It was all fine and good until they moved across the country and things got tight.

What happens when his savings run out? Maybe you're fine with supporting him. But in my friend's case, her income circumstances changed. So what if you lost your job and were suddenly having trouble making ends meet? How resentful would you be when you're going into debt to pay the rent and he still doesn't want to work for someone else?

Income differences in a relationship are something you can work around. If the issue were just that he was making significantly less, I would say you should stay with him. But philosophical differences about saving for the future and maintaining an income and being productive are a different beast.

Sorry, but I would run away from this as fast as I could.
posted by thejanna at 7:42 AM on February 17 [2 favorites]


This seems really easy to me. You don't live with him, right? Continue dating him and see what happens when his savings run out and you don't rescue him by letting him move in or giving him any money.

What he does a that point will tell you what you need to know.
posted by argylekneesocks at 8:12 AM on February 17 [1 favorite]


Actually, I'm changing my answer. If he only has a few months to go before he's out of money and he isn't even looking for a job now, I would just leave now - this is irresponsible behavior. It's not like we're in a terrific economy where it's possible to get a job at a moment's notice. He should be worried about what he will do in a few months when the money runs out, and he should be trying his darndest to get a job lined up now. That's not to say he can't also be thinking about/working on his own business at the same time, but he does need to be planning for how he will pay his rent/utilities/etc once the money's gone.
posted by sunflower16 at 8:22 AM on February 17


I also feel like it's important to add that this type of feeling, this "Everything's great except for this one issue," is the most difficult thing a person can go through in a relationship.

What's critical...what matters in these moments...is the ability to communicate with our partners openly, honestly, and to be willing to compromise and listen.

This is where we say, "I love you and my concerns are X, Y and Z. I need to feel ___ about us. How can we make that happen?"

And when you feel as though you're being listened to...that there's genuine respect and a real effort on your partner's part to make these (reasonable) changes in your lives, then you're good.

But if you're met with resistance...with anger...with someone who lays out a plan that you find unworkable/unreasonable/kind of insane, then you have your answer to end the relationship.

Whether it's alcohol, drugs, money, household chores, how to raise the kids, spending time together, sex, affection...whatever...everything boils down to communication. To feeling heard. To feeling respected.

I think where we get stuck is that our heads and hearts (and I speak as someone who was in an abusive marriage as well as a recently-ended engagement) is that there are nice parts. There are. There are wonderful parts. There can be flowers and affection and laughing and fun. And it's easy to get so wrapped up in that thinking/feeling conundrum because almost always, our partners have so many wonderful qualities that deciding to cut the cord isn't a clear or simple decision.

At my ripe old age of 49 I've learned this: it all comes down to being honest about your own needs and communicating with your partner. If you can communicate honestly and without fear and your needs are listened to respectfully and the other person is willing to do the work to make you two work, then you're good.

If you get shut down, shut out, or they make promises they never keep, then you're good, but you're good without them.
posted by kinetic at 9:41 AM on February 17 [4 favorites]


From the OP:
So I talked to my boyfriend and asked him what the progress is on trying to launch his online marketing business, apparently he hasn't done anything besides thinking and asking his friend about it. He admits that he doesn't think that it'll be profitable and might be a waste of time, he says he will ask his friend (who was or is attempting to build the same business) directly whether or not this venture should be pursued. He states that he has enough savings to last him through his current lease with his roommate which will end in June. I asked what he's going to do when his savings are almost gone and he says in that case, he'll just have to find a job but doesn't know what type of job and so far doesn't seem like he's even started looking. I offered to help him with his CV twice but he hasn't brought it up. If his savings runs out I'm thinking he will move in with his parents. I think he is too proud to even ask to move in with me or for my financial assistance, although he has joked about moving in a couple times but it was obviously facetious and he later says he wouldn't do that.

I know that he has low self esteem regarding this because when he initially got laid off, I tried to make him feel better by telling him to not worry about it too much, that he'll find a job soon and he replies "no one's going to want to hire a high school drop out". He has no other marketable skills by his admission, although he knows excel and is a fast typer. I'm wondering (and one of the posters suggested this) if he's just using the excuse that he doesn't want to work for anyone when the real reason is because he doesn't think anyone will hire him. I mean, he might even be secretly searching for jobs but not telling me because he doesn't want to admit to rejection.

A lot of people were inquiring about his savings. He is very responsible with money (which i really respect about him), he is frugal and spends his money only on essentials (food, rent and the occasional beers when he goes out). Definitely not someone who would risk living paycheck to paycheck. I did tell him how impressed and proud of him I was that he was able to save up so much (12k) when most people are not that responsible.

Thank you everyone for your input and advice. Just wanted to give you guys update and more info. If anyone has more suggestions on what to do about the situtation, please share.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:50 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]


I would strongly suggest buying him a copy of "What Color Is Your Parachute?" and encourage him to start hustling now.

I would also strongly suggest urging him to sign up with at least a dozen temping agencies and call them every day. That can be a good way to keep one's hand in and build up a work history as well as expanding his marketable skills. If one can just get a few gigs, it can be really great for someone at his career level actually.
posted by tel3path at 11:29 AM on February 18


On your followup, the situation FAMOUS MONSTER refers to is about someone who is motivated to be in a relationship with you so they have a place to live.

If you aren't giving him some sort of economic incentive to be exclusive with you, that's not quite so much an issue. Expensive meals out, sure, but it sounds like that's not the sort of thing that he might mind not having. Explore cheaper restaurants or cooking dates and see how he reacts. Maybe he's not so much too proud to move in with you as wanting to make sure that you know he likes you for yourself rather than a meal ticket or housing. This is a good thing.

Being responsible with the money he has is a very good sign. In some ways he's in a better situation than a person with a 6 figure job and a heavy debt load. A person with a good paying job who doesn't control their spending might be worse for a long term relationship from a financial point of view.

I don't see any reason why you shouldn't just keep seeing him and see how things go. If your friends and family don't like him, well, they aren't dating him.
posted by yohko at 11:43 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]


He states that he has enough savings to last him through his current lease with his roommate which will end in June. I asked what he's going to do when his savings are almost gone and he says in that case, he'll just have to find a job but doesn't know what type of job and so far doesn't seem like he's even started looking. I offered to help him with his CV twice but he hasn't brought it up. If his savings runs out I'm thinking he will move in with his parents. I think he is too proud to even ask to move in with me or for my financial assistance, although he has joked about moving in a couple times but it was obviously facetious and he later says he wouldn't do that.

The fact his lease is running out and he's joking about moving in with you? I would be astonished, seriously, if he doesn't try to actually move in with you.

Look up 'kidding on the square'. He's setting you up to be unable to say no by getting you used to the idea as a joke. The next time he does it, look him in the eye without smiling and tell him seriously that he won't be allowed to do that. See what he says then.
posted by winna at 3:20 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


I think it's great that he's responsible with money, and maybe his issue is one of confidence/motivation as opposed to laziness. Still, I think it's ridiculous that he doesn't have a plan and doesn't intend to even make a plan until the bottom falls out. This is not something or someone that I would be willing to deal with at all. I have been there and done that and nope, never again.

But that's about my value system and what is important to me. What's important to you, OP?
posted by sm1tten at 3:27 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Yeah, after reading your update (and thanks for that), I'd be more concerned about his lack of plan because that speaks volumes about a person's ability to take control of their life.

The aimless drifter, no matter how many cylinders are firing between you two, will probably suck you dry in more than one way, sorry.
posted by kinetic at 4:45 PM on February 19


Yeah, I gotta say that after your follow up, I'm definitely leaning in the other direction. I agree with the other posters that not having a plan is serious a problem. Well, it would be for me anyway. Winna could be onto something in that he's subtly grooming you with jokes about moving in to gauge your reaction before he hits you with the request for the real thing. If that's not something you're up for, shut that one down real quick and see how he responds.

When I thought he was working towards his own business, I was happy to defend him but given that he's done nothing to make that happen, combined with his history of dropping out of education and everything else, well, let's just say that past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour. This is not a person who is about to do a 180 and get their masters, and climb to the top of that corporate ladder and buy that mansion, y'know? I think it's a case of what you see is what you get. The question is, can you live with what you see (not literally, don't let him move in!) but if this is all he ever is, are you ok with that. Because chances are, he ain't gonna change.

(And to all the other posters, dammit, I hate it when I'm wrong!)
posted by Jubey at 5:28 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]


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