How do I motivate my boyfriend?
October 17, 2010 3:37 PM   Subscribe

I love my boyfriend and want to build a life with him. He is stuck in a low wage dead end job and seems unmotivated to change this, while my career is just starting to get off the ground. I am confident and excited about the near future, but I'm afriad that my worries about his future will destroy our relationship.

My boyfriend and I have been together for a year now. When we met we were both working in a bar, I had just finished my MA degree and was waiting for my Visa to be approved and he had been working in the bar for 4 years already. As our relationship developed I realized that I was getting the feeling that he could be 'the one' and I know that he feels the same. He is 28 and I am 26. In the past year since we met, I have slowly (but surely) started developing the career that I desire, making the difficult decision to take a non-paying internship in order to get experience and make contacts, etc. Now that has ended and I'm currently looking for work and feel confident about my prospecs. Even though the last few months have been financially difficult for me and I am practically broke, I know that atleast I am moving forward and that eventually I'll be in better circumstances, because I am working towards my ultimate goal.

My boyfriend still lives hand to mouth every week as he works in the bar. He makes very little money as he refuses to work full time in a job that he hates. He has no desire to make 'bar work' a career i.e. working his way up, becoming a manager, etc. because he says it's just not what he wants to do with his life. But he doesn't seem to be motivated to find other, full time work. Bar work is difficult to get out of because it sucks the life out of you (if you don't enjoy it) and you work crazy hours so it's difficult to do normal things at normal hours (It's been difficult for me as well). But I'm getting frustrated because he has no money, hates his job, but yet it seems like he has no sense of urgency to fix this situation. We don't live together, and he says that he dreams of the day we can move in together, but his actions don't match his words. He has no savings and barely any money in the bank. When I was working part time and doing my internship, I was living hand to mouth as well and yet still managed to put some money away.

I'm not a nurturing type of person. I really love his personality and the way he treats me. I think I've been able to look past this problem because we don't live together and since I'm just getting my feet on the ground as well I felt like who was I to judge. But now I feel like I'm moving forward and I am confident about the future, and I'm worried that as much as he says he wants to move forward with me (mentally and physically) he is nowhere near being able to. I don't care what he does for work, I just want him to make a commitment to something.

When is enough, enough? Should I give him time, or is staying in this relationship keeping him comfortable in his life? Is there anything I can do to motivate him to do what he says he wants to do anyway? I'm afraid a tough love approach will alienate him. If he can get his act together, I would love to spend the rest of my life with him. Am I being foolish? I could really use some advice....
posted by Anthro girl to Human Relations (38 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I'll start as the pessimist (or realist, whichever you prefer). Are you being foolish? Yes, because he is not going to change. Find someone else with a great personality and some motivation, unless you want to be paying for this guy for the duration of your relationship.
posted by bolognius maximus at 3:46 PM on October 17, 2010 [5 favorites]

But I'm getting frustrated because he has no money, hates his job, but yet it seems like he has no sense of urgency to fix this situation.

It's admittedly harsh advice, but unless he wills himself to change, your frustration will slowly morph into resentment, and you will be deeper into a relationship where your love will have calcified into hate. Give him whatever time and encouragement that you feel is necessary, is my advice, but love and respect yourself enough to expect that he gets his act together and grows up, however that needs to happen, so that you two can share an adult relationship.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:46 PM on October 17, 2010 [7 favorites]

You can't force another person to change. Obviously he has good qualities you like a lot. Also, depending on where you live there may not be too many other employment opportunities for him right now. You have changed since you met but he doesn't have to be on your time-line. Does his part-time job mean he can spend more time with you and support you emotionally while you pursue your goals? Yes, finances are a big part of a LTR but they are not the only part.

However, dealbreakers are personal and if his lack of ambition is one for you then you owe him an honest conversation about it, a chance to show you if he is motivated to change himself and a gentle parting if, in this case, the issue continues to bother you.
posted by saucysault at 3:58 PM on October 17, 2010 [7 favorites]

He makes very little money as he refuses to work full time in a job that he hates.

This is the crux. He isn't just in a bad financial situation due to outside forces that have conspired against him. He has chosen to stay in a bad financial situation because he doesn't want to be bothered taking the necessary steps to get out of it (working longer hours, trying to get promoted, or looking for a new job)

Reality check: You're experiencing what he is really like, and what it's like to be with him in a relationship. Make your decision based on that -- not based on some future version of him where he behaves in a dramatically different manner from how he does now.

However, you might as well let him know exactly how you feel about all this. I can't tell from your post how much you've talked about it.
posted by John Cohen at 4:08 PM on October 17, 2010 [16 favorites]

As you said, he has been this way for four years before you met him. His actions show that he is unlikely to change. Certainly, it is not something that a girlfriend could make him change. It is also something that is unlikely to change with time (at least not the amount of time that you would be willing to work.) Some women might be willing to accept him the way he is. Obviously, this is a problem for you and it will get worse as you start to succeed in your career and advance your amibitions. sounds like deal breaker.
posted by metahawk at 4:09 PM on October 17, 2010

Your boyfriend has a job he hates. Does he complain about it a lot? Is his behaviour or mood negatively affected by it? Is it his response to his crappy job and weak finances that bothers you or just the fact that he has this crappy job?

If you think he might be the right guy to spend the rest of your life with, is his job really that important?

Obviously the answer can be yes. Ambition may be something you find important in another person. You may be attracted to hard work and the drive to always be moving up in the world. If so, an ultimatum might work.

But just in case that isn't true, you might want to look inside yourself and ask if it is simply that you want him to look good on paper, or to other people. Make sure you aren't enamored with the idea of saying to someone "my boyfriend is a doctor," as opposed to being a little embarrassed to say "my boyfriend is a part time bartender."

I agree with the other comments that you probably can't change him. But make sure you actually want to.
posted by keeo at 4:22 PM on October 17, 2010 [7 favorites]

posted by anaelith at 4:25 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think you're giving him a little too much credit here:

He makes very little money as he refuses to work full time in a job that he hates.... and you work crazy hours so it's difficult to do normal things at normal hours (It's been difficult for me as well).

I don't think he gets to refuse to work full time, and still complain about "crazy hours" preventing him from getting other things done. If he is working less than 40 hours a week, and those hours are outside the regular 9-to-5, it actually seems to me he should be in a perfect position to seek "normal" work (which is not to say he'll find it easily in this economy). So I think you should feel a bit more free to push back on his built-up defenses around this topic: he hates his job, and his schedule does not prevent him from finding a new one. What gives?
posted by rkent at 4:27 PM on October 17, 2010

Also Previously: what things might look like for you a few years from now.
posted by deanc at 4:38 PM on October 17, 2010

You sound like a highly motivated person; your boyfriend obviously isn't. He's been working at the bar doing the same thing for four years. During that time, he met you. If he was going to step up to the plate and get serious about your future together, he'd have shown some sign of those intentions by now.

I've been in the exact same position. In my experience, things only get worse and the disparities only grow larger. I agree with Blazecock Pileon: You will end up resenting your boyfriend in the end. Cut loose from him now and forge full steam ahead into your successful future. Who knows - losing you might end up being just what he needs to wake up.
posted by meggie78 at 4:39 PM on October 17, 2010

I did this, I dated a guy who was content to be in a low-wage job that he didn't care about much. He was capable of so much more, but just didn't care or could be bothered to seek out those better opportunities. It started with my having those sort of quiet doubts and confusion over why he didn't want more for himself, which turned into frustration and worry over what kind of life we would have together if he was content to settle for a low-wage job instead of a career, which turned into resentment, which turned into my dumping it. This was a man who loved me, treated me well, and was a good guy, but for me ambition and being motivated are too important to overlook. And like others have said, you can't force him to be ambitious and to want more for himself. Money IS important, especially when it comes to building a life together, and if it is bothering you now after a year then it is going to bother you more in five/ten/thirty years. Don't do what I did and drag it out so that you end up resenting him. Better to cut it off now...
posted by gwenlister at 4:40 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

IMO.... you are looking for a partner. You obviously don't have one. Keep looking.
posted by FauxScot at 4:42 PM on October 17, 2010

nthing what Blazecock Pileon said, as someone who married that guy and then experienced the slow, bitter death of love to resentment as I worked my ass off to pay the bills while he whined about how no jobs were good enough for him.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 4:52 PM on October 17, 2010 [5 favorites]

I'm afraid a tough love approach will alienate him.

Well, that's why it's not called "cotton candy love" or "velvet love" or "easy convenient love."

I'm getting frustrated because he has no money, hates his job, but yet it seems like he has no sense of urgency to fix this situation.

It's simple physics. A body at rest will stay at rest, until an outside force acts to put it in motion. You have to be the outside force.

As John Cohen observed, I can't tell how much you have already talked to him about this, but I would recommend this: have a conversation with him, where you lay out your plans for the next 5 years for yourself, and then ask what he sees as his plans for himself for the next 5 years.

Focus on the professional, the personal development. Make it clear that you aren't asking for a "let's talk about marriage, homebuying and babies" conversation... simply "here's who I am, and where I am going in my life. Who are you and where are you going, and do those paths cross?"

This doesn't have to turn into a charity case of you nurturing him, some sappy Lifetime movie where you raise him up to become The Man He Knew He Could Be or some such tripe.

But don't write the guy off till you find out what he envisions. My brother and his girlfriend were a lot like what you are describing here. In his 20's, he had sort of flopped from no-account part-time job to no-account part-time job... until he found someone with plans, dreams, and aspirations that he wanted to be a part of. Today they are happily married with two kids, great credit, lovely home... and he's a senior exec with a cool firm that he loves, in a high-growth industry.

But because of who he is and how he thinks and plans, my brother hadn't really seen that in his future. His girlfriend had to paint the picture for him, and she laid out her expectations—for herself, and for her future partner. He wanted to be in that picture alongside her, so he made it happen.
posted by pineapple at 4:59 PM on October 17, 2010 [6 favorites]

Everyone in this thread has the right answer but has come to it the wrong way. Yeah, if he is working a low paying, part time, unsecured job that he doesn't like and living paycheck to paycheck, and you're not ok with that, you guys shouldn't be together. Doesn't mean he's in the wrong though if he's happy this way. If he's ok with it, and you're not, that is a different set of ideals. It doesn't mean he's wrong, and it doesn't mean you're wrong, it means you're not compatible. Stop trying to change him, and decide if he, as he is, is the guy you want to be with or not. Unless you left a bunch of details out of your question.
posted by duckstab at 5:04 PM on October 17, 2010 [6 favorites]

You cannot make him change. Unless you are okay with him as he is right this minute, this is not the man for you.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:24 PM on October 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

Oh, and a thought just hit me: Why are YOU settling? You are doing relationshipwise what HE is doing careerwise.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:24 PM on October 17, 2010 [13 favorites]

It sounds like he is supporting himself, yes? Unless he starts asking you to foot the bill for his lifestyle, I'm not sure you can really judge. I mean, objectively, you've been earning no money at all for a while now, working for free in the past and now unemployed... does he judge you for how you lead your no-income life?

Bottom line, it's your choice how to live, and his choice how he lives. Would you give up your dreams to live his lifestyle if he asked you to? Should he be expected to give up his lifestyle for what you value?

If you really can't overlook something this fundamental about him I'd really consider ending it, not because anyone is right or wrong, but just too different.
posted by Menthol at 5:34 PM on October 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

You cannot predict the future. I would not assume anything about it at all. Ask yourself if you want to be with this person based on what your heart says. If the answer is yes, then go with it. Later, your feelings may change. You break up then. But you cannot shield yourself from the pain of these things, it comes with the territory. Follow your heart, not your unprovable fears.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:37 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Doesn't mean he's in the wrong though if he's happy this way.

Except he's not. He hates his job, but is unmotivated to change this. By tolerating this laziness you are enabling him to continue in his slothful behavior. The two of you need to have a serious discussion about this now, and see if he is prepared to implement a plan to move forward on a career path, pretty much immediately . If not, since this doesn't work for you well it's time to move on.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 5:39 PM on October 17, 2010

I just broke up with someone two days ago partly for this reason. I was the one who lacks ambition, though, and she was the one for whom it was very important. An added complication was that I have a solid educational pedigree, a great job and by pretty much any standard am quite successful; I'm just not sure that's what I want in the long-term (hard work, long hours), or if I might prefer giving it all up to travel or retire very early and live frugally. That really bothered her and caused us a lot of problems. I know I'm not going to know how I feel for years to come, and probably will go through cycles of non-ambition/ambition, and for both of us the idea of years of angst that would be involved was (after a lot of soul searching) not worth it, though almost every other facet of the relationship was wonderful (there were a few other key issues). Speaking as the stand-in for your boyfriend, in all honesty, I could not be changed at this point. Life may change me, but it's nothing someone else could cause to happen in the short or even medium-term.
posted by slide at 5:41 PM on October 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

PareidoliaticBoy: it's entirely possible to be happier in life hating your part time job than having a full time, 9-5 job that you enjoy. I agree that she should talk with him and probably move on, but that doesn't mean he is lazy or slothful by having a different set of ideals.
posted by duckstab at 5:49 PM on October 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

Everyone in this thread has the right answer but has come to it the wrong way. ... It doesn't mean he's wrong, and it doesn't mean you're wrong, it means you're not compatible.

Actually, I agree with you, even though I commented before and thus am supposedly one of the people who came to my conclusion the wrong way. Though I said he's not taking the "necessary steps" to get out of a "bad financial situation," I just meant this as a description of fact: he isn't making much money, and there are things he'd need to do if he wanted to make more, and he isn't doing them. I deliberately left out my judgment of what career moves either of these two individuals should or shouldn't make, since it doesn't really matter what I think. What matters is what these two individuals want to do, and whether they should be doing it together.

Also, OP, isn't St. Alia exactly right? How do you explain that you're critical of your boyfriend for not having enough motivation to change jobs, while you don't have enough motivation to change boyfriends?
posted by John Cohen at 6:02 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

What does your guy want for himself?

Is the issue that he is really satisfied with a couple shifts a week at the bar, and sitting around watching Dancing With The Stars with the rest of his time?

Or is it more like he works a couple shifts a week to pay the bills, and then with the rest of his time he paints, or writes, or rehearses with his band that probably isn't going anywhere but it fulfills him?

Or maybe what he really wants is to be a stay at home dad?

My point being that not everyone who isn't ambitious in their career really has no vision for their life at all. Not everyone is cut out to be a high-powered career type, and that's OK. In reality, if you are ambitious in your work, and identify yourself through what you do for a living, you might need a partner who can keep the home fires burning without feeling like he's putting his passions on hold.

If you need to be with someone as passionate as you are about their work, or who makes as much or more money, you should go find someone else who meets those needs. But having someone who doesn't have those same drives might actually be to your advantage.
posted by Sara C. at 6:35 PM on October 17, 2010 [11 favorites]

How do I motivate my boyfriend?

You don't. Only he can motivate himself, and he isn't doing it. So your question needs to be "Do I want to deal with this permanently?"
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:36 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I absolutely agree with others above that the simple fact of your boyfriend not being a high-powered executive does not make him a bad person. It's a tricky situation in that expressing concerns about a boyfriend's or girlfriend's employment situation can leave an SO open to charges of "well, money is more important to you than me being who I am!" etc. I've been in this kind of position myself, and I think this is actually one of the hardest relationship issues to deal with. It's so easy for the "underachiever" to dismiss the "achiever's" concerns as shallow, greedy, and/or "not respecting my special goals," etc. But what people do for a living and the manner in which they do it, and I hate to say this but it's often true, can really, really affect and reflect who they are as a person. For instance:

But I'm getting frustrated because he has no money, hates his job, but yet it seems like he has no sense of urgency to fix this situation.

Setting aside the "no money" part completely, how pleasant is it to spend loads and loads of time around someone who literally hates their job, but yet necessarily spends large chunks of time at it? How does this make him a more positive, upbeat person? I'm not saying that everyone always has to be all made of kittens and sunshine, but I remember the last job I hate that I truly hated. I had it for five years, and after year 3 it was seriously affecting my personal life as well. The thing is, hating your job isn't just like hating, say, a band and getting miffed every time their stupid song comes on the radio. Employment is, whether fortunately or not, a huge part of many Americans' identity, and to hate the way you support yourself is steering dangerously close to hating yourself. (Not trying to be overly dramatic, but I've seen this both in myself and in others that I've been close to). To put it bluntly, how much bitching can you handle? When you begin that great career that you're headed toward, and come home full of the day's rewarding triumphs, do you want to be met for the 9,000,000th time with , "Well, my day SUCKED?"

Also for instance:

We don't live together, and he says that he dreams of the day we can move in together, but his actions don't match his words

This would seem to be a problem. In fact, this would be the main problem, above and beyond any financial matters or questions of what constitutes a "good" job. Exactly as John Cohen says above, "you are experiencing what he's really like." I know right now it's "just" about his job, but this is what I mean by jobs being a big part of people's identity, and the fact that what someone does and how they do it speaks volumes about who they are. This tendency could easily migrate into other areas of life as well. ("Sure I'll be there for you when you have a rough time!" is easy to say, you know?) In fact, I would be shocked if it didn't.

Point being, although we don't have a clear idea whether you've already done this, you may really want to sit BF down for The Talk. You don't have to frame it as, "your job sucks and you should be doing more." You are perfectly within your rights to frame it as, "Your actions don't match your words," because in essence, that's what damages a relationship, not whether he's a bartender or a pilot or a college professor. He needs to stick to what he says and show you that he's a trustworthy person, and if he can't do that, well, then what St. Alia said.
posted by deep thought sunstar at 7:29 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

One question: would you be still asking this question if your boyfriend still had a low-paying alternative career path, But, was also reasonably supportive and happy about your ambitions?
posted by ovvl at 8:04 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

As our relationship developed I realized that I was getting the feeling that he could be 'the one' and I know that he feels the same.

First of all, eliminate the concept of "the one" from your mind. It is a construct of the romantic mind; "the one" does not exist. You can have an important person you love and want to be with and you may decide to spend the rest of your life with that person. But he/she would still not be "the one". There is no "one". Fantasies about white knights and fate and all that are exactly that: fantasy.

You have a valid complaint here. You want to move on from your somewhat unstable life to the next level, and he doesn't. You should lay all of this out on him, but don't rush it. Do not complain or whine, but be firm and a little cold-blooded about it--just give him the facts. Say something like "I'm not comfortable with your staying where you are, because to a degree I'll need to stay where you are, and I want to move on to [there]."

Then, two important things. 1) Make sure he knows exactly where you're coming from, that this is not just a passing complaint, or (forgive me) your monthly visitor talking.
And 2) give him time to come around. You already have given him some time, but he wasn't on a clock before. Once you've laid it all out, then you can hit the stopwatch. But give him some space to come to terms with your ultimatum. I have no idea what's too short and too long, but you do. A month? A week? Six months? But give him time.

If he doesn't come around after your ultimatum and time limit, then he's not taking the relationship seriously. Or at least, he values his slacker lifestyle more than he does your relationship, and you would be absolutely right to dump the mofo already at that point.
posted by zardoz at 8:23 PM on October 17, 2010

Let me preface this by saying that I am incredibly ambitious, 29, currently changing to my second career, and married to someone who has no ambition whatsoever at age 28.

he refuses to work fulltime in a job that he hates

Okay, that seems fair to me. I wouldn't want to spend 40+ hours of my week doing something that was awful and horrible for whatever reason - actually, the last time I did that, it took me a year to recover to something resembling normal. In some ways, I'm still not recovered - 6 years later. That job was a major part of my reason for trying to change careers. The following jobs were the rest of the reason. I can't work in that environment - not without burning out every year or so. Dream crushed. Fortunately, I found a new one, after half a year of hell and tears and 'what the hell am I going to do now??' My husband also took a tour in Hades - but it took him 24months of pain, anguish, daily suffering at a 40hr a week job to get up the courage to start applying for other ones. Having been his wife during that time - I never want that to happen to either of us EVER AGAIN. Living with someone in that sort of pain is horrible.

He has no savings and barely any money in the bank

Admittedly, his spending/saving habits may be of concern. Still, so long as he isn't building up debt - he's further ahead than many people I know. Its quite possible that he just doesn't know *how* to improve this, though - have you or he tried to seriously fix this? It's not the sort of thing that magically gets better, and whilst some people have a natural talent at it (and can manage their finances just by applying a bit of effort) other people don't, and it's an uphill struggle all the way to even conceptualise things, much less fix them.

Following a passion is hard hard work. If it is something you really love, you might be gifted with the emotional, mental and physical energy to actually make some headway in changing your life direction - but if you're stuck on any one of those levels, it can seem like something impossible. I know a lot of people who cope with that by not having any ambition, any dreams whatsoever - they prevent the hurt from having the dream out of reach by not having one at all. And if you don't have the passion, for anything - well, it can just be impossible. Especially if you're in a rut, with a job you hate. Especially if you're at all risk-averse.

On the relationship aspect - well, my husband has no ambition. He's been in a good (not great) job with no possibility of promotion for years. He's one of the leaders in his particular area of expertise, but doesn't do anything with it, career-wise. It's enough to drive a girl crazy. That said, we get along just fine, because I do not do this:

I don't care what he does for work, I just want him to make a commitment to something.

This ties into the major-chunk-of-your-life-sucking point earlier. If I had tried to force my husband into doing something which he hated he would bitterly resent me. I know I sure as hell would dump someone who tried to force me into doing something all day (or night) which I hated, which they knew I hated, for something that was to me at best abstract. Dangerous relationship territory, for sure.

What's commitment in this context mean anyway? Last I checked, a job wasn't a marriage. You can give your notice, and leave at the end of the period required by the contract, whenever you like. Does it mean writing on a piece of paper plans for the next five, ten, twenty years and forming a strategy for getting there? Is there an hours-per-week threshold? Does he actually have to have an emotional investment in a job? Applying for a certain number of jobs per week? Does he just need to talk big? You need to define this better.

At the end of the day, though, your boyfriend is the one you need to discuss this whole shebang with. Are you willing to help him rewrite his CV, find jobs, help him apply for them, help him manage finances, be patient when it doesn't work the first fifty times, encourage and support him without criticism, and help him process the soul-sucking emptiness that is the search for an enjoyable job? In short, are you willing to commit to helping him do something that may be profoundly difficult and unnatural, in return for him actually giving it a go? Because that may just be what it takes.

Think about it.
posted by ysabet at 10:13 PM on October 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

You can't. You either love him as he is or you move on. He won't change; you won't change - if you don't think he's enough for you as he is, find someone else.
posted by mleigh at 10:57 PM on October 17, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. This has been good advice and I enjoyed reading from everyone. I did a few weeks ago do what Pineapple suggested and I laid out a 5 year plan to him. He understood, I think, what I was getting at and said that he wanted the same things. And like I said in the letter, I often feel like I can't judge because I'm not in the best place either. The difference is that I've been working my way towards that goal and DO have a 5 year plan, but it doesn't make me any better.

I'm a little offended though that many people have assumed I want him to be a high powered exec or something. I never said that. What I said was that I don't care what he does, I just want him to make a commitment, not a life long one, but an immediate one, which means give up bar work and actually go out and try. He used to be a bar manager before I met him, and he was making decent money. But he demoted himself because he didn't want to work in bars as a career. But that was like 2 years ago. And even when we met he was working full time, but since he demoted himself he could no longer afford to live on his own and moved back with his family. Sometimes I think he does just want to be a stay at home dad. That would be fine, if it were a realisitic goal. And sometimes I think that is my fault, because I once told him that I didn't mind if he were to be a stay at home dad. But knowing my career goals, I don't think that would ever be an option. I don't want to be a high powered exec either. I want to work in health research, which is a tough field to break and is not considered a 'high powered career', atleast to me anyway. And I empathize with people who say that not everyone wants or needs a 9-5 office job to be happy. I totally agree and have asked myself this same question. But he says that's what he wants. He once made the comment to me that 'I'm afraid I can't be the kind of man that you need right now,' to which my response was 'Let me decide that'. So I suppose that is what I'm doing now. I think deep emotional issues lie at the bottom of this. Thanks everyone, everyone's advice was really helpful.
posted by Anthro girl at 11:51 PM on October 17, 2010

You mentioned again and again that he has no money. Sounds like you're wanting security. Nothing wrong with that, but tread carefully. You don't want to be THAT girl. Especially when you've walked in those bar shoes yourself.
posted by bunny hugger at 8:15 AM on October 18, 2010

Nothing wrong with that, but tread carefully. You don't want to be THAT girl. Nothing wrong with that, but tread carefully. You don't want to be THAT girl.

Fair point, but just noting that there's a world of difference between buy-me-bling-big-daddy and here's-my-half-of-the-rent-honey.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 10:30 AM on October 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm a little offended though that many people have assumed I want him to be a high powered exec or something. I never said that.

When deep thought sunstar and Sara C. incidentally used the phrases "high-powered exeutive" and "high-powered career type," they were using hyperbole and vivid language to make a point. Their comments were quite nuanced and thoughtful and empathetic, not trying to scold you for being too demanding or anything like that. When you post a long question asking what to do about the fact that your boyfriend doesn't have a better job, you're going to get some responses along these lines. I doubt there's ever been a long, complex relationship AskMe thread like this where no one used any vivid exaggeration to make a point. We are really just trying to help. Rather than telling us you're offended by some of the comments, I recommend just taking whatever is useful here and disregarding whatever isn't useful.
posted by John Cohen at 11:22 AM on October 18, 2010

ack screwed up my cut-and-paste, but you get the idea. Lalalalala.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 11:42 AM on October 18, 2010

"I laid out a 5 year plan to him. He understood, I think, what I was getting at and said that he wanted the same things."

When he said he wants the same things, what did he mean by that? Abstract ideals like security, financial freedom, a comfortable lifestyle, etc.? Or concrete goals, like saving x amount of money each year for the next y years, and owning your own home and starting a family in z years? It's an important distinction. It's one thing to want something, and another thing to be willing to do the work and make the sacrifices for it. It's like Miss America saying she wants world peace. That's nice, but how?

So, what role does he see himself playing in the 5 year plan? Has he volunteered any goals of his own in order to contribute to the plan? Is this plan contingent upon his participation? How long will you give him to start stepping up before you'll need to cut him loose, or will you allow him to hold you back? These are the hard conversations you'll have to have with yourself, and then with him. Trust me, it's better to get them out of the way sooner than later.

(I was in your shoes about five years ago. For me, it wasn't about money or status, but trust and confidence. It was about sharing a common goal, and knowing that my partner would be battling just as hard for it right next to me... not sitting on his duff while I struggle to do it all by myself. I gave him several years to get his act together but it never happened. I hope you have better luck with your boyfriend, but DO. NOT. SETTLE. for someone who doesn't care about your future, who is willing to drag you down and keep you from reaching your goals.)
posted by keep it under cover at 12:12 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm a little offended though that many people have assumed I want him to be a high powered exec or something. I never said that. What I said was that I don't care what he does, I just want him to make a commitment, not a life long one, but an immediate one, which means give up bar work and actually go out and try.

Except that you spell that out right here.

You do care what he does, because you think he shouldn't be a bartender. There's nothing wrong with that. But the boyfriend you have now is not that guy. Your boyfriend is a career bartender who has no real intention of becoming anything else on his own.

One caveat, though: I'm 29. I've spent my twenties working various rather menial jobs. It's not that I'm not ambitious, per se, but until very recently I hadn't figured out what I was passionate about. And after a decade of soul searching, it turns out my passions probably aren't ever going to be that lucrative. Not everyone knows what they want to do right away. Not everyone has goals that translate easily into capital or social status. If that's a dealbreaker for you, so be it, but in a few more years you might see things a little differently.
posted by Sara C. at 3:32 PM on October 18, 2010

Is it possible that he just has absolutely no idea what he wants to do with his life, and is terrified of making the wrong choice? Perhaps he's afraid of half-heartedly entering a better job which leads him into a career he doesn't enjoy, but is then bound to due to the financial obligations of the life he has been building with you. Worrying about these things could well be paralysing for him (believe me, I've been there).

It could be a good idea to gently start discussing the issue with him in these terms, and trying to find out if this is part of what's going on. Perhaps he hasn't even admitted it to himself, which could be what's standing in the way of making any progress.
posted by greenfelttip at 7:01 AM on October 19, 2010

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