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March 31, 2011 11:43 AM   Subscribe

Any advice for a relationship in which a girfriend works full time to support a boyfriend who is a full time student? Is it worth a try or just a recipe for gender role/financial disaster?

SO is 30 and has decided to go to college and do it "right" this time. He is kicking ass at school and says he loves it. He currently has a new 30 hour a week job which he hates. He has worked full-time since high school and he wanted to try to balance that with school to help out financially and because he was just used to working.

SO and I have discussed him working less at a different job to focus on school. SO says he wants a job which he doesn't have to think about too much so he can have some income to pay his bills but mostly focus on school. This means I'd take on the majority of the bills we share (rent, phones, food) and he'd make enough to cover his car insurance, credit card payments and spending money. We'd make it, but we definitely can't shop at Whole Foods anymore.

I am willing support him like this because I had the luxury of being fully supported by my parents while going to college. I worked full time during grad school, which was hellish, so I know how hard this can be. So far he's been trustworthy and I know he's doing extremely well at school, so I think this could work and so does he.
posted by ShadePlant to Human Relations (55 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I think that depends a lot on the specific dynamics of your relationship. From a gender role stand point I know plenty of relationships that have been in the opposite roles (including mine) and work great, so I see no reason why this can't
posted by straight_razor at 11:48 AM on March 31, 2011

People do this all the time - the woman working at a money-paying job while the guy stays home to take care of the kids or goes to school - and having the genders reversed is hardly an automatic recipe for disaster unless you were both raised in extremely traditional households and have poor communication skills.

The main mental thing you'd both have to get past is the "my money" thing. If he's not working for pay at all, you'd have to work out how he's going to have walking-around cash - would he have to ask you for money whenever he needs it? Is there a joint account that you both have debit cards for? Like that.

In addition to sitting down and putting together a budget beforehand, you'd also want to set some rules or guidelines about personal spending and how that would work. If one of you wants to buy a new shiny thing, is that okay? Does it depend on how much new shiny thing is? What's the point at which you can both agree that "More than $X, and we have to talk about whether it's okay to buy shine new thing right now."
posted by rtha at 11:52 AM on March 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

Unless you are married, this is not a good idea.
posted by TheBones at 11:53 AM on March 31, 2011 [28 favorites]

I'd be wary, particularly if the degree is going to get him into a much better career. The classic situation is that the woman supports the man through law school/MBA/medical school and then he dumps her for someone younger and prettier once he has more money. (This is a bit different from staying home with the kids, because kids are after all a joint project, not an individual asset like a degree.) Also, what will his job prospects look like later if he ditches this job now? This is a bad time to take a break fro the job market.

Obviously, this may not apply to your particular relationship...but it's worth considering if you're having doubts. Being supported full time when you're 17-21 is different from being supported full time when you're a full-fledged adult.
posted by Frowner at 11:55 AM on March 31, 2011 [5 favorites]

I think you should have a comprehensive talk about your role expectations. For instance, If I were financially supporting my boyfriend, I would expect that he would do about 80% of the housework. If I didn't tell him that, he wouldn't assume it and then resentment would slowly boil and I'd have a trainwreck. BUT all you have to do to prevent that is be upfront about it. Your role is changing to "breadwinner". What do you see his role being in the relationship (is is not "student" because that doesn't support the relationship between you).
posted by WeekendJen at 11:55 AM on March 31, 2011 [4 favorites]

There's actually room for this even in traditional gender narratives. You'll be earning a PhT, so to speak (blech).

Anyway, I say go for it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:55 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've been doing this, more or less, over the past two years, although I am also in school. However, we made the decision that I do my program part time and continue to work while he commits himself fully to school. I think a lot my advice is pretty specific to our situation, and doesn't really involve gender issues, but there are some thoughts:

1) I think it's really important, even now, to start making plans about what's going to happen when he graduates. We never really talked about that seriously until recently, and it lead to some resentment on my end--we had different ideas about me quitting my job when he was finally done. I think I would have felt better about it had it been something we discussed instead of, "Oh, we'll deal with that when we come to it." And, I guess, since you are not married, are you planning on continuing to be together when he gets out? I think that's something important to discuss.

2) Create a budget, and start thinking of it as "our" budget and "our" money.

3) Serious conversation about housework expectations.
posted by Ideal Impulse at 11:57 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

It depends on how long you've been together, whether you are fairly certain that you'll end up married or in some sort of relationship where you have financial rights, and whether he's likely to be able to return the favor. It has nothing to do with gender, in my opinion.
Could he take on more fin aid/loans and that way if you're together still, you could help by sharing the payments, but if you aren't together, it's his responsibility?
posted by elpea at 11:58 AM on March 31, 2011 [12 favorites]

I highly recommend spelling out a budget ahead of time. The fact that he'll have some sort of job is at least indicative that he's serious/responsible about this.

I supported a gf who was developing her own business for several years off and on. When I told her I really needed her to get a job and pay her own way, she did, but when the company imploded (financial collapse, anyone?), she focused on the business full-time. While she was quite sincere and had a very great work ethic on her business, I would be lying if I said it wasn't often a stress. I was constantly torn between "helping" her versus feeling like I was carrying her or letting her create unnecessary financial stresses. She was absolutely sincere, honest and ethical the entire time...but again, it was still a stress. Be ready for that, and make sure you keep communicating about it.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:59 AM on March 31, 2011

The gender role part only matters if it matters to either of you. Otherwise the genders are irrelevant.

As someone who did the opposite, it can work out. However, there are 2 things I'd think about:

(1) If something happens in the relationship and you want to leave him, are you willing to suddenly transfer all his financial responsibility back to him? Or will you feel trapped since you're putting him through school? The latter is a recipie for disaster.

(2) Make sure your expectations are clear on both sides, is he doing more of the housework for example? Doesn't have to, but if you're thinking yes and he's thinking "I need to focus on school" then that will be an issue. Of course this doesn't guarantee you or he follows through on these (in my situation she didn't), but it avoids miscommunication. If he doesn't follow through, see point #1.
posted by wildcrdj at 11:59 AM on March 31, 2011 [5 favorites]

How long have you been together? How long have you been working for? Unless this is a very serious money mingled together/planning to get married relationship, I wouldn't even begin to think about it.

There's a huge difference between parents supporting a child through school and supporting a partner.

How long have you been in the working world for? If the answer isn't very long, think carefully about the fact that this takes away a security net from you if you want to change jobs or something happens with yours.

It can be really easy to build up resentments if you are working all the time and trying to save constantly. What happens if you break up?

Take all of the questions you have about it and give them a lot of serious thought. This is a huge deal if you do it.
posted by Zophi at 12:02 PM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

If I were financially supporting my boyfriend, I would expect that he would do about 80% of the housework.

That may be appropriate for your situation, but why do you feel this way? When I was in school full-time my wife worked and we shared the housework. Now that I work full-time and my wife is in school we share the housework the same way. I think it matters whether or not both parties feel that going back to school is important. Whether or not one of the partners is making money is unrelated to the value of the "work" (career, volunteering, school), at least in our family. We also have always made a point to allocate each other an allowance (no matter who's making the money, we each get the same amount) for snacks, beer, guitar strings, or whatever. It might be $5 or $50/month, but we've always found a way to work _something_ into the budget.

All that said, we are married, but it's a data point nonetheless.
posted by monkeymadness at 12:02 PM on March 31, 2011

Response by poster: To address a lot of questions... We're not married but have a joint checking account. He is more responsible with money than I am, but we communicate about this more readily now. He will probably get a degree in Csci or economics or whatever he falls in love with academically. It's possible we will get married. We have discussed it but can't afford to right now and have agreed to wait until he's out of school. And I am done, done DONE with school. I have my MSW and enjoy my job for the most part.
posted by ShadePlant at 12:03 PM on March 31, 2011

Honestly, I don't buy that shit about having to be married. A serious relationship is a serious relationship, and it's obvious that you guys are pretty committed.
posted by straight_razor at 12:08 PM on March 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

My brother went through grad school while his girlfriend worked full time and was the primary breadwinner. She even bought a condo, sold it, and then bought a house while he was still in school and she was working. I point that out to show that these relationships can work, even when there is a lot going on in regards to money. They did this for probably three or four years. He graduated and they got married about a year ago. Go for it!
posted by Nightman at 12:11 PM on March 31, 2011

In general, merging finances in any way without getting married can be a recipe for disaster, legally speaking.

If you're married and get a divorce, there are pretty rigorous legal mechanisms in place for the separation of your common property, and if things go the way they're supposed to go, no one gets completely screwed. So if, for example, a guy and girl get married, she drops out of school to work him through law school, he lands a fat gig at a corporate firm and divorces her two months after graduation, she's entitled to some of his salary plus 50% of whatever property they own.

But if you're just dating and you break up, none of that applies. Taking the same situation above, if you put your boyfriend through school and he dumps you right after graduation, you're up shit creek without a paddle. This is to say nothing about the hell that trying to separate merged finances and common property (please tell me you haven't bought a house) without any sort of legal framework.

Look, people do this, and sometimes it works out just fine. But when it doesn't, damn is it a mess.
posted by valkyryn at 12:15 PM on March 31, 2011 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Other info: SO has done blue collar work all his life and really wants to go to college. He'd be the first in the family to do so, and he thinks college will help him bust out of the physically demanding/low level retail jobs he's had. I think this is worthy of supporting. I don't care if he works full time driving a forklift or goes to school, as long as he's relatively happy and not acting like a dude in an Apatow movie.
posted by ShadePlant at 12:16 PM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Honestly, I don't buy that shit about having to be married. A serious relationship is a serious relationship, and it's obvious that you guys are pretty committed.

Agreed. I did this and it worked out fine. We're married now, but we weren't then.
posted by something something at 12:33 PM on March 31, 2011

He should get federal loans to pay his share of expenses. If not possible--he's getting a degree that will up his earning potential significantly. This will be more fair to you if you get married. It has nothing to do with vague notions of commitment, and everything to do with fair division of assets should you split up.

If I weren't married, I'd give him money but as a loan at zero interest. I would then forgive it, in writing, after a few years.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:34 PM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

If it were me, I'd want to know what exactly he was working toward, and how long it was going to take. I would hope that he'd use some of the time off from paid employment to build his resume, either by training in certain skills or by doing some internships.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:34 PM on March 31, 2011 [4 favorites]

After having done this (mind you we had been married for four years when my husband went back to school and I became the solitary breadwinner), the thing I can see that worries me is that your boyfriend hasn't nailed down what he wants to do in school and is hoping that college will "help him burst out of the low-level job" market. It will, hopefully, but what if it doesn't? Is he prepared to go back to those sorts of jobs until one matching his new skill level comes up or will he want to return to school again for a more specialized education or something entirely different?
Also: who will pay for school?
posted by pink candy floss at 12:34 PM on March 31, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: What are you getting out of this?

What is the End Game here?

I don't think this is about gender roles. I notice you keep popping in here to clarify stuff, like, maybe you know deep down this is a bad bad idea, but your loving and generous side just really wants to do it. Am I right at all??

Hey. If you want to do this FABULOUS thing for someone - OK! But you must understand it isn't a two-way street. It's total 100% gratis. If you split up, that's it. Your investment is gone.

-Personally, I think he should refuse your kind and generous offer and fund this some other way out of respect for you and the relationship as a whole.

- I don't understand how you can not afford to get married, but you can afford to support him for 2 to 4 years.

That seems like bullshit to me, someone who has been married twice (2nd was the charm!) If this level of commitment is present between you, eloping is practically free. If you don't feel comfortable emotionally committing on that level, please rethink your plans for supporting this guy.

This is definitely an ALL IN -or- ALL OUT situation.

If you are both not ALL IN, then you shouldn't make this investment in his future, you dig?
posted by jbenben at 12:36 PM on March 31, 2011 [39 favorites]

Best answer: I think it's a bad idea to do this before you decide whether or not you're going to get married. If you were married or otherwise permanently-partnered, you'd be in the habit of making decisions together as a family with an eye toward the long-term. You'd be planning a life together. You'd decide, "It's in our best interests for both Dave and Jill to have college degrees, so Jill will work full time while Dave goes to school. Then, our next move will be..."

As it is, you don't know if you're planning a life together yet. That's fine, and, moreover, there's nothing wrong with having a disparity in income, but I think it's problematic to plan a project as big as the one you're considering without a long-term commitment. You're not just saying, "I'll pay 60% of the bills," but rather, "I'll commit to make your college education my shared goal for the next several years." That's an enormous step to take when you haven't yet decided that this is your life-partner, and I think it could easily breed resentment on either side.

It's not that being married renders you immune to conflicts over money and housework, or magically prevents bitterness when he's stressing over school and you're stressing over work. It's that being married means you've made a decision to always be the other person's support. Being married means you pool your dreams and make shared goals together, and then help each other achieve them. When you're still in the "It's possible we will get married" phase, you're not at that level of shared support yet. I think it's too risky--both from a financial/legal standpoint and an emotional one--to do this in the order you envision.

I'm using the term married because it sounds like your expectation/goal is to end up with a spouse, eventually. I don't mean that a legal marriage is required for long-term partnership.
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:39 PM on March 31, 2011 [5 favorites]

Only do this if you are pretty sure you're headed to marriage/very long term relationship, or if you really would not feel cheated if your relationship ended in a few years after you'd supported him.

- I don't understand how you can not afford to get married, but you can afford to support him for 2 to 4 years.

Great point. In addition, being married would clarify that you are in it for the long-term, and that your investment is in your partnership, not in him alone.
posted by yarly at 12:40 PM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I wouldn't do this unless you were definitely planning on marriage, as you basically have no legal recourse for the money you're spending on what is a rather serious expense with definite payoff for him, but not so much you.

Ask yourself these questions:
- If you break up, if he cheats on you, etc etc, are you still going to be happy you gave him money?
- What has he done in terms of scholarships/loan opportunities/work-study/etc to provide for this on his own?
- What are his definite educational plans? What degree is he getting, where will it take him, how long will it take him?
- Is he going to be doing more of the housework (cooking, cleaning, etc)?
- Why is money an issue with getting married? Marriage offers a number of financial and legal benefits to couples and licenses aren't that much. Is it a "I want a big wedding" issue? I'm asking because it's one thing to say you're not rich enough to have a baby or buy a house, it's quite another to claim you're not rich enough to go down to the courthouse and get a license stamped.
posted by schroedinger at 12:41 PM on March 31, 2011 [6 favorites]

If you're in it for the long term, then I don't see a problem with it. Are you guys planning on getting married? If so, I don't see the problem. You're investing in your own long term future by supporting him.
posted by empath at 12:42 PM on March 31, 2011

Unless you are married both deeply committed to being together long-term, this is not a good idea.
posted by orange swan at 12:43 PM on March 31, 2011

There are few things about this idea that bother me. First and foremost, he has credit card debt. Until he gets rid of this you shouldn't even think about funding is education. Yes, it will be easier to pay off once he gets out of "blue collar/retail" work and gets a better job but that is an unknown future and he should work with what he has now. Second, why does he get spending money? He can put that money towards paying bills so that you aren't stuck with playing parent and funding his living expenses while he goes to school.

Even if you resolve the two issues raised I don't think you should do it. It seems you mainly want to do it because you feel guilty that you got to go to school without working and he didn't and he seems to want you to do this so he can have the college life he didn't have in his teens/early-twenties. Both of these are terrible reasons and the latter, if accurate, will result in many more problems for your relationship. In my opinion, he can put on his big boy pants and work himself through school. Both of you will be better for it.
posted by Loto at 12:57 PM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: BTW, I don't think anyone is telling you to get married in order that you can support your guy through school!

I think we are saying that since marriage seems to be far off or not at all for you guys, in general and for lots of reasons known and unknown, the action you are contemplating is very very risky. It's putting the cart before the horse. It's unbalanced compared to the level of commitment your relationship currently expresses.

No one (as far as I can tell) is saying you should make getting married a condition on this arrangement.
posted by jbenben at 12:57 PM on March 31, 2011 [5 favorites]

Without knowing how committed your boyfriend is to your relationship, this could be a recipe for disaster. Schroedinger's questions are really good and it would benefit you and your boyfriend to answer them together before making any major decisions.
posted by mlo at 1:02 PM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't think you should do this just because your parents supported you. A does not equal B here. And I did really crappy in school until I had to pay for it myself.

I would think about the following:
- Budget - start living as if he's not working right now and see how it goes. Put all of his money in savings.
- Trial period - he quits or cuts back on hours for a certain amount of time and then you revisit
- Or combine the two and say that when you guys have saved up $X then he can quit.
- Determine how it will work if he wants to take a trip or guy out with the guys every weekend - will you guys have some individual fun money, etc?
- What will he do during breaks? Can he work then?

How far is he into school right now? How is his tuition paid right now? Will you pay for that as well?
posted by dawkins_7 at 1:04 PM on March 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

-Personally, I think he should refuse your kind and generous offer and fund this some other way out of respect for you and the relationship as a whole.

I agree with JBenBen.

Also, how long have you been together?

My SO is considering going back to school this year and also keeping his full-time job. It may be stressful, but it's something people do all the time. My sister has a 4 year old, goes to school full-time and works full-time and her husband works full-time. She has had a 3.8- 4.0 gpa. She waited to go to school after they were married.

Regarding marriage. Sometimes that doesn't work out either:
Sure it could work out and many times it does. But sometimes it doesn't. My ex supported his newlywed wife (they were in their early 20s) throughout school and when she was at the end of her education, she met someone else at college, asked for a divorce and he ended up with her student loan.

Maybe he can keep his job/reduce some hours/find another less stressful job and start off by going to school part-time. To see how things go.
posted by KogeLiz at 1:06 PM on March 31, 2011

Best answer: Is the reason you're not getting married because you can't afford a wedding? If so, I think you might want to re-think the purpose of getting married. It's not to have a fancy party -- it's to form (or confirm) the exact kind of social/economic/legal arrangement that is designed to support the kind of financial arrangement you're thinking about entering into.
posted by yarly at 1:07 PM on March 31, 2011 [9 favorites]

Maybe he can keep his job/reduce some hours/find another less stressful job and start off by going to school part-time. To see how things go.

sorry. I see that he is already in school.
But he doesn't know what he wants to do?

I'm still not sure what this means: SO says he wants a job which he doesn't have to think about too much so he can have some income to pay his bills but mostly focus on school.

Why doesn't he try and find a more attractive "less thinking" job? Would it NEED to be part-time? He's already only working 30 hours? Does he mean working something like 12-16 hours a week for $8.00/hr assembling pens?
How is his tuition being paid for?
posted by KogeLiz at 1:16 PM on March 31, 2011

Best answer: It's not a recipe for disaster, but if you're prone to resentment, then it might not be for you. For instance, busting his ass over how dirty your place gets during finals because he spent all day studying might be a problem for your relationship and you if you secretly resent supporting him.

I wouldn't recommend forcing marriage to glue him to staying with you and making this period a "worthwhile" investment for you. The IT guy at a former place of employment groused often about how he paid off all of his wife's student loans after they got married, and after less than a year of marriage, he caught his neighbor and wife in bed together. He was still angry about this years afterwards.
posted by anniecat at 1:44 PM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, are you intending to provide an allowance to him, or just sharing groceries and housing? He should really pay off his credit card debt.
posted by anniecat at 1:46 PM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree with the above- he doesn't need to quit his 30 hours a week job, especially if he is still doing undergraduate studies. Working at the same time and paying for school means you (as in HE) is committed to it, and will have to plan HIS time and money accordingly. He's an adult now and unfortunately with that comes adult responsibilities. I think it would be better for you both for him to handle this on his end without you supporting him. How would he do it if you weren't together? Would he just not bother? That tells you something right there if that's the case. Working at the same time might means it takes longer but it is less of a financial burden in the end. (do I sound bitter? I did it working full time (for graduate studies), and it was hard!).
posted by bquarters at 1:50 PM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My husband and I have done this for the past three years. I think it's key that we've made a long-term commitment to one another; I might feel resentful otherwise (our situation also means that I'm postponing my own return to school). A lot of this depends on the strength of your relationship; is this the person you anticipate building your life with? If so, it makes sense for you to invest in each other's future. If you're not sure, I wouldn't do it.

You say that you're willing to do this because your parents did it for you; you are not his parent, and you don't OWE him this. Make sure you're doing it because you want to.
posted by LizzyBee at 1:53 PM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I appreciate everyone's input and I asked this specifically 'cos I know MeFi will give it to one straight. It's possible me "popping in to clarify" IS just rationalization, but we also are snowflakey. His credit card debt is $300 and he got that card just to keep the limit low and build credit. I don't want to get married because I want to have a nice dinner party afterwards and right now it's not really possible. Yes, that's snotty, but I also like me some good friends and family enjoying some steak. And not from a buffet. My sister eloped and it doesn't really appeal to me. You've given me/us lots to think about and maybe this isn't as clear cut as we'd hoped.
posted by ShadePlant at 1:59 PM on March 31, 2011

Right now he's getting all the reward while you carry all the risk. It sounds like marriage is something you want to except you think it will be expensive. It doesn't have to be. If he's asking you to show your commitment to the relationship and put him through four years of college, with the debt that goes with it, it's now time for him to show his commitment to the relationship as well. If he's not interested in marrying you, I would be asking why. I wouldn't accept money as a reason. It would give me very strong reason to not go forward with someone who isn't prepared to commit but is prepared to let you pay.

I guess one way through could be that you could draw up a contract stating that if he leaves the relationship before getting married, he has to pay back the debt. It's not romantic but neither is being saddled with someone elses very expensive degree while they walk away with excellent job prospects and a hot undergrad they met in Econ 101.
posted by Jubey at 2:12 PM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

nthing the general consensus.

The fact that your parents supported you when you were in college has nothing to do with anything. The marriage topic in particular has been extensively covered. Why can't he work 30 hours a week (not that much!) and go to school at the same time? Why doesn't he know what he wants to study or do?

It's great to be able to go to school full time when you're 18 and be supported by your parents and just go and explore and learn about yourself, yes. Tough! Life as an adult is less sheltered and more demanding and the grown-up world can suck, but you don't get to just pause life and be a kid for four years when you're 30.

Or at least most people don't. Maybe your SO will. But, why? Because it will be more fun/enjoyable? Otherwise, how does it make sense to do it that way?
posted by J. Wilson at 2:14 PM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I loaned significant sums throughout my last long-term relationship, and regret it. The money is now being paid back (verrrrry incrementally) but I wish I had invested it or otherwise used it for something personally productive rather than supporting someone who later ended the relationship.

Also, if this is an undergraduate degree, it is probably entirely possible that he can get all his schoolwork done while still keeping the job. This is particularly the case for an "older" student who is used to full-time hours in the workforce. I know many people, self included, who had to supplement student loans with part- or full-time work during school and it really makes you a better and more organized student as a result.
posted by Pomo at 2:16 PM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've been in your boyfriends position, studying my teaching diploma while working a low paying warehouse job, my wife supporting me by paying the bills. My wages went to the mortgage - all of it, so I effectively had to rely upon the wife's income for covering my expenses. It's actually taught us both to better manage our money, and we feel that we are saving more as a result of spending less on frivilous stuff. Now I've finished studying, and having trouble finding permanent employment as a teacher, and I can tell you that there is resentment from my wife about it. Mostly about not deciding on my career change sooner. But it doesn't mean that there will be in your situation, everyone's different. Knowing that my study will actually lead into a lasting career that is both financially and emotionally more rewarding than working in a warehouse, has helped us to push through the whole ordeal.
Good luck.

Oh, and I worked 40 hour weeks, and studied the equivalent of a full time load via correspondence. It almost wrecked me, but it is do-able.
posted by robotot at 2:17 PM on March 31, 2011

Also, a few months ago in one of your questions about if your SO should move in, you had these comments:

We're both broke and have depressing credit scores,

SO did not get the job he was previously worried about but he has been employed, albeit somewhere he doesn't like, this whole time. Currently he is making more than I am but he is going to start tech school in Jan. so the incomes will flip-flop... Because of all this we've talked about money a lot, how to pay the bills, etc."

Is he still making more than you? Because if he is still making more money than you then he really should keep his job.

Then I even more strongly agree with the comment:

"Personally, I think he should refuse your kind and generous offer and fund this some other way out of respect for you and the relationship as a whole."

and also agree with bquarters comment.
posted by KogeLiz at 2:23 PM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Federally-backed student loans for reasonable undergrad expenses are pretty much the best possible, smartest loans anyone will ever take out in their life. I never understood people who lump these kinds of loans in with bad debt. Sure, the Bank of Girlfriend is convenient, but it will stress your relationship and there's pretty much no gain for you.

My ex and I did things for each other like I bought a lot of the groceries for her when she was in grad school and she always grabbed all the laundry and did it at her dad's house without me asking. Near the end, I always had the vague feeling that she wanted points that could be cashed in against breaking up for the things she did, and of course I felt guilty (despite all the things I contributed) but there ain't no points afterall. When things end, they end, no matter if you were keeping score or not.
posted by Skwirl at 3:00 PM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: SO pays his tuition with loans. Was just talking to friends IRL who were also like DO NOT DO, so with that advice, combined with a whack from the MeFi truth stick, I have my answer. I don't want to get screwed over, but I also don't want to get married, so I will likely ask SO to find a different job with the same amount of hours that he likes/doesn't loathe and see how that goes instead of doing something drastic.
posted by ShadePlant at 3:14 PM on March 31, 2011

I'm confused about the 'investment' angle here: are you paying his tuition? is food a huge expense? it sounds like the biggest commitment here on your part is rent. maybe you can find a cheaper apartment, or otherwise you can think of this as just paying extra to live in the place you want while he is in school.
posted by ennui.bz at 3:17 PM on March 31, 2011

Response by poster: Ack I'll stop but an answer I forgot: SO is no longer making more than I am. That job he had where he was making bank was a temp job which unfortunately ended.
posted by ShadePlant at 3:20 PM on March 31, 2011

SO is getting lots of financial benefit. Write up a reasonable loan document, with low interest and flexible payment plan. Sign, notarize, and file it away. Tear it up on your wedding day, or get paid paid at a future date. It's only fair for you to get paid back, and you don't seem to mind giving the money. Don't do it as a litmus test, do it as a real loan.
posted by theora55 at 3:37 PM on March 31, 2011

I think you might resent it, but that's not a reason not to do it. It'll be hard and you'll make more sacrifices than you bargained for and he'll probably question his manhood a bit and you'll have plenty of days where you resent him for buying some stupid little thing when you've given up X, Y and Z.

This WILL all happen--the question is whether or not you think your relationship can survive it.

And here's the other thing: He may NEVER have the opportunity to pay you back for it, no matter how much he might want to. So if you do it, it's got to be a gift freely given, not a tit-for-tat guarantee that you'll be able to take off work for four years to stay home with your kids, say, or start your own business.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:45 PM on March 31, 2011

Hello. This post is from Ms. Vegetable, now Mr. Meat's wife.

Mr. Meat is a student, and Ms. Vegetable works full time. This has been the case for the past ... 5 years, 4 of which were unmarried and living together.
What worked for us? Communication NOW. We had a cohabitation contract, revised and signed and witnessed annually, that spelled out exactly what we were responsible for financially, both jointly and separately. For instance, his loans were not my problem, and my car was not his problem.

Same contract spelled out what would happen if we split up.

So, one year money wasn't an issue because we made ~same after taxes. The other years, I made oodles more than Mr. Meat. Before we decided to get married, we made the decision that we would split joint expenses proportionally to our incomes. This is because I wanted the nicer apartment, and he couldn't have afforded half of it. I also knew that if we split up, I wouldn't resent paying "for" his part of the rent, because this was fair to us.

I highly HIGHLY recommend talking about all of this now, before a problem arises. I also very much recommend the book "Unmarried to Each Other" as a reference.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 4:51 PM on March 31, 2011 [4 favorites]

Straight up as a question of "gender roles," I definitely think that a female financially backboning a relationship can work while the male is studying (in addition to working) in the hopes of bettering the partnership's financial future (not to mention education for education's own merits).

However, even the "do you plan to get married" thing isn't taking the analysis far enough.

Anecdote: two of my friends knew each other in highschool and started dating 1st year in college. Ended up getting married. Guy was an engineering major and passed on higher paying and more fulfilling jobs to stay in-town; gal went for graduate work to supplement her teaching degree. Gets grad degree, about a year later after guy prepares a wedding anniversary dinner gal shows up after work and, "I don't love you. I never loved you. I only married you to get through my masters." Files for divorce on guy, gets it, then promptly starts dating someone "exactly" like guy she divorced.
posted by porpoise at 8:56 PM on March 31, 2011

I'm going to go against the grain here and say that it could work out just fine, as long as he is willing to borrow enough in federal student loans to mostly cover his share of things. My fiance (then my boyfriend) has supported me through my full-time schooling in many wonderful ways, but I have generally paid my share of the living expenses using low-interest Stafford loans. I feel that this is a worthwhile investment since I take my studies extremely seriously, have been careful to go into a field that is currently in demand, and use my spare time for career development and getting field/research experience. I have found that even though I was capable of just barely "pulling it off", my grades, motivation, and career development really did suffer when I tried to work enough to fully support myself without loans. I feel like I am getting a lot more out of my experience now that I have the leisure to really spend most of my time immersed in my field, and I believe that this will pay off with a better network and a better job.

My fiance never really cared whether I was working or not, as long as I could contribute money to the household - and because I was willing to take out some reasonable student loans in my own name to cover my state school tuition and my share of our (humble) living expenses, there have been no major imbalances in our financial contributions to the household, and he is free to walk away at any time before our wedding without having to be encumbered by my student debt. We did have a frank discussion about whether student loans were a great idea in this situation, and both agreed that this was right for us. Now we are engaged, and so far as I know, this arrangement hasn't been a problem for him at all. YMMV, of course.
posted by dialetheia at 10:22 PM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A few things you've said caught my eye.

1. I think his hating his new 30 hour job had a lot to do with his decision to go to college. Many people hate their jobs, but they just keep plugging away at it regardless.
2. If he's been working since high school, he should at least have some savings. You said he is more responsible than you with money.
3. Being supported by your parents is not the same as you supporting your boyfriend. How old were you, or a better question might be, how old is he.
4. "so far he's been trustworthy". You don't sound too convinced about this. It sounds as though your waiting for a shoe to drop.
5. If your relationship was as serious as it needs to be for this to work, you probably wouldn't be asking this question. You'd already know the answer.
6. If he's serious about going back to college and doing it "right", he'll find a way. There are other ways for you to support him.
posted by Taurid at 12:00 AM on April 2, 2011

Response by poster: A little late, but SO is doing college part time and working as much as possible at a new job he really loves. I think me supporting him sounded great in theory but wasn't super practical. We try to split things, as recommended in other threads, based on the % more income I earn. For example, rent is split 60/40, etc. This has been working well!
posted by ShadePlant at 4:43 PM on July 31, 2011

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