Does 'Miranda and Steve' really ever work?
December 27, 2011 5:42 PM   Subscribe

Hey Succesful-ish Career Ladies! Have you ever dated a man who is much less successful/ambitious/well-remunerated or otherwise is in a much lower tax bracket than you? Can you tell me how you made it successful, or why it never will be?

I'm in my early thirties, have a fairly successful career in marketing/advertising, own my own home, earn a low six-figure income. My boyfriend of three months is intelligent and kind and romantic and trustworthy (as far as i can tell.) He also earns about one quarter my salary as a waiter paid an hourly wage without tips, has never held any job for more than a year, and has skills (ie. he's great with his hands, doing renovation work, etc) that he hasn't ever tried to turn into a career. (He occasionally assists a contractor, but somehow can't see ever training for a trade himself.)

Can this relationship work? Even if he's comfortable with earning much less than me (and if i can reconcile the idea of earning much more), are there other gaps that are just too hard to bridge or ignore? While the relationship is really too new to get into this conversation ourselves (and frankly, i'm afraid to), i'm very curious if anecdotal evidence indicates that the lifestyle issues (cabs vs buses! cheap sushi joint vs stylish japanese restaurant!), life planning (expecting a comfortable retirement and planning for it, vs. not), money management habits (paycheck-to-paycheck budgeting vs an investing/saving/spending balance) are just too hard to overcome?

(Right now i'm in that honeymoon phase of believing it can all be overcome, but part of my brain is asking these questions, and i'm curious what the anecdata says!)
posted by Kololo to Human Relations (51 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
The details of our relationships vary (we have been together for 5 years, share most finances, and are in our late 20s) but we seem to have a similar dynamic going on. I earn about twice what my SO does, with more career advancement possibilities. I have always been more career-minded than he has, and it has many positives as well as downsides.

I had to get over the "man bringing home the bacon" mentality that was somewhat drilled into my head over the years, even as my friends started having children, staying home and relying on their partner's income.

Your relationship is obviously quite new, so merging finances is probably not on your radar. We decided about a year ago to merge finances and live below our means, and it was very much a mutual decision. We avoid the "cheap sushi vs. stylish japanese restaurant" decisions by having agreed upon a budget, and we're pretty good at sticking to it.

One of the best parts of being in a relationship with someone who isn't as career-driven is that I know he'll follow me wherever I need to go for work. Having two very driven people must be thrilling, but I find that we balance each other out better. He reminds me to put aside the computer when I find myself working late in the evenings; I remind him that it's a good thing to ask for that promotion, to care about your work and to go for what you want.

I'm afraid i've rambled on longer than I intended. I hope some of it is useful to you.
posted by OLechat at 5:52 PM on December 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

I think it depends on what you want out of life. Do you want to travel with your SO? Eat out at nice places together? If so, will you feel resentful if you have to foot the bill? What about children?

I used to make fairly good money (high five digits) as a web developer in my late 20's and early 30's. Like you I owned my own house. I had several relationships with men who earned much less than I did: one was a visual artist who barely earned enough to live, one was a musician who was on SSDI (legitimately) and one was an "analyst" at a financial services company (but pretty much just a phone rep, and earned less than half what I did). For the most part, I was ok with the men I saw earning less than I did, although occasionally I would feel pushed to pay for something I didn't really want to (like one beau's $2,000 vet bill tab) and then feel resentful. None of the relationships I have had with low-earners have broken up because of finances.

However, I did have at least once relationship where a significant negative for me was his lack of ambition. The financial rep was extremely bright, articulate, and funny, and would mention things he might do, like go back to graduate school, write a book, or try stand-up comedy, without ever actually doing them. That was disappointing. I didn't even care *what* he did, I just wanted him to do *something* with all his brains and talent, which were being totally wasted at his job. I have had this issue with at least one other beau as well, and it's independent of finances.

Again, it depends on what you are like, what you value, and how much your SO's life path influences yours. For me, I get more motivated and happy when I am around people who are actively engaging with life, creating, etc. If you can just put effort into your own career and be fine with whatever your SO does, then nifty.
posted by parrot_person at 5:54 PM on December 27, 2011

My company's COO is the sole breadwinner and her husband is a stay-at-home dad. Works great for them. If you earn enough to support your family, then it's all about what works for you as partners.

I'd be a lot more concerned with "has never held any job for more than one year" than any actual dollar amounts.
posted by headnsouth at 6:08 PM on December 27, 2011 [20 favorites]

Can it work? Sure, anything can. Did it work for me? Nope. We were fundamentally incompatible - the money wasn't an issue, it was at times a symptom that we didn't hold the same things in life important.
posted by sm1tten at 6:16 PM on December 27, 2011

headsnsouth and parrot_person: i agree with you both that the "never held a job for more than a year'/lack of motivation is one of my biggest concerns.
posted by Kololo at 6:16 PM on December 27, 2011

I would be less concerned about my mate's income and more concerned about his lack of goals and vision for the future. I think I might run out of things to talk about with someone who lacked ambition. How do you plan for a future together when he has not even made plans for himself. I would not have a problem if the guy was passionate about his work even tho it didn't pay much. At least he'd have something interesting to talk about every day. I see the two of you at different points in your life. You'd be the grown up making all the grown up decisions, and he'd be the one abdicating on the responsibilities, but complaining about the decisions you're making.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:23 PM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

A lot of the questions that you're worried about is not necessarily tied to someone's income. A guy can earn a six-figure income and spends it all on gambling, for example. There are also a lot of high earners who are extremely frugal and prefer cheap sushi joints over a stylish Japanese restaurant.

I think it's more important for you to think about whether you are going to be ok if he stays a waiter for the rest of his life. The relationship is not going to work in the long-run if you secretly wish him to have a better job and he's satisfied with his current condition. If you guys get married and have kids, is he going to be ok taking on the bulk of child caring chores? Is he supportive of your career? Is he willing to move with you per your career requirements? Don't assume just because he has a lower paying job that he's willing to move wherever you need to be. Does he earn enough to support himself? It's one thing to be in a relationship with a guy who earns less than you but still enough to support the necessities in life, it's another thing entirely if the guy is literally struggling to pay rent and food.
posted by wcmf at 6:32 PM on December 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

Did you "meet cute," or did someone you know introduce you? I think you need to delve a little, and find out what your troubadour plans to do with his future before you commit anything else.

It's obvious your radar is up, so listen to it.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 6:44 PM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

I have known many men who have dated women much less successful/ambitious/well-remunerated or otherwise in a much lower tax bracket than themselves. You gave your question a tag of "values" and I think that's worth considering -- is it one of your values that you make less than the man? If deep down, you believe that as one of your values, then this cannot work.
posted by Houstonian at 6:51 PM on December 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

One thing I would do in your position is float the idea, to the guy, of you quitting your job for something low-paid. I think many people have those moments, maybe late at night after a stressful day, of really questioning everything and coming back to the Plan B of being a painter or nonprofit worker or whatever. So in those moments where you're really thinking about the Plan B, if you have moments like that, just float it to him. I think his reaction could be very telling. You might be shocked by how much it seems like he really is invested in you keeping your high-paying job and that's something to think about. Or, he could be immensely supportive. Or he could just be like, hey, it's your life. All of them are telling. But it should be said, it's not just low-income guys who could be invested in you keeping a high-paying job. It was kind of shocking to me to realize, because the cliche in this culture is that women are the ones who care about their partner's earning power and men almost never care, but I found to my surprise that it's really often not true, these days.
posted by cairdeas at 6:51 PM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

If you are trying to be egalitarian about this (and it seems your question has that at the heart of it), are you having any doubts about him because of who he is or rather because of WHAT he is? If you are worried about each of you fulfilling traditional gender roles or not a match? At the waiter/service economy job level is working anywhere for less than a year unusual (it wasn't for me when i was doing it-and I am now a successful engineer-and the primary income generator in the household). Going forward from here as a society a lot of women are going to be looking at this choice as the number of men getting a college education and the number of women are not equal. And remember there is more to equality in a relationship than who pays the bills-and you have to be ok with that.
posted by bartonlong at 6:55 PM on December 27, 2011

Thanks for all of your responses so far, they've given me lots to think about. I thought i'd pop in and answer some of the questions/issues raised so far, in case its helpful to future mefites who might answer.

- By tagging 'values', i didn't mean to imply that 'earning less than my man' was a value i hold. I meant more that the different priorities we put on ambition or motivation or certain kinds of accomplishments or 'planning for the future vs living for today' may be values that should be explored
- I agree with the posters who've mentioned that being a motivated hard worker may be more important than money. For example, if he were to start the path to become an apprentice tradesman (he's mentioned an interest in becoming an electrician), i would be really happy - he's thinking about his future and he's willing to work towards it. He'd still earn less money than me, but the fact that he's working towards something would be great.
- I don't know if i'd be resentful about shouldering the majority of the costs if we got to the point where we blended our finances and our lives. I might be. Right now, the idea of that makes me uneasy because i'd always imagined being with someone who was my financial equal, and that marriage would increase my financial stability, not decrease it. Perhaps its just an idea i need to get used to?
posted by Kololo at 7:01 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Most of the powerful women I've worked with in branding/advertising/marketing over the age of 28 or so are married to men who make less than they do -- carpenters, painters, home inspectors, catering company owners. The flexibility of the guys' schedules allow them to do the crazy hours clients expect and still have coverage for home and kids. Strangely, most of their partners seem to be non-American but very, very masculine in a way that a powerful woman doesn't seem to intimidate them.

I think it's the nature of the business more than anything. Like it or not, someone's career has to be more flexible until you're making serious "home staff"-style money. Having two people in a "power job" with occasionally grueling hours and no flexibility doesn't work for long.

That's not to say that the lifestyle differences and value differences aren't a big deal, but it's the attitudes of them, rather than the money, education or status level itself, that tend to get in the way.
posted by Gucky at 7:03 PM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm seven years & 1 kid into an "it's complicated" with someone who is from a significantly lower social bracket than me. I'm sure this varies tremendously from person to person, but the two problem areas that blindsided me most were (1) ambition and (2) fiscal capability.

Is he comfortable where he's at? More comfortable than where you're at? Sure, everyone loves the idea of living in a higher social/income bracket, but some people, when faced with the reality to adapt... Repeatedly return to the social environment you found them in. Make it clear through actions, rather than words, that your people are not their people. So pay attention to how willingly he dives into your life. Because if you committ & he will not come up, then down had better look attractive to you. And not just on an "oh, this is fun for a year" level.

And then, fiscal responsibility. I'm glad you brought it up, because some people just don't get it. You need to figure that out. For instance, what does he live off of between jobs? Because some folks can go seven months without getting motivated about job searching because they are bloody good savers and thrifty to boot on a daily basis. But a lot of people really aren't good with money. Or they figure something will turn up. And if you committ and he can't support himself between gigs, well, it's YOUR money that's going to turn up, because trust me, you will try to help get him through. And that will be serious friction if it turns out to be the cycle his world runs on.

People who just don't "get" money can be like a hole in the bottom of the boat. Every time you check, there's less float to your boat. Mine makes double what I make, when he is employed. Together we should have been able to make a moderately comfortable life, even given the sporadic nature of his employment. And yet he is generally unable to float me even gas money when I ask for it. That's poor planning, not poor pay.

Make sure your dreams match what he can actually, practically supply. If your dreams can accommodate working hard while your SO "gets by," more power to you. But if your dreams include working hard with someone who can pull his weight, even if it isn't measured in dollars, make very sure you are with a person who shares both the initiative & the foundation abilities, an important one of which is the ability to plan their finances.
posted by Ys at 7:10 PM on December 27, 2011 [11 favorites]

I've seen stacks of couples with the wife making more, but unstable employment history, low income and low motivation sound damn worrisome--for anyone, regardless of gender or orientation.

I'm a guy, would have real concerns about getting serious with any woman of whom those things can be said.
posted by ambient2 at 7:10 PM on December 27, 2011

I married my "steve," as did most of my close girlfriends, as it turns out - we are a generation of women noodling around trying this power balance out - but not without a lot of handwringing - some probably wise, some a lot of our own hangups. I would say, think carefully, think critically, think VERY selfishly through it - and then if you decide to take the plunge and be together, go forth with a generous and open heart.

Some hard-hearted things to think about -

- One of the things I had to get used to, and still struggle with as mentioned above, is some sense that the guy should be the breadwinner - or at least really want to actively provide comfort, security, stability somehow to your relationship and future family. Will you be resentful if he never seems to show this impulse, however expressed - monetarily or otherwise? Will some underlying sorrow or disappointment or shame surface for him over time that he cannot provide more?

- While you have the job that in a lot of ways decides where you both might go, do you also have the job you can't quit if you have kids? Are you totally ok with his possibly being the stay-at-home parent, and furthermore, however much you love your job, are you honestly a little depressed to know that you will never have the option to agonize over whether or not you should stay home or go to work after maternity leave, and instead will just have to suck it up and go, day after day, as my father and maybe your father took for granted that they would have to do?

- Day to day, you can both live on a reasonable budget. But what if you want to splurge? What if you want to invest? Do you get to decide? Will you want to get to decide just a little more, since it's your money? Do you always foot the bill for the bigger things? Will you both be ok with that? It's different when we're talking about many trips, year after year, not just the one.

- Since you have the capacity to save, do you save for both of your retirements? Do you alone significantly save for the things you both want?

Look, all of these things are things that my father did for my mother, and men have been doing for women who've earned less than them for a long time. But it's ok to acknowledge that this is new territory for us young women to come to terms with, that nothing is ironed out, there are no societal guard rails and there is a lot of ambiguity and frankly unresolved feelings about how this kind of dynamic plays out long term. I anticipate continually having to come to terms with this over the years as the relationship and our society evolves.

There is more to equality than who pays the bills, that is so true.

You probably grew up being told that you were a bright strong girl who could do anything you wanted - I did and was excited to become a high-achieving and successful woman, but it honestly never crossed my mind that I would have to share what I made! I guess I had internalized that I would get to keep all the rewards. Culturally, societally, it just wasn't something that was impressed upon me, with all of its ramifications and responsibilities over the long term. We're all figuring this out as we go along.
posted by sockbuddha at 7:12 PM on December 27, 2011 [27 favorites]

I'm 32 and female. My boyfriend is 38. We have been together for almost six years and living together for three. I make about three times what he does. When we were first together, I was a graduate student living a typical meagre student existence. Now I have a great job and he is still doing what he was doing when we met (cooking in restaurants). We rent a lovely apartment and split our living expenses 50/50 (except for the car since he doesn't drive). Our finances are otherwise separate.

He's a good man. He is honest and kind. He cooks and cleans. He has zero debt. If he wants something, he saves his money and pays cash. Although his jobs haven't paid that well, he spends responsibly and always has money for rent, bills, etc. He tends to work at the same places for years and always leaves on friendly terms. We have the same basic values. Neither of us wants to get married and having kids is a maybe, although I have no doubt he'd be a terrific father. My family and friends adore him. I adore him. I wouldn't trade him for billions of dollars. He's really good for my heart and my head.

So yeah, it can work. I'm not saying it has been all sunshine and rainbows. The lines of communication need to be wide open and if you're the partner who earns more, you have to reconcile yourself with the possibility of having to contribute more financially to the relationship. And you have to be okay with that. Trust me, I get it that this is a dealbreaker for some couples.
posted by futureisunwritten at 7:12 PM on December 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

I've had this work out just fine. To me, the big things were (a) everyone was doing something about which they were passionate and (b) everyone contributed equally to the household economy. (The household economy, of course, was not just measured by how much money you bring in.) In my case, there was no real mis-match in life ambition, just earning power -- the person I was with wasn't as ambitious as I was, but still had definite interests and ways that he wanted to move forward.
posted by lillygog at 7:19 PM on December 27, 2011

My spouse and I have been exploring this issue this year while he's on sabbatical.

Advantages of the huge income/professional commitment gap: ability to travel together (he came with me on a trip to Hawaii this year for work), ability to relocate for one partner's career, one person has more free time to take care of household/cooking/errands/dog.

Disadvantage: with combined finances (which we have), and me earning a significant amount and working long hours, we found it hard to justify part-time, low-wage work for him as an economically sound decision... but then that actually made it harder to wrap our heads around how much he "should" be doing on a week where I was traveling 3 days, or working a 70 hour work week, etc.

When I'm working crazy long hours and he's totally comfortable leaving the laundry until the weekend, nothing's specifically wrong, but there's a fundamental inequality of effort and motivation that has been tough to grapple. We're debt-free, child-free, and pretty easy-going people, but it was honestly surprising how often that became a point of friction, even though we a) planned this in advance and b) initiated this phase by relocating for my career. He's now back to job search and applying to graduate school, which has pretty much eliminated the friction, but I wouldn't discount the difference in ambition and motivation. It can sneak up on you even if you think you're prepared for it.
posted by deludingmyself at 7:25 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

My husband's a chef, I'm in show-biz. I usually make much more than he does. I think effort and sweat matter a great deal. A man who's sort of coasting and not really trying to make a go of whatever he wants to do would piss me off.
We've been rolling in it, we've been broke, but what matters is that we shared equally in both the caviar and the crusts.

I'd say that your guy should really commit to something, and work hard to achieve a level of competence before you decide to plight your troth.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:27 PM on December 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

imagined being with someone who was my financial equal, and that marriage would increase my financial stability, not decrease it

I will say, your sentence here is perceptive. I do think you'll need a hard-hearted look at what you imagined, monetarily, someone would bring to the table and let that go. I do think that's something that's drilled into women, whether we like it or not: oh, you'll meet a partner and they'll buy you houses and ponies and diamonds. Well, no! You'll have to buy your own houses and ponies and diamonds.

That said, there is a huge difference between a low earner that's responsible with their money, and a low earner that's not. I would focus on those aspects. Someone who doesn't carry debt, who saves for big purchases, always pays their bills, and helps a ton around the house... IMHO, that person will be a good partner regardless of the size of their paycheck.
posted by lillygog at 7:29 PM on December 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

Anecdata: I was married to a man who made about half what I did. I was perfectly content providing more monetary support to our household while he provided more practical support (we divided bills and chores about 65/35 based upon who had more money/time, and I paid for the bulk of our extravagances like holidays while he handled smaller incidentals like car servicing). We discussed our budgeting plan and what we each could contribute, but he had a hard time getting past his feeling that his contributions were objectively worth less than mine, and he grew to feel emasculated by our arrangement. It's a long story, but as I said, I *was* married to him. My advice: don't underestimate the influence that traditional gender role 'training/enculturation' may have had on either of you, as I did.
posted by pammeke at 7:33 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'll make this short: I think it's entirely possible for two people to have a successful relationship when one earns significantly more than the other. I think it's much more difficult to have a successful relationship when one partner is fairly ambitious and responsible and the other partner is a slacker. Not everyone who earns a modest salary is a slacker, of course, so only you can say whether this is the case in your relationship.
posted by drlith at 7:33 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have a few female lawyer friends who married men who don't make as much money and don't have white collar careers. One married a carpenter, one married a furniture salesman, one married an auto mechanic, and one married a guy who passed away recently but I think he had thought about becoming a chef or staying home with their future kids. It's worked for all of them, but in each case the woman didn't try to change the man. And for those who had kids, the fathers are very involved because their wives are working full time, sometimes many more hours than they are. Most of these friends are type As who appreciate being married to calmer, happier type Bs.
posted by bananafish at 7:38 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I did this with my husband. I earned much more than him for most of our 20 married years. I never really concerned myself with the imbalance and all money went into a joint bank account. Then he left me for a woman he met on the internet and I had to pay him $1,000 a month spousal support. Had I anticipated this outcome, I would have insisted on separate finances and probably a pre-nup (although that feels like you're planning to fail from the start - it's a conundrum.)
posted by eleslie at 8:03 PM on December 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

I think it can definitely work out. But I also think, reading what you wrote, that it's pretty clear that you are fundamentally uncomfortable with this *for this particular person*. And that's fine. It's your gut telling you something. You don't have to talk yourself into thinking that maybe he will go back to school, or pick up a trade, or start a business. Don't evaluate him on his potential: look at who he is now. Are you happy if this is how he is forever? If so, there's your answer. But reading your question? It doesn't sound like that would make you happy.
posted by instamatic at 8:20 PM on December 27, 2011

I've seen stacks of couples with the wife making more, but unstable employment history, low income and low motivation sound damn worrisome--for anyone, regardless of gender or orientation.

Seconding this.

Also - respect is really important. I don't think women get this as much because we are typically valued for different things in a relationship (beauty, kindness, etc.) but men really need to be respected. For some men that's about bringing home the bacon - but I actually think it's most important to be with someone who is motivated to create a happy and stable life, whatever that means for the both of you.

I think in most of the examples above of successful partnerships both partners are bringing crucial resources into the relationship on top of love and affection - that can be money, labor, support, etc... even if you make more money you should feel like your life is better for the partnership.
posted by rainydayfilms at 8:21 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just popped in to say that in this economy in general, and in the restaurant industry in particular, not holding a job for a year is pretty common.
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:21 PM on December 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

I very gently suggest that this will work out a lot better if you drop the "successfully" part of your "successful/ambitious/well-remunerated" assessment.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:44 PM on December 27, 2011

I make quite a bit more money than my partner. The way I see it, I contribute more money to the relationship. She contributes more in other ways that are better suited to her right-braindedness (to coin a word). To me, it's an equal contribution to our relationship. If you think that making more money trumps what your dude contributes, that doesn't make you wrong or bad. It just means that you value money differently than me and this might become a bigger issue later.
posted by kamikazegopher at 8:58 PM on December 27, 2011

I've had three relationships like this, and they all failed. However, the problem wasn't the income disparity, it was the responsibility gap.

The guys had low incomes because they felt like they shouldn't have to do anything that they didn't feel like doing. As a result, I not only provided the housing but also did all the housework and everything else that's not fun.

Warning signs that I finally learned to recognize:
- Lots of part-time or disposable jobs
- No consistent dream or goal (the inspiring dream he had when we met turned out to be one of a gajillion frequently changing dreams--ask him what last year's dream was)
- Complaints about the "idiots" and "unfairness" in the world
- No skill in particular because he hasn't stuck with anything long enough
- Moving frequently
- Debt, problems with the IRS, ignorance of basic money management tactics

I still would consider a man who was low paid but responsible and grown up.
posted by ceiba at 9:11 PM on December 27, 2011 [19 favorites]

Hi, yup. Been where you are. Sadly, I've never gotten so far with my lower-earning guys due to the lack of personal direction/ambition/guiding passion/what-have-you. I don't care that a guy earns less, but I want him to care about what he's doing with his life and to have some thought about what he'll do when he's 65 years old.

A good friend married hers, and while she loves the socks off of him, is just brokenhearted to give up maternity leave to go back to work. She desperately wants to be the stay-at-home mom, but that's just not in the cards given her husband's lack of career direction. He stays at home because he can't find any work (hasn't built up enough work history, no specialized skills) while she returns to work. Not the way she wants it, but what has to be.

I have seen a lot of my friends and I date our share of guys who thought that we would support them while they continued to wander aimlessly through life, drinking beer, smoking pot, and having good times; giving them a swift kick was absurdly funny in our 20's, but now we're in our 30's and it's just depressing. If this is your guy, run. If this is not your guy, then it could work. But it has to work on both of your terms--his and yours. If he is conscientious, then he may have his own issues and concerns that y'all will need to work out.

I think there's some excellent practical questions about finances here, as well as some pretty important sociocultural ones because I'm finding this situation more and more common. Good luck!
posted by smirkette at 9:29 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

My boyfriend of three months is intelligent and kind and romantic and trustworthy

These positive qualities, they're the ingredients for a truly valuable relationship. But what kind of relationship? A fling? A good year? A lifelong companion? Are you looking for your companion? If so, what other ingredients are missing?

(Thought experiment:) What if he were your best friend?
posted by stroke_count at 9:30 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

- I don't know if i'd be resentful about shouldering the majority of the costs if we got to the point where we blended our finances and our lives. I might be. Right now, the idea of that makes me uneasy because i'd always imagined being with someone who was my financial equal, and that marriage would increase my financial stability, not decrease it. Perhaps its just an idea i need to get used to?

I can mostly speak only in generalities, but this has pretty much, as others have pointed out, the male norm for a long time. Moreover, it's only going to increase for women, because women are dominating areas like tertiary education, which would imply in a generation or two higher-earning women will be common in relationships.

Further, you earn six figures, right? If you're going to limit yourself to men who earn as much or more than you *and* have all the other characteristics you care about, you're really, really limiting yourself. You'll be competing with every other high-earning woman who won't "marry down", plus every woman who wants to "marry up".

Finally, it can be usefull depending on your career and personal aspirations - I know a few women who have stay-at-home husbands looking after the kid(s) while they work. It works well for them, although of course they have to take on the pressure of the traditional breadwinner role, which can be No Fun sometimes. If keeping a career and having a family are aspirations of yours I'd suggest a lower-earning, kid-friendly partner is a far better place to be than a higher-earning partner. Even without kids, being the primary breadwinner, if you're career focused and the other person isn't, leaves you better able to chase your career across cities and countries if needs be.

Actually, finally finally: men have married trophy wives whose accomplishments are keeping them happy by looking good, being fun to have around, and being fun in bed for centuries. Is there any reason women shouldn't?
posted by rodgerd at 10:40 PM on December 27, 2011 [8 favorites]

I made more than my ex-, and even when I didn't, like when I took time off to stay home w/ our baby, I always paid more of the bills. It sucked because he's irresponsible, doesn't take care of his financial obligations, and seems to expect to be cared for. If a guy makes less, but is fair, responsible, honest, then it should be no big deal.
posted by theora55 at 11:32 PM on December 27, 2011

I can mostly speak only in generalities, but this has pretty much, as others have pointed out, the male norm for a long time.

I'm not sure this is true. Men were not, generally, made less financially secure by having stay-at-home wives and mothers. Instead, the free labour the wives provided made it possible for the men to pursue greater ambitions and higher wages than not having a wife would allow. Also, if we reach back far enough, men were paid what was essentially considered a family wage. So, you know, not to be all Marxist feminist or anything, but my dad basically saved for my mother's old age in exchange for her making his supper every night; if she hadn't been there he would have either had to eat out every night (which costs money) or worked less over-time (which brings in less money). Wives used to be good value for the money.

But, in the contemporary case of the woman being the higher wage earner, the union is less financially stable unless the man in the relationship is willing and able to take on the traditional domestic and child-rearing responsibilities. It's only like the male norm if the new beau stays home with the kids while they are young, takes charge of most of the educational decisions and doctors appointments, cleans and shops, etc.

And I don't think it necessarily follows that a guy who is the lower wage-earner necessarily wants to be a stay-at-home dad, which is the rub. If Kololo leaves her job to stay home with the kids (I have for some reason decided they are having), then the much lower wage is the family income; if she goes back to work but has to hire a nanny and a housekeeper, then a big cut of her wage disappears down that hole. With everything in flux, socially-speaking, it's a less sure bet that a lower-earning husband is good value for the money!


Anyway, I totally think this is the kind of thing that can work, but of course there are so many variables unrelated to your earnings. I like what sockbuddha says about this all being new and who the hell knows?

I'm a high earning single mother, so my circumstances are different, however one thing that is similar is that my family income is much less than the family income of my high earning friends who are couples. So, even though my colleagues and I make the same salary, I basically live as if I make half of what they do. As I trundle along in life, for the most part I am pretty happy with my income; it's only when I start comparing myself to my peers and what they have achieved financially by virtue of having equally high-earning husbands that I get resentful. So, you know, part of it is whether you are happy with a household income that is yours + his, as opposed to yours + yours again (or more).
posted by looli at 11:33 PM on December 27, 2011 [12 favorites]

I broke it off with my ex-boyfriend, after being with him for close to four years, "over money." Well, for about three years or so, I was head over heels in love with him and didn't give a damn about money or his lack thereof. So what if he had no higher education, he was intelligent and talented. So what if he just barely cleared minimum wage and lived paycheck to paycheck, he was still young and I believed in his potential, and besides, I didn't need a man to take care of me. It wasn't until I got accepted to law school in another province that we started to have serious conversations about our long-term goals and plans.

What scared me was his unwillingness to think or talk about the future in any practical sense, especially since he was several years older than me and should have had a good head start on these things. I asked him what his hopes were, and he replied that he'd love to have a family, live in a nice house with a pool like the one he grew up in, and retire at a decent age so that we could travel and enjoy life. I was happy to hear that, because his goals matched my own quite nicely... but not so much. It took months of working backwards from there for me to understand that he had no plans to put forth any extra effort on his part, he simply expected this perfect future to materialize like Cinderella's carriage out of a pumpkin... or more likely, out of me. His inability to conceive of money in a realistic, "big picture" kind of way was also very worrying. Super basic money matters, like budgeting and saving, or building credit, had never occurred to him, and he showed zero interest in taking on such responsibilities.

What you said in your follow-up comment about the possibility of a partner decreasing rather than increasing your financial stability causing you to have second thoughts, that was very true for me. I worried that I would resent him for it, and indeed I began to resent him for pulling less than his weight in other aspects of our relationship, well before I even left for law school. I broke up with him just weeks after moving away.

I think the problem is, it's almost never just about the money. Money is so often tied up with things like motivation, ambition, expectation, discipline, responsibility, sacrifice, stability, security, respect, etc., it's no wonder so many relationships stumble over it. If you are truly okay with your guy being a waiter or similar for the rest of his working life, you make enough money to do all the things you've always wanted to do and bring him along for the ride, you agree on how money should be handled between the two of you, and he fulfills you in every other way, I don't see why it can't work. But as you said, all those values surrounding money need to be explored, because those values will bleed into every other part of your lives.
posted by keep it under cover at 12:20 AM on December 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

I'm a guy, but you're pretty much the female version of me, so I figured I'd chime in. I started out in retail, but bootstrapped my way into marketing and public relations and now I do freelancing and consulting and make a reasonable salary. My wife started out in retail full-time, then bounced down to retail part-time, and the only reason she got out of retail and moved into a CS-y job was she wanted more regular hours. Ten years on and she's still working an entry-level gig that most people work in high school or right out of college. She's completely content doing that. She doesn't want to move up and be a keyholder or supervisor or general manager of a store or anything above entry-level CS. She doesn't want to go to school for anything. All she wants to do is go in, punch a clock for 8 hours, collect slightly more than minimum wage, then come home and play Facebook games and watch movies and hang out. And it's not that she can't do anything and is incapable of learning, she picks things up a million times faster than I can and was an excellent student in college. She just doesn't want to and she doesn't care about anything resembling a career. (And I'm not trashing her, she has some very good qualities, but I want to share some of the things that will come up).

Here's the questions I'd have you pondering:

Are you comfortable being the breadwinner "forever"? I mean, if he has a change of heart, great, but if he wants to wait tables forever and then come home and unwind, are you really comfortable dealing with that forever? You lose your job and maybe he makes enough to make the house payment or buy some food...and the rest has to appear somehow. Because I can't take a year off or go back to school full-time or anything. I have to be working, always, because at most she can cover our rent. Likewise, your career will have to dominate. My wife has to go wherever professional demands take us or she has to divorce me and that's pretty much it, because she can't support us on her own. She's really liked a lot of places we've lived and had a lot of friends there (to the point that she's admitted she thought about breaking up with me to stay there at one point) and...that was too bad, because she couldn't support us, so we had to go. Would you guys both be comfortable with that (again, forever)?

Are you comfortable being the only one with career-driven ambition? Right now, I work a full-time freelance gig that covers my bills, a handful of part-time gigs for the experience and to broaden my cash flow, and a couple speculative projects that may turn into something. She comes home and reads the internet and her biggest ambition is beating the new Legend of Zelda game and catching up on her TV shows. You've mentioned he's thought about maybe being a tradesman and if so, great, but ten years down the road, do you see him being a successful tradesman or do you see him still talking about maybe doing trade school one day while you roll your eyes because not the electrician thing again?

Financially speaking, are you okay sacrificing whatever lifestyle a partner making closer to your income would allow you to have? For us, financial security and management has to come from me, because I see how our cash flow coming in looks and can adjust things accordingly. Likewise, when a bump in the road comes up, I have to find a way to handle it. For example, she needs surgery and that comes down to me and a lot of tight budgeting because of her low income, whereas if she had a more-professional job, things wouldn't be such a squeeze (and it's on you to make it happen). How would you feel with something like that happening? Let's say you have kids, so you have to budget for doctors/braces/college, again, mostly/all coming out of your income. Junior got sick, so you have to make the money appear for his rare and exotic treatment. How do you feel about that? Or, say, retirement? Because it's up to me to figure out how to finance retirement (at this point retirement for us is "we work til we keel over"), wheras if both of us earned professional salaries, we might actually be able to put something in our IRAs this year.

We're fairly low-key. We have no ambition for the house in the suburbs or kids, we're fine living in a 1BR apartment and driving economy cars, and "work til we die" was pretty much the plan anyway (because she spent 6 months not working at one point and we just about killed each other), so it works for us. And even then, it's still an occasional source of friction when I'm working on a speculative project or freelancing to help pay bills late into the hours of the evening and she's absorbed in a TV show or Farmville or whatever.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:39 AM on December 28, 2011 [14 favorites]

I'm in a similar situation, my 'Steve' has always worked and earns ok but is a bit of a dreamer and not really very good at doing stuff to improve his situation (despite being sure that he definitely does want things to change). My advice is to not get too enmeshed until you're clearer about your other compatibilities. My partner is so great in so many ways but if I could do things differently I would not have moved in with him unless our financial situations were more even. We were kind of forced into it because the city we live in is so expensive but I make twice what he does and therefore pay two thirds of our combined rent/bills. The upshot of this is that I have saved considerably less in the 2.5 years we've been living together than I did beforehand. My savings are for a down-payment on a house and I do resent that I'm further off my goals as a result of us being together than I'd planned.

It definitely bothers me that if I lost my job he couldn't cover the rent, on the other hand he's very emotionally supportive and would help in other ways. If we already owned a house we'd have insurance and I probably wouldn't mind so much. As it is I sometimes feel I'm furnishing his lifestyle at the cost of my own safety net because he has nothing to fall back on - and I resent the inequality. It does also sometimes frustrate me that we can't have the lifestyle I'd have with a partner of equal means or motivations, but not enough to break up over. We've talked about it a lot and he does understand, we're looking at living apart again when the current lease ends to recalibrate as individuals.

We did split up very early on (about the four month mark) for exactly the reasons you're grappling with now. However, I found I missed him for other reasons and we got back together and it has largely been great for the four years we've been together. We don't have combined finances except for one savings account that we pay into monthly for treats/holidays and that has taken off lots of the pressure - though I still end up with most of the organising and management of said activities which sometimes grates. I've had to accept that this may be a permanent issue. So far it's not been a deal-breaker.

TDLR version: If you want this to work you'll need to make peace with the inevitable compromise - especially if you want kids (we don't).
posted by socksister at 3:38 AM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is a really great thread. Just as non-data: in my family, there are a number of families where the wife's steady, low-paying job with benefits (rural medical office receptionist, for instance) was truly the financial engine of the home but the man's off-and-on work at something slightly higher-paying (laying pipe, roofing) was counted as "the breadwinner" role. That didn't seem healthy to me as a kid, and as an adult it seems pretty poison and a sign of how gender roles obscure reality. The power of the breadwinner image is, I suspect, part of why slacker men don't pick up the slack around the house and why they can get away with that so often.

However, the silverbacks and senior management at my firm are often women and a good number of them have partners who not only make less but also have jobs that are not careers with built in raises and bonuses and other ways of making even more money. A number of my friends are the primary (in some cases by as much as 50%) and their men are good wives who cook and clean and take the kids to soccer.

As everyone says, the cash isn't the issue- probably- it's the willingness to plan for your shared future and contribute to that plan. (And Steve ends up buying a bar, which is a very risky gamble and a huge amount of work.)

I was in a long-term but not serious on my end relationship with someone who made less than me and I took us out to a nice dinner and then learned he spent $$$$ on iTunes, I'd want to punch him. I believe this was more about my general unhappiness than his spending. You might want to spend a little time making sure you think this is a great guy in real life, not just a guy who's great on paper but doesn't do it for you as a man. If you're wrestling with an idea that the man is a breadwinner, you've probably also been taught that you shouldn't throw away a perfectly good man - otherwise you'll end up an old maid without a breadwinner to build you a castle.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:43 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

headsnsouth and parrot_person: i agree with you both that the "never held a job for more than a year'/lack of motivation is one of my biggest concerns.

Is it the lack of motivation or lack of responsibility and/or discipline? You may want to dig deeper into why he hasn't been able to hold a job long enough. Is it poor work ethics? Does daddy or grandma support him during the unemployment, and he is always okay with that? Is he getting fired and telling you that he was laid off or such? While the answer may be hard to figure out at this stage, you may want to look into this way more seriously. It not the dollar amount that's the issue.

I don't know if i'd be resentful about shouldering the majority of the costs if we got to the point where we blended our finances and our lives. Right now, the idea of that makes me uneasy because i'd always imagined being with someone who was my financial equal, and that marriage would increase my financial stability, not decrease it. Perhaps its just an idea i need to get used to?

This is not an idea one passively gets used to. It might be something you'll have to actively believe in for this to work.
posted by xm at 9:35 AM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

The book How to Love a Nice Guy addresses this issue. (Published 20 years ago, now out of print, but used copies are available.) She was a successful Manhattan career woman, he was a carpenter, they met when he did some remodeling in her home, they fell in love. (So there's a difference right there: her guy was a responsible skilled worker with a steady job.)
posted by exphysicist345 at 10:36 AM on December 28, 2011

I think the salary gap is a red herring distracting you from the harder to articulate issues around accountability, planning and ambition. That not working for a year and not having any vision of his future is the real worrisome bit. If over the course of the relationship, they are all talk and no action... that's a clear sign of what a long-term relationship would be like. Not just fiscal, but emotionally, socially... do you really want to be a mom before you have a kid?

What you should be keying in on is not the size (or lack thereof) of his paycheck, but his sense of responsibility (social, fiscal, emotional), drive to fulfill obligations he takes on, ability to plan and take steps towards goals. Those qualities are not the same as pure ambition for a high-paying (and often long-hours) career. Some people are okay with a partner whose highest ambition is an ace score in Farmville - you have to figure out if that's really you, and if their lack in personal ambition is made up for in other areas.

I say this as someone who makes a fair bit less than my partner (and likely always will, due to skills and seniority in the field), where it took me considerably more time to figure out what direction I wanted to strike out in. Worked the whole time in a variety of fields at reasonably decent professional wages for a non-specialized college grad. I know my partner would have zero tolerance if I had been irresponsible with money, quitting jobs left and right because I "couldn't see myself turning any of them into a career." But she was completely and utterly supportive because she knew I was reliable, present, and committed to working steadily while I figured out the big picture details.

And now, with a new advanced degree in a new field, I hope to be able to narrow that salary gap, if even just a little bit. :)
posted by canine epigram at 1:14 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

You asked for anecdotal evidence, so here it is! (Holy shit, and it is LONG. Proceed at your own risk.)

I am not a Miranda and Steve; I am a Miranda and Always-On-The-Edge-Entrepreneur. My guy makes way less than I do, and money affects our relationship...not at all. Not at all. But only because a) I have learned I don't care about money *itself*, so I don't mind paying for retirement; b) I don't have my gender identity tied to money, so I don't care who makes more; and c) I am past the point in which I care about fancy sushi restaurants or town cars. OLechat nailed it, really, with this difference: my guy works his ass off, because he just started his own company, and there's no money yet, and may never be. And that is fine.

For context: I'm a woman, just turned 31, and with my 2012 raise I expect to clear six-figures. I have a seven year engineering career at a very established company, so my work prospects are rock-solid. And my climb up the corporate ladder has been fast, and is still accelerating. I've had the benefit of dating men who had the same career/ambition ideas I did, and also, men who...didn't. (I dated a LOT.) The summary of what I've learned is below.

a) Socioeconomic class is a separate quality from having money.
b) DESIRED socioeconomic class is a separate quality from having money.
c) Making it clear that he loves/desires/values/cherishes me, is a separate quality from having/spending money. (Giving me things that are important to him, showing love in his way.)
d) Making me FEEL loved/desired/valued/cherished is a separate quality from having/spending money. (Doing things that he doesn't like to do, to please me, because he knows that's how I see love.)
e) Creating a life for yourself, carving out a space in the world, and the ability to do that in a sustainable way, is a separate quality from having money.
f) Feeling like you are either part of the establishment, or part of the disenfranchised, is a separate quality from having money.

Does your guy succeed at meeting your standards at all of these things, or at what's important to YOU? These things are important to me, and they are all separate from money. Some people I've dated have used money as an excuse to fail at one or all of those six things. (And by "fail", I mean, "not met my standards, but instead of being confident about his choice, pretending that he WOULD meet my standards if he could, but there's this money problem...")

Is your guy confident about his choices in life? Or is he always making excuses? If he's making excuses, you're either asking him questions that he doesn't have answers for, like, "Why aren't you training for a trade?" or he's volunteering excuses, which means he's unhappy with something he's doing/not doing and doesn't know why. You don't want either case, so it may not matter anyway.

If your guy IS confident about his life choices, then ask yourself if you're okay dating someone who has different *ambition values* than you do, as OLechat said. That can be a good and worthwhile quality. For example, my guy saved me. I was diving head first into alcoholism/corporate drone-itis. I would have been a very hard-edged, hard-driving, Samantha, with a few drug habits, a few years hence. Again, I don't feel any sort of loss of femininity from being the hard-drinking workaholic who had to be saved by her Manic Pixie Dream Boy. You may feel differently. Also, my guy is *incredibly* ambitious, but not in the same way, so I'm not dating someone who works 6 hours a day and sleeps for ten. That would probably bother me.

In a less meta sense, I also care that my guy (a) is perfectly comfortable in fancier/tonier environments, (b) does not *sneer* at fancier things, (c) loves me, (d) makes me feel loved, (e) is trying to change the world, (f) knows he comes from the elite but takes seriously the plight of the disenfranchised. Oh, and overall, on points (a), (b), and (d) the fact that I HAVE to pay for the fancier things I want to do does not threaten his masculinity. (Gucky's contribution rang very true for me. My guy is half Puerto-Rican, half Italian.) I feel like Miranda and Steve had problems over some of these statements.

ALSO: are you being used? Is he taking for granted the fact that you pay for some things, or that, dating you, he gets to go to fancier restaurants? If your income raises him to a higher standard of living on a REGULAR basis, then you're being used. Cease and desist that one.

Erm. The TLDR version: I've chosen a wonderful-for-me partner who makes way less than I do. He has a great deal of ambition, which I admire. I've happily lowered my standard of living to resemble his, so we didn't have the "fancy japanese place vs. cheap sushi joint" issue. If we want to do something fancier, or go on a fancy trip, (and by "we" I mean "me) I pay for it. Neither of us have our gender identity tied to who pays, or who makes more, in general. We have both planned for the future--retirement funds are in place, even with how little he makes, although I could end up paying for the lion's share.

Now that I've said all this, I feel like I didn't help at all. I was able to separate money from self-worth, gender, expectations, etc, etc. If you can do that, you'll know your own answer.
posted by aarwenn at 7:30 PM on December 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

I was re-reading my post and there's one more thing I want to throw in that may not seem that important but actually may be. Schedule. If he's working crazy restaurant shifts (and seems like he will do so long-term) and you're working during normal business hours, that's obviously going to impede coordination, but it can also impede your life together.

For example, I have great memories of things like living in San Francisco and going to the beach at Half Moon Bay, then driving up into the city to walk around and grab dinner and see a Giants game. Or the time my friend and I decided on a whim to go to Vegas. Or the Halloween night my friends and I went out and watched our team win the World Series, then went to an amazing party that lead to another and another and become one of those really memorable and just awesome nights.

And the common thread is...she isn't in any one of them. In fact, most of my really fun stories don't involve her at all, and that's not because she impedes me from having fun or because she's not invited. It's because she was working retail hours for all those fun weekends and evenings and so she couldn't go. I have friends on my Facebook that have known me for years and frequently forget I'm married, because she's in so few of the group/event photos and doesn't make it out very often. My current social group teases me about pulling the "Oh I have a girlfriend she just lives in Canada" scam because none of them have ever met her, because we go out after work around 6 and she's usually working.

When she worked in stores, we couldn't go anywhere for Thanksgiving or Christmas as a couple, because that's their busiest time (and that's assuming the store offered vacation time when some of them did not, which meant losing a week of her already meager pay if we wanted to go somewhere) and for sudden things like funerals and other family occasions, she frequently can't go to them because she has to work and can't get off in time.

And it works for us, because she's not the sort that's going to cause drama if she didn't get to go to Fun Thing because she was working but I went to fun thing anyway and I'm not going to be miserable because my wife isn't there. And I enjoy being married but not being the Married Guy that has to drag his wife to everything. And like I said, we do have fun memories and we go out and do fun things when our schedules mesh.

But, again, lifestyle compatibility. What would you do if you had a week's vacation burning a hole in your pocket and he couldn't get off because it's the busy season/boss is a dick and won't let him off/whatever? Or if you have to go to a lot of business functions alone because he's working dinner hours? If you get an invite to do something cool when he's working, would you not go and resent it? If you go without him, would he resent it? Maybe he could get a day shift so that his schedule could be compatible with yours, but then he'd probably earn less in tips, and would he resent you for that (or would you resent him for making even less money)?
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:00 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

This should have way more then 31 favorites. This is probably a future bread and butter worry of nearly every women and man in who ran off to graduate school during the recession...

OP worries can mirror for men as well. I worry the most about motivations. Spotty employment history and low income aren't necessarily red-flags. Look at all the mid-20s in school with no job experience and boat loads of debt? Are they honestly any better marriage material?
posted by Bodrik at 9:29 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here's my advice, having sorta tried this. I wasn't rolling in it, but my ex was kinda like this dude. He's really sweet, but hates school, hates work, and his ideal job would be SAHD. Too bad that's not exactly available to him for various reasons. Anyway, this is what I have learned to look out for.

(a) Can he take care of himself financially without you? How was he managing before you?
(b) Has he held down a job for longer than a year ever? Apparently the answer to this one is a flat out no, so that is NOT GOOD.
(c) Is he totally against the idea of doing any kind of schooling or job training for any other career ever? Kinda sounds like this is a yes, which is also not good.
(d) If something went wrong with your job or health, would he be able to back you up, or would everything fall to shit? (Also see above comments about "what if you have a kid and suddenly want to be a SAHM and can't" if that's relevant to you.)
(e) Is he REALLY okay with your making more money, or will he whine about being emasculated and how he should be the breadwinner? (I just loved it when that one happened to me. Uh, whose fault is it that I make more money? See b and c as to why.)

I would not knowingly date someone like this again. People like this are a money suck even if you think you are cool with it. You get frustrated spending on his level when he's always broke, so you end up always paying for him and end up broker. I'm a generous person, but sometimes you just want to hit your head against the wall. And that's in dating-- I am just glad I didn't get married and then I really would have have a mess to deal with. I know some folks are okay with always paying for the other person, and god knows SAHM's don't have the rep that stay at home dudes do, but I tend to worry about what happens if the person who makes the money gets sick or wants a divorce, and I want backup. Now I find it very important that a dude be able to take care of himself financially.

And even if he's "cool" with not making much money and being a waiter for tips the rest of his life, someday he might want more money or health insurance or some other thing that food service can't get him, and he'll probably need to develop some skills to get paid for besides that. A guy who has zero interest in doing anything besides piddly low-rent, low-skills jobs for the rest of his life worries me.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:31 PM on December 29, 2011

Mr. getawaysticks makes less than I do and he always has - we had "the talk" very early in our relationship, and once we got it out of the way, it's never been a problem. However, he is super motivated and a hard worker both at home and at the office and in 7 years has only been without a job one time (stupid economy). I'd argue that he is a harder worker than I am, just different industries and pay scales and whatever.

However, my ex-husband also made less than me, wasn't motivated, didn't like to work, kept starting careers (including an Internet Pyramid Scheme that cost us thousands to get going) and immediately stopping them the first time a problem arose, and basically was waiting for his parents (who were hard-working entrepreneurs) to pass away so he could just inherit all their money. That relationship didn't last.

What do you respect in people? For me, it's someone who is a hard worker, because of the model my dad provided for me. I guess it just depends on what is important to you.
posted by getawaysticks at 6:34 AM on December 30, 2011

Ghostride The Whip and Bodrik also have excellent points, *especially* schedule. ESPECIALLY. Waiter schedules, especially, can take their toll. Having just dragged myself (it's 9:15 am here) out of my Entrepreneur's bed--after staying up with him until almost 4 in the morning--so I could go to work, and still being 90 minutes late, and knowing that he could *work* from bed if he so chose...schedules can be a killer. A few mornings of that will breed resentment very quickly, so keep that in mind.

What it boils down to is this: keep your boundaries *strong*. Don't give up your retirement, or your financial security, or your ability to pay for little luxuries, for this guy, until you're well and truly joined and you have A PRE-NUP. If that means going out for pitchers of beer instead of going to the fancy wine place, because the amount you'd have to pay to cover him was the amount you'd planned on for a weekend trip to Mexico, or for that 10 shares of stock you had your eye on, or heck, for a manicure, then DO THAT. I can't emphasize that enough. Keep your money for you.
posted by aarwenn at 9:22 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is the guy in his early thirties, too?

I ask because I dated a guy like this when I was in my early twenties and he was a few years older. He dropped out of college a semester shy of a degree and was working as a mover. While I was thinking of applying for PhDs, he was trying to muster up the motivation to finish undergrad. He made more money than me (I was still in undergrad at the time), but he was just unmotivated and working in a physically taxing labor job that he hated.

We broke up for completely different reasons than this, but now, five years on, he's engaged, finishing his undergrad degree and moving directly into a graduate program, and wants to become a teacher. There may be differences here - I think he was younger than your guy and more depressed than generally unmotivated - but I did think about a lot of these questions.

Oh, and the schedule. The schedule KILLED me. Days of no work followed by six days straight of 14 or 18 hour days. It was near impossible to find time to see each other and got really frustrating to hear about my friends going out on sweet dates on a Friday night while my boyfriend showed up exhausted at 2am.
posted by anotheraccount at 2:01 PM on January 6, 2012

In case anyone reads this thread and is curious: We broke up. He wanted me to be his parent, and to be the person who pushed him rather than generating internal motivation to succeed. (He told me this, i'm not extrapolating.)

He also had student debt that he's pretended didn't exist for about ten years. la-la-la-la-la style.

He was great in lots of ways, but: done.
posted by Kololo at 9:07 PM on June 3, 2012 [6 favorites]

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