Is love enough?
April 1, 2012 6:23 PM   Subscribe

Is this fair? Working for three years on boyfriend's business for living expenses only. Middle-aged woman in Australia wants to know.

I am feeling insecure about my financial future. I'm in my early 50s with less than $15k in superannuation. I work with my boyfriend in his B&B. All the money we earn from the business goes to our living expenses, business and property costs, and property improvements.

I would like to get a job somewhere but I hate commuting so I would have to leave the B&B property for the working week and return on my days off. This is unacceptable to my boyfriend who says he can't run the place on his own. He doesn't want to be alone during the week and he has huge trust issues (not my doing).

Before I met him, he had the makings of the B&B but no income and had no idea about marketing, getting clients, or the finishing touches that would bring repeat business. I brought all those skills to the business and now we are popular. I also brought my vehicle which is used to manage the property. It has had some rough treatment over the past three years but the reg/insurance/repairs have been paid by the business.

He owns the property outright so there is no mortgage. Should something happen to him (he's just had a health scare), I am not on the will and would have to rely on the good will of his adult children to remain here. Despite living in a common-law state and having a legal claim on the estate, I would not do it. I DO NOT WANT TO INVOLVE LAWYERS! I would rather walk away with zero.

I am trying to talk to him about my sense of financial insecurity but he immediately turns the conversation around to him - eg - me: "Honey, I'm worried because I haven't contributed to my superannuation or paid down my credit card in 3 years". him: "Well I haven't paid into my super either!!" said in gruff loud voice. When I suggest that his property is his super and I've been contributing to it, he doesn't want to talk about it.

I asked him today to go to couples counseling. He didn't like the idea and said I was the one who needed it, not him or us. Anyway, I have made a booking for myself for a few weeks time to see a student counselor at the local university.

He gets paranoid and I think he sees me as a gold digger because his previous wife was classed as one (although, I'm wondering now if other issues were at play in their divorce). He once said I was lucky he didn't charge me rent.

He's not a bad person but he is seemingly lacking empathy for my situation. Or maybe I am lacking empathy for his?

What do you think?
posted by the fish formerly known as sarcastic fringehead to Human Relations (63 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
You helped make his business what it is, he refuses to discuss your (very legitimate!) financial concerns, and poo-poos your suggestion of a counselor because "you're the one who needs it"?

If a friend told you the story you just told us, you would shout, "He's using you and you'll be left with nothing!"

So, friend - He's using you and you'll be left with nothing!
posted by dotgirl at 6:26 PM on April 1, 2012 [53 favorites]


I think you should pack your suitcase, get in your car, hit the gas and not look back. DTMFA.
posted by doreur at 6:27 PM on April 1, 2012 [13 favorites]


No, it is not fair, and it is not your bf's privilege to decide whether you work.
posted by bq at 6:27 PM on April 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Either you're building this business together and you're vested with sweat equity, or he's building this business solo and you're an employee he's paying. Those are the only choices.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:31 PM on April 1, 2012 [62 favorites]


You are, essentially, working for almost-free. All you're getting out of it is room and board. Your boyfriend refuses to even discuss the situation.

I would walk away from the situation, now. You need to be doing something to secure your future.
posted by insectosaurus at 6:31 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


A lot about relationships can rely on feelings, goodwill etc. Your ability to house yourself in your old age is not one of these things. He is not willing to engage in the conversation that you should have had before you even entered this situation, and it is now time to figure out what would make it work for you (if this is what you want) and insist he discuss it with your or be prepared to walk away.
posted by Lucie at 6:32 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is ridiculous. If anything, he's the gold digger here, not you. He's basically making money off of your labor and intelligence and demanding that you stay broke while giving him everything you have.

I would absolutely walk away from this jerk. And I know you said you didn't want to involve lawyers (and IANAAL (I am not an Austrialian lawyer)), but I would absolutely see someone about your rights to the business. If you contributed to its success, you're entitled to a piece of it.
posted by McPuppington the Third at 6:33 PM on April 1, 2012 [21 favorites]


Tell him you have to look out for your own future since at the moment your labour is contributing to your boyfriend's future and his children's future only. Find yourself a job in town and suggest that he hire someone to do the work you are doing. That will give him (and you) some idea of what your labour is worth.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:34 PM on April 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


I's ultimatum time. Either he gives you some sort of vested interest in his business or you get a job or you leave. Don't give him more than a couple of weeks to decide. At your age and in your situation you need to be very, very practical.

And honestly, about the gold digging ex wife? I'd be skeptical of his claims about that if I were you. This guy sounds like he expects the women in his life to play serf to his tsar, and if they want to question the status quo they're gold diggers.
posted by orange swan at 6:37 PM on April 1, 2012 [26 favorites]


Love is an excellent source of emotional fulfillment, but you can't eat it and landlords do not accept it in lieu of rent. (Unless you love your landlord. Which, frankly, appears to be what you're doing right now.)

He either needs to change the ownership of the property and the business to include you as a full partner or you need to find a real job that allows you to care for your financial future.

Especially as, if he doesn't trust you not to be a golddigger, his adult children sure as hell won't, so if there's ever a dispute after he dies, they aren't going to look after you.

And if he loved you, he would WANT to do these things for you, to ensure you were cared for in the event of his death. He might be scared to do them, because people don't like to think about their mortality, and he might procrastinate, but fundamentally, he wouldn't be opposed to the idea of ensuring you had a future involving something other than abject poverty.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:43 PM on April 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


> He once said I was lucky he didn't charge me rent

So get him to charge you rent. And pay you the going rate for B&B managers. Make it official, and look out for yourself.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:43 PM on April 1, 2012 [31 favorites]


Mainly looking at one part of this and from the perspective that I have my own business, negotiate what I'm paid, and sometimes (rarely) subcontract people.

Step back and ask yourself 1) how much could you earn for new skills on the market there 2) how much do you need to earn. Set that as your hourly rate for whatever new job that you will find.

Tell your partner that this is just business;you have calculated how much you need to earn for your current and future needs and will find a job that pays your rate. OP I bet you could even offer your skills freelancing-offer other B and Bs exactly what you do not...and set a good rate,I'm concerned if you were paid not much over the last few yrs. That's all, it is just business and you will be looking for a job and working at that job. You will take your car since you need it to commute. Does he really need you? Tell him your rate or he can hire someone from the street or can do it all himself, those are his choices.But it is not an attack,you are not telling him (from your statement) that you are getting anything, you are looking after what you need and getting it.

Getting therapy sounds like a good choice. I also wonder if you should ask if you want to be in this relationship because...he doesn't want to get therapy and sounds hostile, but it is up to you, OP,you have the power.

posted by Wolfster at 6:44 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would leave him on the basis that he's exploiting you as well as being controlling and manipulative. I feel you deserve better.
posted by mleigh at 6:51 PM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm in the tourism business, so I know: you're working way too hard to be settling for room and board. But look on the bright side: you've built a thriving B&B business. Now update your resume and find a new job where your recent success will make you a great candidate with a paycheck that you deserve.

As for your boyfriend, ask yourself one question: would this relationship continue if I weren't willing to run "his" business for free? If you don't know the answer, stop working for free and see what happens.

Then get out and get on with your life.
posted by Scram at 7:00 PM on April 1, 2012 [17 favorites]


Even if you do love this guy, do you want to be stuck running a business with him for the rest of your life? He sounds really selfish and unreasonable.
posted by BibiRose at 7:01 PM on April 1, 2012


Just on the one tiny point about wills - I'm not a lawyer but I was the administrator (what used to be called executor) of my aunt's estate. Even though she specifically excluded her partner in her will, he was able to claim that she should have provided for him. The court agreed, and we had to negotiate a payment.

So yeah obviously not an ideal situation, but if the worst happened then it's likely you'd have some protection.
posted by trialex at 7:08 PM on April 1, 2012


He gets paranoid and I think he sees me as a gold digger because his previous wife was classed as one

Maybe it's because of his prior wife but something different comes to mind for me. When someone is up to no good they will often accuse others of that thing. I have found it to be a very reliable rule of thumb that if a person accuses someone else of something that THEY KNOW isn't true of them at all, it's pretty likely that the first person is actually the one doing that thing.

So if someone accused you of say, embezzling when you know you have never done anything close to embezzling, I would start thinking that person may be embezzling. If someone accused you of spreading false rumors when you know you never did, then I would suspect them of spreading false rumors.

So if someone accused you of gold digging and using them for money...

And hey what do you know, we have a bonus. If someone was irrationally jealous and accused you of wanting or trying to cheat on them...
posted by cairdeas at 7:16 PM on April 1, 2012 [20 favorites]


He's clearly lacking empathy for your position. I can't tell you if this is because he's clueless about the true value of your contribution and the position you are in, or just because he's an arsehole.

It appears that you are in a genuine de-facto relationship and are, therefore, entitled to a share of the assets of the relationship if you separate or if he dies. That doesn't mean 50%, that means that you are entitled to at least the value that you added to the assets. As he (it seems) owned the property outright when you got together, your contribution would be limited to a proportion of the value of the business itself and any improvements to the property. Whether or not you have a formal agreement, you are effectively partners in the B&B business.

Whether you decide to walk away from this relationship or not is up to you but, if you do, don't walk away empty-handed. You've invested three years of your life in a business and have every right to be paid for that work, no matter what the future holds for the two of you personally.
posted by dg at 7:19 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


So you're working at your boyfriend's B&B for "room and board" --- which honestly costs him nothing more that your meals, since the 'board' part is sharing his living quarters, right? Oh yeah, he's using you, big time. (At the very least, figure out what he should be paying you as salary, based on similar jobs in your area, then also figure out a reasonable amount for the cost of room & board.

And if he balks at paying you? As everyone above says, pack up and let him sink or swim on his own, without your essentially-free labor.
posted by easily confused at 7:22 PM on April 1, 2012


Absolutely not fair.

Look, if you work a job, normally you make enough money to pay your living expenses and also save some money. That's just the deal.

Here, you're missing the part about saving some money. And small business owners often miss out on that, which is fine. But they own their businesses and hope to get a pay-off that way. The problem is that you don't own his business, and you don't own a stake in it.

So, I think this situation would be fair if-- and only if-- you were building equity in the B&B.

Honestly, his response makes him sound like a jerk and up to no good. If he doesn't want you to be after a share of his business, he should be willing to hire someone to help him run his business if need be and let you go get a job so you can pay your bills and save some money.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:32 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Love? What love? Of course he doesn't want to go to therapy, he'll get popped like a big zit -- which is pretty much what he is, IMO -- in the first eight minutes. Take what you wrote for us into the therapy session -- the therapy session you're going to go to this week, whether he does or not -- and ask for an unbiased look from the therapists perspective. They are pretty much trained to not burst into wild peals of screeching, hysterical laughter at ludicrous situations such as these, so it won't be as scalding as it could be for you. I'd bet you're going to have to get away from this guy, I'd bet that there is no way this mope is going to come clean. Bail out.
posted by dancestoblue at 7:32 PM on April 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is unacceptable to my boyfriend who says he can't run the place on his own.

He can't run the place on his own.

He can't afford to pay you properly for the work that you do.

He can't afford to hire someone to do the work that you do.

If all this is true, the business is a failure, and is only still running because you are essentially contributing your work and skills for a pittance. It's been three years - if the business was goingt to be profitable, it would likely be so by now. It looks to me like you are being exploited.

He is absolutely lacking empathy for your situation. You have contributed your work on trust - he refuses to formalise your business relationship as either a partner or employee. As a partner, you would have equity in the business. As an employee, you would be getting a salary. But you have neither. This is deeply unfair. And now that you are concerned, he refuses to talk about it. This is also extremely unreasonable.

I agree with dg - you have inserted a massive amount of sweat equity. You deserve to be compensated for it, either by him making you a partner and providing you with some equity in the business, or by paying you a fair wage for your services.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:34 PM on April 1, 2012 [11 favorites]


The current situation does not work, you are absolutely right that, without everything that marriage entails, this is an exploitative work environment and thus an exploitative relationship.

My suggestion would be to have separate bank accounts and have his business pay you a standard wage for your efforts, you can then split expenses together out of your own accounts. If there isn't enough cash floating around the business to make that work, you can set something up where part of your salary is payed in equity.

If he is honestly uninterested in not exploiting you, then that would be a large sign to the cluefull that it might make sense to no longer be interested in him.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:38 PM on April 1, 2012


He gets paranoid and I think he sees me as a gold digger because his previous wife was classed as one (although, I'm wondering now if other issues were at play in their divorce).

Yeah, she probably wanted to get paid for the work she did, too.
posted by endless_forms at 7:47 PM on April 1, 2012 [17 favorites]


Unless you entered a formal agreement of indentured servitude (because you ARE one) he's absolutely using you. I would DTMFA, leave, and put my shiny B&B improving skills on my resume--employers LOVE that stuff, "I increased revenue 220% by doing blah blah."

But if for some reason you're still reluctant to leave, he absolutely needs to start paying you. Consider (and remind HIM) that if you leave, he'll have to do all the work himself or hire someone new who doesn't know the business like you do and who he'll have to pay MORE because they'll expect to pay for their own housing, etc. And if he's as grumpy as he sounds, good luck hiring anyone decent who'll stay! If you leave, the only one it hurts in the long run is him.

It also sounds like neither of you has much in long-term savings put away, and you at least are middle-aged. What's going to happen to you when (WHEN, not if) one or both of you hit serious medical problems as you get older? Australia has that lovely socialized healthcare, but that's not going to cover all expenses. This guy doesn't sound like someone I'd want you to give your medical power of attorney; is that OK for a life partner?

If (when?) you leave, make sure to bring the contact info of suppliers, competitors, etc. you've dealt with regularly. Work your hard-won connections for new work, and stay in touch with people so he's not potentially spreading bad feeling about you uncontested behind your back.
posted by nicebookrack at 7:48 PM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


A true, loving partnership is respectful of each person's needs, supports each person's dreams, and addresses each person's concerns. Your boyfriend is ignoring--or worse, dismissing your needs and concerns.

You know this is unfair. You know you deserve to be heard, to have your concerns addressed and your needs met. Good for you for scheduling an appointment with a therapist. Continue to act on your own behalf--you're not acting against your boyfriend or your relationship, you're taking care of yourself in a healthy way.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:10 PM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh, dear.
This post makes me very worried for you. If you were my mother, and I heard this, I would freak out. This is a very precarious position to be in.

If you were her, honestly, I would suggest the one answer you didn't want: a lawyer.
My initial response would be to tell her to bounce, but before that, to hire a lawyer and make sure she is adequately compensated for the work she did, or something. This is just disconcerting.

Lots of posters are suggesting you leave, but I wonder if some will have suggestions for how you can do it while also protecting yourself. You've invested in this business and hardly gotten anything from it (not even an investment in the risk of having a business that doesn't generate a huge profit). If you guys break up, you leave, whatevs - then what? There has to be services available to help answer that question. Maybe wise mefites can chime in?
posted by vivid postcard at 8:14 PM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


> When I suggest that his property is his super and I've been contributing to it, he doesn't want to talk about it.

Yeah, I bet he doesn't. Because talking about it would lay bare how brazenly he's exploiting you. He is profiting from your labour and not only refusing to pay you for your work, but trying to prevent you from taking paid work elsewhere. He is the gold digger.

Whether you remain in this relationship or not (and it's worth re-evaluating a relationship with someone determined to profit from your captive labour and leave you, ultimately, with nothing to show for it; such a person does not have you best interest at heart) you must extricate yourself from this exploitative commercial transaction.
posted by hot soup girl at 8:25 PM on April 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


A slight dissenting voice. I think he might be a jerk, but I don't know that I'll shout out about how unfair he is. It doesn't sound like the business is earning money hand over fist. It doesn't sound like he has a salary. It sounds like all the business income is basically going into expenses - business expenses, living expenses, personal expenses. I suspect the situation wasn't particularly unfair when things were starting out, because there was no profit beyond the level of necessary expenses. Now there's more income than necessary expenses, but not so much income that there's a clearly visible profit that he can divide into his salary and your salary... more like the business expenses can keep expanding to fill the gap.
I'd say he isn't so much "unfair" as he is clueless. That's kind of splitting hairs, though - if he's not willing to talk this through rationally, neither one is someone I'd want to be in a romantic relationship or business partnership with.
posted by aimedwander at 8:37 PM on April 1, 2012


but not so much income that there's a clearly visible profit that he can divide into his salary and your salary... more like the business expenses can keep expanding to fill the gap.

Salaries don't come out of profit; they are an expense of the business. Profit is paid to the owners of the business. Owners often choose to have their profit rolled back in the business; that's part of being an owner -- they expect to recoup that investment because the business itself is gaining value. Any money that is going back into the business IS going to him. When 100% of revenues are going into business expenses, that means 100% of revenues are going to the owner.
posted by endless_forms at 8:46 PM on April 1, 2012 [9 favorites]


I DO NOT WANT TO INVOLVE LAWYERS! I would rather walk away with zero.

Is that what he wants for you, too? Does he want you to end up with zero? If he doesn't, how does he expect you to be provided for? If he does, what does that mean for your relationship?
posted by endless_forms at 8:47 PM on April 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


It sounds like all the business income is basically going into expenses - business expenses, living expenses, personal expenses.

She also said it was going into property improvements. That would be his property. I remember in one of my shitty college jobs I worked at minimum wage for a small businessman who tried to nickel and dime us every chance he got. His business wasn't doing so hot and I'm sure those kinds of improvements would have helped. But, it would not have been fair for him to just not pay us so he could make those improvements, as much as he would have liked to.
posted by cairdeas at 8:51 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


A slight dissenting voice. I think he might be a jerk, but I don't know that I'll shout out about how unfair he is. It doesn't sound like the business is earning money hand over fist. It doesn't sound like he has a salary.

He owns the property outright. The OP doesn't. Any improvements made to the property increase its value over time, a share of which the OP will never see under this current arrangement. This means he directly benefits from the OP's stewardship of his property while her superannuation and unpaid credit card accounts stagnate and she is dependent on his business to meet her basic needs. This is not a fair arrangement at all.

He also objects to her working because it would take her away from his business. This, too, is unfair and is also cringe-inducing, enraging and laughable.

This relationship reeks of mothballs. It's not 1953. Love is not enough and will never be enough when mention is made of "letting" a partner work and/or when conversation stops because one partner voices major dissatisfaction with a power and resource allocation imbalance in the relationship.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 8:52 PM on April 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


If you're worried about your finances (and it sounds like you have good reason to worry), you need to do something about it. If he is preventing you from taking responsible care of yourself and your future, you need to find a way to resolve it. I have no idea how to resolve, but a good first step would be to try and stop worrying about whether its 'fair', and take charge of your finances how you see fit. You can't give your partner all the benefits of your expertise without giving yourself permission to benefit from it yourself. Now that's not fair.
posted by Kololo at 8:53 PM on April 1, 2012


And if he is checking your postings? Another reason to run.

(You're supposed to what, pay him for your sweat equity by giving him your assets?!? Good grief!)
posted by easily confused at 9:08 PM on April 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's all risk. What if you die first?

What arrangements have you made to protect your partner (or your children) in the event of your untimely death?

Seems to me you need financial advice and legal advice, before you need couples counselling, because your current arrangement is seemingly a poor retirement plan for you.

There's a world of difference between legal advice and a legal battle. The former can protect you from the latter.

You need to minimise the risk, financially and legally else you're loving beyond your means.
posted by de at 9:12 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


You have very limited say in this relationship which seems like it is in more aspects than one. Relationships are two way streets and you are being mistreated. You also have very limited control in this relationship and even over aspects of your own life because of your relationship with him.

Never thought I would use this term, but DTMFA because you deserve SO much better.
posted by livinglearning at 9:12 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow. I don't think I've ever seen a more clear-cut case of run than in this question. You're working full time, aren't drawing a salary, you aren't an equal partner is the business, you aren't on the will, he's attempting to prevent you from making ends meet elsewhere, he makes "jokes" about making you pay rent so you can work for him(?!?), and he stalks you online?

Run, OP, straight to a lawyer's office. Not for a battle, but to understand what you can legally do to get legally paid for your work, which you are absolutely entitled to. He's getting paid for the work, he's building equity in a property and in the business. Why shouldn't you?
posted by zug at 9:25 PM on April 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


vivid postcard: "There has to be services available to help answer that question. Maybe wise mefites can chime in?"

The best bet is probably Legal Aid, the Citizen's Advice Bureau or similar to start with. Not knowing what state you are in because the question is anonymous, it's a bit hard to answer definitely but, in NSW, you could contact Legal Aid NSW who can provide free legal advice by phone or face-to-face and could put you in touch with services that could further assist you. Other states have similar services, although they are called different things sometimes
posted by dg at 9:27 PM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


I know you don't want to involve lawyers, but I encourage you to at least talk to a lawyer. I don't know what the rules are in Australia, but, in Canada, I believe you would be entitled to a share of the business and a share of common law property.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 9:47 PM on April 1, 2012


When we spoke (very briefly) this morning about my security if something should happen to him, he said he would only include a 'right to reside' clause for me in his will if I willed my only major assets to him.

The $50K he has spent to increase the value of his asset could have been spent on paying you your rightful wages, or at least part of them, because he owes you far more, even at minimum wage.

This demand is obscenely unreasonable. It's also not what I would characterise as the actions of someone who had any affection or consideration for you whatsoever.

I mean, he's accusing you of being a golddigger? And then he pulls this? I didn't want to say this before, but you have to seriously consider leaving him. And you need legal advice, because he owes you equity, damn it.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:01 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


You may be able to get some preliminary advice from the North and North West Community Legal Service - they service the New England area, and are located in Armidale. Contact details on this page.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:05 PM on April 1, 2012


Really, the way you tell it, he is a loser with no mention-worthy redeeming qualities (just "he's not a bad person" - my goodness, is that the only positive thing to be said for him?!), and he's taking advantage of you in a serious way.

Seems like you could really use some self esteem help! You seem overly concerned with his feelings, for example that you'd rather let him screw you over and leave with nothing than get a lawyer involved, and not enough concerned about your own welfare and self-respect. I am so glad you are getting counseling and I hope that you will be seeing your own worth, and making other people see it too, soon!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:11 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


he said he would only include a 'right to reside' clause for me in his will if I willed my only major assets to him. Beside my car which is worth @$10K, the only other asset I have is worth about $25K. It is not liquid money and it was something I was planning on leaving to my nephews.

Let me get this straight. If he dies first, all you get is the right to continue to live in the house/B&B you have worked to improve. His children/heirs get all of his money, all of his personal possessions (who owns the bed you sleep in, him or you?), ownership of his property, and ownership of his B&B business--from which they will be perfectly able to fire you, if you're even an official employee. Then it will be hellishly awkward to continue living there; however, you've said commuting to work somewhere else would be difficult enough that I doubt having this place to live would really be helpful at all. (Will you be able to sell your room? use the B&B kitchens? bring new boyfriends back home and have loud sex / bagpipe parties when you want?)

Meanwhile, if YOU die first, your guy gets all of your major assets, your car, your co-owned personal possessions, on top of your years of free labor. Your nephews/heirs get...no cash money (because you aren't making any), no major assets (because you willed them away), no stake in the B&B you worked so hard for, whatever personal possessions of yours they can prove aren't co-owned, and your dead body.

This is total unfair jerkassery on your guy's part and I think you know it.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:46 PM on April 1, 2012 [28 favorites]


I don't care who you are working with you need a clear agreement when you are going into business together and your agreements should make sense on paper.

I don't understand your reluctance to take care of yourself legally. Either take care of yourself or walk away, but don't play the victim.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 10:49 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


You simply can't afford to be in this situation your financial situation is so precarious that you're in danger of ending up destitute and in a shelter or worse if he decides to break up with you and you're not willing to involve lawyers. This isn't a relationship question, it's a safety question, because you're not safe staying in that B&B any longer as frankly you're getting older and time for you to work is running out.

I think you should see a lawyer about what you can do to get back pay or some sort of compensation from him and also go get a paid job. Forget what this user thinks of you, you need to think better of yourself.
posted by hazyjane at 10:50 PM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


When we spoke (very briefly) this morning about my security if something should happen to him, he said he would only include a 'right to reside' clause for me in his will if I willed my only major assets to him.

Also, this guy doesn't care about you AT ALL. How are you supposed to have any money to eat and pay the heating bills when he's dead? Not his problem, I suppose. This is absolutely shocking and you're being abused.
posted by hazyjane at 10:55 PM on April 1, 2012


p.s. will your "right to reside" after his death be just the right to not be kicked out, or will it be the right to stay without having to pay his heirs rent? Because in the former you quickly become the annoying holdout tenant whose landlords are all too anxious for you to leave.

p.p.s. you know if this were a movie the second after you signed over all your assets would be the second he takes out a kajillion-dollar life insurance policy in your name. I don't actually think he's going murder you (or anything similar), but his actions are nonetheless reminiscent of a Lifetime Very Special TV Movie douchebag.
posted by nicebookrack at 11:05 PM on April 1, 2012


Well, it sounds like you love him enough to sacrifice absolutely everything for him. I mean, apparently that's your position. You don't want to, but if he leaves you no other choice you will.
When you say "is love enough" I presume you're asking if your love is enough, since there's no indication here that he loves you. Has he ever said that he does? In between calling you a gold digger and saying he's entitled to free labour plus everything you own, I mean.

It sounds like that is what he expects from you and it's not going to change. You won't get anything from him without a lawyer and involving a lawyer will have him openly saying that he hates you, in those words, instead of just talking and acting like he hates you. So of course, you don't want to involve a lawyer.

You say that maybe he has autism or Aspergers (you can't just attribute this to his being a typical clueless male because that relies on 1950s-style assumptions about the role of women). Perhaps you have autism or Aspergers too, since people with ASDs often get into relationships where they are ruthlessly exploited and humiliated by people who very obviously don't love them. They may rationally know that they're being treated unfairly but will back down in the face of relentless opposition. In the absence of any discernible affection or redeeming qualities of the exploiter, the ASD person stays because they cannot handle unfamiliar situations and may have effectively been enslaved. Since you imagine ASD could explain his behaviour, consider that it may explain yours too. I don't know if it makes any difference, but it might be a comforting thought.
posted by tel3path at 11:16 PM on April 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


What he's saying to you is absolutely disrespectful, buuuutttt, I'm from a rural Australian farming family, and his way of being with this situation strikes me as not, unfortunately, too unusual. It's definitely a pain in the ass 1950s chauvinist attitude that regards women as part n parcel of the land, not fancy-pantsing around paid jobs in town worrying about their super. Before a rush of Australians sue me for saying this, I'm not painting all, most or many Australian men with the same brush, but I can imagine at least ten farming men in their 50s/60s of my acquaintance taking the same line vis 'right to remain' on the land. And in 1950s style, a suspicious accompanies a woman getting a job in town when her home and work is seen as slightly/rather suspect, no matter how long the woman has worked for the man's interests, nor how hard. Getting a lawyer or talking about inheritance/superannuation/fair pay are not seen as intelligent care-taking, but as uppity 'gold-digging' and proof of her fixation on gaining property. As someone said above, this is a deeply embedded projection - the people believing these things are the ones most fixated on inheritance and money, an attitude that has been fostered by, in many cases, multi-generational disputes about money and inheritance.

The 'I shoulda charged yer rent' is probably supposed to be accepted by you as gruff humour, even though it's actually a conversation-killing, lazy, chauvinistic, dismissive, misogynistic pile of crap. [For all of the eloquently expressed and good reasons listed by others above.] Families and land - I don't know a farming family here who hasn't got resentment somewhere about who's getting/who's got/who's been forgotten, and ANY external woman from Mother Theresa down who gets into the inheritance mix is seen as 'gold-digging'. I know why you don't want to get a lawyer. These attitudes run deep in country attitudes to women and property. You must know though that HE has, or his family has, lawyerly relations in the provision for his children. In my family, poor rural folks with barely two pennies to rub together, there were always lawyers drawing up documents for us to sign about who's getting what. It's just that you, unmarried woman, shouldn't interfere in family business.

It sucks, but I've seen it over and over again.

Whatever the context, it's not good enough to expect you to suck up your precarious financial situation because caveman here wants to stay stuck in his chauvinist cave. That you've helped his business, provided capital in the form of your car, and unpaid labour is not in this day n age invisible. It's not just what women are supposed to do. It's just the attitude that prevails. If you challenge him about this, he just talks about how much work he does. I've seen that too. End result: you are supposed to suck it up.

Go and see a lawyer. Don't tell your partner, but ask the lawyer - somewhere far from your town, say in a large regional centre - what the state of play is for your situation. I know you will not want to interfere in the children's inheritance, especially if you want to live in the same area if your partner dies before you. These things are big deals in rural communities, even if they are unfair. And there is nothing as callous as watching, as I have, the woman get dumped by the family before the grave is cold.

The other alternative is to ask your partner to get married. Sure, most folk here are DTMFA and I would be too. But I kinda get the context, and maybe having a formal marriage will help ease the issues around money and provision. Maybe he's a good man - we know on this issue, he's not - and maybe you derive satisfaction from your hard work building a business together with him, that will be even more satisfying when this issue about financial security is settled. If he doesn't want to marry, doesn't want you to work elsewhere, refuses you a salary, denies you security in the form of a will etc - you at least have got him to enunciate his unreasonable expectation of you: an unpaid functionary. Would he be happy with that?

I had and have, a real problem with these particular Aussie country male values, especially of men over say 55 or 60 who've been raised very much in the suspicion of female outsiders around their land, and what a 'good' woman does. I couldn't handle the idea of marrying a farmer and dealing with all the bullshit that comes with family/land entanglements.
posted by honey-barbara at 11:18 PM on April 1, 2012 [45 favorites]


Ah, why don't I proofread - sorry for typos.
posted by honey-barbara at 11:19 PM on April 1, 2012


I think you really need to look out for yourself first. I won't presume to know enough of the story to render at DTMFA recommendation, but it doesn't really sound promising at all.

If you've worked for 3 years with nothing to show for it than you have been getting cheated. Plain and simple, you should own a portion of the B&B business legally and officially. As mentioned above, speak to a lawyer and get some advice and some clarification of the situation and your rights

Once you've done that you need to decide whether or not to stay or go. If you would like to stay, tell him you need to draw up a partnership agreement that's fair to you and him. If he refuses, find a job in town and visit on weekends. If he's not giving you the legal status of either a partnership agreement or marriage than he can leave you out in the cold at a moments notice, or in case of his death or incapacitation and you're out of luck.

Under no circumstances should you count on the childrens goodwill to keep you into retirement. If you have no status in the family other than their fathers girlfriend they will view any attempts to take what's yours as an infringement on their inheritance. I've seen it so many times, especially in rural families.

Good luck
posted by Beacon Inbound at 11:30 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


How about you gather documentation and estimates of exactly how much value you've added to the B&B business? It's a good thing either way:
- if you decide to go work, you've got useful resume examples of projects you've managed with real financial benefit to the business, as well as real-world practice in valuing businesses.
- if you leave or have a legal disagreement, you've got documentation of your input. And if you've turned a business around from having no 'clients' or 'repeat business', then I doubt a mere $50K increase in value is valuing your effort enough.
I'd also look into de-facto laws. If you've been living together for three years, it's possible that you'll be legally treated as married. It might also be worth storing away documentation of this - perhaps mail to you at his address.
posted by quercus23 at 1:23 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I believe Australia has an analog of America's "Common Law Marriage" - de facto marriage, or some such?

If you guys have been co-habitating for a number of years, you may be considered de facto married under your state laws for the purposes of property distribution and ownership. In view of you uncompensated efforts on his behalf, this looks (to this non-lawyer) like a pretty plausible interpretation.

Can you track down a local lawyer and ask them for a consultation? You may have more equity now than you realize.
posted by jenkinsEar at 4:43 AM on April 2, 2012


I don't want to think badly of him. I sometimes wonder if he has a dash of autism or aspergers or something that would hinder his ability to put himself in my shoes.

Aspergers isn't a free pass for bad behavior. In a relationship with someone who has Aspergers, it would be reasonable to be extra patient, to explain yourself maybe a bit more fully than you would with another person--to give explicit instructions along the lines of, "I need A in order to feel cared for," or "I know B doesn't make sense to you, but I'd like you to do it as a favor to me." But the crucial next step, after you've been patient, after you've given instructions your partner can understand, is to assess: is he doing his best to treat me with love and kindness? Is he doing his best to give me what I need, even if his Aspergers makes it hard for him to understand? And, importantly, is his best good enough for me? Am I happy in this relationship and am I getting what I need? It does not make you a bad person or a bad partner if you decide that, no, his best effort is falling short of actually meeting your needs.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:00 AM on April 2, 2012 [10 favorites]


You say the business is now popular, but from the rest of the post, it's clear it's not, or at least not in the way that matters. The business is a quiet failure, it can afford to support one person, but requires two to run. It's as simple as that.

If this was a true family business, that might be enough, you work away at it, get profits up a bit, until retirement/retire late-- and then live in the paid off house with the money you've made and your pension. But you're both not making any money, and you don't even have any rights in the house, and worse your boyfriend is actively against you having that share.

If a friend came to you with the same problems, what would you say to them? Really think about that.

Personally I'd say, tell your boyfriend that he needs to start scaling down *his* business so he can run it by himself, while you find go and find a job that fully supports you.

That's it-- that's all you can do, you don't want to get lawyers involved and he's not willing to budge on anything worthwhile, or even talk about it. Break the stalemate.
posted by Static Vagabond at 7:42 AM on April 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


I apologize for all the serial comments, but:

You mentioned that your partner doesn't want you to live away and work because he has "trust issues" that do not spring from you. In my experience, sometimes, when a partner is "unreasonably" jealous, their jealousy is actually reasonable and well-founded -- because they have a clearer picture of the situation than you do. In your case, that would mean that, consciously or not, he realizes that he's exploiting you, and that nothing reasonable is holding you to the B&B and to him except your romantic love for him.

He may realize that, if you move away, you'll gain perspective and the ability of romantic love to disguise that will erode. You might even meet someone new -- someone who at least seems to have the potential to treat you with respect for your future. You are not planning to meet someone new or to have the wool pulled from your eyes -- but he understands that might happen.

There's something really awful embedded here: he may not even be trying to hang on to you because he wants and needs you romantically. As has been alluded above, it sounds like the business requires your labor. He may be hanging on to you because he's afraid he's going to lose the business without you. I realize that's a really lousy thought, but the relationship you've outlined here is disturbing, and I want to get you thinking about how disturbing it is.
posted by endless_forms at 8:02 AM on April 2, 2012 [12 favorites]


he said he would only include a 'right to reside' clause for me in his will if I willed my only major assets to him

Kick this fucking asshole to the curb, get a lawyer, and take as much of that B&B as you can. Fuck him. If you do nothing else, leave him. He does not give a shit about you. Literally every poster in this thread has sacrificed more for you by simply typing a response than this guy ever has. Jesus Christ.
posted by a_girl_irl at 9:59 AM on April 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


he said he would only include a 'right to reside' clause for me in his will if I willed my only major assets to him

This sounds very much like indentured servitude.
posted by Kololo at 10:05 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think you should get with a lawyer even if you plan to walk away from this with the clothes on your back (and your car, presumably). I'm not in Australia and I'm not a lawyer, but I would fear a situation in which he drives the business into the ground and runs up debt or goes into bankruptcy and it sticks to you. You may be willing to kick off the traces of this de facto business and domestic partnership but it sounds like he would not hesitate to take advantage of it if things go downhill.
posted by BibiRose at 10:28 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would stop talking to him about this because every time you do he gets more entrenched and irrational. If he brings it up tell him you want to think about it a bit and you will get back to him in a few weeks once you have sorted out your feelings. If he does not give you the space to do that, if he brings it up again anyway, that tells you something important, doesn't it?

Use that time to make appointments with lawyers and a financial advisor and keep going to your therapist to sort out your emotions from the cold legal facts. If necessary, tell him these are Doctor's appointments; and ponder what it means for your relationship that you seeking normal, professional advice has to be hidden from your partner. As noted, do not use local professionals.

Spend a lot of time thinking about what you want from this realtionship and from life and the practicality of how you are going to get it. You are concerned about his health, naturally, but equally, he could just throw you out and replace you with a new wife. How does it feel to you that him and a new person could then enjoy all the fruits of your labour? Where would you live/get a job? Work out what options are acceptable to you, prioritise what you want and then make an appointment with your financial advisor again to make sure your preferences are legal and fair. If your advisor agrees with your assessment THEN make an appointment with the lawyer and finaincial advisor and yourself and your partner to discuss formalising your financial relationship. maybe if he has to explain why he feels entitled your labour and money he will realise how unreasonable he has become. Or maybe he won't budge, and he will be ruled entirely by emotion. That will give you a preview of what the dissolution of your relationship will be like.

It might be a good idea to take a bit of a break from him, not breaking up, but more of a working holiday (since you don't have funds to have a the proper holiday you deserve). My understanding is that many owner/operators of B&B's would love for someone experienced and competent to come run their B&B for a few weeks to give themselves a break. Do you have contacts in the B&B network you can send out feelers that you are available for such a service?

Good luck!
posted by saucysault at 12:57 PM on April 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


Even if he signed a will leaving you everything that gives you no security whatsoever. He can write a new will anytime he likes -- or maybe he'll sell the place or break up with you.

This doesn't sound like a fair situation, but the way to get compensated for 3 years of labor isn't to do all the work and then ask for something. You should have negotiated some sort of compensation for this 3 years ago. I don't know how it works there, but in the US you can co-own property with someone else (not that it's a great idea for this situation, but it's better than no compensation at all), or set up a business structure where the equity could be shared.

It doesn't sound like he's interested in offering you any real compensation for those 3 years. It's not "fair", but it's not reasonable to work a job for 3 years and expect your employer to make it up to you later without any sort of written agreement because it's "fair".

Don't rush off and pack your suitcase yet. Go make copies and take pictures to document any work that you can, your current employer might not be keen on giving you a decent recommendation for other jobs. You'll want to be able to talk about how you increased revenues, reservations, inquiries, etc. -- or you'll want to show that you can do repairs and the like. Everything you would need to show someone that you can do a job. Then go.
posted by yohko at 1:22 PM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


BibiRose: "I would fear a situation in which he drives the business into the ground and runs up debt or goes into bankruptcy and it sticks to you."

This is a good point - as you are a in a de-facto relationship, you are jointly and severally liable for any debts that either of you incur so, if the business doesn't pick up or drops off, you could find yourself in debt. I doubt that bankruptcy is on the cards, because the property would be worth a significant amount and it's hard to imagine how that much debt could come up without you knowing about it. But keep this in mind.

Also, honey-barbara makes some good points here but, even if you were to marry him, it would still not ensure your financial future should the unthinkable happen. The division of estates can be (and often is) contested by family members in these situations and, particularly if this is a family property that has been handed down through generations, you could find yourself with next to nothing in that situation, particularly if the marriage is fairly recent.

Whatever else you do, you need to make sure that your future is as financially secure as you can. If that future ends up being with your current partner, well and good and you can share the benefit of your work. If not, well, you'll still be able to put a roof over your own head. I really think you need to get some legal advice about what you are entitled to and work from there. You should be entitled to a (formal, documented) share in the business that at least equals the sweat equity you have invested. You need to be paid for your work in the form of wages (so does he, BTW) and you need to get back to contributing to your super fund. At least those things, because those are things that you are fully entitled to as a minimum.

I wouldn't worry so much about the relationship issues because, to be honest, I think those are the least of your problems at the moment (acknowledging that they are entwined). Sort out your financial future, then you are in a position to make rational decisions about your relationship. Or not - love is rarely that simple and sometimes the heart wants what the heart wants.
posted by dg at 3:05 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


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