I am planning to leave my boyfriend ... in 30 months time...
July 19, 2013 5:26 PM   Subscribe

Is it immoral or unethical to stay in a relationship just long enough to get into a situation where I can leave?

I received some great answers to my last question here. Things have changed a little since then. I taking money from the business to pay down my debt and I should have most of it gone in 18 months. We also now have staff doing most of the B & B work in exchange for rent. This has given me the time and head-space to go back to school (distance ed) to study accounting. I will be graduating at the end of 2015 and feel pretty confident I will get work, but at some distance from where I live now. There is no work locally at all.

However a lot of our other issues with my boyfriend have not resolved. He is still inconsiderate and lacking in empathy. I deal with this ok most times... except when I don't. In those moments I dream of the time when I can leave and start working for my own benefit only. Also in those times I look for a way I could leave now and continue my studies but I don't have any income and working part-time would not cover my costs and allow me to study to get the marks I need.

Acting ethically is very important to me, it is part of how I see myself. In my earlier years (I am 53) I would just up-and-go while abiding by the 'campsite rule' (leaving people in a better situation than when you found them). If I go now, he will be fine, especially as the business is doing well and expanding and others are doing most of the business' physical work. But I won't be. I will struggle financially. If I leave at the end of 2015, early 2016, he will still be fine and the business will be in even better shape. However I vacillate about the ethics of my plan to leave in the future. On the one hand, it is a good plan for me. On the other, it seems disingenuous at best, unethical or immoral at the worst.

What do you folk think?
posted by the fish formerly known as sarcastic fringehead to Human Relations (55 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
So you seem to be asking if it's okay to use someone's affection for a couple years in a way that benefits you financially?

I think that's not ethical at all.
posted by xingcat at 5:33 PM on July 19, 2013 [16 favorites]

Is it immoral or unethical to stay in a relationship just long enough to get into a situation where I can leave?

Yes, it is both immoral and unethical to do that.
posted by headnsouth at 5:36 PM on July 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yeah, that's considered really pretty evil. Please don't do that.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 5:39 PM on July 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

I respectfully disagree with the above answers. For years you carried this business, basically on your own, and you have zero equity in it. In essence, you're taking your equity now - by sticking around long enough to ensure that when you leave you are in a safe place. You're not taking money from this guy. You're not taking half the business. You're just making it safe for you to leave. Do it.
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:40 PM on July 19, 2013 [59 favorites]

I guess this doesn't directly answer your question, but I would suggest trying to leave sooner even if it'll be hard financially, because your boyfriend isn't treating you well. Wouldn't you rather struggle for a while on your own then get on track than have to endure two and a half more years of his inconsiderateness?

I hope things work out for you, whatever you decide.
posted by mlle valentine at 5:43 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you told your boyfriend, "I am planning to leave you once I finish my degree, and I would like to continue our current lifestyle, wherein I live off of the B&B, until I am done with that," would he agree to that arrangement? You should ask him. If he says yes, that he is happy to support you for the next two-and-a-half years knowing that you plan to leave him at that time, then it would be ethical and morally acceptable to stay with him. However, if he says no, then it would be unethical to lie to him in order to continue to get him to work for your benefit.

Basically, you're asking whether you can withhold from him information that might cause him to want to break up with you, lying by omission because, in the absence of that information, you know that he will assume something that isn't true (that is, he will assume that you love him and are planning a long-term future in which the work he's doing now will benefit you both down the line). That's unethical. The only way to behave righteously here is to tell him of your plans and your feelings, and then let him decide whether he's willing to be in a relationship on the terms you have set, knowing that the relationship has a clear and definite expiration date.

(Before talking to him, by the way, you should talk to a lawyer about your role in building the B&B. It's possible, given your work in building the business, that you are entitled to some compensation if you leave. You should find out what rights, if any, you have to current and future income from the business.)
posted by decathecting at 5:45 PM on July 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

You should ask him.

Yes, exactly right.
posted by shivohum at 5:46 PM on July 19, 2013

Acting ethically is very important to me, it is part of how I see myself.

Then I have great news for you. There's an easy way to make sure you're not doing something unethical. Just tell him what you've told us. As long as there's full disclosure, it's not unethical.

If you truly believe that your plan will be beneficial to both of you, then you should have no problem with this anyway. And there's no reason for you to be the only person deciding what's beneficial to both of you — let him decide that too.

If you're not willing to be honest with him about something this important, you're being unethical. (By the way, there's no significant difference between "unethical" and "immoral" in this context.)
posted by John Cohen at 5:49 PM on July 19, 2013 [11 favorites]

1. I think you should talk to a lawyer

2. No, I don't think it's unethical. I think he's been financial abusing you (http://www.loveisrespect.org/is-this-abuse/types-of-abuse/what-is-financial-abuse) and I don't think it's bad or unethical for an abuse survivor to make an escape plan that's safe and effective and realizable for them.
posted by spunweb at 5:49 PM on July 19, 2013 [20 favorites]

From your previous question: 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.

What you're proposing to do is use this situation to benefit you, without his knowledge or consent.

I think he's treated you like shit and taken advantage of you. But doing it to him in some measure isn't right.

I am not a professional ethicist.
posted by rtha at 5:49 PM on July 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yes. This is bad for both of you.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 6:00 PM on July 19, 2013

He most certainly has not treated you with respect or fairness. But you are considering to remain in the relationship for a few more years?
Absolutely ethically you should not remain in your current situation. You don't respond to mistreatment by mistreating that person except perhaps in the most extream of circumstances.
Find another job, find another living arrangement, find someone who doesn't treat you like crap. For all number of reasons it is more ethical, I believe for yourself and others, to leave.
Good luck
posted by edgeways at 6:02 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

As to the ethical action here, I think people are neglecting to read the OP's other linked post. We would not tell abuse victims that it is unethical to plan their escape secretly over a span of time.

Regardless, I very, very strongly advise you to contact an attorney to determine your rights and the best plan of action in this situation.
posted by anthropomorphic at 6:05 PM on July 19, 2013 [12 favorites]

I think quite likely 'we' would tell abuse victims to leave right away and would provide them with resource contacts to make it happen. Most certainly not hang around for a few years.

An attorney may be fine, but if the OP has no actual ownership it may be doubtful what specific good would happen. Worth asking though
posted by edgeways at 6:15 PM on July 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

For years you carried this business, basically on your own, and you have zero equity in it. In essence, you're taking your equity now - by sticking around long enough to ensure that when you leave you are in a safe place.

No, by sticking around long enough to be in a financially secure place. If it were about safety the advice would be unanimous to leave now. What the OP is considering is to behave unethically for 30 months to make up for poor past choices. If it were OK to do that I'd have a lot more money too.
posted by headnsouth at 6:16 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

My first reaction was exactly headnsouth's. I thought she was rationalizing a reason to act unethically, but upon further consideration I have changed my mind.

In her previous question she says, "All the money we earn from the business goes to our living expenses, ..." Her car, although used by the business and generating wear and tear has the reg/insurance/repairs paid for by the business.

I contend that this is a business transaction. You are a defacto employee. You get paid in room and board, some expenses and whatever you derive from your relationship with your boyfriend. He gets a lot of work, the use of your vehicle, and whatever it is that he derives from his relationship with you beyond the business, but he pays your room and board and some other expenses.

I don't happen to think you have a very good deal, but sticking with it for 18 months with a plan to quit is not unethical any more than if you worked for a large firm and was planning on leaving them when you graduated from university. As long as your boyfriend knows you are taking these accounting classes, he is fully informed that you might leave. Why else take the classes, unless he thinks you are taking them to help run the business?

Also, your plan is not etched in stone as far as I know. You can decide not to leave him. I think it behooves you to tell him at the point you are actively looking for a new job. Not sooner.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:19 PM on July 19, 2013 [11 favorites]

It does sound a little bit like you have the idea that two rights make a wrong. I believe you should be morally entitled to compensation for your past work on the B&B (a lawyer could advise you on your legal rights as you are in a common-law marriage). If you receive that compensation you can leave immediately, financially secure without having to be deceptive for the next two years.

You said you want to behave ethically, as mentioned above, to be ethical you should have a conversation with your common law husband where you discuss fair compensation for your past work and your equity state in your joint business. If you are unwilling to do that it sounds less like you want to behave ethically (which includes not allowing others to mistreat or take financial advantage of you) and more that you want to avoid confrontation.

My personal experience has been that any man that throws out the gold-digger comment does so in order to deflect attention from his own "gold-digging" tendencies.
posted by saucysault at 6:26 PM on July 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

You don't love him and you're wasting your time and good energy along with his time and good energy in a failed relationship. Is money more important to you than love?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 6:27 PM on July 19, 2013

You don't respond to mistreatment by mistreating that person

I understand and fully agree with this sentiment. But if I stay, I will not be mistreating him - I'll still be caring for him, loving him as best I can, and contributing to his business. I will, however, be planning for a secure future for myself, a future I won't have by staying for ever with him (regardless of my legal rights to property). If I leave now I will be jeopardising my future as I won't be able to continue my studies - plus I'll lose a lot of my local friends who are a great support to me.

Yes. He knows I am taking the classes. He also knows that I will have to take work away from our town once I graduate. What he doesn't know is that I am looking forward to that distant job as a way to cease our relationship because his behaviour toward me often causes me such pain. And as I mentioned in the previous question, he won't do couples counselling. He also appears to be emotionally unable to be self-reflective of his actions. Anytime I try to discuss a relationship issue with him, he shuts me down. We never get anywhere.

Breaking up now and demanding compensation would mean he would have to sell his property. I don't want to do that to him. So I guess my question is about the lesser of two bad outcomes - leaving now, involving lawyers and causing immense stress to us both (plus delaying my studies - the property may not sell for a year or two) or leaving later without asking for anything in compensation, thus saving him his property and legal stress while I will have the means to take care of myself with a new job.
posted by the fish formerly known as sarcastic fringehead at 6:43 PM on July 19, 2013

I am not a lawyer in Australia, and I am definitely not your lawyer, but it seems to me that you are what we would call in North America his common law wife. I see that Australia recently recognized this legal status as well, although they call it a defacto relationship. I think you should consult an attorney down where you are, because you may be legally entitled to half of the assets that you have essentially created for this man.

As for the moral considerations-- he has treated you pretty poorly, as anyone who read the previous post will know. No matter what, you deserve better. Why not see if there is some legal recourse to protect you from further predation by this poor excuse for a man? He obviously lacks the basic decency to acknowledge what you have done for him and the care you have provided. We have a saying in the U.S. about divorces (which is what you are essentially contemplating): "A divorce takes a romantic relationship and converts it into a business transaction in order to divide assets and responsibilities." That is my take on it, anyway. You say you don't want to do that to him, but he has proven time and time again that he would do it to you. Don't play the game by his rules. You don't owe this jerk any sense of loyalty or obligation when he has already shown you repeatedly that he doesn't have any loyalty or obligation to you. He views you as an asset-- an employee that he doesn't even have to pay. Sure, maybe he is OK some of the time to you, but that is a really low bar to set for yourself. The basic reality of your relationship is the way he sees it, not the way you see it. I am so sorry you are going through this. You deserve someone who adores you. We all do.
posted by seasparrow at 6:51 PM on July 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

The compensation would not require him to sell his property. Instead of a lump sum you could negotiate a larger amount paid out over time, like two or three years. Or he could get a mortgage on the presently mortgage-free property. Regardless, it is not really your problem to solve, he owes you money for your past work and that lack of fair payment is impeding your future while solely benefiting him.
posted by saucysault at 6:51 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

OP, I appreciate that you're in a bad situation, but I feel like you already know the answer to your question, and you're trying to justify ignoring it, especially based on your update.

Yes, it's unethical.

Yes, it's apparently your best option.

Sometimes people do unethical things. If that's what you feel you need to do, then do it. I'm not going to judge you. But don't kid yourself. You're not doing this person a favour if you stay with them for your own financial security while hiding the fact that you are planning to end your relationship as soon as it's no longer financially useful to you.
posted by windykites at 6:57 PM on July 19, 2013 [17 favorites]

Some decisions in life are never easy to make. I don't think this is an ethical choice, by the way. Generally speaking, what people typically do in this sort of situation is contact a lawyer. It's what you ought to do.

If you abide by "ethics" and leave you will be in a financially precarious or even disastrous situation. If you talk to him about money without lawyering up first, you will also be at a disadvantage.

If neither of you are feeling particularly hard done-by in this situation (presumably you are helping with the business and helping run the household), what's the big deal with sticking it out for 30 more months?

The fact that you're not going to a lawyer means you're doing this fellow a considerable favour already. Don't let a sense of guilt cloud your decision about looking out for yourself in what is a precarious position.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:17 PM on July 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Thanks everyone. Your feedback has been very useful. I realise now that just because one has been 'used' does not give that person a free pass on ethics. I will be sticking around until I finish my course, or get a viable job elsewhere, whichever comes first (though I will intensify my looking for work elsewhere). I will not be making a claim on his property - even though I developed the business and brought it to a point where it supports both of us, and will support him once I go. Making a claim on the property is just too much hard work for the grubby feelings it would leave me. I am quite happy to start from scratch once I have a job.

So, I am not as ethical as I thought I was. I guess I just have to put on my grown up panties and wear that awareness.
posted by the fish formerly known as sarcastic fringehead at 7:34 PM on July 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

See a lawyer. You put into this. You assisted in the business development, therefore you are owed some compensation. He doesn't have to take a major hit and get screwed, but you shouldn't either. If you were his wife, you would be entitled to some compensation. At this point, you are acting as a business partner. Let your lawyer decide what would be an equitable division. That's what is fair and ethical.

As far as pretending that you're still involved with him, you already know that behavior is not what you want to engage in.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:02 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I recently expressed my opinion that women are routinely taken financial advantage of by men and that is very socially acceptable but when a woman looks out for her own interests, we act like her behavior is highly unethical, it is the end of civilization, etc.

I think "ethics" and "morality" are social constructs that try to give voice to the idea that there are consequences for screwing other people over or otherwise doing stupid stuff, even if it looks like you can get away with it in the short run. It does not sound to me like you have any plans to screw him over. I think what makes some folks uncomfortable is that kind of smacks of prostition. By that I mean it sounds rather cold and calculating while involving sex and coming from a woman, who is expected by society to only put out for True Love. As a former homemaker who has thought one helluva lot about the fiduciary interest angle of most heterosexual relationships, I don't see any problem with what you are considering doing.

I don't know the particulars of your situation well enough to say whether or not I would encourage you to leave "on principle" but if I did take that position, it would be from a point of view of "I think you are making a mistake to continue to invest in his business instead of starting to build your own life now." I am in no position to draw such conclusions. I am just noting that my conclusions about "ethical" questions are usually from a pragmatic point of view. That isn't to say I think ethics are unimportant. I just mean that I do not think they exist in some abstract vacuum.
posted by Michele in California at 8:08 PM on July 19, 2013 [15 favorites]

Acting ethically is very important to me, it is part of how I see myself.

Then I have great news for you. There's an easy way to make sure you're not doing something unethical. Just tell him what you've told us. As long as there's full disclosure, it's not unethical.

You seem like a person of integrity at a not easy time of life in terms of age, 53, to cut ties, get an education and set up a whole new life elsewhere. You've put in a lot of effort to make this business a success. Whatever happens with the lawyers and the common law thing, the fact is that he will have a steady source of income, well organised and functioning because of effort you have put into this, not as a paid employee but effort you have put into it as a partner and spouse. He'll have a successful business, while you are starting out from scratch in your mid-50's.

You've acted in a trustworthy way, been dedicated. This is not easy for any business owner to find. It's a treasure really to find somebody who has worked as you have.

In return, this man has been chronically hurtful, lacking in empathy. He sounds very narcissistic. One significant thing about narcissistic people is that they freak out if the person who has been caretaking them, been their verbal or emotional punching bag decides to leave them. They get a spike of abandonment fear. They feel as if you are making them a victim and no matter how you explain why you are leaving, they will be vindictive and sabotage your life in possibly devastating ways.

I would not, under any circumstances, tell this man you are leaving in 18 months or where or why. It would mean you spend the next 18 months in hell, if you lasted that long.

Best to offer this man what you can in terms of trustworthy work and make a strategic exit in 18 months. He will find a replacement in no time, especially with a financially viable B&B.

This is not how I would treat a person who has empathy, who is considerate, an authentic friend, ever. But this man is not your friend. Please make a strategic exit, so you are able to work and study in peace over the next year and a half. When you are sure of your exit, have set up a safe place to go, tell him a few weeks ahead of your exit and do not tell him where you are going. If he is sane in the exit process, then, when you have gone, in some months' time, you might contact him, But protect yourself in your departure.

And good luck with your life journey. Wishing you success, love and happiness.
posted by nickyskye at 8:39 PM on July 19, 2013 [13 favorites]

What BlueHorse said.

Look, you need to separate out the 'business' part and the 'romantic' part of your relationship with this man, if you're going to figure this out.

Please get in touch with Legal Aid NSW and investigate your options. I am sure there is a middle ground between 'stick it out and live a lie for 30 months by continuing a romantic partnership' and 'walk away with nothing'. (And I agree that you definitely don't deserve the latter.) There will be a way to extricate yourself from this in less than 2 years, and still be able to support yourself financially while you finish your degree. It might not be as materially comfortable, but I think you'll sleep better at night.

Please bear in mind that I say that for YOUR sake, not his. I used to be all black-and-white about the ethics of these things, but frankly, after reading your previous AskMeFi, I'm inclined to say screw him. Except for the fact that by living that way for another 2+ years, you'll also be screwing yourself. These things take a toll on your soul, and your self-esteem. Besides which, it'll delay the process of your setting yourself up with a new life, new home of your own, new dating prospects, etc.

In summary: see a lawyer. At home, continue as normal; don't show your hand. Work on getting your own place, your own set-up. Then leave. But don't let it take 30 months; that's not a healthy way to live, for either of you.
posted by Salamander at 8:44 PM on July 19, 2013 [9 favorites]

These things take a toll on your soul, and your self-esteem.

Just repeated Salamander's insight for emphasis.

Staying with him might sound good on paper, but abuse is abuse, and if you feel like he's abusing you - well, the longer you stay, the harder it is to leave and to heal if you do.

That said, I did some unethical things when I left my abuser. I have forgiven myself. It's OK. I can live with myself. Desperate times, and all that.

Another question to ask yourself: Is waiting to leave really just a way to make sure that you stay, even though you know in your logical mind that this is not a good relationship for you? Are you making an excuse to stay?
posted by sockermom at 9:57 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

We would not tell abuse victims that it is unethical to plan their escape secretly over a span of time.

How is she an abuse victim? Whilst he may have been taking advantage of her previously, she's now drawing a wage, paying off her debts, and studying toward a career without contributing much to his business. In fact, she's now in such a positive situation, she's considering staying for in excess of two years simply because it's more financially beneficial and convenient than leaving.

However unpleasant his treatment of you, it appears doubtful it's deliberate or malicious - but merely character traits you're obviously willing to tolerate for a couple of years whilst you feather you nest. My point is, you're not a, "victim", OP.
posted by Nibiru at 10:16 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

How is she an abuse victim?

See the OP's previous post, referenced in this one, and spunweb's comment about financial abuse.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:22 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I read the previous post, elsietheeel, and we'll agree to disagree. I don't perceive her a, "victim" - I reiterate: her current circumstances are so financially beneficial to her she's choosing to remain with him for in excess of two years for that reason, and that reason alone. If anyone is being financially, "abused" at this point, perhaps it's him.
posted by Nibiru at 10:30 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

[Reminder: Ask Metafilter is not the space to debate with other commenters; please just address the OP and give your helpful advice.]
posted by taz (staff) at 10:32 PM on July 19, 2013

she's now drawing a wage, paying off her debts, and studying toward a career without contributing much to his business

Not to threadsit but just to clarify, I am not drawing a wage - it's still living expenses only for which I manage all the marketing, promotion, accounts, bookings, purchases, legals, customer service and staff management for the business. All I don't do is the actual day-to-day cleaning of the B&B. I have, however, been able to take $75pw out of the income to put towards my debts, with my partner's full knowledge. The remainder of our business income after living expenses still goes toward property improvements. I do a bit of bookwork for a friend's small business which earns enough for me to get my hair done every two months and pay for my textbooks etc.

Geez. To quote David Byrne, 'how did I get here?'
posted by the fish formerly known as sarcastic fringehead at 10:49 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Maybe you accepted a bad deal, but he has been totally honest with you about what he intends to leave you and what he thinks you deserve. The only avenues to rectify the past are the easy route of a having conversation with him, and trying to take legal measures. Typically, only the lawyers win with legal measures. Deciding that one had accepted a bad deal and then unilaterally manipulating a situation so that one receives more by subterfuge is plain stealing.

Don't you think that pretending to love someone for a couple years is humiliating for both of you? — You would live a long, half-hearted performance of false affection. He would fight for your waning love in vain not wanting to believe that you were all along not interested in his more profound qualities, but just making a financial withdrawal.

One always finds moral courage in things one can guiltlessly declare, just as he has been doing with you. You probably should have spoken up years ago. It sounds like you are still afraid of speaking up. Why is that?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 11:00 PM on July 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

it's still living expenses only for which I manage all the marketing, promotion, accounts, bookings, purchases, legals, customer service and staff management for the business

I'm sorry, OP, but the information you're providing is contradictory. You claim working part time would not allow you sufficient time to achieve the marks you require, but your current responsibilities and duties sound significantly more time-intensive than a part time position. You've stated you're considering staying for in excess of two years simply because it's financially beneficial to you...are you now inferring you could perform these duties for another employer and be in a better position financially were you compensated appropriately? If so, why continue the arrangement?
posted by Nibiru at 11:02 PM on July 19, 2013

Esprit, speaking up gets me nowhere except in a tit-for-tat argument. I do love him, except that the love becomes strained when he refuses to come halfway in any conversation about emotions or happiness. If he would just converse with me about this stuff, I wouldn't be making this post. In my previous question, HoneyBarbara posted a response that reflects the type of man and rural culture my partner comes from and explained it much better than I could.

Niburu, I don't think I have contradicted myself. You are right in that I do spend time on these other duties. But fortunately I am very efficient at them and can do them without commuting, fit them in around cooking, housekeeping etc, and I can interrupt my studies to take a booking and answer client or staff questions etc as required.
posted by the fish formerly known as sarcastic fringehead at 11:35 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Op, I'm going to leave the ethical question to the side. You have gotten a raw deal and deserve more than you are ever going to get from this man.

There is a real sense of (understandable) bitterness coming through your replies. I would respectfully ask you to think about the damage living with that bitterness is doing to you, and what further damage will be done by living with it for another 2 years. It is the damage to yourself, not him. Damage that could take years to undo.

I've been in awful relationships and untenable situations that I put up with for way longer than I should have. I have some idea how hard it is to see a way out of it. There has to be some middle ground between leaving and screwing over your education and future, and sticking around in a situation that will likely just get more intolerable. A part time job and a share house while you finish studying, anything.
posted by arha at 12:07 AM on July 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

I do love him, except that the love becomes strained when he refuses to come halfway in any conversation about emotions or happiness. If he would just converse with me about this stuff, I wouldn't be making this post.

I can sympathize with your frustration, but if speaking up doesn't get you anywhere, why does it get him anywhere? It sounds like you've compromised yourself so much that the hindsight of the imbalance compels you to leave him, and that is as much your fault as his.

How fantastic is it to be offered voluntarily what you want! —but when you don't get it, you have to demand it. Demanding means that you don't accept the intolerable. That is how he got what he wanted isn't it? He demanded it, and you capitulated. And now it seems like you're looking back hating yourself for what what you accepted, and you want to insidiously seize what you want without having to confront him.

It sounds like the same fear of confrontation, now as then.

Yes, there are difficulties: You've allowed yourself to be financially dependent so that you feel forced to accept the situation; and, you've been acquiescing to him for years, so that he expects you to stay in the same place.

I don't know your financial situation, but the second point is just a matter of having a bit of courage. I have known some tough women who fearlessly shouted the truth, who fought tooth and nail for justice. They didn't always win, but you could respect such a woman. I don't know how you develop courage, but maybe that's why you chose such a man? —someone who demands what he wants like you wish you could…?

And, have you imagined the lie you're thinking about living? Making love to someone you think is "financially abusing you", smiling at him when he walks in the door, all the while imagining a wallet with legs… And what if you fall in love with someone else? What if he does? All this talk about money, and not one word about your love life is disheartening.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 1:02 AM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

You have mentioned before I believe that you're co-dependent. I think you're looking for reasons not to leave right now and I think you might still be asking the same question - should I leave in 30 months - in 30 months time.

Now, I was not going to say that at all initially, but your followups have changed my mind.

You're multi-talented, skilled, and efficient at what you do. Someone else will pay you to do those things if you apply for work (although make sure you actually accept an offer and sign a contract before you actually leave). You will then be financially independent right now. You can still study part-time and work full-time as it will be no different to what you're doing now, you just might have to manage your time in a different way.

That would be the most ethical thing to do.
posted by heyjude at 1:21 AM on July 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

If I were getting some of the above comments I would be feeling very defensive right now and pretty bad about myself as a person. I really hope that this won't happen to you as you are going to need all of your strength and courage over the next couple of years.

This man has absolutely financially abused you. To all intents and purposes you have been his wife and business partner over the last two years and you are probably entitled to a large chunk of his business. This situation is something that both of you created together, him by taking everything he could get and you by not advocating strongly enough for your needs.

That things are slightly better now does not at all even the scorecard. $75 pw to pay off your debts doesn't even come close to being what you are owed. Having to live with his unpleasantness for two more years just to claw your way back to where you would be by now if you had never met is not tolerable.

The thing is that your kindness and gentleness have got you into this situation and now you feel that you have no choice but to cast those things aside to protect yourself. I agree with others that this will harm your sense of self. To feel like you are living a lie for two years, to allow him to treat you like less than his equal but to suspect that you deserve it because of your secret, these things will eat you up.

I think that you should get some legal advice, make an emergency exit strategy, then speak to him and explain that you want to end the romantic relationship. Say that you understand that you are entitled to X but that you don't want to take the legal route to get it. Then present him with two options. Either he can buy you out now for a lump sum that will allow you to get back on your own feet or you will continue to work as you are until you finish your degree. Emphasise that this is already a compromise and that you are not pursuing everything you could because you cared for him in the past but that you will fight if he makes you.
posted by Dorothia at 2:43 AM on July 20, 2013 [7 favorites]

From your earlier post: 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 think you need to re-think this.

I don't think you are a horrible person. I think there are a lot of people walking around planning to leave their partners as soon as they can afford to, and a lot of people who don't leave partners because they don't think it's financially feasible. They just wouldn't state it as clearly as you do. And those are partners who haven't acted as selfish or entitled as your has.

But look, even if it's an acceptable strategy, that's only if it works out. A lot can happen in two years and you are at a point where you don't have two years to waste and I think heyjude is right; it may end up being another two years, and then another.

By the way, consulting (or hiring) a lawyer does not make you a cold evil mercenary person. You might be surprised at how much talking to a good one can clear your head in terms of what your rights and responsibilities are. Right now you sound like you are getting all twisted up around a lot of stuff that a lawyer could just cut through for you.
posted by BibiRose at 4:58 AM on July 20, 2013 [5 favorites]

I think it sounds like you have three goals
1. it is important to you to be ethical
2. it is important to you not to involve lawyers to try and legitimately take what you have earned out of this business
3. it is important to you that you not screw yourself over and end up broke and unemployed with no fallback at retirement age.

I don't think you can have all three of these, and I think the least valuable goal is number 2.
posted by jacalata at 5:27 AM on July 20, 2013

Seeing this from you previous question, 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, makes me thing you should take this month by month. If something were to happen to him, his adult children are not going to be concerned about your welfare. Keep working to pay down your debt, keep up your education, but also keep an eye out for other opportunities.

Shit happens. You may be expected to be a caretaker as well as running the business. This man is more your business partner now than your life partner (and partner I think is the better term here than boyfriend). Make sure the more that you are taking to pay down your debt is adequately noted as your wage. If something were to happen to your partner, you don't want his adult children to have any way to see that payout to you as a loan of any kind or have any way of construing it as such. I don't know how Australian law works, but people get awfully weird about family property and wills. Crazy weird.

I don't see this as unethical, because as it stands now this is a mutually beneficial arrangement. You are not married. If he was to ask you about your long range plans, you of course would tell him. He's not an idiot. You're taking courses that will lead to a job that you will have to move away to take. So be it. Enjoy your rural location while you're there. Make the most of your time. You are leaving the situation better than when you found it.
posted by readery at 5:28 AM on July 20, 2013

What he doesn't know is that I am looking forward to that distant job as a way to cease our relationship because his behaviour toward me often causes me such pain.

So you are planning to spend the next 30 months -- two and a half years! -- in a relationship you don't want to be in, with someone whose behavior causes you pain. 30 months of forcing yourself to make romantic overtures toward someone you want to leave.

I don't think I have contradicted myself. You are right in that I do spend time on these other duties. But fortunately I am very efficient at them and can do them without commuting, fit them in around cooking, housekeeping etc, and I can interrupt my studies to take a booking and answer client or staff questions etc as required.

How much time do you spend each week on keeping this relationship going? How much of your time cooking and housekeeping would you get back if you weren't cleaning up after him and cooking? You might have enough time to work more hours. Or get a job as a hotel night clerk -- a friend of mine did this for several years and did a lot of reading, gaming, and cross stitch while hard at work on the task of sitting at a desk in case anyone comes in.
posted by yohko at 7:32 AM on July 20, 2013

Fairness dictates that you should receive some equity from the business. That would likely require a lawyer. You don't want legal involvement, but that's your option. Staying in the relationship without honesty is unethical. Staying in the business and having an honest relationship, or changing the relationship to a business one is an ethical option.
posted by theora55 at 9:10 AM on July 20, 2013

I have a question, OP, and I apologise if it's been already answered but it would help me to answer your question (and perhaps helpful to other posters, which is why I'm asking it here instead of MeMail). How is your education being funded currently?
posted by sm1tten at 12:59 PM on July 20, 2013

The thing is that your kindness and gentleness have got you into this situation and now you feel that you have no choice but to cast those things aside to protect yourself.

I think the whole problem here is the romanticization of accepting a bad deal as "kindness and gentleness". It is neither kinder to herself nor to her partner to accept a situation for years and then throw them into a difficult lawsuit.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 1:48 PM on July 20, 2013

How is your education being funded currently?

It is Commonwealth Supported. I pay for it via tax once my income reaches a certain level. My boyfriend has no involvement or liability for the cost at all.
posted by the fish formerly known as sarcastic fringehead at 3:01 PM on July 20, 2013

Have you had legal advice yet? A consultation with a lawyer, and a second opinion, in no way obliges you to act. But it would be foolish to make an important decision with incomplete information about your rights and options.

To me your proposed solution doesn't show integrity to yourself. It ties you to someone whom you do not respect. It makes you into a manipulator and a deceiver. If you had no other options that would be one thing. But you do have other options - you have this far not been able even to explore them to inform yourself.

Are you really so sure that two years of sharing the life and bed of someone you do not respect is better than pursuing your legal rights? A good lawyer would be able to keep you out of it as much as possible - it would be between your lawyer and his.

I really respect that you are taking steps to renew your life. I do think that it would be best if at all possible to stay in integrity to yourself and your values. In the end, all you really have is you, and if you don't treat yourself with integrity and respect, that is sad (and too liable I think to end up with similar results to where you are now).
posted by Salamandrous at 4:28 PM on July 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Thanks for clarifying, OP.

I think that staying for the paid living expenses and ability to study part-time with your current responsibilities by continuing the relationship under false pretenses is wrong. I also think it's incredibly unhealthy for you to do so. But like heyjude and esprit de l'escalier, I also wonder if putting the breakup off so far into the future has a lot to do with wanting to avoid the confrontation and the end of the relationship, even though you are not as happy as you could be. I am not convinced that in 30 months, you'd be ready or willing to leave.

I just think you need to fully explore all of your options.
posted by sm1tten at 4:49 PM on July 20, 2013

Consult a lawyer. You are hesitance to do so is based on assumptions that could be entirely wrong. Just consulting them to learn your rights doesn't mean you have to sue, it just means you gather information to decide whether you should.

It's baffling to me that you're still worried about what suing would do to him. If even half of what you wrote in your previous post is true, he used you very badly and sounds very selfish. It does not sound as if he loves you at all. Avoiding forcing him to pay you what you're owed isn't being a nice person, it's continuing to participate in your codependency and devaluation.

As others have noted, continuing to be in a relationship with this turd will be damaging to your soul, and the arrangement you have in mind will damage your self-respect. There's no gentle way to cut off a narcissist from your free/undercompensated labor that won't make him angry. Find a job elsewhere, don't tell him you're moving until you've done so, and then please consult an attorney, to find out your options and rights if nothing else.

I hope things work out well for you. You sound like a kind person who has been through hell.
posted by ravioli at 6:49 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have you looked into centrelink? You might be able to get aid. It might be complicated by the fact that you are supported by your boyfriend, but if he isn't earning a profit, then his income might be low enough that you can get an allowance. Or, you might be able to get yourself classified as independent, as he only gives you $75 per week. But definitely find out what assistance you could get if you left him.

If he's that much of a cheapskate, he may let you stay in return for what you already do, at least in the short term.

I agree that you should fight for your share in the business.
posted by kjs4 at 7:17 PM on July 21, 2013

Thanks everyone so very much. Your perceptive comments and questions have help me a huge amount.

I know it is really easy on metafilter to blame the silent partner, the one who isn't speaking here. That's the nature of the beast. And while I am grateful to all the folk who 'took my side' so to speak, I gained the most from the comments that challenged me have the courage to make choices. "Courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible", said Aristotle.

So I gathered up some courage and did two things. The first of which was to begin looking for work, and living space, elsewhere. More on that in a moment.

The second was to have a talk with the boyfriend (after 36hrs of silence between us) which brought a whole range of issues out into the open, including my co-dependence that is at odds with my needs for financial and personal independence, and my boyfriend's fears about life, love and his future; things he rarely talks about. It was a really productive and affirming conversation; one that reminded us both that there is a lot love and care in our relationship.

I do have co-dependency issues which are frustrating for me, but they are not my boyfriend's issues and he does not play into them (hard in the short term, better in the long term). In fact I'd venture to say that they are just as difficult for him to deal with as they are for me - he doesn't want a weak partner just as much as I don't want a dominating one, but co-dependency shapes these behaviours.

But just before the talk, I received a delightfully serendipitous job offer in a town, too far to commute daily, but perfect for a weekend commute back to the property. We spoke about it during the talk and he recognised that, while it would mean he would have to change his daily work life to pick up my B&B duties (and spend his weeknights alone) taking the job was necessary for my current and future financial security and probably very beneficial to our relationship where we'd both been feeling the other was taking them for granted. You see, I don't really want to leave him, I wanted to leave the person I had let myself become.

So I interview next week and probably start the week after. The part-time job involves accounting and includes housing, car and a reasonable wage plus time to do my studies. Frankly, I could not have wished for a more suitable position.

So thanks again everyone (and especially esprit de l'escalier) for providing perspectives, cyber-shoulders, advice, and the necessary kick in the pants I needed to grab back my courage. I think we can call this one resolved.
posted by the fish formerly known as sarcastic fringehead at 6:45 PM on July 23, 2013 [11 favorites]

Congratulations! I am really happy for, and hope that this opportunity is amazing.
posted by spunweb at 1:47 PM on July 24, 2013

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