What is an actual "dealbreaker" when it comes to relationships?
December 8, 2013 5:57 PM   Subscribe

I met a wonderful man. He is kind, loving, smart, generous, funny, encouraging and we have unbeatable chemistry and honest communication. On one hand, I'm trying to be in the moment and enjoy this process (about six weeks in now). On the other hand, I'm thinking about the future. I'm a firm believer in gut instincts. When I hit it off with someone, it's often instant and has lead to some long and meaningful relationships. I also have a bad habit of overlooking issues. I've never ended a relationship. We have a great time when we're together and see one another often (5-6 times a week). Things have progressed really quickly and I feel confident in what we've established in terms of labels and exclusivity. I have no doubt of how he feels about me, nor of how I feel about him. But. He is in a very precarious financial and living situation. He's a freelancer who often goes weeks with very little/no money. He's helping friends with their business, so as of now has a free place to stay, but that too is a potentially temporary agreement. He has no interest in taking a job just for a paycheck.

This along with his not super social personality, we don't often go out. I don't need to be wined and dined. I don't miss the bars. I don't expect or want someone to pay my way. But I'm aware that simple things like going out to brunch or to the movies (dutch) isn't financially viable. I'm wary of inviting him to events that require paying a cover or the implication of buying drinks.

He's also very hesitant about accepting my offer to pay, though on occasion he'll let me. He's not a mooch or a user.

I don't mind dating someone who's broke. But I'm wary of what this will mean in the long run. Eventually I'm going to want to do something or go somewhere and I'm going to resent not being able to do it with him. He's very open about where he's at (39 and living in a friend's basement). He's not proud of it or defiant, per se. He's a very talented and creative person and as someone who has an arts background and an unstable career as well (I haven't had a "real" job in five years, have no savings or health insurance) I understand and in no way think he should just suck it up and work wherever.

But if he's unable or unwilling to find stability for himself and by extension me, is that reason enough to end things?

I know you can't answer that for me, but I'm curious if any of you have been in similar situations, where everything didn't add up the way you wanted it to and how you were able to weigh the pros and cons and what in the end mattered the most.

posted by patientpatient to Human Relations (41 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
You get to decide what a dealbreaker is for you. You and you alone have the power!
posted by chrchr at 6:04 PM on December 8, 2013 [11 favorites]

He's 39. He's a freelancer and comfortable with financial instability and this will not change.

He may have money, he may not, but his level of risk and need for financial stability is not the same as yours.

Since this will not change, you will need to do some soul searching if this is ok with you. Everyone has flaws. He doesn't sound like a mooch or a lazybones, he's just an artsy-fartsy type. Can you live with that? Does HIS pros outweigh HIS cons, FOR YOU? Are you ok with forever being the "breadwinner" and "home anchor"?

I have similarly loved artsy-fartsy types, it was a nice balance to my sciency-ways but these days I am with someone who is more into stability like me and I won't deny, it feels good.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:05 PM on December 8, 2013 [10 favorites]

What is a deal-breaker for one person is not for another. My guy has two things about him which would be deal-breakers for many people (a child, and a serious health condition) but aren't for me. His sister is married to someone who does not have these issues but is bad with money, and I absolutely could not be in her relationship.

With that said, I have dated guys like the one you describe, and ultimately it WAS a deal-breaker for me. But it was not about the money per se, it was more about the mind-set of that life stage. I remember being there myself (unsettled in my life, no solid income and no idea what I would do with myself) and it was a very depressing time for me. I did not want to be with someone who had the potential to drag me back down to that place.
posted by JoannaC at 6:10 PM on December 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

I think you answered your own question.

Eventually I'm going to want to do something or go somewhere and I'm going to resent not being able to do it with him.

Sounds like you're long-term incompatible. If you're looking for someone to spend the rest of your life with, who you don't have to support financially, it's not him.

But, if you can honestly look into the future and say that five years from now, if he hasn't changed, you'll still be happy to be with him, maybe it's not a dealbreaker for you.

Personally, it's important to me that my partner and I can each support each other financially, and we've each taken time off from working to go back to school or pursue other goals. So for me it would be a dealbreaker to have a partner who was not willing to contribute to shared finances or be able to financially support me from time to time. But maybe this is okay by you, and if you want to do something or go somewhere he may have the flexibility to go along with you that someone more career-focused or money-focused might not have.
posted by chickenmagazine at 6:13 PM on December 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

"Reason enough to end things" is whatever you think it is. People take it on themselves to judge others' reasons for ending (and maintaining) relationships, but that doesn't mean you have to appeal to their judgment. It comes down to your personal, private values.

Do you want permission from an impartial party to end it while it's still fun, because you want a partner who's not poorer than you? I grant you permission.

Do you want permission to keep on with it in spite of the fact you're going to be the richer one? I grant you permission.

I withhold approval of any scenario where you issue him an ultimatum (more cash or I resent you/consider leaving), explicitly or implicitly, once you're both committed. But I'm just some pixels, y'know, not even the tenuous validation obtainable from your social circle.
posted by gingerest at 6:19 PM on December 8, 2013 [9 favorites]

Considering your struggles with maintaining health insurance lately, are you really comfortable being the de facto breadwinner simply by virtue of having a mailing address?
posted by oceanjesse at 6:26 PM on December 8, 2013 [6 favorites]

I, at the frail and elderly age of 42, just dumped a month long Mr. Perfect because of that same vague feeling. It was about different things, but what I realized is that if I let it go on any longer, it was just going to cause that much more agony when ("if"? god, I hope it was "when") it eventually flamed out or crash landed.

I can tell you this from barely on the other side: Although I feel very sad I also feel the most empowered I've ever walked away from a relationship feeling. I...took...care?...of...MYSELF? I took care of myself! Ancient and creaky and addled as I am, I sent away the sweetest and sexiest thing I have seen in my age range in years, because I was looking after myself.

I realize that's not strictly speaking to whether or not you should break it off. I'm just telling you what listening to that feeling feels like if you decide to do it.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 6:30 PM on December 8, 2013 [28 favorites]

Realistically I don't think you can expect to have a low stress relationship with a mid-career man who is content living in a friend's basement. Sooner or later, financial problems will likely become a big impediment to having a harmonious and flourishing life together.
posted by Dansaman at 6:53 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've done this twice, each time to the nicest guy in the universe who treated me like a queen and really, really cared about me.

But they both cared about my paycheck more.

Your friend is old enough to make it on his own. Until he does, he's just up for adoption and the truth is you'd get more honesty and long-term commitment without qualifiers if you adopt from the local animal shelter and leave this guy to his basement.

It hurts, but there are other wonderful guys out there who will love you more than they love themselves.
posted by aryma at 7:14 PM on December 8, 2013 [14 favorites]

I know you can't answer that for me, but I'm curious if any of you have been in similar situations, where everything didn't add up the way you wanted it to and how you were able to weigh the pros and cons and what in the end mattered the most.

Personally, I don't care much about money, it's just not something that drives me. It sounds like maybe you're the same. The thing in a partnership is, *someone* is going to have to care about the finances and money. If your partner cares about money *even less* than you do, you're going to be the one who has to take care of the finances and make sure that you guys have at least a minimum level of financial stability. Do you want to take that on? Would you be able to tackle that, in a practical sense?

Also, if your partner actually has hangups about money, he's likely to start projecting his hangups about money onto you once you're the one handling the money. Do you think your boyfriend might have hangups about money that you're going to get saddled with if you become the "money person" in the relationship?

I've been in serious relationships with a couple guys who never have jobs or money. I'm also related to people who never have jobs or money. That means that, in those relationships, I'm the job-having, money-managing person by default, which is a problem on a personal level because that's not a role I want or enjoy, and that's also a problem on a practical level because it's not a role I'm especially good at (even if I'm good at it relative to them).

Something to consider: have any of your serious boyfriends in the past had stable and/or lucrative jobs? Have they had jobs (as opposed to gigs or schemes or projects) at all? When I thought about that in my life, I realized that the closest I ever got to getting serious with someone gainfully employed was when I dated a student. So my personal deal breaker right now is that the next guy I'm with has to have a job. I want to break out of this pattern of being the "practical" one by default, and I don't think I can do that if I keep dating guys who are even less practical than I am, so I'm making a hard and fast rule about it.

Truthfully, since you don't sound very money-motivated, I think it's going to be hard for you to pull the rip-cord on your relationship based on financial issues or incompatibility. But yeah, I do think that this should probably be a deal breaker for you, just like I'm trying to make it a deal breaker for me -- because *somebody* has got to be the money-minded, practical person in the relationship, and honestly, it probably shouldn't be someone like you or me (or your boyfriend) who isn't all that interested in or well suited for the job.
posted by rue72 at 7:15 PM on December 8, 2013 [11 favorites]

If you stick with this guy, you will need to be prepared for major chaos the first time any big-ticket expense crops up. I'm assuming he doesn't have any sort of a safety net, much less money for brunches and fun stuff. What happens when he cracks a tooth? When he needs to fly on short notice to attend to an ailing relative? When his friends grow weary of him and decide to reclaim the space he is living in?

Working "just for the paycheck" is something adults do, unless they are landed gentry, trust-funders, or professional mooches. At some point, your guy is going to be forced to grow up and exchange his labor for money, and shift his creative endeavors to being a side gig or a hobby.

Me, I wouldn't be OK dating someone who has made fiscal irresponsibility a lifestyle choice. As a formerly fiscally-careless person, I know firsthand how my type can drag others down. This guy is 100% guaranteed to lower your daily quality of life in ways large and small. Is his companionship worth the price? Up to you to decide.
posted by nacho fries at 7:17 PM on December 8, 2013 [19 favorites]

But if he's unable or unwilling to find stability for himself and by extension me, is that reason enough to end things?

You don't have to defend ending a relationship. There is no "enough" or "not enough." This is not a court case that you have to prove.

Sometimes the other party will think your reason is not reason enough, or even patently false. ("What do you mean you don't have time for a relationship? You have plenty of time!") That doesn't matter. They don't get to nullify the breakup by proving that your reason is flawed or unpersuasive.

But I suppose that doesn't answer your question. If you're worried that you are being too picky - let me reassure you: No. This is not a trivial issue. This is not, "I'm sick of the little black hairs in the sink after he shaves." This is his lifestyle, it's going to dictate your relationship, and it's probably not going to change. (Except maybe it could get worse as he gets older). This would be a deal breaker for me.
posted by snarfles at 7:21 PM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

When I was in my early 20s, I was Brokey McBrokerson. I started dating an older guy, who was a little more secure. Not wealthy or anything, but he had a real job that paid real money and lived a comfortable lifestyle.

I felt uncomfortable letting him pay for me, for various reasons. (Mostly feminism, pride, and concern about the inequality that could arise from dating an older guy who paid my way all the time.)

One day, when we were walking tightfistedly in the park, he said to me, "Sara C, while I understand about all your Reasons, I think we need to make an understanding. Sometimes, I'm going to pay for you, not because I'm a Man and I'm lording it over you like a member of the Patriarchy, but because I want to go out somewhere, and I want you to be with me. Period. Please let me pay when we do things you can't afford."

And it was ever thus. Until we broke up about six months later for unrelated reasons.

I know that the genders are reversed in your case, but if you can afford to, you really ought to just pay his way so that you guys can enjoy yourselves. If he has Reasons why he can't let you do that, you should speak plainly about how you're going to get around those Reasons, because it's the sensible thing to do.

This doesn't have to be a dealbreaker unless he lets it be.
posted by Sara C. at 7:26 PM on December 8, 2013 [16 favorites]

All of the above said, I agree with everyone upthread who's said that

A) you can break up with anyone, for any reason, and need no justification,


B) if the deal is truly that he's always been broke and never sees himself not being broke and is a confirmed starving artist, as a part of his nature (as opposed to being temporarily down on his luck), and you dramatically don't feel that way or aren't up for having to be the stick-in-the-mud rent check sender inner, that could be a very real issue. It's a little hard to tell from your question whether he's temporarily just not flush at the moment vs. a permanently free-wheeling lily of the field.
posted by Sara C. at 7:31 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

To me, the definition of a dealbreaker is, "If X never changed, could I be happy with person?"

It's different for every person, and in my experience, takes on more of a creeping, nagging sensation than anything else.

There's a fine line between "things I refuse to put up with" and "things about my significant other that I did not anticipate but can live with."

My therapist once made me make a list of non-negotiables for my hypothetical partner. They are as follows: Christian, health-conscious, supportive, sense of humor, intelligent, ambitious, good sense of humor, trustworthy, good communicator, similar life goals, responsible. To me, the opposite of these traits (bad with money, untrustworthy, unsupportive, unmotivated, etc) are absolutely unacceptable to me in a partner.

Now I'm dating someone who meets ALL of these requirements, but he doesn't look like I thought: he doesn't make as much money as other men I've dated, he's divorced, and the biggie: he has two kids. I always thought kids might be a dealbreaker, but now that I'm with someone who meets my needs, I'm not quite as alarmed at the kid thing. I can work with that. It might be different for someone else.

The thing you keep wanting to change because you think it'll make the relationship perfect? It won't. You have to ask yourself if your needs are being met. For me, a 39-year-old who lives in a basement with no real handle on his money would NOT be acceptable, because like you, I don't need to be wined and dined, but I do know the kind of life I want to live and a guy like that would not be able to meet that need.

It doesn't sound like you're okay with his situation, and that's fine. You want what you want and it's okay not to settle. FWIW, my boyfriend is also smart, honest, encouraging and good at communicating...just in case you start to think you'll never find another guy like that. There's at least two out there.
posted by thank you silence at 7:34 PM on December 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

39 and living in a friend's basement? i would pass on him. the lifestyle depicted in puccini's "la boheme" wasn't intended to be aspirational.
posted by bruce at 7:36 PM on December 8, 2013 [6 favorites]

He has no interest in taking a job just for a paycheck.

How noble of him. Listen, as someone noted upthread, only you can decide what is and is not a deal breaker but judging from what you've posted here (we don't often go out/he's not super social/has only a temporary living arrangement) you don't sound all that thrilled about this guy.

There are billions (yes, with a "b") of people in this world. Why settle for this one?
posted by nubianinthedesert at 7:46 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

It was unclear from your post whether you would be willing/able to pay his way on things and he objects, or whether you're not actually, and can pretty much only afford to pay your own way and go dutch. (While he can't.) Since you say your own employment situation is unconventional, I don't want to say, "rock on sugar momma."

I could be you, if I were smart enough to worry about these things. ;) I've been supporting myself (and a series of SO's...) for a decade. And sometimes I do think, boy. How nice would it be if I could stop living in fear of rent day, because I am part of a team and my partner will have my back?

So far, it hasn't really come up, because it's super rare that i even *meet* a man who has a real and well-paying job. And my current partner somehow manages to carry himself aloft in a way that makes me feel safe enough, even though we're both still hella broke...he has the best work ethic i've ever seen, there's just no damn money in his field.

But in thinking about money and love, the key is to figure out what money stands for, to you. Money is so often a symbol and an emotional one at that. So work out what money means to you: opportunity? security? flexibility? the ability to relax your vigilance? Then, consider, is there anything else this guy can do to fill those needs for you? If you're just tired of doing it all on your own, then maybe just the money part isn't a dealbreaker. If he is holding down the homefront, can you be the breadwinner? On the other hand, if you just do NOT ultimately want that breadwinner role, then yeah, maybe it is a dealbreaker.
posted by like_a_friend at 7:48 PM on December 8, 2013 [6 favorites]

"I've never ended a relationship."

Here's your chance. I'm not long-term attracted to men who are overly comfy with mediocrity and who, by age 39, aren't out there striving to become providers. It is just as easy to love a financially secure man as it is to love a man who lives in his friend's basement and hates to go out. So yes, you have this anonymous internet stranger's permission to end your 6-week learning experience with him.
posted by hush at 7:52 PM on December 8, 2013 [9 favorites]

If you don't want this to be a dealbreaker, it doesn't have to be. There can absolutely be a successful relationship to which one person brings no money.

However, he's got to bring something.

If you had an apartment lovenest together and you paid the rent and bought all the groceries, what non-monetary things would he be doing to help? As an example, what's he doing for the friend whose basement he's living in? What does he do with the money he does have?

If he won a $1M lottery, how would he spend it? (it sounds silly, but actually the answer to this hypothetical question might go a long way to demonstrating if he knows anything about money and maintaining financial health, if he has any interest in establishing stability, if he's focused on himself or on family/relatives or on friends/community, or spending it all on an art-related project, or what...)
posted by aimedwander at 9:11 PM on December 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

It could be a deal breaker, but it does not have to be. It seems to be ok (but not great) for you right now, but you can foresee issues in the future. Some of those issues could be overcome and some who knows. I think the key issue here is your own philosophy on dating. Are you ok with simply enjoying things as they are and going with it as long as it can, or would you look upon any time spent with him between now and a breakup as wasted time where you could have been out meeting your long-term relationship? I happen to take a somewhat optimistic attitude and look at it as one, you are enjoying each other's company now and seem real compatible, and two, you never know what can change between now and whenever that will either clarify this for you, will change the situation or will change how you view the issue.

I am sure that there is a lot that can be read into this issue, there is probably a lot you can learn about yourself and your views from this and there may even be some hidden inner meaning in all this, but, some would say who cares, just take the relationship on its face value. He likes you, you like him and you seem compatible. Stability is an issue that may or may not be a problem for one or both of you.

If it were me, I would run with this relationship as long as you can or as long as it works for you. You never know what can happen or change.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:14 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

"39 and living in a friend's basement" would be the breakiest deal-breaker imaginable for me if I had the goals and aspirations you mention. But as chrchr says, only you can decide. My outsider's opinion is that this doesn't sound good at all.
posted by Decani at 11:44 PM on December 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

I think if it bothers you, and it probably should if you want a traditional situation with someone who wants to build with you, then this guy is not it. You'll probably just end up taking care of him financially while he does art or whatever. You'll always be alone in your quest to build a life and alone in valuing stability with this guy.
posted by discopolo at 4:09 AM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Your comment on his "not super social personality" and working for friends but not in a steady job made me wonder how much his financial instability was his choice and how much actually the result of anxiety he has chosen not to treat.

Also, as someone with an artistic background, are you okay with the idea that you will be supporting him in pursuing his interests but he will be unable to support your artistic interests because you need to be the breadwinner? Do you think you are worthy of support or should the relationship only be on his financial terms?
posted by saucysault at 5:10 AM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

At that age, I would walk away. You said he was not interested in working for a paycheck.

Who is?

But we do it because life takes money. That is a stone cold fact.

If you want marriage, children, or heck, just a fun social life where you have money to do things, I'd keep looking.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:19 AM on December 9, 2013 [13 favorites]

Rue72, nacho fries, like_a_friend, and saucysault all make good points on various angles of this, especially the part about he may have a health issue that he has chosen not to treat. That's a HUGE deal if it affects you down the road. Can you handle being the breadwinner and dealing with your own hustle on top of having to keep him afloat if he has problems and no health insurance, no savings, and no safety net?

My ex was an artist and photographer, incredibly talented, but living on disability and had mental health issues. He had side hustles but couldn't really take care of himself, is what it boiled down to, sadly. I felt that his good qualities outweighed the bad, so ignored all of my gut instincts/little voice objections, etc. to stay with him. Supporting him made me feel like his MOM which is a major relationship fucker-upper, and as much as I tried not to resent it, I got tired of feeling like the only grownup. He wasn't holding up his share of the responsibilities. When his mental health shit hit the fan, the stress of it ended up costing me a job and has really fucked things up for me, in a lot of ways. Do I regret knowing him and caring for him? I can't say that with 100% honesty, because I loved him. But I deeply regret how things turned out and wish it had been different. I think like_a_friend's point was good in that, for this period of your life, you have to determine what a chance at love means to you vs. your future goals.

I think at a bare minimum, he has to realize that if you two partner up long-term, he's got to step up a bit more and establish a bit more security for himself. If you two can have an honest and mature conversation in that regard, great. But if he's secretly an overgrown 23-year-old who "just wants to make art and fuck everything else, man" well...perhaps be his friend, after an appropriate break, and keep on looking for someone who is creative yet able to be a responsible adult.
posted by cardinality at 5:31 AM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Eventually I'm going to want to do something or go somewhere and I'm going to resent not being able to do it with him.

I sorta was him. And I was resented. She didn't love me the way I was. She wanted me to change. She saw my unambitious lifestyle as something wrong with me. A mental health issue.

Do him a favor and don't trap him in a relationship where he feels as I did--resented, disapproved of, needing to become someone else.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:52 AM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

You know, being a starving artist is all great and romantic, but it also comes with a ton of misery, and it's really pretty incompatable with any other person relationship wise outside of the very generous or the similarly destitute.

Unless you are completely willing to support him, get out.

It's not romantic to be an artist if it means your partner has to give up their less romantic future dreams (house? Retirement? Equal sharing of financial burdens?). People somehow think it's such a dastardly thing to expect artists to get a job. It's not. Speaking from personal experience, you can still make work and hold a job at the same time.
posted by Blisterlips at 6:13 AM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

I find that adults who choose not to participate in the economy for 'noble' reasons, are actually just 'entitled.'

I admire anyone who can make a living freelancing, and if you're one of those folks, then 'good on ya mate.' But, I susupect that if for whatever reason, if you couldn't make it as a freelancer, you'd realize that money doesn't grow on trees, and that friend's basements aren't always available, and that you'd get a gig with a regular paycheck, if it came down to it.

This guy, as lovely as he is, doesn't see that he's in a situation where he needs a regular paycheck. He's perfectly content living in a basement, dating a girl who doesn't ask much of him and he has no intentions of changing his situation, now or ever.

You already know that this is as good as it's going to get. If you want more, it's okay to say so.

I'm noticing that a lot of women are beating around the bush, but essentially asking, "Am I a golddigger if I find it off-putting that my guy is a lay-about and a leech?"

No! Being able to support oneself is THE definition of adult. Women should date adults. That whole, starving-artist bullshit is great when you're in school, or young, but at 39, you need to start thinking about the future, screw the future, you need to think about NOW! This guy aspires to nothing more than what he has right now. He's done nothing and he's all out of ideas about what to do next.

It's perfectly okay to say, "You're a great guy Thomas, but I really need a man who's on the same page as I am with regards to work and money."
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:35 AM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]

it's not that you should be looking necessarily for a partner who can GIVE you stability, but maybe you should be looking for someone whose own situation is stable enough by itself that it doesn't undermine the stability you've built for yourself.

people like this guy usually get along ok most of the time, and they are often very great to be around most of the time. except!!! ...as soon as something unexpected happens, such as an accident, natural disaster, or health issue? you're now the loved one they are going to come to for help, and you'll have to confront a) whether or not to help and b) whether or not you still respect the person for not having gotten it together earlier and set aside something in case of emergency.

sometimes even when you do help, and want to at first, it becomes uncomfortable and frustrating when you realize you are helping the person more than they want to help themselves. resentment and contempt appear. it sucks.

personally, i find logistical and financial incapability to be a huge turn off, especially if i notice that the person is educated & savvy enough to handle things better but chose not to, for whatever reason. there's a difference between working to get rich and working to have a reasonable, safe and secure standard of living. you don't have to want to get rich in order to make good choices about these things.
posted by zdravo at 7:08 AM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]

I read this:

I feel confident in what we've established in terms of labels and exclusivity.

And then I read this:

I don't mind dating someone who's broke. But I'm wary of what this will mean in the long run.

And there seems to be a disconnect. You have established labels and exclusivity...but you haven't talked about "the long run." I guess if I were you I would question those labels. Have a sit-down with your guy and talk this out. Then you'll know what to do.
posted by BeBoth at 7:43 AM on December 9, 2013

Freelancing is hopefully going to be a more viable career option in the US with the health care reforms. Even with this, freelancing remains a huge challenge. Each freelancer essentially has to do their own accounting, HR, billing, sales, marketing, etc. Some people can do it themselves. Others can delegate skillfully. A lot just can't make it work. It can also require significant financial finesse to work out how to manage and inherently unstable income.

Yes, it is easier when you have a partner on salary, even easier if you are married to them and get health insurance though that. But you may not be a position to provide that, so his financial instability might make yours worse. And you may become frustrated with the very common poor handling of business matters that is common among freelancers.
posted by melissam at 8:11 AM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, I just caught the precarious living situation. So when this current temporary situation ends (as you say it will, shortly) - after he has done the work for his friends in exchange for staying in the basement (which sounds like the "friends" are exploiting him to work for no money and lending him a resource that costs them nothing) - where is he planning on going? If he is in a men's shelter at night and in the public library during the day is that okay with you? Or will you end up inviting him to sleep over, and then slide into him moving in with you on rent-free basis?

It sounds very isolating that you won't be able to see your friends because he can't afford the $5 cover charge. When it is a crisis you'll step up, right? And when you have a crisis (can't work because of major health problems or pregnancy for example) will he be able to step up or will you be parenting him as well as navigating your own crisis alone because you have let him whittle away at your support network. With you to "catch" him for every self-created crisis will he ever feel motivated to hustle or will he get comfortable and do just enough not to piss you off and lose his sweet setup?

You said you don't expect him to just suck it up and get a job - but isn't that what you have been hustling for the past five years? Why are your expectations for him being an adult so much lower than your expectations for yourself? He is probably a really great guy, but he doesn't sound like someone capable of being in a stable and adult relationship.

I've seen too many women lose their lives, their focus and their energy to supporting "great guys" like this. And without exception, once they have sucked her dry, put all the consequences on her and she really, really needed emotional or financial support the men have left her holding the bag of their debts and broken relationships..
posted by saucysault at 8:47 AM on December 9, 2013 [11 favorites]

Sorry to thread-sit, but what is his retirement plan? He's had about 25 years to get his feet under him, the next 25 should be about preparing for when he can no longer work to support himself. I ask because someone I know that is quite similar to your guy thought that generous pension funds "just appeared" at 65, not releasing that they are actually investments made by the retiree over the previous fifty years or so. How does his plan for retirement jibe with your hopes?
posted by saucysault at 9:01 AM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

That would be a deal breaker for me because I value stability. Do you want to be with someone responsible and whom you can count on to carry his own weight? Then you have your answer.
posted by J. Wilson at 9:11 AM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Sorry I can't read all the answers but I want to add to this:

>Please let me pay when we do things you can't afford.

Yes, when you're just dating. But when you move in together, eventually it becomes:

"Please let me pay when we live in a way you can't afford."

You may be comfortable with that, but is he?
posted by Dragonness at 11:38 AM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think for a long term relationship, it's important that you two both envision similar lifestyles in the future, and work together to get there.

If you're willing to work hard, make money, and support the both of you (which as a feminist, I would absolutely support) while he stays true to himself and his creative genius, that's fine. But that's not what I'm hearing.

What I hear is that you are not financially stable, and have no plan to become financially stable through your career. But you're hoping to eventually become financially stable. To me, this means you want to be able to rely on your partner to be financially stable. This is a classic and widely accepted relationship paradigm, but you're not going to find it with a man who already told you financial stability is not a goal for him.

So either change how you envision the two of yours future life together, without asking him to change, or it's probably a deal breaker for you.
posted by ethidda at 3:30 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you are shopping for apples, buy apples. Don't convince yourself you need bananas just because that's all they have.

The math is in your favor, i hope. Of the 3,500,000,000 males on the planet there is a nice one that works, too. Have you really done a thorough search and sample? Is this the best you can do? If so, have at it. If not.......

Just to maintain my normal curmudgeonly demeanor, you are drunk. Infatuation is like that. He is the prettiest boy at the bar because of hormones your body is pumping out that are there to convince you to breed. But, you are most assuredly drunk and asking if you should drive. What would you, as a sober mom, tell your daughter to do? Be your own mom and you will do the right thing. Unless you are a crappy mom, of course. That's always a possibility.

Good luck. You sound smart enough to be cautious about what your emotions are suggesting and i applaud that, recognize it, admire it, and wish you nothing but the best outcomes in all your relationship decisions. Not easy leaving tasties on the table, but often, very wise.
posted by FauxScot at 6:52 PM on December 9, 2013 [8 favorites]

I've been there before, and I broke it off in the end. My guy sounds more stable than your guy just because he had the financial safety net of family, but I was tired of not being able to eat anything better than fast food (and when we ate at home, I generally had to buy and cook EVERYTHING), or questioning every financial purchase he made that I deem unnecessary, and the anxiety of not knowing what the future would hold. We couldn't become more serious because I didn't want him to transfer his financial dependency from his family ON TO ME.

And even couples who are stable aren't always stable, stability isn't permanent. If one partner is already not financially stable, then you as the more stable partner have less room for error. Are you okay with that? Also, I have my own creative projects and dreams of taking it to the next level, and being financially stressed out for either myself or for my partner puts a huge dampener on my creative energy.

My guy and I talked it out, I tried to teach him better financial management skills, he eventually started cooking more (although I still bought everything), and we really tried. But in the end, he just didn't think that financial stability was an important quality, he saw it as a privilege rather than as a basic component of adult living. For me personally, I don't need a partner with a conventional job, but they have to be able to make their unconventional set-up work for themselves from now until retirement. Unfortunately, to me he sounds like he's doing freelancing wrong.

I am friends with all sorts of artistic and non-conformist types, and I am even thinking about doing freelancing in the near future, but I can't imagine a future without financial stability for my partner or for myself.

But that's me. My advice is to think about your own dreams and aspirations, figure out which ones are non-negotiable regardless of whether you're singled or partnered, and then (after the honeymoon period) figure out whether your current guy will either help make those important dreams happen or hinder you from achieving them. You don't have to dump him now, but keep it casual and make your decision with your dreams in mind. Do what's best for you.
posted by Hawk V at 1:19 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your comment on his "not super social personality" and working for friends but not in a steady job made me wonder how much his financial instability was his choice and how much actually the result of anxiety he has chosen not to treat.

This seems like a real possibility. Has he ever worked a steady job, or tried to? Did he have some bad experiences at jobs early on? Employment can be really really tough to find and negotiate. A lot of people, by their 40s, have had some sort of professional trauma or a series of failures to launch for no one reason that you can pinpoint. Sometimes this leads to giving up on the idea of having a career, and that's perfectly understandable, but-- is this really what he wants?
posted by BibiRose at 7:35 AM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

He's a freelancer... [with a] not super social personality

Look... these things are kind of incompatible. He isn't a "freelancer" as much as someone who does odd jobs to get by. A freelancer is someone who hustles for jobs and is a shameless self-promoting self-marketer who is aggressive about collecting the bills owed to him by clients who try to delay paying their invoices. I think you're viewing him as a "freelancer" because the alternative-- realizing that he is a member of the long term unemployed without the temperament or ability to support himself outside of random side-work -- is hard for you to accept.
posted by deanc at 7:53 AM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

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