Financials and Relationships
June 27, 2014 6:26 PM   Subscribe

I quit my job about a year ago. Through a mixture of savings , part-time jobs I have managed to stay afloat. My girlfriend's birthday will be coming up next month and has asked me to fly with her to Paris. I would love to join her but believe my financial situation is not up to snuff. How do I communicate this in a manner that is positive for the both of us? Complicating factors below.

I quit my job about a year ago in order to complete an MBA program, get an internship that allowed me to switch careers. I have been able to maintain a decent lifestyle through a mixture of savings, good investments and part-time jobs. My girlfriend lives with me and in that time I have managed to pay all my bills which include half of the rent. I also keep a lifestyle where I go out on weekends and go out on dates with her which we either split or I pay.

As I don't start my next job till next month I decided to engage in some travel. I will be going to Europe for about three weeks and mostly staying in hostels or friend houses.

My girlfriend recently asked me to join her and her friends on her 30th birthday in Paris. She will be there for 5 days but because I just got a new job I am not allowed to take vacation days, she would like me to join her just for the weekend. I believe that flying to Europe for 48 hours is not worthy, irregardless of how much I love her. I also think it would be financially irresponsible especially since I am coming from Europe a few weeks before and my savings are down the drain. My girlfriend states that I can afford it because she sees the way I spend now and for the most part I should be fine, specially since I just scored a lucrative position. Nevertheless, it has taken a considerable amount and effort and work to have a balanced budget and I am also in debt. Finally, she sees me traveling alone and believes that I kind of owe her this one (though we did travel together to Israel last March).

I have asked her to go other places that are closer but she will not budge. I have been with her four years and in the last three she has lived with me. She has been supportive most of the time we've been together. I have communication issues and I am trying to do my best to be better at it and thus the reason I am posting here. Hive, could you help me craft a proper explanation. Is my girlfriend asking for too much?
posted by The1andonly to Human Relations (39 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
What your girlfriend is asking for is that you value her and your relationship with her by spending time and money on her, to the same extent that you value the things that you feel like spending money on, such as your prior trip to Europe. This is a heightened situation because turning 30 is a very special super big deal to some people. So in that sense, no, she is not asking too much.

Stating this in terms of your finances and the value judgements you have already made regarding what is and isn't in your budget is assuming that you've made those choices in the only possible way, which... isn't true. You could've made other choices along the way. It's not like you're dealing with sudden health care costs, a surprise eviction, supporting another family member, etc. It sounds like everything has gone... more or less according to plan.

And a 30th birthday doesn't come out of nowhere. What had you been planning on doing to celebrate, considering this sounds like a really big deal to her? Has this trip been in the making for a long time and you did your solo Europe trip anyway, or is this Paris trip a sudden development?
posted by Andrhia at 6:37 PM on June 27, 2014 [16 favorites]

I don't think she's asking for too much. As someone who once bowed out of a once-in-a-lifetime celebration for various reasons I thought were valid but now greatly regret doing so, I urge you to do what you can to join her. Her friends are her friends, but they are not you, and she's always going to remember you weren't there.
posted by sageleaf at 6:38 PM on June 27, 2014 [7 favorites]

I feel like this is one of those cases where two people have similar goals but are moving in opposite streams. You both intend to go to Europe, but you each have sticking points that prevent you from doing it at the same time and under the same circumstances. Putting myself in your girlfriend's shoes, I'd be ticked that you're willing to go to Europe for three weeks, knowing that she wants you to be there for her birthday weekend. Why not forego your own trip, take the weekend trip with her and then plan a longer trip together farther down the road once you're settled in your new job?

Rationally, your reasons for not going make sense; emotionally, I can see where she's coming from. In her mind, she probably is wondering why you would prioritize a 3 week trip without her, versus a weekend trip with her for a special occasion. So you need to think not in terms of a financial balance sheet, but your relationship's balance sheet.
posted by Mrs. Rattery at 6:40 PM on June 27, 2014 [7 favorites]

In your girlfriend's shoes I would think you were prioritizing your needs over mine. Sometimes that happens in relationships, but it should be balanced, do your needs often get prioritized over her's? Can you cut your vacation short to spend less at that time to then have the money to celebrate her birthday together.

Also, looking at timelines (your ages, length of relationship) the relationship normally changes in commitment level, combined with the milestone birthday I could easily see your choice over her birthday could be the straw that makes or breaks the back of your relationship.
posted by saucysault at 6:43 PM on June 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'll be fair to your girlfriend: when you know someone who seems to spend a lot of money or that they don't appear to be hurting financially, it's hard to believe that they're kinda broke. And if I knew anyone who was able to go to Europe for three weeks at all, I'd have some mental pause. I don't know if explaining your budgeting would work or not, but it's an idea. Beyond that, I don't know. I concur with you that flying to Paris for a weekend is ridiculous, though. How the hell would you function Monday morning at a new job with all that jet lag?

Much as I get the "30th birthday in Paris!!!!" thing is a Thing, I don't reasonably think you can swing it even if money wasn't an issue due to the vacation time. The jet lag alone for 48 hours sounds awful. And since you have to go weeks before her birthday.... The only reasonable compromise I can come up with is that she goes sometime when you're gone and you meet up there for an early birthday, but then that would interfere with her friends. And her Special Day. Ugh.

But...yeah, as everyone else said, she will be PISSED and never forget it if you go to Europe without her weeks before and then won't go with her, vacation time or no vacation time. You might just be better off not going to Europe at all so you're not rubbing "I can go without you" and "I can't afford to go with you" in her face. Because that is pretty much a slap right there. Or if you do go, go for a short enough trip that you could still afford a weekender with her later. You may just have to suck up the jetlag from hell for the sake of the relationship.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:43 PM on June 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

"I believe that flying to Europe for 48 hours is not worthy"

I agree, it is wasteful. But: Could your reschedule your Euro trip so the two of you could meet up for her birthday before you go home after three solo weeks in Euroland? That would be a fair compromise, I think.
She wants you there because you are important to her, and you kind of have enough resources since you are flying out to Europe anyway.

Anyway: I recommend to bring Paris to her! Source the very best baguette, eclairs, Camembert, wine and fruit you possibly can. Prepare a picnic in the park, hire some students from the local College of Music and have them play some romantic music. Show her that you care and understand her need for quality time, even if the trip to Paris might not work out this year.
posted by travelwithcats at 6:43 PM on June 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

Nevertheless, it has taken a considerable amount and effort and work to have a balanced budget and I am also in debt.

This confuses me. Up until this point in the question, you quit your job but are still living the life, going out, traveling alone to Europe (at a time when she presumably cannot go), but then when she wants you to travel with her, you have debt? Where'd that come from? Is it only a card you pull out to get yourself out of stuff you don't want to do? Maybe the Paris thing is a no-go just because of the timing (although I think you could swing it if you really tried, think of it as one grand night out on the town), but would it be possible to plan something else just as nice a month or two ahead of that?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:43 PM on June 27, 2014 [15 favorites]

Financially, you see yourself as having a delicate and thoughtful balancing act which allows you a lifestyle you enjoy as well as careful management of income/savings/debts. You also have a new lucrative job. She sees you having enough money to comfortably make rent/bills, not have to work much, and go out on dates and have an active, spendy social life. You see the bottom line and say that you can't be so extravagant, and she sees your spending habits and thinks that you can splurge to make this a very special trip for her. Both are true.

And, this may be way off base, but given that you've been living together for 3 of the 4 years that you've been dating, have you considered that she's also asking you to meet her for this big birthday in a very romantic city so that you can give her a ring and propose?
posted by quince at 6:49 PM on June 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: ThePinkSuperhero, I am in debt from completing an MBA degree (100K+) plus buying things here and there including said trip. I dont mind using the credit card when it makes sense to do so, this one even with the emotional aspect, is somewhat killing.

Nevertheless, I am open going to Europe if that is the best response of things and this is what people do for those they love. Sometimes I am not sure what are cultural norms!

Also, I have managed to pull my budget from doing a bunch of things such as working in cafes, freelance programming, etc. I also have made sure never to ask for money. When the situation was reversed and she didn't have a job I paid the whole rent (but that's neither here nor there) on a similar salary to hers.

I have traveled with her recently so this is not a card I pull out when I need to travel with her.

I am also open (and would prefer) to take her on a longer trip once I can stay longer and my money situation is better. I did ask her to come to Europe with me on my three week trip and she said she can't take off from work.

The trip to Paris would entail me flying in Friday night, getting in Saturday Morning and leaving Sunday night.
posted by The1andonly at 6:51 PM on June 27, 2014

I hire people all the time that come in with pre-planned trips and make it part of their on boarding.

e.g. hey, I have a family event right in the first month I need to go to. I'll need Aug 4-9th off.

They money thing is a separate thing that's up to you, but I've always regretted not going on one time special trips when I skipped them.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 6:52 PM on June 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

I believe that flying to Europe for 48 hours is not worth

Very true. It also wasn't very cost-effective for me to spend a weekend in Vegas staying at an expensive hotel and running up a huge restaurant tab with my friends to celebrate a college friend's 40th birthday. But I did it anyway because I knew I would regret it if I didn't. Sometimes you do something for the experience, and this is one of those times.
posted by deanc at 6:52 PM on June 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

You've been together for four years and live together, but you're still prioritizing having fun individually (trip to Europe) over her special occasion. The dollar amounts of these activities are a red herring, I think. If you were both significantly poorer and your three week trip involved camping for free on a buddy's property and her trip to Paris was instead a weekend at the local Hyatt, from the way you've written this you'd still be making the same objections and so would she. You're prioritizing you over you-and-her. At four years into this relationship if you're not thinking like a team, you're probably never going to, and that's what this birthday is making her realize.
posted by MsMolly at 7:00 PM on June 27, 2014 [41 favorites]

ThePinkSuperhero, I am in debt from completing an MBA degree (100K+) plus buying things here and there including said trip. I dont mind using the credit card when it makes sense to do so, this one even with the emotional aspect, is somewhat killing.

You're already 100k+ in debt (and some of that is consumer debt) and one more flight to Paris is gonna break you? I don't buy it, and she probably doesn't, either. If you have that much debt already, this fight isn't about money, it's about something else. New job stress? Control? Priorities? Commitment? I don't know. You have to dig deep and figure it out, and then you have to have an honest conversation with her about why you don't want to go. You've been together for four years, you need to be able to have a conversation about this and come to a compromise that works for both of you. There's a lot of passive language in your question about your relationship ("My girlfriend lives with me"), are you actively in it? Or are you just letting it happen to you, bobbing along? Are you passively trying to end this relationship?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:02 PM on June 27, 2014 [18 favorites]

I dont mind using the credit card when it makes sense to do so

I mean, you said it yourself right here. Three weeks of, pardon the expression, dicking around in Europe "makes sense", but doing something that would make your girlfriend happy doesn't. She's asking why she's less important. Its a valid question.
posted by MsMolly at 7:07 PM on June 27, 2014 [40 favorites]

Three things:

1. You went into debt to pay for a 3-week trip to Europe? That's kind of financially irresponsible. No wonder she thinks you can afford to come to Paris.

2. You're prioritizing what you want to do over what she wants to do. That's all this is. Your 3-week trip to Europe makes no more sense for someone in debt than a weekend trip to Paris. They're both silly if you're broke and fun if you're flush.

3. Nevertheless, I have the magic solution you're looking for. You say you'd be happy to travel later, after you've started your new job. So, for her birthday, give her two tickets another of her dream vacation spots. It should be somewhere lavish, and you can go over the winter holidays. If it's somewhere exciting enough, she'll probably get over the birthday thing.
posted by leitmotif at 7:08 PM on June 27, 2014 [11 favorites]

If your $100k MBA debt is a good reason not to go to Europe for the weekend when you would otherwise presumably be sitting on your ass not earning money, then it's a great reason not to go to Europe for three weeks when you could spend that time freelance programming or working at a cafe and earning some cash to pay it down.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 7:11 PM on June 27, 2014 [8 favorites]

The trip to Paris would entail me flying in Friday night, getting in Saturday Morning and leaving Sunday night.

This is insane. Not because of money or anything, but because you'll probably spend almost an entire 24 hours just flying if not longer with layovers, just to spend one night there? I think that, in and of itself is an unreasonable expectation.

On the other hand i think every other reason for not doing it is bunk, but that one is definitely an elephant.

If you go, could you go earlier in the week and then fly out on sunday or something? i feel like unless you go for like 5 days it just isn't worth the flight time and hassle. Is there anyway to shift your existing trip so that you're just there when she is, and then return for your job? It seems really weird to not just make these trips overlap. You might not overlap and hang out on that specific weekend, but as long as you guys can meet up and do stuff there while you're both over there then it should be fine.

I don't think you have an excuse for not doing this other than "i don't want to do this with you" besides how ridiculous it is to fly that much just to spend one night there. That's the kind of thing silly rich people with private jets do, and you will be exhausted the entire time.
posted by emptythought at 7:12 PM on June 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

Of course, my bias is that I'm about to buy plane tickets to fly from Seattle to London for a two-day visit with my brother, so I obviously think a weekend trip to Europe is a pretty reasonable thing to do.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 7:13 PM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am admittedly someone for whom birthdays are a big deal. The thing I don't understand is that her birthday did not sneak up out of nowhere. She must have been planning this for months, right? What have you been doing during that time? If your answer is not, planning an awesome non-Paris birthday thing that girlfriend and I can do together that does not entail flying to Europe for 48 hours that will make her forget that I was not with her for a very special birthday, you've got a problem.

You're looking at this rationally, which I understand, but she's looking at this like, dude won't make a sacrifice for me on a special occasion. Not just a birthday but a special birthday. I am glad that I am not in your position but dude, I might just bite the bullet here. My sister in law got married last year. I had a very important work thing Thursday through Friday afternoon. Her rehearsal dinner was Friday night. I spent $700+ on plane tickets plus a car service so we would make the rehearsal dinner. I ran from my work event with a bag to a train to the airport and sprinted to the gate after security. When I got married, my father flew to my in-laws in the morning and out that evening for our engagement party. Because that's what you do on special occasions for people you love.
posted by kat518 at 7:14 PM on June 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

You did Israel in March, you're doing Europe already without her, of course she thinks you can afford this. You can't afford this, but you probably couldn't afford those other things, either. You're going to need to have a come-to-Jesus moment with yourself before you sit down and have a talk with her about your actual means and what's within them and how all this travel and whatever else she thinks you can afford is not it until such time as you actually have a real salary coming in.

I was, honestly, all ready to be on your side about this being an unreasonable request until the bit about how you were already going on another trip and you'd already made a major international trip once this year. Either you have the money to make those sorts of travel plans, and possibly to rearrange your Europe trip to allow this, or you don't have the money for any of it and you need to deal with that sooner than later.
posted by Sequence at 7:15 PM on June 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all for the incredible feedback. Just one more bit of explanation:

1) My job doesn't start until exactly a month before her birthday. My travel takes place during a time when I am not working or could work remotely.

2) If her Birthday was in the next month (when I am not working), I would immediately cancel all trips and would organize whatever I needed to do so I can join on the trip.

3) After reading stories I see now that there are common expectations about birthdays and especially big birthdays (I am not one of those peoples).

4) I also see the lengths of what some people do and getting an appreciation for that so thank you so much.
posted by The1andonly at 7:28 PM on June 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've taken a random spontaneous weekend long trip to Europe, years ago. It was a silly thing to do. It was a lot of flight time. It was expensive even with the cheap fare.

It is also, many years later, an extraordinarily fond memory of a very happy and romantic trip that had intangible value beyond its price tag. We still talk about that trip as one of our best vacations together. The jet lag was worth the memory.

Which is not to say you should necessarily go given your debt level, but that there are many things to consider and pure practicality is just one.

In your shoes I think I'd try to find a compromise measure. Shorter backpacking trip, attempt to request a vacation day or two from the new job, plan a special trip for you two before the new job starts, something. In your girlfriend's shoes, I hope I would be understanding that vacation time early in a new job can be tricky, and open to a conversation about what alternative might be equally special. There's some ground where you two can have a conversation and problem solve together here.
posted by Stacey at 8:00 PM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have to point out that she asked you to go to Paris with her after the fact that you had booked a trip to Europe. You say "recently," but it's unclear when that is.

Yes, birthdays may be more important to some people than others. I'm also a firm believer that no one should feel like they *must* spend the money to do X, even if their bank account or credit card could accommodate it. This is kind of a sad way to think. She's got to respect the other responsibilities in your life. Work isn't everything, but in light of starting a new job? It's okay to want to make a good first impression. Plan a big trip out with her for later this year. You can find some amazing deals online these days (In 2012, I flew RT to South America for $250). Look, you've got to try a little to make her birthday special, but you don't have to do it in a blinding, extreme fashion like flying to Paris for the weekend. It's great to be dependent in a relationship, but take the time and effort to do the big, fun trips every now and then. You say she feels as though you owe her one...have you done anything to show that you've taken her into consideration?

You mentioned that you had communications issues with her in this relationship. I'd explore these issues a bit further. Are you apprehensive about saying "no" to her? If there are communication issues being buried, I'm not sure even a weekend in Paris can help. This very well be a boundaries thing. It's something I've personally been struggling with, in almost all of my relationships (friends, family, work). I find myself doing a lot of things when, in fact, I don't want to at all. I've been in situations where I could either take an extravagant trip with a friend or take a realistic approach, say no, and suggest another activity. I wind up having fun, but it just plays into my cycle of Not Saying What I Feel.
posted by chloe.gelsomino at 8:11 PM on June 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I guess I'm in the minority, but if a friend of mine who had JUST returned from Europe told me he was flying alllll the way back there again for just two days and a birthday party, I'd think he was bonkers.
posted by wats at 8:39 PM on June 27, 2014 [11 favorites]

I totally get why you are prioritising your trip for when you have time off in between studies and a new job, and I don't think there's anything wrong with this. It's unlikely you'll have 3 solid weeks for travel once you start working again, and taking that opportunity is a worthwhile thing. If your girlfriend suggested the Paris trip after your plans were already set, and after she already made plans with her own friends, then I think she's being silly to expect you to do a long distance weekend trip on the heels of that, birthday or no. But I'm also a little confused about why you never invited her to join you for at least part of your trip in the first place.

Can you not convince her to do her trip earlier, so that your trips overlap and you can build a Paris weekend into your itinerary? I don't see why it has to be her actual birthday, and you can still make it special by booking a nice hotel and some romantic meals.

If you've already each made individual plans with other friends, without including each other, well, then that seems to say more about the status of your relationship, and your mutual ability to communicate. This really isn't about money. I agree with others saying that if you can go into debt for your own trip, then you don't have a strong argument about not affording your girlfriend's trip. However, the fact that she doesn't seem to know about the reality of your financial situation also suggests a lack of honesty and communication. And this really is about both of you understanding where the other is coming from, and the fact that you are both prioritising yourselves. I think the answer lies in where you both think this relationship is going, and how you want to navigate your personal needs versus the relationship.
posted by amusebuche at 9:45 PM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh by the way, seems like the girlfriend's priority here was being w. her friends for the big day. This apparently didn't come out of a "hey boyfriend, let's do something amazing for my 30th."
posted by ambient2 at 11:50 PM on June 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

I don't get why the OP has to invite the girlfriend along the Europe trip. He works hard to cover rent and living expenses, to get his degree and then earn a spot in an internship. It's his reward. Being in a relationship doesn't mean one has to explore everywhere together with a partner. They have already travelled together in March, and now he might want me time alone to Europe. I am in a serious relationship and my man and I have travelled many times together and these trips were amazing. But we do travel separately and then share what we have seen and learned to each other. Personally I don't think it's selfish not to include a partner in an extended trip that I really want to go by myself.

The thing is, I understand it's her birthday and she is upset and disappointed that her special someone is not there on her Big 30. However compromise has to made from both sides, not only from the OP. My partner has to cancel a few plans we made due to important stuff at work as well but he puts a lot of effort in making up for it to let me know that I am still cared for and loved. Cook her a nice meal, buy her something she will appreciate, pamper her and make a plan to travel to her favourite country when both of you are free.

I personally don't think flying to Europe for less than 48 hrs is justified.
posted by azalea at 12:16 AM on June 28, 2014 [10 favorites]

I would never fly to Paris for just one jetlagged day with your girlfriends friends. I also think this shows that you have radically different ideas about how to spend money and how much emphasis there is on what she wants and that may become an issue later on in the relationship as well. I agree that there should be balance, but that should come from two sides. You can think "well, if it is that important to you, I'll go, because that's what people who love each other do", but she could also think "I would love it if you would be there, but I understand that it just may not work for you, could we figure something out that works for both of us". I don't think there's anything wrong with preferring the latter attitude. I also think that the fact that you paid the rent when she was out of a job shows that you don't always prioritize your needs above hers, and I would wonder a bit if she tends to prioritize her needs above yours. Not saying that that is the case, that's impossible to tell from an askme question that is necessarily just your perspective, but it may be worth considering.
posted by blub at 2:55 AM on June 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I did ask her to come to Europe with me on my three week trip and she said she can't take off from work.

Then you can also say no. You can do a trip together later.
posted by empath at 3:38 AM on June 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

From your (one sided, abbreviated) description it sounds as if this Paris trip was conceived by her and her friend(s) as a way of marking the occasion and that you were asked to tag along? If this was her wanting to spend her birthday with you alone in Paris that's one thing. If she wants to go out there as part of a trip with friends and wants you there as well that's another thing all together. In the first instance there is a more compelling argument for you to stick this on your credit card, make the whole thing part of the onboarding process for new job and tell them it's pre planned, whilst you're not entitled to vacation could you take it as unpaid leave and go with it. In the second scenario there could still be an argument for you to show willingness to just eat the cost and be tired for a few days but personally I'd be less enthusiastic about doing that. Anyway, it's not really about budgetary concerns but about perceived investment in the relationship so you're not going to get her to see it your way with budget discussions.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:47 AM on June 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you can afford a three-week trip to Europe, you can afford to take a 48-hour one. But that doesn't mean you can afford both. And I think it's nuts to ask you to do the 48-hour one instead.
posted by grouse at 4:51 AM on June 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

What I'd do is ask her to come visit you while you're on your walkabout in Europe and while you're there, you can do a fancy-schmancy special thing for her.

"Pookie, you know I love you, and I want to do something special for your birthday, because 30 is such an awesome milestone. I know that you and your girlfriends are doing Paris, and that's an awesome plan, I'm sure that I'll just be in the way of a fun 'Girl's Weekend.' Tell you what, how about you meet me in Prague for a few days. I'll get us a nice hotel and we'll walk around and have a lovely romantic time together, just the two of us."

This way, you're doing a lovely, romantic thing with her in celebration of her birthday, there's no crazy flying around for 12 hours by the Seine, it's less expensive than you flying in for a couple of days, and you can still do your planned tour, you'll just see your girlfriend in the middle of it for a few days. She also might more easily take a long weekend (Labor Day) or just a couple of days, rather than the entire three weeks you first suggested.

Pick the place you plan to visit where it's easy for her to get cheap airfare, and for you to spring for a nice hotel/B&B for a couple of nights.

Now you don't have a huge expense just as you start your new job, you won't be running around like a crazy person, just as you start your new job. And you'll still have done a lovely gesture for her 30th Birthday.

I will also suggest that after four years, and now that you're getting a job and your life is returning to normal, that it would be ENTIRELY within the realm of probability that your girlfriend is expecting you to talk of a future together, specifically a romantic marriage proposal.

If that's the case, I suggest a placeholder ring for you to give her. I like Ross Simons for this, very affordable, and very pretty. My own engagement/wedding ring came from Ross Simons.

So...make of that what you will.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:49 AM on June 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

I don't think marriage is something to consider without having a long hard look at the way both of you manage your finances. Money is the biggest stressor in romantic relationships. If your views on money are not compatible, that could be problematic down the road.

If I were you I'd cancel the 3-week trip and I would not go to Paris. Who has the fortitude for that jetlag? And if you have debt you have little business traveling in Europe for 3 weeks. That's financially irresponsible even if you plan to make good money at your new job. You don't have the money now. Don't spend money you don't have.

I would also seriously consider the future of this relationship. I know that had my boyfriend and I lived together for three years? I'd be very hurt if he said "she has lived with me for the last 3 years" to describe our living situation. That illustrates the way you view her and this relationship. She may sense that she is not as important to you as she would like to be, and may be trying to use this Paris trip as a way to either prove or disprove her suspicions. So you may want to evaluate your feelings about her and about your life.

Best of luck.
posted by sockermom at 6:35 AM on June 28, 2014 [8 favorites]

If someone plans a special party, one requiring travel, and they don't include me in the planning, that means I'm not really an important guest.

If it was my girlfriend's 30th birthday party, I'd feel stung. I might suck it up and attend anyway if it was convenient, but if it wasn't, I wouldn't feel bad about not going.

I do suspect that you're going to have a very pissed off girlfriend if you don't go, though.

Not your question, but this doesn't sound like a great relationship. It doesn't sound like you guys are very close or love one another. Don't spend the rest of your life with someone who doesn't come first for you and vice versa.
posted by mattu at 11:55 AM on June 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

If you ultimately decide you cannot go, for whatever reason, here are some ideas to help shore up the emotional loss of your presence on her trip:
  • Plan and host an elaborate birthday party with a "Bon Voyage" theme for her trip. Make it ultra-French. Invite all of the friends who cannot go on the trip. Give her thoughtful gifts that are durable and useful for her trip. Maybe you get her a new piece of luggage? I don't know her style, but a good leather weekender bag from Jack Spade, a new hard-sided rolly case from Samsonite, etc. sounds good. Maybe you spend the money instead on an experience for her to share with her friends in Paris -- maybe you buy her a Rent-a-Local-Friend guide in Paris, or a trip/tour on If you have extra air miles, see if you can donate them to her so she can upgrade to Business or First.
  • If the party is too cumbersome, why not buy her a lasting and memorable piece of jewelry? She may be ready for a proposal, so be careful not to add too much emphasis to the giving of said gift, but a really nice pair of classic pearl earrings sounds good. Something she can keep, and something that will keep you close to her heart when she wears them. How about a nice gold locket with a photo inside of a city that you both want to go to soon on one side, a photo of you together on the other?
  • If you shell-game her with a future trip, make it actionable and soon. Do it before you leave to Europe so it's a pre-birthday gift. Take her for an indulgent weekend at a fancy hotel or AirBnb house in your area. Make it special. Cook dinner for her, buy her flowers, give her the type of physical affection she prefers. The way to couch this is that it's a big birthday, and that you want to make it special in a way you both can enjoy.
  • If you really aren't going, send her with sealed and special notes to open up each day. Maybe tuck cute surprises inside, such as the viator trip or a gift certificate for something special that she can redeem in Paris. It will help her feel loved on her special day, and would be super thoughtful.
  • Where are you going in Europe on your trip? Can you get to Paris (secretly) in advance and do some groundwork/legwork to make her trip amazing? Things like scouting out the local area around her hotel, taking photos, writing down tips, buying gift certificates and such to tuck into the notes you'll send her off with?
That's all I can think of. I would like to think if I were in her position I would be able to understand your non-attendance, but it will be hard even if she puts her big girl pants on and accepts reality for what it is. Be ready for her emotions. Be ready to make up for your absence in a serious and lasting way. I am half of the mind to say that a trip of 48 hrs is crazy impractical. It's something I would do if I had an expectation of 1-1 time with my significant other, but not in the group setting that you're laying out. You'll spend money you don't (seemingly) have and you'll feel tired, jetlagged, and possibly not the center of attention in proportion to your efforts. You might even find yourself feeling crabby, or "ruining" the event by being sleepy, unexpectedly sick (planes are gross, yo), etc. You might also put your new job at risk if there are travel disruptions that make your prompt return difficult.

Be careful. With her, with this, with yourself. Make an effort in other areas. Make it right. I am not in the camp where you *must* go on this trip. I am in the camp where it matters that you aren't there, and it's important that you recognize your role in helping her to feel special and loved not only because it's her birthday, but also because the situation -- on the face of it -- appears super unfair to you both.
posted by cior at 2:19 PM on June 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

P.S. If you can't go, for the love of all that is holy, please send with her a real gift that is thoughtfully chosen, not inexpensive, wrapped. She will be celebrating with friends, and aside from her heartache over your absence, it is often very important in a relationship to signal that one is loved and cared for. Your absence suggests that you don't love her enough to go, or that you have priorities above her. She is probably aware of how this looks to her friends. I am not suggesting that her social status or the perception of friends is the most important issue, but it is an issue. If you are serious about her, especially considering the length of your relationship, don't let others look on you as an asshole who doesn't care and doesn't show up. If you can't show up in person, there are still many ways you can SHOW UP. Show up, even if it's only figuratively.
posted by cior at 2:22 PM on June 28, 2014 [7 favorites]

P.P.S. Send her treats via local delivery to her hotel or apartment in Paris. Big arrangement of flowers on her big day, that sort of thing.
posted by cior at 2:25 PM on June 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have been thinking about this a lot. I just can't imagine imposing on someone else like this and then getting a bunch of lavish presents because I didn't get precisely what I wanted for my birthday. It's a birthday. Maybe I'm bringing my own bias in here, but the amount of money people are talking about for you to celebrate your girlfriend's birthday could easily feed a family of four for more than a month. Maybe y'all are just in a wildly different income bracket than I am, but come on. It's just a birthday. Be nice, and take her out to dinner, but this is a heck of a lot of hullabaloo to ask for simply for being born 30 years ago. Sure, she's special, but that doesn't mean you have to go into debt and bend over backwards to meet her extravagant demands.
posted by sockermom at 2:37 PM on June 28, 2014 [21 favorites]

My read of this is that it seems like she's prioritizing spending her birthday with her friends over spending it with her boyfriend. And yeah, I'd be pretty hurt by that if I was in OP's shoes.

I couldn't imagine leaving the country to celebrate my birthday if my significant other couldn't come with me. Maybe someone I'd been just dating a few months, but not someone I was in a years-long relationship with.

I mean I think it's also weird, OP, that you're going to Europe for 3 weeks during a time she can't come with you as well so it's not just her.

It just kinda seems like you both treat this relationship very casually given its length.
posted by Asparagus at 8:00 PM on June 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

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