Is financial issues in a relationship a deal breaker?
January 30, 2015 5:21 PM   Subscribe

Been in a relationship with my partner for 2 years. I'm 26 and he is 28. We don't live together yet but have talked about it a couple of times throughout our relationship along with talking about having children. I make more money than him but he refuses to let me pay for dates, so we don't do as much as I would like to. He is responsible with money but barely has any disposable income. His expenses seem to be much higher than mine. Are financial issues a deal breaker in a relationship?

I've been dating my partner for 2 years now. We've always had a very natural and fun relationship where we are huge foodies, joke all the time, party with mutual friends on the weekends, rant about politics and social issues,similar humor and taste in music. We have met each other closest family members and friends.

During these two years, he has had the same job and has not made any new progress towards his career in audio engineering. He is currently working a job in a field that he doesn't want to. To make extra money, he will freelance and take on audio gigs around the city.He graduated college 5 years ago and I graduated about 2 years ago. I got my first big girl job about a year in half ago and got promoted after a year in my actual career field. During the time we've been dating, I also started my own small business, while I still work full time somewhere else, traveled without him (because he didn't have money to ever go or take off), rented my first one bedroom on my own, and recently bought a new car. I’m very proud of myself in what I’ve accomplished in the last year as I was living off my parents before then. I feel like he is proud of me but might feel a little envious or intimidated by what I’ve accomplished in the last year alone.

Although,he has never had much money, I found he always found ways around this like cook for me all the time, take me out to fancy dinners when he gets extra cash, and even when he was low on funds, he would take me on inexpensive but fun dates. Until recently, I feel like he had gotten comfortable with our relationship and is not doing as much as he used to.I do care for him but I don't know if this is predictor of the future of how he would be once we have kids or move in together.
Lately I've been getting frustrated with his situation. He was forced to move out of his last house due to a disagreement with the landlord and was paying little to nothing to live there. Now, he has moved somewhere else where the rent and expenses are much higher, so he is even tighter with his money.
He is currently living with 4 other roommates, who happens to be his closest friends. We have gotten into arguments about his finances in the past about living together and he won't move in with me until he makes more money to take care of us and contribute equally to rent and other expenses.
He has always talked about moving in together and having children but has always said the time is not now because of his money situation. He believes that his partner should not have to pay for him and he always stresses that he wants to take care of me and build a life together but it’s hard because of the industry he wants a job in. I’ve confirmed this with some of my friends who S.O. are in his dream field and they have all mentioned that the music industry is definitely hard to break into.I also firmly believe that I shouldn’t move in with him, unless we are making enough money to afford our lifestyles. Just to contribute equally,I will treat him to occasional dinners and movies, cook for him or buy him small gifts.

I finally decided to have a talk with him about this a month ago and it was a big blow up where communication and financial issues were a deal. We took a break for 3 days and then talked everything out and got back together. In this conversation, he said he would change a,b,c,d because he is now aware of my frustrations and I mentioned that I would change a,b,c,d to make our relationship better. After this conversation, I feel like our relationship blossomed and now there is a sense of understanding between us. I definitely think we are more aware of each other feelings on this sensitive subject and are both trying harder to make this work. It does seem like he have been trying as he has been communicated with me more on his job progress lately and opening up more to me in general.

Part of me thinks I should stick it out because a year in a half ago, I was equally as frustrated, discouraged, depressed, not working in my dream field and was making significantly less money than I am now. I don't want to have a kid now but I do feel like the time for us to move in together is coming up soon and I want to see where this goes. I feel like our relationship can’t progress to moving in together or having a child until his financial situation has been fixed, as I mentioned during our big fight. He agreed with this and promised me that he will try harder and do what he can to make sure I’m happy and where he should be financially. I have no interest in supporting him financially or taking on the breadwinner role in our relationship. I can't bring myself to live with someone who doesn’t have enough to pay for rent on their own. Everything else is good besides the financial issues. I do love and care for him and I do feel like this is the most mature and open relationship that I’ve ever been in. He has been very honest with me since the beginning about his bad credit (due to a family member opening a credit card in his name and not telling him about it, super high student loans, and a job that doesn’t pay much.

I’m just looking for some guidance here. I do feel better after the conversation we had but I guess I want to hear what’s a reasonable amount of time to see if anything changes or any other advice or concerns you all might have.
posted by ruebeignet to Human Relations (29 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: After this conversation, I feel like our relationship blossomed and now there is a sense of understanding between us.

This is such an important part of what you wrote. This is good. This is great! Whatever the imbalances are between you two--and two people in a relationship will always have balance issues--it's very bluntly more important that you talk about those imbalances, openly and honestly. It'll take more effort to learn how to communicate that way (e.g. avoiding hurting one anothers' feelings in the process) than it will be to learn to deal with careers and incomes that operate differently.

My partner and I make very different kinds of money. Like, multiply my salary by 8 different (although it was more like x3 when we met). It's always an issue with us, but we've lived together for 7 years and have gotten a pretty good handle on the issues this brings up. Our nutshell agreements for your reference, whether or not they're right for you two.

1. Never, ever, ever judge the other for their choice in career. It's not your call, even if you make babies. You can iron out differences of opinion without telling the other that they're wrong for making more or less money than some arbitrary value.
2. Richer partner: be cool with poorer dates, events, friends, settings. Poorer partner: be cool with richer dates, events, friends, settings. Meet in the middle, blend your environments.
3. Poorer partner: if you feel like you're going along with something you can't afford to keep from rocking the boat, feel free to say so. Sometimes the solution isn't to just pay up or not join in--you can ask your partner to pick up some of the difference, although they may say no.
4. Richer partner: if you want to go on events that are costing more than you think your partner can afford, ask your partner about it. If you're comfortable covering the difference between actual cost and what your partner can pay, offer to do so (but don't do it automatically).
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 5:34 PM on January 30, 2015 [10 favorites]

I definitely think we are more aware of each other feelings on this sensitive subject and are both trying harder to make this work. It does seem like he have been trying as he has been communicated with me more on his job progress lately and opening up more to me in general.

So, this is all good, right? What is the rush after your discussion last month to make a move?

I'd give him a little time and see how it goes. Set a deadline in your head if you want for "things" to move forward. 26 is pretty young so I don't think you need to hit the panic button yet.

But yes, financial concerns are a big contributor to divorce. (It doesn't matter if someone makes more money, all that matters is that you are on the same page about it.) I think you're on the right track telling him your concerns, he has acknowledged them, now you can see what happens.
posted by getawaysticks at 5:35 PM on January 30, 2015

Best answer: Although,he has never had much money, I found he always found ways around this like cook for me all the time, take me out to fancy dinners when he gets extra cash, and even when he was low on funds, he would take me on inexpensive but fun dates.

He sounds wonderful. Someone who knows the value of money, is smart with it, isn't using his relative lack of income to try and mooch off of you, and is willing to contribute to the partnership in what ways he can. He may not have a lot of money, but he's investing time, effort, and care into the relationship.

I feel like our relationship can’t progress to moving in together or having a child until his financial situation has been fixed, as I mentioned during our big fight.

I have no interest in supporting him financially or taking on the breadwinner role in our relationship. I can't bring myself to live with someone who doesn’t have enough to pay for rent on their own.

This is a perfectly valid way to think about the relationship, but it's devaluing his contributions and investment and is very obviously not the model he's working from.

You should break up now and get with someone who thinks about relationships the same way you do. Just so you're aware, though, life happens. If you actually want a longterm relationship with another person and not a financial arrangement, you should be aware that you might end up having to support him financially, or be supported yourself; medical catastrophes, accidents, etc all have a way of coming up in life.

If you can't commit to him 100% as a person and a team mate, he's not the person you should be having kids with. It's totally cool to want your relationship to be a financial partnership of equals but you need to be up front about it, and in that case this isn't the guy for you.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 5:43 PM on January 30, 2015 [32 favorites]

If you're frustrated with how he deals with money now, when you have no shared expenses, it will only get worse if you start living together, having children, etc. It sounds like you want to live a more expensive lifestyle than he would be able to support. If you're not going to change, then move on.
posted by metasarah at 5:46 PM on January 30, 2015 [8 favorites]

Best answer: On the one hand: I am really sensitive to broke partner issues because I have dealt with it, and yes, that is a dealbreaker if you want it to be. And I totally understand not wanting to be the breadwinner/supporter and wanting a guy to be able to handle life on his own in the event that you were unable to float him along too. And it is frustrating when the other one is broke.

On the other hand: your boyfriend is not a deadbeat flake who hates working. He's behaving absolutely reasonably with you. He tries to not sponge off of you, has explained his finances and why they are the way they are, and he is doing his best to cover his own business. He does work. He's doing the very best he can in the circumstances and field he's in, as far as I can tell. Honestly, other than "make more money," I can't think of a way for him to get any better than he is. He's a good boyfriend! He may be pretty broke, but other than that, he sounds like a keeper.

And ah....yeah, a year and a half ago you felt like he does and now you have a bit of Smug Making More Money going on. Which you admit to yourself, eh?

Sure, you can break up with him because you're fed up with his lack of money. It's an option. I'm sure in some ways it's a little appealing to think of not having to deal with his adjacent stress or that you could find a guy with more money. But other than "land a better job," which I'm sure he's got to be working on, what the hell else can the man do to make it better? It's kinda out of his control. He's doing the best he can. And frankly, good honest keepers who do well in relationships are incredibly hard to find, and you might regret it if you throw him back for being broke and then end up dating a rich jerk, or something.

If it were me, I'd stick with him. If you don't have screaming biological clock ticking issues or some other thing pushing you to move ahead with shacking up/marriage/babies now, wait it out. See if he ever does get a better job. A lot of decent people can't find jobs that make enough for them to have a good living, or hell, can't even find jobs at all these days. If he's doing the best he can, and it sounds like he is, and everything else is good but that....I say to wait it out and see what happens. Good luck.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:10 PM on January 30, 2015 [13 favorites]

Oh, I forgot, reasonable time to wait: well, maybe another 2-4 years if you can take it? Until the Clock Ticking feeling kicks in? Or if you eventually realize a year and a half in you can't take it any more and you desperately want a richer boyfriend and he still can't get a better job...I guess then for you your clock has run out.

But seriously, it's taking years for people to find new jobs these days. YEARS. You're still pretty young, and as long as your patience can hold out, I'd say you should give him years' worth of time.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:13 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

If he sees his future with you and a family, why not encourage him to pursue a more profitable career? It takes working your butt off, but he doesn't seem like a slouch if he works full-time and freelances on the side. If his line of work makes it so that he can't afford to live an independent life, let alone a life with a partner, then maybe this is something he should deal with now sooner than later.
posted by gehenna_lion at 6:14 PM on January 30, 2015

Like your partner, I chose a career that often does not pay a middle class salary, particularly for entry level, and which is hard to get into in the first place. And I have student loans which I can't even pay right now. Even if he gets a full-time job in the industry that he is building his resume for with freelance gigs, how much can he expect to make within the first year, five years? All while continuing to save money and pay of his student loans in increasing monthly installments? Enough to meet you halfway as your career and lifestyle also grows and develops?

I think it's unreasonable for either of you to expect him to be able to meet you with equal financial gains throughout both of your careers, considering your differing circumstances and career paths. If I were dating someone of a higher economic class than me who expected me to be able to live up to their standards... I wouldn't know how to respond to that. I certainly wouldn't pretend that I could accomplish that, or accomplish it within a year. Typically you can't just decide to not be poor, and you certainly can't ask someone to just not be poor.
posted by wrabbit at 6:40 PM on January 30, 2015 [9 favorites]

I have no interest in supporting him financially or taking on the breadwinner role in our relationship.

You know that marriage thing you're kicking around in the back of your head ? One of the vows is "For richer or poorer, until death do us part". Just gonna throw that out there.

On the one hand, you've got a hardworking and honest dude who seems to like you. On the other hand, he's a pushover who is putting up with you emasculating him over your materialistic anxieties.

I think you should DTMFA, because he deserves someone who appreciates and takes him as he is, and not how they envision he could be if he would just be different.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:05 PM on January 30, 2015 [16 favorites]

Idk, it sounds like you both have hangups about money, which may or may not be compatible and/or realistic. He refuses to consider the possibility that you might ever support him, as do you. If you were married and he became too ill or injured to work, would you dump him? If you were both successful in your chosen careers but you happened to land the job of a lifetime and made 10x as much as he did, would you dump him? Would you go on fancy vacations alone or with you sitting in first class while he sits in coach?
posted by poffin boffin at 7:25 PM on January 30, 2015 [6 favorites]

For clarification, when you that he doesn't let you pay for dates, do you mean ever, as in he always pays and will not 'let' you pay, or he won't let you pay more, in proportion to your income?

Because the first option is dealkiller for me. Negotiations happen between equal parnters, and if who pays is entirely determined by him .... not so equal.
posted by Dashy at 7:27 PM on January 30, 2015 [4 favorites]

This feels a bit like a variation on the trailing-spouse situation: one where career trajectories are sufficiently different that there's some element of sacrifice involved to make the relationship continue.

Do you get the sense that if you weren't in a relationship, your partner would be able to strike out and do more with his career? If so, is that a problem for you? If not, is that a problem for you? Because if you are in a kind of trailing-spouse relationship but aren't fully aware of it, it's a problem, and your post reads a bit like that.
posted by holgate at 8:05 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't be so quick to assume your successes in your first year of independence are indicative of the years to come. You acknowledge that you were "living off you your parents" up until that point. That's great that your parents were able to do that for you, and that you were fortunate enough to secure employment after graduation, but life's a pretty long haul. Don't dismiss the fact that money begets money. If you didn't have those advantages, would you have been able to hit the ground running like you did? Treasure that job, and I hope it's the first of a string of great ones for you.

I think this man sounds like a compassionate, considerate partner who strikes me as one who worked hard for everything he has. This question hits close to home because my brother is dating a woman who sounds a lot like you. With her college paid for and nothing to worry about but studying, she was able to graduate with honors and secure a job making six figures right out of college - bought a condo, a car, the works. He on the other hand, like me and all of the other middle class folks I know, worked 2 jobs through college and took what we could get after we graduated because we had loans and bills to pay. Like your boyfriend, he is very careful to express his love and worth through non-monetary means. Unlike you, she appreciates him for it, and they are engaged to be in what I know will be a long, successful, loving marriage.
posted by le_salvo at 8:46 PM on January 30, 2015 [13 favorites]

There are a few concepts that were just part of the normal milieu when I was growing up that I've come to realize are not necessarily or even always healthily part of the actual milieu. You can see loads of other MeFi and AskMe content about getting degrees, buying homes, having children, and responsibilities towards immediate and extended family for examples. People figure out new (and beautiful and awful) ways to do this stuff all the time, and rarely is it easy to pinpoint One Right Way.

So: let's talk about "breadwinner." This word is irrelevant to the world as I understand it. It isn't easy to conceive of a world for most couples where one person brings home the bacon and the other one fries it up in a pan. Obviously, that can and does happen, with wonderful and not-so-great degrees of success, all over the world. But I've seen so many more examples of couples who each earn/save/spend their own disparate amounts of money, contribute their agreed-upon portion, and make it work. I love that you guys are communicating, and I agree that bodes well.

I can't tell if it's your boyfriend or you or both of you seem a little stuck on the idea of Him As Provider And Breadwinner, but honestly, that's just not really how it seems to work for most couples I know. You may always make more money than him, and that may be totally okay. Making that work involves honest discussion, clear expectations, and best intentions. It sounds like you guys have those in spades. If that means you cover rent and he covers utilities and you go 50/50 on every date and vacation or you don't do it, then that's what works for you. And that makes it the Right Way for as long as it works for you. And then when it doesn't, you have the hard conversations and adjust. Which, again, you guys seem good at doing.

This is only a deal-breaker if you or he decides it is.
posted by juliplease at 10:26 PM on January 30, 2015 [4 favorites]

He sounds like he has it all in hand. He is young and working towards his dream career. He cooks for you when he can't afford to take you out which indicates that he lives within his means, which is a huge plus. He lives with roommates instead of mooching off of you, which is also a good sign. He sounds like a keeper. But only if you are willing to adjust your expectations. He should not start a family until he is in his dream career. Without a super supportive wife and a ton of luck and talent, children are dream sappers. Your attitude about money and his lack of it indicate that you would not be the cheer-leader that he would need to make it to the next level. If you want to be married to this man and have him make more money than you then you have to build him up, be patient, and build him up some more. Unless you are willing to do that, then, you will both be happier with other people. It's not about money but the value you are putting on the money. Having money means different things to the two of you and that is something that can ruin a relationship.
posted by myselfasme at 11:48 PM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

The short answer to your question is YES.

However, if your partner had written an AskMe on the same issue, this is what it would look like. I’ll let you imagine what the overwhelming response from the Hive mind would be.

Hi all, I have a wonderful girlfriend who seems fixated on me making more money. I told her when we met that I was saddled with student loans and a bad credit, and that it would take years for me to get back on my feet. I see myself as hardworking and fairly responsible with money. She makes more money than I do, but I make a point of not depending on her. I cook when I can’t afford to take her out to a restaurant, I insist on paying when we go out on dates because I don’t want her to think I’m less than a man. She has this vision where a man is supposed to be the breadwinner in the couple and I sometimes feel emasculated when around her. We’re thinking of starting a family, but I don’t know any more. Maybe she’ll resent me if I don’t measure up to her idealized version of a real man?
posted by Kwadeng at 1:44 AM on January 31, 2015 [5 favorites]

Don't move in just because it's "relationship progress." That is the biggest bill of goods ever sold. In romantic relationships I think that you only move in once you've decided to be permanent partners. Either you're engaged with a set wedding date, or you've decided to be partners and you don't believe in marriage.

To that end, you don't merge lives together willy-nilly. I suggest at this juncture, before you proceed, that you do some premarital counseling. Not because you're talking about marriage, but because you're contemplating partnership.

You may have a temporary finance problem, and time and experience will heal it. You may have a serious, deal-breaking approach to work and money. There are other issues as well. His refusal to let you pay for a nicer experience on a date seems kind of selfish to me.

Premarital counseling should be a down-to-earth approach to understanding where you are in the relationship and exactly how you tackle the big and important issues. If you're fundamentally not of the same mind on the really, really important issues, then as much as you love each other, moving forward just isn't the right answer.

I have friends where the wife has always been the primary wage-earner and her husband has stayed at home with the children and done his DJ gigs on the side. The kids are in high school. The point is that they discussed everything in pre cana classes through their church and sorted it all out BEFORE moving forward. They've been married for 25 years.

What does your future look like if your boyfriend doesn't ever get work as an audio-engineer? Will he resent your success or celebrate it?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:51 AM on January 31, 2015 [2 favorites]

Money is there to make life easy. If you're thinking about a long term relationship, I honestly don't think it matters who brings in the money, as long as there is enough of it. So if your objections to him not making enough is because you want to become a stay at home mother, I can understand that. But if it's simply about being masculine, that's a silly and outdated value.

My only concession to it is that my husband has to make enough to pay the bills if I lose my job completely. But that's more of a budgeting and planning issue, than how much he has to make compared to me. And this is because I have some anxiety about money and running out of it.

I make more than my husband, but like most people, I still like being taken care of. It's just he does it non monetary ways, which it sounds like your boyfriend does too.

But ultimately, it is a compatibility issue. If you really think that the value in a partner is them making money, then your current one might not be the right one for you (or you for him).
posted by ethidda at 8:16 AM on January 31, 2015

The richest friends and family I have had low incomes when they were 28. Ambition and responsibility are the building blocks of wealth, not locking in a high income in your 20s.
posted by MattD at 9:35 AM on January 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

Lot of harsh responses here.

It sounds like you want to move in together and he does too, but won't until he makes more money. He has a hard to break into "career" and a job (I get the impression that this is in a different field?) where he's a bit stagnant. So, he wants to make more money, but doesn't have a clear path to do so-- and you're stuck waiting.

That sounds frustrating. Maybe he could relax the "always pay for dates" and y'all could agree upon a percentage contribution towards household expenses (like 70/30) and go ahead and move in together?
posted by travertina at 10:12 AM on January 31, 2015

I've been with my bf for over 3 years now and I was also at the same point where you're at around year 2 as well. I also went from a shit job to a grown woman job too and had quite a few financial accomplishments.

While I don't necessarily feel that my SO needs to make equal to me, I strongly encouraged him to look into increasing his salary for his own sake. I could die before we get hitched! I wanted him to care for himself and ask for more so he could support himself, with or without me. Over the years I've encouraged and supported positive financial behaviors and decisions while not saying too much about the negative ones (still pointed them out and explained why it wasn't a good idea and alternatives - rationally and not in a mad/pissed way) and I refrained from harping on him.

I can honestly say I quite enjoy being the career woman making the big bucks. Because he takes care of me in ways that are priceless I have no qualms in the future if we ever tie the knot to be the main breadwinner. The fact is, I love planning and projecting into the future, even if things don't happen as I want them to (financially speaking). But fortunes can be fickle and it's easy to feel like it should be so easy when you're making such good money.

We talk to each other about everything and are very open to each other about our finances. Communication is key and being a positive influence on your partner can do wonders. For example, I would talk to him about my IRA, show him my PersonalCapital account, talking about emergency savings, early retirement, career goals to increase salary.

Regarding moving in, we don't currently live with each for a myraid of other reasons but when we eventually do, it will be based on percentage of what each person makes. Just like travetina's suggestion. He also let's me pay for dates and that hasn't ever really been an issue.

Money is important, bills gotta get paid but it's not the end all be all. If it truly matters to you that much though, do the right thing and break up with him so he can find someone else. He sounds like a keeper though.
posted by driedmango at 10:17 AM on January 31, 2015

I make more money than him but he refuses to let me pay for dates, so we don't do as much as I would like to.

This is sexist and silly. And illogical. It seems some of the friction might be alleviated if you could split date costs according to your income, or just have you pay every other time you go out.
posted by Specklet at 10:46 AM on January 31, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Speaking of sexist and silly:

I have no interest in supporting him financially or taking on the breadwinner role in our relationship.

That is really interesting to me, and I think that if this askme was posted by a man about his female partner, there would be some serious flack from the hive mind. From what you've written he:

1. Already pays for all the dates you go on.
2. Only travels with you if he can pay his own way.
3. Puts effort into making extra money on the side where he can.
4. Makes sacrifices, e.g. renting with 4 roommates, to make the money situation better.

He is bending over backwards to pay for all your dates when you make more than him! H is already the "breadwinner" in many respects, and he is paying a higher price for it.

And, as others have said, he started from a position far behind you: bad credit to no fault of his own, had to pay/work his own way through school, didn't rely on parents.

Maybe I'm being a bit too harsh here, but it seems to me like you got an awful nice ride and have barely been "in the real world" for 2 years, while he has been working through the daily grind much longer and at a much bigger disadvantage than you.. and you're response is "I don't want to have to support him financially".

For his sake I'd suggest letting him go.. The only way I could see it working is if he can relax his own sexist attitude about wanting to pay for everything and, more importantly, if you can relax your attitude about "not having to support him". I think you're being extremely uncharitable.. and this is advice coming from someone who is a penny pincher and hates paying for other people!
posted by mbatch at 11:54 AM on January 31, 2015 [15 favorites]

I'd give it a year or two. At 26, you're quite young and have a few years before you really need to worry about babies and moving in together.

I think it is reasonable to expect any man, or woman, you're going to marry/make babies with or otherwise commit to, to be able to afford rent, food, insurance, and a little extra by the time they are 30. Especially if the case is, as it sounds to me, he is only pursuing his "passion" and not another steady job that is boring and 9-5 but pays more. There comes a time when many many many 20-something musicians, poets, "video game designers" and "entrepreneurs" realize that the time has come to put childish things aside, face reality, and do the extremely boring but grown-up thing of sacrificing for the sake of having a spouse and family. This is unpopular, no fun to hear, and will probably piss off a lot of the "true dreamers" and "non-sellouts" or whatever, but it's extremely common and basically pretty sensible and admirable in most cases, to my mind.

I mean, there is a difference between making 30,000 a year and barely being able to afford, yet still affording, a cheap but clean apartment, car, insurance etc.- and making like, an intermittent income of $10/hr that does not even allow you basic independence or rent payment.

He can get a day job, if he really must, surely.
posted by quincunx at 2:12 PM on January 31, 2015 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Just kind of touching on everyone's points so far and this is my first post of metafilter so I don't know if this is the right way to respond to everyone . I don't want to end up getting screwed over in the end but also don't want to be 30, wondering where the time went, and find myself with a ticking clock to have a child or risk not finding anyone else like him. I'm very career driven so it also feeds into this fear as well.I don't want this to be an ongoing thing where I get led on and on and nothing changes. I believe he will eventually make the change but it's making me anxious in not knowing when something will happen. I'm also a naturally anxious person so everything makes me worry. I also feel like many folks on here are talking about me marrying this guy. I don’t know if I quite believe in the institution of marriage. The older I get, I think would prefer a lifetime partner with whom I would cohabitate with and have a child with. In his previous relationship, his ex was literally paying for everything! I don't want this to be me, so maybe this is where my concerns lie. Given this is the past and that our relationship is much different, I think he has learned from this and I don't think this would happen.

We are BOTH in the creative industry btw and I’m also not technically in the middle class just yet. I would say I make about $800 more than him per month. Although my parents were paying for a lot of my things while I was college, I was in school full time and also working full time. I don’t want to give anyone the idea that I was not working or that I’m expecting him to take care of me.I do not want to be a stay at home girlfriend/wife. I would prefer to work and would prefer for him to work as well. I honestly don’t care what he makes but I feel like we are limited in what we can do because of money. I feel like we can’t experience the things we always talk about such as taking going on a weekend trip to a nearby time. He can't take off time from work because he losing money(he's hourly and I'm salaried) so its hard. I want to make our dreams a reality.

As far as how we usually pay for things and divvy up everything, during the week we'll usually rent a movie, cook at one of our houses, lounge around and chill. It's very low key, which is nice because we both work long hours and are exhausted by time we get home. The weekends will usually consist of partying with friends, art exhibitions, eating wherever, catching indie flicks, shopping, dancing, and anything else that is much pretty budget friendly. I find a lot of our dates and things to do through local websites, ads, Groupon and Scoutmob as they offer deals oncool things to see and do around the city. Because of this money situation, I suggested recently that we split everything 50/50 if we decide to go out to dinner or some other type of date. If either of us wants to treat the other party to it, they are welcomed to. I told him to not feel bad when we split things as he has mentioned that it's embarrassing for him that we have to split dinner or a movie. I told him to get over it and it's really ok. I would rather him be able to enjoy time with me but also have enough money to eat. We are both very understanding of what we do for each other. For example, if I buy groceries to cook a meal, he will usually cook. if he cooks, I will usually help clean the dishes. This works for me.
posted by ruebeignet at 3:00 PM on January 31, 2015

Best answer: this is my first post of metafilter so I don't know if this is the right way to respond to everyone .

Welcome, we're glad you're here. You're not actually really expected to respond to anyone in AskMe - adding some more details for clarification (as you've done) is fine, but this isn't really intended to be a place for back-and-forth conversation.

his career in audio engineering.

OK, so, I actually (somehow) have managed to have a career in audio engineering - going on 30 years, depending on how you define "career" (I actually started getting paid for doing audio work as a part-time job way back in high school.) Unmarried, for a variety of reasons, mainly not financial ones.

I think that if you two want to make this relationship work, long-term, you both have to come to terms with the fact that audio engineering, like lots of other arts/creative-associated jobs, is not a "normal" job. There is no real "standard" career track, there are far more freelancers/self-employed people out there than salaried employees, and income can be highly irregular. Even "big" companies that provide equipment for major tours or recording studios that produce hit records are actually small or even "micro" businesses (as compared to banks or manufacturers or etc), and use a lot of freelancers/part-timers/self-employed, with few full-time salaried employees. And just like for musicians, luck and timing can play a huge part in how "successful" you are.

Very generally, audio engineering work tends to be moderate-to-low but stable, or high-paying but irregular and unstable, or the extremely common moderate-to-low and irregular and unstable. When I was your husband's age, I was working part-time in a music instrument store, working 1 to 4 recording sessions a week as a freelancer, and working 1 to 4 live gigs a week. Those live gigs led to an offer of a full-time salaried position, which I still have, but that offer only happened because the owner of the live sound company had more-or-less-accidentally positioned himself to take advantage of the "alternative rock" music explosion of the early 90's. (Which is to say, I got lucky with the timing of things completely out of my control.) And even now, my income fluctuates, because we have busy seasons and slow seasons, and when we're busy I work a lot and get bonuses in every paycheck, and when we're slow I get paid only a base salary, which is definitely not "support your family as main breadwinner" high. I'm OK with this, but it does mean I have to manage my finances differently than my friends with "real" jobs who get the same dollar amount every week.

I feel like we are limited in what we can do because of money.

I think an awful lot of people, even those with "real" jobs, would point out that this is pretty normal for under 30 (or over 30, these days.) Your current life as you've described it sounds like that of millions of other young people in the early stages of their careers.

Your relative youth and recent success may be giving you some unrealistic expectations about how easy it is to achieve financial stability. Whereas your boyfriend still sounds like he's kind of hung up on the idea that the man supports the woman, which is not only antiquated but thoroughly impractical for someone working on a career in the arts. And make no mistake - for all that your boyfriend is aiming at a career behind the scenes on the tech side, it's still a career in the arts.

If you expect to build a life together with him as an audio engineer, and maybe especially with you also in a creative industry, you both really need to think about how to approach this as "WE are making enough money to afford our lifestyles", as an actual pooling and merging of financial resources, and as less of an "I paid for this, so you should pay for that, and the two should "balance", somehow." This pooling is how everyone I know in the audio business with a successful marriage approaches it, and they all agree that it takes a lot of discussion and a lot of learning how to let go of some common cultural assumptions about how couple's finances are "supposed" to work. Everyone I know who didn't take that kind of merging approach to finances is either divorced or miserable.

Not that I'm suggesting you just leap in to a "my money is your money is our money" situation. Given your admitted anxiety, it's worth considering if you think you can make the relationship work even if he never reaches a point where he has both high and stable income simultaneously. Because this can happen even in very successful artistic/creative careers. And figuring out how to do this will take a lot of open and honest discussion about finances between the two of you.

It also may be worth considering whether this particular guy is the one you want to be connected with given that his income may be variable even in the best years - it's not unusual for an oddball creative job to act as cover for someone who's just flat-out bad with money or unmotivated. The fact that in his previous relationship his ex paid for everything might be a red flag, or it might just have been an odd situation. For his sake and yours, he needs to take a careful look at how his budget works, how and when the money comes in and goes out.
posted by soundguy99 at 5:20 PM on January 31, 2015 [10 favorites]

I'm just going to comment on one small part of what you wrote: that you're very career oriented. FWIW -- many of the career-focused women I know are happily involved with men who make much less money than they do. Insofar as there's a breadwinner, they (the women) are it.

Our culture tells itself that men need to make more money than their female partners. But that can work out really badly if their partners care about their careers. (I think I read once that women who graduated from Ivy League colleges earn lower salaries on average than those who graduated from state schools: that's because the Ivy grads are much less likely to work. Instead, they focus on supporting their husbands' work.)

Ambitious men --and hell, the entire culture!-- often assume their wives will put their work a very distant second to his -- that she will relocate for his job, shoulder the bulk of childcare, manage the bulk of the housework and social relationships, handle family emergencies, etc. I'm not sure if this is relevant to your situation but you might want to give it a bit of thought. Being involved with a guy who doesn't expect that from you, and who's generally responsible, frugal and supportive .. might be kind of awesome, especially if you want children *and* a rewarding career.
posted by Susan PG at 10:03 PM on January 31, 2015 [2 favorites]

There's a lot to think about here, but I thought I'd address one small aspect: you could take turns paying for dates, instead of always-him (how sexist) or splitting the cost (equal but creates difficulty). When you're paying, you can take him somewhere fancy; when he's paying it can be cheap and cheerful. There's more variety for you both, and it's equal in terms of putting in effort for your relationship which is often more important than having identical numbers in the 'Money Spent' column.
posted by harriet vane at 3:26 AM on February 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

What we started doing at the 'serious' point---and still,do, in my relationship,is contribute to the shared expenses using a percentage. We live together so it has been 51% to the joint account (tent is a big bite of that) and 49% you keep for yourself (cell phone, retirement account, personal hobbies etc) His dollar contribution is more because he makes more, but it represents the same sacrifice, and chunk of takehome pay that my contribution does. And it hugs us each our own money too, to pay for own personal stuff.
posted by JoannaC at 8:17 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

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