Is my relationship the titanic about to hit an iceberg?
July 23, 2008 6:41 PM   Subscribe

I love my boyfriend but I fear we aren't compatible for the long term. How to know if it these are things that are important enough to justify breaking up sooner rather than later...

I'm going to try to make this thorough as it is anonymous and I can't really reply to questions (though I have made a gmail account if you want to email me and ask questions:

- I'm 26, he's 27
- we've been dating for 7 months
- we get along well, have a good time together and have shared interests
- we have a pretty good balance of spending time together alone, spending time apart, and spending time together with our friends

Where things get a bit sticky are:
- We have very different ways of approaching things and thinking. I have been brought up to always think of the future and the long term consequences of every decision (hence this question, ha ha), where he only thinks in the short term and rarely things of long term effects. (ie. He needs to rent an apartment, gets a year long lease that is more than his budget can afford, but, well, he had to get an apartment so what was he supposed to do? He can surely find a way to afford it, I just worry too much...) This habit of "act first, consider later" worries (and frankly irritates) me to no end and I am concerned what it would mean for decisions that would affect us both....

- I grew up fairly affluent (professional parents, big house, live-in nanny and a house keeper, etc), he grew at the complete other end of the spectrum (on/below the poverty line). This wouldn't matter in the slightest except when it comes to what we expect our lives to look like in the future... veeeerrrrrry different life expectations. I fully expect/intend/demand to live a comfortable financial life where I would be able to provide fully for my children, go on trips every few years, not have to worry about going out to dinner a couple times a month, not have to worry about bills every month, etc. The life he is currently setting himself up for is not even close to that. He is two years out of school and hasn't made a single payment on his student loan. That, to me, is insanity, especially since he is working at a job that severely underpays him and doesn't allow him to make payments, and yet he intends to keep working there for another year... which brings me to my next worry....

- He is a chronic settler. His habit seems to be to settle for situations that are unsatisfactory. I suspect (and he has basically confirmed it when we talked about it) that it is because growing up they generally had to take what they could get, and their expectations were kept low. This is causing problems now, though. He proposed to an ex-girlfriend even though he (and his friends who were there during that relationship) has said that he was unhappy in that relationship. And right now he is settling for working at a job that he doesn't enjoy, has no benefits (including vacation pay despite it being legally required), and that underpays him significantly. Yet his plan is to 'stick it out' for another year because it is kinda in his field. He thinks maybe he'll go back to school, but is unsure so he is burning years and getting more in debt. It drives me nuts too because he is a smart guy and he has so much more potential than he demonstrates. I get really anxious about debt and am intentionally living really cheaply so that I will have my OWN student loan paid off before I'm 30. His slightly "oh well"-ish attitude towards debt terrifies me. I think we would forever fight about money.

So in summary:
- He is a lovely man, treats me really well, and I love him
- He never thinks of long term consequences or the implications of his decisions, and because of that frequently gets into pickles
- He is setting himself up for a very uncomfortable life financially, and I am not prepared for that
- He is too keen to put up and deal with unsatisfactory situations, especially with an unsatisfactory career where he is capable of SO MUCH MORE because he is a really smart guy

I don't want to imply I am without fault or that I am somehow some perfect angel of a girlfriend. I have flaws and guaranteed I do things that bother him as well. I am just concerned that these differences are things that are going cause a whole lot of problems in the future. I also don't want to be one of those girls who go into relationships expecting their boyfriends to change dramatically. It is unfair to him and it would be really unrealistic and unavoidably disappointing for me.

I do love him, but you hear so many stories of people who were aware of issues early in the relationship, hoped they would work themselves out, and then ultimately break up in a much more messy and painful way than it would have been if they broke up earlier....

So what is the hive mind's option? Am I over thinking? Is love enough to avoid these hurtles? Should we break up now while it is amicable, or should we wait to see if it gets messy in case it doesn't? Anyone been in a similar situation where they know what the problems are but hope that they won't matter?

And please.... no comments like "poor little rich girl" or "you can make enough money for the both of you" etc. I have worked since I was 14 including all through university, everything I own I have paid for myself, because my parents made very sure that my siblings and I are all fully self sufficient, had a strong sense of the value of money, and ensured we are all able support ourselves fully.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (36 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
>I fully expect/intend/demand to live a comfortable financial life where I would be able to provide fully for my children, go on trips every few years, not have to worry about going out to dinner a couple times a month, not have to worry about bills every month, etc. The life he is currently setting himself up for is not even close to that. He is two years out of school and hasn't made a single payment on his student loan. That, to me, is insanity . . .

Money disputes and differences in handling financial issues are the number one source of battles and breakups in longterm relationships, I understand. (No stats here though.) Stands to reason you need to resolve this with him. Does he agree it's insanity? You guys are too far apart in the positions you are taking. You need a shared position on the important matter of your financial future, whatever that position is. The wider issue of him being a settler or not having big enough dreams is a wider issue that also needs resolving. Otherwise, a nasty crack-up is inevitable.
posted by Listener at 6:56 PM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Your boyfriend has low expectations for himself that are linked in some respect to having a difficult early life in poverty and having a shitty job. He may not be clinically depressed, but he's definitely down on himself, as evidenced by his tendency to "settle". You may or may not be in a position to fix that, but it is something he can get past, IMO. Maybe the place to start is with this shit job. Can you give him a push toward a better job or a career counselor? Better job = better self esteem = (possibly) other issues improving.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:02 PM on July 23, 2008

Does he view the way he lives as a problem? If the answer is yes, then you can help him learn how to handle money, if you're so inclined. If the answer is no, then you're going to be settling and unhappy in the relationship.

Speaking as an outside observer, who has only heard your side of the story and has no stake in the outcome, you clearly know what you don't want and this guy, despite whatever good qualities he has, is giving you way too much of what you don't want. Time for you to move on.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:03 PM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

It seems to me that you and your boyfriend have very different personalities, and this may be coloring your interpretation of what's going on. You seem very focused and goal driven, and your boyfriend doesn't seem to be that way at all. This is not to say that either of you are more right than the other - there's nothing wrong with having a goal of financial comfort and freedom from debt, but conversely, there's also nothing wrong with taking some time to explore your options and decide what you want to do. Your boyfriend grew up with little or no money, and he may not view it as quite the crisis that you do. You know the benefits of financial solvency, and he knows that carrying a few student loans and making less money than he might is not a recipe for certain doom.

This is the true test of any relationship. Can you allow him the freedom to do things in his own way? Can you learn to view this in a less black and white fashion? He certainly can learn to manage his money, and it might be that you could be an excellent example to him if you don't turn this into a battle of wills.

Love doesn't conquer all, but adding mutual respect to the equation certainly helps your chances.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 7:15 PM on July 23, 2008 [3 favorites]

My partner and I have some similar issues of different decision-making styles, different expectations regarding finances, etc. I agree that the issues you bring up are certainly important in the general scheme of things in terms of a long-term relationship... yet I will also say that I think they are irrelevant to your immediate situation.

The only issue before you right now, at a mere seven months into your relationship, is how well you two communicate, how respectfully and honorably you can have conflicts, and how much you are each willing to compromise. (The three c's, if you will.) This skill set is necessary to have in place FIRST before you engage these bigger questions, upon which the decision to have a long-term relationship may indeed rise and fall.

Because while the issues you bring up are significant, it is possible to navigate through them productively -- but only if both partners have the willingness and ability to do so. It is that willingness and ability that you need to develop now as a couple, so that you can develop a shared sense of being a part of a team -- at which point, you'll hopefully be able to confront some of these key differences in a more productive and loving way than is probably possible right now.

Given that you describe him as a lovely guy who you love, I wouldn't be too hasty about putting the cart before the horse here. The two of you don't have to be perfectly compatible right now in all major ways; you only have to be compatible enough to want to take the next step together to find out if you can get there.

What it comes down to, for me, is that my own boyfriend is the greatest guy I've ever met, and he makes me laugh every single day; the fact that I'm always going to be the one who thinks more about retirement funds is a tradeoff I ultimately decided I'm pretty much OK with. That may not ultimately be where you find yourself, but I also don't think you have to make that call just yet.
posted by scody at 7:21 PM on July 23, 2008 [5 favorites]

Agree that you need to find a compromise here. That probably won't involve you (or he) getting everything just the way you want, but you have to come up with an "us" position that's acceptable to both of you. If you as a couple can't or won't have that discussion, or the results don't satisfy you, then there's trouble and you have to decide if you're willing to spend more of your life on the relationship in hopes that he changes his mind.
posted by Alterscape at 7:24 PM on July 23, 2008

Oh, honey, this is a royal trainwreck getting ready to happen. You are so right to question things now. It really really is true that financial issues can rip the heart out of a relationship, and if you have a partner you can't trust to be on the same page with you? It's hell.

This could only work if he were willing to change in some areas, and the truth is most of the time people are who they are and don't change UNLESS they themselves have an epiphany.

I think we would forever fight about money.

You are absolutely right.

I am not saying your man could never change, but it took MY man years and years...and if your guy doesn't even see there's a problem, well, things just don't bode well.

I am truly sorry.
posted by konolia at 7:31 PM on July 23, 2008

Agreed with all of the above -- and interestingly my own boyfriend and I are at a similar turning point, where he's the unsure one and I'm the more sure one. But yeah -- you don't have to know everything about your future right now, you only have to know whether you think there's some potential and whether you want to take the next step -- and I would define the next step as "okay -- I resolve problems in thus-and-such a way, and he resolves problems in thus-and-such-different way. Can we nevertheless find common ground in order to resolve things?" You're right that you're not going to work as a couple if you can't get past that -- but at this point, you don't even know if the differences you've noticed are unsurmountable yet, because you haven't actualy tried surmounting them. It's like you're in fifth grade and you're saying, "wow, I'd totally flunk high school if I started now," but you're forgetting that you've still got all of junior high to get through that would prepare you for it.

One thing that has really helped me clarify how to negotiate and how to figure out what I want is a book called IF THE BUDDHA DATED, which has the dippiest title ever but was a refreshingly compassionate book with a lot of advice about how to get out of your own way and really think about what you wanted and relate to your partner in a compassionate way to help figure out what your partner wants. May be worth a read. (I feel like I should issue the disclaimer that no, I am not the author, because this is probably the third time I've recommended this book in this site.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:32 PM on July 23, 2008

Yeah there's definately some class issues going on there. Check out Crossing the Tracks for Love: What to do When You and Your Partner Grew Up in Different Worlds, it's a very informative book!
posted by sixcolors at 7:44 PM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

You are of different social classes. In my experience, class differences are the most destructive of all intra-relationship differences. If you wish to overcome these issues, you will both have to work at it all your lives, ignoring the social opprobrium that you will surely encounter not only from each other, but from your families and friends.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:15 PM on July 23, 2008

I'll piggy-back on scody's answer. Have you discussed your different appproaches to life? Is there room for compromise? Does he fulfill those promises of compromise, or do you find yourself always picking up the slack?

As scody pointed out, the first step is having those conversations. The second is observing their results. Does he walk the talk? Do you?

And last, if he doesn't regard his approach to life as requiring adjustment, you have your answer. Always consider a future with the person he is right now.

Is that what you want? Could you be happy?
posted by canine epigram at 8:25 PM on July 23, 2008

I'll play devil's advocate a bit, against all those here who say the differences you describe here are irreconcilable. John Gottman's a psychologist who's done lots of studies on what relationships do and don't succeed in the long term.

His conclusion seems to be that "compatibility", in the sense of things like matching attitudes to money, problem-solving styles, etc, isn't really what makes a relationship happy or not. Pretty much every relationship has some serious areas of incompatibility. The happy ones are ones where people can live with the disagreement, the unhappy ones are ones where they can't. And that has more to do with how you get along than with anything else.

There are people who are massively incompatible who have happy marriages (even as they fight often, say, about money), and people who are on the surface very compatible, who have miserable marriages, that fail, as they find themselves unable to deal w. the comparably small areas of incompatibility.
posted by ManInSuit at 8:38 PM on July 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

If you wish to overcome these issues, you will both have to work at it all your lives, ignoring the social opprobrium that you will surely encounter not only from each other, but from your families and friends.

This is a really vast generalization that, in my experience, just doesn't necessarily hold true. Class differences can be this way, but they don't have to be this way. Again, my bf and I are a good case in point. He grew up working-class and didn't go to college. I grew up middle-class (though one generation removed from working-class), went to one of the top private universities in the country, and had a master's at 25.

Yes, we have differences -- in some cases serious ones. But every single one of them has been something we have dealt with, and with absolutely zero opprobrium from any family or friends on either side (if anything, our family and friends, on both sides, have been positively effusive regarding how good a match they think we are). We are more compatible and have crafted a far stronger, healthier partnership than anyone else I've ever been in a relationship with, including partners with the exact same class and educational background and financial status.

Class differences are certainly real. But they are not automatically the worst thing for any couple of overcome -- not by a long shot.
posted by scody at 8:47 PM on July 23, 2008 [3 favorites]

I think you'll run into problems with respect (if you haven't already). You don't seem to respect the choices he makes (not that you should, necessarily), and that is not a good foundation for long-term trust in a relationship. You already think he is underachieving, and while it seems to be out of genuine love that you want him to do better, you are most likely better off finding a person with that same drive you have - if that is truly a make or break issue for you. Do not expect to make him a go-getter, especially if he doesn't handle that sort of pressure well now. Imagine what it would be like for him down the road with kids, a house payment (or two), and the constant feeling of "I'm not doing enough for my family." Money will most likely always be an issue, and a source of arguments. If you can't communicate about these hurdles as a reasonable adult couple, I say look for a change of course.
posted by shinynewnick at 8:48 PM on July 23, 2008

If you marry him (or whatever longterm plans you have in mind) you will have to have the drivers seat. Can be fun, empowering and really really draining. This experience could change him enormously, but I doubt that you can change him in the way you would like. Can you imagine setting up his finances, arranging pocket money for him, giving him weekly lists to do, and so on? Would that drive you mad? If you don't mind that, yeah, go for it. Sometimes an unconventional relationship like that can work really well.

I was recently reading about an academic that predict with an 95% success rate which marriages will survive and which ones won't. In the end, he said marriages where contempt was shown by one spouse to another were likely to fail. Do you think once the honeymoon is over that you would be contemptuous of his choices and values? I think, even if you were trying hard not to, that you would.
posted by b33j at 8:52 PM on July 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

If he owes you any money at all, even eight bucks, get out now.

Also, it's entirely possible that he doesn't "settle" so much as he does whatever comes along that doesn't cause him to much trouble and get in the way of the rest of his life.

In other news, 7 months in not a long time. If you need an answer right now, a guy who can hang out a less-than-perfect job for another year might not be on the same timeline as you.

(BTW, B33j, that's among couples who have shown up to see a professional because divorce is on the table, not the general population. And not incidentally couples who are often seeing that very same academic's practice for help with the question...)
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:47 PM on July 23, 2008

His habit seems to be to settle for situations that are unsatisfactory.

If you don't work this out now, then expect some seriously colossal fights once kids and parenting styles are thrown into the mix. You will always be the bad guy, the enforcer, and he will always be the one giving them what makes them happy in the short term and making promises that might not be realistic.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 11:25 PM on July 23, 2008

I don't agree with the people who think you are overreacting - I think they are unaware of how many problems money can cause in a relationship. This isn't a "I like the color red and he doesn't, however will we decorate our living room and should I leave him?" type question.

Debt makes you extremely uncomfortable and he doesn't seem to mind it. (He hasn't even tried to start paying off his student loans, but he's already considering going back to school sometime in the future?)

That's not a good combination if you start thinking long-term about this relationship. Would you be comfortable sharing your bank accounts/making major purchases with him/saving for a future together/and so on? I don't think your differences are such a big deal short-term, but it sounds like bad news for the future.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:25 PM on July 23, 2008

I would definitely agree that you should hit the road. I could not imagine being with someone who had such a financial view on the world, and I did not even grow up in the same class you did.

Rather, I grew up in the "entrepreneur," or maybe, "immigrant mentality" class. On one hand my father taught me much about the value of financial independence, but also the value of never flaunting wealth. Looking back, this may have some bearing on my compatibility with people, as my class is not quite as easy to identify as "working class" or "upper class" (of which you grew up a part).

Some people above have already accused you of being picky, and that the relationship differences are not his fault (implying that they are yours). Don't listen to these people. The relationship differences are not your fault OR his fault, they are no one's. You are simply of different mindsets. Unfortunately, while people can be of different mindsets of lots of things and get away with it, money is a big sticking point in long term relationships. Someone said above that you would have to take the drivers seat, and this is one way of looking at it. Another is that you could keep the money issues completely separate. This may offend him, that you would not be willing to throw your money into the community pot to pay for the things which he has irresponsibly committed himself to.

I see two ways to go here. The first is what I said at the beginning, and probably the most logical and correct route. Leave and find someone who has similar values to yours. This doesn't have to be someone who grew up high-class, so don't put on blinders to every guy who didn't go to prep school. It just has to be someone who can identify with and integrate well with your sense of financial responsibility.

The second way is to communicate these problems to your boyfriend. You have to make clear that his financial attitudes are not really compatible with yours early. You'll be able to tell pretty early if he would be amenable to splitting the finances completely in the long term, or else taking a subjugate role to you in respect to them. He may also be one to want complete parity in this regard even if you are going to earn more and be more responsible about the money. This is a red flag, and not something you can work through.

Good luck.
posted by zhivota at 12:03 AM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Even one of these issues you have raised here would be a deal breaker for me, let alone all of them combined.
posted by meerkatty at 12:46 AM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

You guys both sound like decent people who are wrong for each other.

If it were just the two of you, this could work out by each of you keeping separate accounts, or by him giving you total control of bill paying and finances (which works for some couples I know.)

But the fact that you want a family makes me think you're headed for a challenging road ahead, if you decide to stay with this relationship.

Best wishes, whatever you decide!
posted by The ____ of Justice at 1:02 AM on July 24, 2008

Keep in mind that the #1 reason couples fight, break up, or divorce is over financial problems (not infidelity). Your concerns are valid; if you cannot come to some sort of financial common ground mentality, your relationship will likely be very rocky if you ever decide to settle down together.
posted by jabberjaw at 1:28 AM on July 24, 2008

I don't think you are being uptight or 'status-oriented'. You are deliberately living below your means to pay off your debt while your boyfriend has little to no concern (or ability) to begin repaying his. If you get married, you are jointly responsible for his debt as well as his choices. Would you trust him enough to make a major purchase, like a car or a house? Or would you have to hover over his shoulder the entire time, keeping him from what you consider to be unwise decisions?

The line that stuck out for me was:

He proposed to an ex-girlfriend even though he (and his friends who were there during that relationship) has said that he was unhappy in that relationship.

Do you think he knows what he wants out of his life yet? Or what makes him happy? Maybe it would be best for both of you to cool off the relationship, remain friends, and see where you are in a year or so.

I understand where you are coming from, believe me. I believe that if things continue where they are in the relationship or escalate, you will find yourself facing stress, impatience, and contempt, as stated in a previous post. I hope everything works out for you.
posted by amicamentis at 4:38 AM on July 24, 2008

Mod note: a few comments removed - take judgey DTMFA to metatalk thanks
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:30 AM on July 24, 2008

At 27 he is a little long in the tooth to be finically irresponsible, if he hasn't learned basic economics yet I don't think he will pick it up quickly, while you are teaching him a major life lesson what is he giving you? He is choosing to stay in a job where he isn't earning much, he is ignoring his debt and chose an apartment he can't afford. In traditional marriages where the husband earned more than the wife the wife ususally made huge non-financial contributions such as caring after the children, caring for the home and taking on almost all responsibilities so the husband only focused on his job. Do you see that compromise happening here, either now or in the future?

Your future together has two paths, you live always at his financial level (either in crappy apartments he can afford or apartments where him paying the his share of the rent each month is a struggle) or you live at your financial level (nicer apartments you pay for, or a house bought at your income level - not the income of two professional people). If you get pregnant you probably would not be able to afford to take maternity leave, but as the lower income spouse he would be able to take time off to look after the child since daycare costs would negate his income. Would you resent having to go back to work a couple weeks after giving birth and supporting him looking after the baby? He isn't able to financially support himself now, if you were married and became ill he would not be able to support you then. If you were married and then divorced would you be okay with paying spousal support to him to maintain him in the lifestyle he has become accustomed to on your income?

There is the idea that romantic love conquers all but there isn't much love left when a couple is fighting over money and financial obligations. Sorry if this seems harsh but I have seen this exact scenario, a higher income woman who can look after herself falling in love with a nice guy that assumes someone else will look after him, over and over and over again both on Askme and IRL.
posted by saucysault at 6:13 AM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

I want to caution you about judging your boyfriend. You may not think you are, but you are. You don't mean to be mean, of course, and it isn't mean to want a partner that has a similar view of money as you do, and similar goals and requirements over the long haul when it comes to money. It is not always about the money, though; how one handles or thinks or overthinks or avoids money individually and in a relationship is often just a map of how they view themselves, how much they value themselves, and how they view their importance in the world. Also, money is easy to fight about and obsess over, much easier than the more nebulous, stickier issues of self-confidence, ability to accept responsibility and make decisions, and an overall lack of "everything's going to be okay" assurance that many who grow up without money carry into their adult lives.

Your boyfriend comes from poorer circumstances than you. Naturally he thinks differently about money because people who grow up without alot of money or the security that money affords take nothing for granted, except never having enough money and never being able to make the sorts of choices that having money allows. This can do funny things to a person - some people become hoarders and scrimpers and savers; others find themselves with alot of money because of a job out of college and blow it all on things they never had growing up; they become spenders and can't seem to do anything with a dollar but hand it over to somebody else immediately. Others avoid dealing at all with money, because the anxiety it induces is overwhelming. Better to put your head in the sand and adopt an "oh well" attitude. Sounds like your boyfriend falls into the third category because it's less painful for him than facing the dreaded feeling of not ever having enough that having to manage his own money now brings up in him.

It is not "insanity" to not pay on one's student loans for two years. That's a judgment you're making about his choice to forbear his loans for the full amount of time afforded him by law. You may disagree with that choice, but it is not an insane choice. It's a choice he's made because it's easier for him to put off paying that debt now because not paying it means he can live more comfortably in the moment. For all you know, there were times while he was growing up where there wasn't enough money for rent, decent food, bills, insurance and car payments, tuition, decent shoes and clothes, etc. Perhaps his own parents fought over this. Perhaps he became aware at a young age that money equals strife and insecurity rather than possibility. So, now, he chooses to avoid dealing with his loans so that he can have peace in his everyday life. I identify with that. For what it's worth, I also pulled my head out of the sand years ago and have now paid off my loans in their entirety. I'm incredibly proud of that. But I had to learn how to do it, and it took me several years of figuring out money managing skills I did not grow up with, perseverance and will, and the patience of my SO (of a different, higher class than me, by the way) to figure out how credit works, how to have debt and yet still maintain good credit, and how to prioritize spending the money I made.

Rather than focus so much on money, how much of it you want to have and the level of comfort you'd like to enjoy throughout your life, why not focus instead of whether or not you respect your boyfriend as a person, irrespective of how he handles money. Do you admire him? Do you have confidence in him? What about his character? Does he have integrity? Does he live a principled life? Is he fair and loving and kind? You say he's really, really smart - it also sounds like he is humble. Do you value his humility as much as you value his intelligence? Now ask yourself if you love him enough to invest in the process of slowly building up his confidence. And it will be a slow process because it takes years to break down self-esteem and self-confidence and reinforce literal worth-lessness, so naturally it takes years to fix it. I guarantee you that if he begins to feel better about himself, he will realize that his happiness matters. He will then realize that certain choices - like incurring a greater debt than he ought through ignoring his loans - make him unhappy and that won't do. He'll then start looking at situations that he once thought as being out of his control as situations that he can influence through his making better choices - like getting a raise, demanding a fulfilling working life, finding a comfortable place to live that doesn't hamstring him financially, etc. And once he starts to see that he can choose, he will start making better decisions. That will up his confidence and he will begin to become more attractive to you, I would wager. So to speak.

You need to talk with him frankly but lovingly about this situation. Tell him you think about a future with him, but that you have some concerns about his confidence and his ability to get what you know he deserves because you think he's terrific, and you wonder why he doesn't seem to feel the same. I'd ask questions about what he wants out of his life rather than focusing on my own terror at what I perceived as his inability to care for me and our children and provide a stable life over the long haul. I'd ask him if he's willing to take a look at his money managing skills and offer to take a look at my own as a vote of confidence. This is, of course, provided that you want to invest this much in your boyfriend. If you just want to break up with him and find someone with whom you won't have to expend this kind of effort, that's perfectly valid. But, if you love him and your happiness is contingent in any way on being with him for many, many years to come, give it a shot. Best of luck.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 6:17 AM on July 24, 2008 [10 favorites]

My intuition says that you should bail. It's a gut feeling sort of thing, after reading your question. When people grow up in the ghetto, and they have that "there is no tomorrow" rule stuck in their heads, it's VERY difficult to change. That looks like it's going to be a real hazard.
posted by Citrus at 6:20 AM on July 24, 2008

Is love enough to avoid these hurtles?

This should be translated as, "Is love enough to make one of us change our expectations to accommodate the other," since that's the only way to avoid the hurdles you've described. It's pretty clear that you're not willing to change your expectations out of love for him, and it doesn't sound like he's willing to do so for you.

For that reason, I'd agree with what the others above have said; it's not going to work.
posted by voltairemodern at 6:56 AM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Is love enough to avoid these hurtles?
This should really be "Is love enough to overcome these hurdles?" For what it's worth, all these problems are what you think. Not what he thinks. You haven't indicated that he also agrees this is an issue. It sounds like he thinks he's totally fine. If he also thought these could be a roadblock and wanted to fix them, it might be okay. You have to both recognize them and want to overcome these issues. Thinking that you can just avoid them because you're in love is going to blow up in your face. I also agree with TrytheTilapia that you are judging him for not acting like you think he should act. Different doesn't always mean wrong.

I don't think that romantic love conquers all. If it did, my high school boyfriend wouldn't be married to another woman and I wouldn't be with someone else. Or my best friend wouldn't be single. As one person once put it to me, romantic love ebbs and flows - and when the tide is low, you need other stuff to keep you afloat. Like a shared outlook on life, mutual respect, etc. You've only been with him for 7 months. What happens when you're 5, 10, 20 years in and the buzz has faded to comfortable companionship, yet all those problems are still there. Only worse because now you've got kids and mortgages and the like.

I think people can marry others that are not financially responsible and make it work for themselves. But this seems to go a lot deeper than that - it's like an entire life outlook, not just some irresponsible spending.

I don't think this relationship will be what you want it to be. I'm sorry.
posted by ml98tu at 7:24 AM on July 24, 2008 [3 favorites]

It might be helpful for you to simplify the question to the most crass component: you are selecting a partner. When/if you get sick, they will have to make decisions that directly impact your life and well being... or those of your children, should you have any.

Do you trust them to do this in a way you can live with?

If the answer to that is a clear no, then you really shouldn't be partnering with them no matter how much you like them. At best, you'll spend your nights arguing and worrying... and that's just no way to live.
posted by Pufferish at 8:01 AM on July 24, 2008 [3 favorites]

FWIW, you two sounds like my two friends who are now getting married after 5 years of being together. I've watched them both change over the years, for the better. They still argue over money, but he's more responsible and motivated, and she's a more relaxed and is more able to enjoy the present.

They seem to think it's all worth it for everything else that they have going on. You have to decide if the same holds true for you two.
posted by slimepuppy at 8:30 AM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

How to know if it these are things that are important enough to justify breaking up sooner rather than later...

It's not these things, specifically, that you have to worry about justifying a breakup. It's whether or not you can live with them. You said yourself you don't expect him to change, so if you are going to take this relationship long term, are these traits you've outlined something you can live with? Only you know the answer to that.

FWIW, my husband and I have opposite views on money (he's a spender, I'm a saver) and were raised in different ways. It does cause conflict and challenge us, but we've both decided we can live with our differences, and so far, we have.
posted by geeky at 8:42 AM on July 24, 2008

I have been in your situation and it ended our relationship. And thank goodness it did, as I have now been married 10 years to a man with which I see eye-to-eye on the "big" issues, and marriage still takes plenty of work! Stack the deck in your favor, and settle down with someone more compatible. And if that thought is unbearable to you, well, then there's your answer. Perhaps you will be the outlier.
posted by agentwills at 10:56 AM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

It seems to me that you feel a guilty about the fact that he grew up with no money, and you might dump him because he still has no money. Maybe you thought it didn't matter that he grew up poor, but, in actuality, it does matter, because he's still poor.

You seem like one of those people who can't understand why other good people can't or won't pull themselves up by their bootstraps. "I can do it; why can't you?!"

Just because he's not doing what you want him to do doesn't mean he's doing something wrong.

But it does mean that maybe you need to find someone whose personality is more like yours. Some people just don't see much value in money, they just want enough to get by, and if something happens, hey, they'll deal with it. I think you need to find a person who isn't like this.
posted by girlmightlive at 12:19 PM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

It is nice that you want the vacations, the kids, the cars and the country club. There are few people in this world that wouldn't want some setup like that.

Oddly enough, sometimes shit goes bad. Sometimes no matter how hard you work, no matter how honest you are, you end up with jack shit to show for it. Except for the people that care for you, and truth be told they ain't always there, either.

Good luck.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 8:16 AM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

2nding reading Crossing the Tracks for Love. Your situation is EXACTLY what the book is about.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:58 AM on July 26, 2008

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