My Live-In Boyfriend Doesn't Contribute Equally To Our Joint Expenses

My boyfriend and I have been together for 2 years. We’ve decided to rent a place together. We have been living together for 4 months. He rented a room in a house previously and I rented a small house with my two children. Now we are renting a small house together. With his child support, truck payment, etc…. it leaves him only $600 to contribute to the household. That leaves me to contribute the rest, which is about $3000. That is just rent, food, utilities. I work two jobs and he works one. He says he wants to help but is unable. He is trying to find some extra jobs, on the side, but not very hard. He doesn’t cook or clean either. He is the nicest, most wonderful man I know. He treats me nice, he never expects anything from me. I am starting to resent him though. I don’t know if I am right or wrong to feel resentful. Even if he made more money he says he won’t pay half because, in all fairness, I get child support and he shouldn’t have to pay half. He says he will pay a third. I can’t help feeling he is treating me like a roommate and not his woman. If he is a real man shouldn’t he want to work together to build a life? He tells me everyday how much he loves me, he brings me flowers when he can. He never yells at me or criticizes me. Should I just keep paying and just let him pay what he can? He never goes out or spends foolishly on himself. He really doesn’t have enough.

Money is a big topic on this blog.

We’ve talked about how some women take advantage of good-hearted low-earning boyfriends.

We’ve talked about how some women expect men to make more money, even if they make a good living independently.

We’ve talked about how some women refuse to even reach for a check.

These are all arguments I’ve made for equality. In this day and age, with women earning more college degrees and masters degrees, it’s anachronistic to expect men to ALWAYS pay and ALWAYS earn more.

But Lisa’s question really cuts to the heart of women’s issues around money. What happens if you’re dating a man without skills, without ambition, and without the desire to be a better provider?

This is not about who earns more. This is about two things: what’s fair and what you’re comfortable with.

This is my client’s worst nightmare – even though I can’t see any of my clients dating a man with a truck payment and $600 to spare each month. So let me begin, Lisa, by expressing my admiration and sympathy to you. You fell in love with a man based on what’s in his heart and not in his wallet, and that says a lot about your character.

The question is whether it’s enough.

My answer to you will be a gender-blind one, because that’s the way we need to begin to look at financial issues. This is not about who earns more. This is about two things: what’s fair and what you’re comfortable with.

Objectively, this arrangement isn’t fair. But then, in a gender-blind society, who said things had to be fair? I made about four times what my wife made when we met. Would it have been fair for me to ask her to split our rent in half? No, it would not. We split it based on our means to pay. I could have resented the fact that I made four times more than her, but I chose not to. I wasn’t with her for her money or ability to split costs. I was with her because of how I felt in her presence.

These days, my wife doesn’t work at all. She stays at home with the kids, goes to Mommy and Me classes, swimming classes, MyGym and Disneyland, all of which I pay for. Do I resent her? Not one bit. This is what she wants to do, and I’m fortunate to have the means to allow her to do it. This is the bargain we struck as a couple. This is the bargain any woman can strike with a man, as long as she doesn’t resent him for earning less or being a stay at home dad.

I’m guessing every reader here had the same initial reaction to your email, “Lisa, you poor girl! Dump him!” I can see where that impulse comes from, but I don’t think it’s acknowledging your deep feelings for your boyfriend. You’ve spent two years with him. You say that he’s the “nicest, most wonderful man” you know.

In order to salvage this relationship, a few things have to happen.

First, you need to have an authentic conversation with him. You need to start by acknowledging how much you love and appreciate him. Then you need to acknowledge that you’ve been feeling a little bit of resentment. You’re not proud of it, but you’re owning it.

Next, you can break it down for him. You contribute five times more to the household than he does, even though you only make X dollars more. Even though you appreciate his pre-existing payments, that’s imbalanced and is a serious burden for you to carry alone. Get his acknowledgement of this fact.

What you’d like to do is sit down and do a budget of how much each of you makes and would like to pay the rent and bills proportionately, whatever that means. This would include how much money you make from child support and would exclude how much he pays in child support. We’re talking about take home pay only.

There’s nothing wrong with marrying a poor guy if you have the means to support him. There IS something wrong with marrying a poor guy who doesn’t have a sense of fairness and appreciation for your efforts.

If it still comes out to $600 for him and $3000 for you, you can suggest a work around. He can sell his truck and buy something cheaper, if that’s possible. You can go to Mint.com and look at how to better balance your budget. But the one thing that is going to have to change is how much he contributes to the household in non-monetary ways. He’s gotta do 50% of the cooking and 50% of the cleaning at a bare minimum to ease your burden as the primary breadwinner.

Make it clear that you don’t resent him because he makes less than you. Not everyone can have a high paying job. The reason this feeling is building up inside is that you feel taken for granted. And if the roles were reversed and he was paying $3000/month AND doing all the cooking and cleaning, he’d probably feel resentful, too, no?

His reaction to this conversation will tell you whether you have a relationship worth preserving. There’s nothing wrong with marrying a poor guy if you have the means to support him. There IS something wrong with marrying a poor guy who doesn’t have a sense of fairness and appreciation for your efforts.

Please come back and let us know how that conversation goes.