How do I figure out if my boyfriend loves me or money more

Thank you for the sound advice you give. My boyfriend and I both respect it, and it is because of this that I am writing. When my boyfriend got his job about two years ago, it was a great opportunity. One of those companies you retire from, which in this day and age is rare. However, in order to stay together, it also meant we were not in a big city as we had originally planned, where there are plenty of jobs in both our fields, so I had to make a choice: him or my career.

At the time, I chose him and figured I could freelance or go back to school like I had been planning. Since then, his career has blossomed and I have struggled to find fulfilling work. The work I have found has been low-wage and part-time at best, leaving me dependent on him and my parents for support. I did go back to school, but a combination of depression (for which I am now getting help for), understandable pressure from my boyfriend and my parents to get a full-time job, and my general honesty with myself (I majored in a field I love) has left me just looking for work again.

Now, my boyfriend has asked me to move out because he’s sick of supporting me while I find work. I’ve been looking a month and until Dec was working part-time and contributing what I could to mutual bills, which was about half my monthly income. It was my understanding that our agreement was I would wait to find something for at least the first semester – which is now ending – before looking. I understand his frustration as he’s paid the vast majority of the shared bills for most of the time we have lived together, but I also can’t help feeling resentful about it. He wants to stay together, and for me to move back as soon as I start working again, but in this economy I feel I might as well apply to the cities I had job offers in two years ago (as well as local) and then take what I am offered.

I have made it clear that I won’t do long distance, and he agrees that would be for the best. I can’t tell if he’s just trying to break up with me (when I ask he denies it) or if he’s just upset about not being able to save and pay down his debt, which he blames on supporting me. He asked me to sign a new lease with him and we did, then he brings this up. It’s not like he’s forcing me out by a certain time. He just doesn’t want to go through another year of paying everything. I believe he does love me (family and close friends confirm it), but there are so many questions and feelings about this that I can’t help wondering if I’m being played and if he doesn’t love money more.

I just don’t know what to make of this and would appreciate your advice.

Thank you,
Sydney

There’s a bunch of information that would make it easier for me to give you advice, Sydney. Your ages, how long you’ve been together, how much money you each make, how much he owes, and your respective long-term goals. Without that, I’m grasping at straws and am bound to miss something important.

So let me start with an anecdote:

I dated my wife for 9 months before I learned she was $40,000 in credit card debt. She was divorced, didn’t get alimony, didn’t manage her money properly. I’ve never paid a dollar of debt. She knew that, so she didn’t tell me…until she could no longer hold it back. I was pissed. When I dug further, I learned that a big source of her debt was the fact that she took out a $15,000 cash advance on her cards to bail out a single mom friend of hers who was going to be evicted from her home. My girlfriend was in debt largely because of altruistic reasons. She was willing to suffer to save her best friend. It’s hard to argue with that.

I’m pretty sure if you wrote an email about your sad and penniless boyfriend, every woman here would tell you to leave him. Yet I’ll bet a lot of those same women feel that your boyfriend is being selfish right now.

At that point, I was debating whether we could work for the rest of our lives. How could we buy a house with her abysmal credit rating, and so on? We decided – together – that I wouldn’t pay any money to get her out of debt. It was her job to do that herself. On the other hand, I would shoulder the burden of paying for everything else – all meals, entertainment, travel, and, if I recall properly, the wedding. By the time we were ready to buy a house 3 years later, my wife was back to even. She took responsibility for her own debt. I helped her pull it off.

Now, part of the reason that this is a flawed parallel is that we were in our late 30’s, I was financially secure, and it wasn’t breaking me to pay for food/entertainment/travel. I can’t necessarily say the same thing about your boyfriend.

So while it’s easy to say that he’s cheap, loves money, and is heartless for asking you to move out, the only way to accurately assess this is to know the particulars.

You’re depressed.
You’re unemployed to partially employed.
You’re looking for meaningful work and can’t find it for two years in your new town.
He’s paying for the vast majority of shared bills for most of the time you’ve lived together.
Because he’s covering the lion’s share of these bills, he can’t pay down his own debt.
You threaten to move to another city to find a job.

And you’re feeling resentful that this is frustrating to him?

Listen, I’m sympathetic to what it must feel like to have a boyfriend tell you to move out to get your own financial ship in order. But you have to be sympathetic to what it feels like to be in his position.

If we do a quick gender role reversal, you can see more clearly:

He’s depressed.
He’s unemployed to partially employed.
He’s looking for meaningful work and can’t find it for two years in his new town.
You’re paying for the vast majority of shared bills for most of the time you’ve lived together.
Because you’re covering the lion’s share of these bills, you can’t pay down your own debt.
He threatens to move to another city to find a job.

I’m pretty sure if you wrote an email about your sad and penniless boyfriend, every woman here would tell you to leave him. Yet I’ll bet a lot of those same women feel that your boyfriend is being selfish right now. Funny how that works.

He does love you. He just doesn’t want to be your sugar daddy anymore.

Here’s the deal, Sydney. You don’t need to have the world’s greatest career right now. You just need to have a job – a full time gig that pays you $30,000 a year so you can contribute to your household. You can figure out your dream career on the side. (By the way, this is what I did when I was 30 and depressed and took a customer service gig at JDate to pay the bills when I was in film school.)

I acknowledge it’s not easy to get a job, and I acknowledge your pain that your boyfriend is asking you to leave. But when you question whether he really loves you, you’re missing something important: do you think you’d be having this conversation at all if you’d gotten a steady job in the past two years?

Of course not.

He does love you. He just doesn’t want to be your sugar daddy anymore.