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We've got money problems

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  August 12, 2010 08:46 AM

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We need a money category. I'm going to make it happen.

Q: Hi Meredith,

My boyfriend and I have been together for the past two years and have recently started the process of looking at/discussing engagement rings. About three months ago he decided to completely change jobs. The job requires him to take classes for six months.

Right in the midst of him changing jobs also came another big change. We moved. To a much bigger, nicer (and shall I venture to say marriage and child-friendly) apartment. He was seemingly hesitant about doing this originally, as he would be in these classes for awhile and making literally half of the pay of what he will normally get paid. Because of this salary drop, I have now volunteered to take over all the bills. I have gone from having lots of extra spending money to very little spending money.

The money arguments have been popping up more frequently. Who is paying for this, who is paying for that ... all the while he is making "digs" that the only reason we are in such a more expensive home is because of me (which is partially true, but also he signed the papers as well, and no one forced his hand to hold the pen). He has now become insistent that we move (again) but this time to a cheaper place.

I think this is ridiculous because when he finally stops training and starts to work full time he will most likely double his salary and then I think his worries/fears will start to subside. I also believe he is secretly buying me a ring and the cost of that is stressing him out (though he won't express that to me outright, as he is trying keep it a secret).

What am I to do? Should I just ride this grumpy-over-money wave of his until he starts making more money? Should I give in to him wanting to move all over again to somewhere cheaper? Should I be the one to pick up a second job in the meantime until his money situation evens out a bit? Can I even mention the engagement ring stressing him out, or should I keep quite and just ride this wave until the training ends?

– Money and Love, Massachusetts

A: I'd mention the ring, MAL. He doesn't have to disclose anything about his romantic plans -- you just want him to know that he shouldn't feel pressured to spend money he doesn't have right now. The ring can wait. You're not expecting anything during this stressful time besides his love ... and the nicer apartment, of course.

I have to wonder whether his anxiety also has something to do with loss of control. You've taken over bills. You're the breadwinner all of a sudden. It's difficult to go from contributor to dependent.

All you can do is assure him that you're comfortable taking on the burden of this move knowing that at some point, he'll make it up to you. Yes, this move could have waited, but you're already in the new place. It's expensive to keep moving. You are where you are.

School is stressful. Change is stressful. The aforementioned loss of control is stressful. And yes, rings are stressful. It seems like that's the thing that can wait. Of course, if you do expect him to contribute more while he's in school and you want that ring now instead of later, hear him out about his alternative plans for housing. You can't have it all.

The most important thing is that you communicate openly and calmly about all of it. It's good practice for the future because this won't be your last disagreement about money.

Readers? Should they move again? Is he being passive-aggressive? Should she tell him to scrap the ring plans until he has a real job? Should she mention the ring at all? Discuss.


– Meredith


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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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