Q: Hi Meredith,
I think I've stumbled upon a problem in my once-perfect relationship, and I could really use some advice.
My boyfriend and I are in our late 20s and have been together for three years. We have the time of our lives when we are together, and I care about him very much. However, it's recently become apparent how very different our upbringings were, and I'm worried this is going to cause problems down the line should we choose to get married.
I come from money. Not tens of millions, but millions. My father is a hard-working man from a modest background and had great success in his career. I have never wanted for a thing in my life: clothes, traveling, housing, cars, etc. I have always had access to the best of everything. I did attend college and now have a decent paying career that I enjoy very much. My father instilled a great work ethic in me. I plan on working and advancing in my career for a long time. (I am not looking for a man to take care of me financially, I fully intend on contributing to my lifestyle.)
My boyfriend comes from a nice family. His childhood was much different than mine. There was always food on the table and a decent roof over his head, but paying for the basic bills was an issue. His father was always in and out of work, which I view as irresponsible and passive. I think the man of the house should do everything in his power to provide his family with a decent life. He didn't have that "money safety net" that I had my entire life (and to be honest, still do). He paid for everything, and also contributed to his parents' bills since he was about 15 years old. He put himself through college, and now has a well-paying job (he makes double my salary). He is very smart and works very hard, two qualities which I obviously find attractive.
At the risk of sounding like a giant snob, I've spent my entire life around the richest of rich people. I don't understand what it's like to struggle financially. I am a bit concerned that I tie the identity of "the rich kid" to my self-worth. It can also be crippling to grow up as the child of privilege and have giant expectations placed upon you.
Am I naive to think that this is going to work? We are so fundamentally different in our views on money and lifestyle. HELP!
Should you choose this letter, I hope it doesn't turn into a political discussion, or people commenting that I am a spoiled, privileged brat. It's just the way I grew up and I understand that it is my family's money, not mine. I really am interested in the thoughts that more experienced long-term couples have to offer, since I know money is one of the top reasons for divorce.
– QC in MA
A: I am a bit concerned that I tie the identity of "the rich kid" to my self-worth.
That's all you, my friend. You have to deal with that issue. I can't help you with that.
I can tell you that you seem to adore your boyfriend. You have trouble empathizing with his upbringing, but you admire his work ethic. He represents what you want in a man -- someone who takes care of himself, provides for his family, and embraces responsibility.
Money issues can cause divorce when people spend differently, when they lie to each other about bills, and when their lives become limited because of financial stress and debt. As far as I can tell, you guys don't have those problems. Your big issue is that you're a rich person and he's not. Again, that's on you. You say that it "can also be crippling to grow up as the child of privilege and have giant expectations placed upon you." I'm not sure what you mean by that. Are you placing these expectations on yourself?
My advice is to talk to your boyfriend about how you'd manage money as a couple. Is he comfortable taking money from your family? Would you be comfortable supporting his? What are your thoughts about money and kids? And how do you want to live when you're older? Your backgrounds are different, but your present-day philosophies about money might be quite similar.
The now is what's important. The rest of it is just in your head.
Readers? What's the problem here? I know people who are like this in reverse (they don't want to date rich people). Is that bad? Can they work this out? Help.
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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.