I Can’t Help But Feel Like Cinderella

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Hi Meredith,

My long-term (8 years) boyfriend and I are in very different financial situations. When I met him, he had recently sold a successful business and could retire in his 40s. I was in my 30s, working two jobs and raising two teenagers on my own. My children’s father has passed away, so working hard has been the only option for me. My children have since moved out for college. During the pandemic, I decided to return to college to complete my degree while also working the two jobs. My boyfriend does some stock trading and lives comfortably from his investments. I am very proud of him and his accomplishments, however there is an extreme imbalance in lifestyle and finance between us.

I realize that it was my decision to return to school, thus taking on more stress, financial burden, and lack of free time. I made this choice to better myself and create future opportunities. In the meantime, I simply cannot afford to eat out and go out for drinks as often as he would like to. He usually pays and I get the tip, but that creates a feeling of him being taken advantage of – or he will say “your shout,” meaning my turn to pay. I honestly feel resentment that he does not use any of his free time to help lighten my load (ie. water plants, laundry, make important calls, fix things around the house, etc.). When I bring it up, he says that he has already worked hard and deserves to spend his days the way that he chooses.

I feel like I have become a nag and complain about working too much. I am sure that is no fun for him. I am actually a really fun-loving person but can’t help but feel like Cinderella doing the work watching him go to the party and have all the fun. Is this a normal dynamic between a couple in which one is financially set and the other is working their way up? Do you have any advice to create more balance in this relationship?

– Overworked and underpaid


Are you partners or two people going on dates? Because you don’t seem to be sharing your lives.

I get no sense you’re thinking about how you can have a comfortable future together. Even in the present, he’s not making it easy for you to join him for fun activities. The wealth gap makes your downtime with him more stressful.

My advice is to ask him if he likes this system – that what’s yours is yours, and his is his … forever. If that’s the case, you should know and make decisions accordingly. Think about your shared values (and whether you have any) because my guess is that if you retired in your 40s, fell in love, and knew you could pay for more, you would. Am I right about that? At the very least, you’d water someone’s plants.

You’re not asking him to pay for your kids’ experiences. You’re not requesting fancy vacations or presents all over the place. You want to feel like he’s happy to be generous with you – especially when you’re doing things he likes. After eight years, you don’t want to feel like you’re struggling to keep up.

Tell him what’s on your mind and find out whether paying for more would bother him. If it’s clear he doesn’t like the idea of figuring out a better way to share, think about moving on.

You’re asking how to create more balance, but he has to want that. It’s possible you’re too different to make this work. Better to know now and look for someone who’s more like you about about money.

– Meredith

Readers? Can the LW make this work? Should they? Should the boyfriend be expected to pay for more simply because he has the money? Should he water the plants?

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