Jeff has a good job as an architect. He works hard and has five- and ten-year plans and retirement goals. However, he doesn’t make enough to feel comfortable, with college debt still looming and and high cost of living prices in the area that we’ve chosen to live. And then, me. I work hard, but my career as a dancer does not bring anywhere near the stability that my boyfriend’s job does. I choose my career every day – it’s emotionally and physically difficult, but something that I am deeply passionate about. I do not hesitate to take on side jobs to bring money in for our general expenses.
Ever the planner, Jeff spoke about how he is worried about how my career choices would affect our family if we were to have one (we both want one) — how a proposal means marriage, which means a house, which means kids, and that I’m not looking at my financial situation realistically and am putting pressure on him to make the money to raise our family. He is, to put it mildly, stressed about this. And to be fair, I don’t know if my career will ever bring in enough money to support a family.
I’m not sure where I stand here, and I need your help in getting clear on what I’m allowed to ask and where I’m asking too much.
I’m asking him, I think, to propose to me because he loves me, and trusts that I will do everything I can to support US. When he talks money when I mention proposals, the conversation becomes transactional in a way that makes me shudder and back away. And he shudders at my distaste for looking at my bank account.
I understand that he wants to be more secure financially before he proposes, but this is a man who might never make that step because that security could be a decade away. We joke that we each expected that we’d marry millionaires when we grew up and would never have to have these conversations. That seems not to be.
Is he right to bring such realistic terms into the question of a proposal? Am I wrong to expect him to love me no matter how much money I make? — Not a millionaire and personally ok with it
Is Jeff right to discuss his financial concerns with you before proposing? Um, yeah. In fact, YOU are wrong to “shudder” at the thought and to avoid looking at your bank statement and to simply fantasize about marrying a millionaire so you can continue doing work you’re passionate about that doesn’t earn you much money without having to worry about how you’ll raise that family you want. At least one of you is being practical and responsible! I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you, but marriage isn’t some lala dreamy playing-house set-up where food just magically appears on the table and the sink is always clean of toothpaste scum. Marriage takes effort and it takes some planning, and it most definitely takes communication about the not-always-pleasant-and-easy-to-talk-about-stuff, like paying bills and saving for a house and deciding whom to leave your kids to if you should die while they’re minors. So… you know, if you seriously can’t even handle a talk about how your career choice is going to affect your ability to contribute to a household and raise a family, how are you going to handle all the other decisions — both big and small — that come with legally tying your life to someone else’s?!
Honestly, I don’t think you’re ready for marriage and it sounds like your boyfriend knows this. For one thing, you act like by “choosing your career everyday,” you deserve a medal, but, wow, what a privilege you have to even get to do that! Do you have any idea how many people would give their left tit to be able to choose a career they’re passionate about every day instead of doing whatever moderately soul-sucking job they have 40 or 50 or 60 hours a week because it’s not the worst thing ever and they live in a reality where bills have to be paid and “taking on side jobs” isn’t going to cut it? I don’t say this to shame you or mock you, but to point out that you seem to lack the kind of perspective most grown-ups who are making big life decisions — like marriage – should have. And it sounds like that worries your boyfriend a little, as it should.
So, ease up. Ease up on the proposal talk until you can think about the big financial picture a little more clearly, without shuddering and covering your ears. I don’t know how old you are, but if it, indeed, takes Jeff a decade before he feels financially secure enough to propose, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Certainly, it sounds like you could use a few more years of maturing before getting married, and maybe by then you and Jeff will have worked out some plans that alleviate the responsibility he might feel to be the sole/main breadwinner in your relationship…
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.