I’d love to help him financially in some way now that I’ve got some extra income, whether that would be paying more for bills so he has more money for his loans, contributing to his school costs, or whatever would help the most. I’m not considering this a loan in any way, though I know that he’ll try to pay it back in full anyway, because he’s got integrity. Still, I know that, even with family, it’s best not to loan without the expectation that you might not get it back.
My question isn’t whether I should help him financially; I’m a careful enough budgeter and saver that I can do that without endangering myself or my stability. I’m also not concerned that he’ll feel emasculated — he’s self-aware enough and educated enough regarding gender roles that I don’t think that will be an issue. I’m mostly worried that it will seem like I’m trying to jump the gun on commitment with him when I’m really viewing it as an investment in his and my future, whether that is together or not. So, how should I approach that conversation with him, and do you have any thoughts on whether it would be better to pay more in bills or to pay his loans directly? — Intrepid Breadwinner
I’m starting to feel a little… I don’t know, alarmed isn’t quite the right word, and I’m not surprised exactly… I guess it’s disappointment I’m feeling. I’m disappointed lately at the number of letters I’m getting from people who already live with their significant others and avoid discussions about the seriousness of their relationship for fear seeming to want to move too quickly. Why are you moving in together before discussing where your relationship is going, what your future goals are, whether you see living together as another step forward toward life-long commitment?
I speak from experience: When you move in with someone before discussing longterm commitment, before thinking of an exit strategy if things go south, before doing all of these things, you set yourself up for a potentially much longer and more difficult break-up than you would otherwise have. Save yourself the grief and have these conversations before shacking up. And if it’s too uncomfortable or too awkward to discuss longterm commitment and bill-sharing in terms of your longterm financial future together, then maybe you aren’t ready for the commitment — even a potentially short-term commitment — of sharing an address.
But you, LW, are past that now. It’s too late to think about what you should do before moving in with your boyfriend, and now that you’ve already made that step you need to retroactively have the discussions you should have had earlier. And, luckily, you have a great opportunity to broach the topic of finances as they relate to your future together (and, yes, if you’re going to be helping your boyfriend financially, you need to think of it as an investment in your shared future, not, as you said, “in his and [your] future, whether that is together or not.”) Broaching the topic of finances will give you a chance to discuss your future together in a way it sounds like maybe you haven’t already. Will he think you’re jumping the gun on a commitment? Maybe. But if he does, then you know where he stands. And he knows where you stand. He’ll know that you imagine a future with him, are planning as such, and think of yourself as investing in that future together with him. If that’s too much for him, then you deserve to know that now. Before you invest more — of yourself or your money.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.