I have told my boyfriend numerous times that he needs to get a better job to provide for his family more, but he always has an excuse (“My job lets me get off in time to get you to work,” and “My job cooperates with my school schedule”) to not get a better-paying job. Is it wrong of me to feel like he is not doing enough for us? He splits the bills with me but can’t buy his family groceries or clothes. Is it wrong that I feel it’s unfair that the extra responsibility is on my shoulders? I know we are partners and you have to support your partner for richer or for poorer, but we are not married yet and I am spending all of my wages supporting my daughter AND him, I feel. Am I just being selfish? I spend $800+ a month, outside of what I spend on bills, on groceries and other miscellaneous things for our household. — Fed Up With Supporting Him
I assume, since your boyfriend is in school, that he has goals for the future that extend beyond working at a job where he makes just two bucks more an hour than minimum wage. And if the job he has now works around his school schedule AND allows him to to take you to work in your shared car, I think he has a point about it being a good fit for now. That doesn’t mean he couldn’t at least LOOK for a job that would be equally flexible in terms of schedule and also pay more, but I do think it’s unfair of you to demand or expect him to make a certain amount of money or to split the household costs with you 50/50 when you have always known what his income is and it doesn’t seem like his earning potential has likely increased very much in the past several years.
I have several suggestions for you: First, talk to your boyfriend about your shared financial and life goals. When will he finish school? What kind of work does he hope to find then? How much does he anticipate his earning potential increasing once he has a degree? Second, brainstorm together about how either or both of you could earn extra money in your “free time.” Does either of you have marketable skills? Is your boyfriend handy? Can he offer to fix things for people for money? Can he mow lawns for cash? Do you have things you could sell? Third, cut your expenses. Move to a cheaper home. Change cell phone plans. And whatever “miscellaneous things” and “things of that nature” imply, cut down on them. Find cheaper versions of them. Do more yourself at home. Skip the little luxuries. Barter with people.
The fact is, you and your boyfriend ARE partners. Even if you never get married or you break up, you will always at least be partners in raising your child. And, you know, as long as you love each other and get along and have an otherwise strong relationship, it is so much easier to raise a child together than it is to raise a child apart. Maintaining two households is much more expensive than maintaining one for your whole family (and you ARE a family, whether you’re married or not).
In long-term relationships, the financial, household, and childcare responsibility among two adults can shift and evolve dramatically over many years. Just because you are earning more now doesn’t mean that will always be the case, and supporting your boyfriend, both financially and emotionally, may put you both in a better position to have a higher combined household income eventually–AND a stronger relationship. Right now your time, your money, and your love are investments, and what you are investing in is your relationship, your family, and your future. Call me crazy, but I think that’s worth a few hundred dollars a month. If, in time, you find that the return on your investment isn’t paying off, then by all means MOA. But from what you write in your letter, it seems too early to tell, and the stakes seem too high to give up just yet.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.