Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Dad Says He’ll Cut Me Off Financially If I Move In With My Boyfriend”

I am 20 years old and my boyfriend is 21. We are graduating college in about two months, and we have been dating for a year. He has been looking for a job in banking, and I told him my dream is to move to Colorado and attend Boulder Law in Fall 2018 (next year I will devote to internships and studying for my LSAT). He worked extremely hard to apply to jobs there, and we found out last week that he got an excellent position in Denver, Colorado. It feels as if my dreams are coming true. We decided that we should share an apartment next year while he works and I study.

I spoke to my very strict and control-freak father about it yesterday, and he was screaming, telling me that I am prohibited from moving in with my boyfriend. I expressed to him that my desire to move to Colorado is my own, and my boyfriend is just along for the ride. I did not base my decision on a boy; in fact, he chose this location to make me the most happy. My dad told me that he would cut me off financially if I decided to go out to Denver. He has ruined my childhood because he has been the biggest control freak, demanding every little thing to be done as he wishes or he would cut my funds. I have inheritance money and plan to get a part-time job next year while studying in order to pay for my living expenses. Finances will not stop me from my dreams.

My question for you is: How I should go about making my dad understand this better and how I can make him approve? He is enraged now, and even though finances will be my responsibility, I would like to keep my relationship with my dad. My boyfriend is also hurt because he doesn’t want my dad to hate him forever. How would you go about this? — Wanting Dad’s Approval

The short answer is: You can’t make your dad approve of your decisions, and I would advise you to reframe your question. You say you want to keep your relationship with your father, so instead of asking “How can I make him approve of my decisions?”, you could ask, “What are some ways I can help support and maintain my relationship with my dad?” Do you see how the latter question removes the responsibility of your bowing to your father’s control? Maintaining a relationship — even one between a parent and his or her adult child — should never be dependent on one person approving of another’s decisions. Maintaining a relationship should be about communication, respect, and finding common ground, to name a few things.

Essentially, when your father threatens to cut you off financially, he is telling you exactly what your personal freedom costs. It’s costing you whatever financial support he is willing to give you. As long as you follow his wishes, even if they’re in direct opposition to your own dreams, you have his financial support. If, however, you value your freedom more than his money, you can have your freedom. It sounds like you’ve thought this through and know which is more valuable to you. And if you’ve decided that being “cut-off” is a price worth being able to follow your dreams, then the question no longer is “How can I make him approve of my dreams?” — because you don’t need his approval (or his money) to follow them–it really is: “How can I work towards maintaining a relationship with my father?” And the answer to that is: the same way you work towards maintaining relationships with other people you care about.

To work towards maintaining a relationship with your dad, you can keep in touch (calls, texts, emails, FaceTime chats, and visits if you can afford them emotionally and financially); share any personal news you’re comfortable sharing; discuss topics that are of interest to you both (like sports teams you both root for), and tell him that you love him. You can’t control how he responds to any of this, of course, but that isn’t your job. You are 50% responsible for maintaining a relationship with your dad. If he doesn’t put in 50% effort and meet you halfway, you can’t take the blame for that. Of course, you don’t want to lose a relationship with your father, but if the cost of keeping it is to put your dreams on hold indefinitely, or to be his little robot and do whatever he tells you, then what’s the point?

All of that said, I’m going to say something you may not like: Some of the decisions you make are not going to pan out. Those decisions may involve your boyfriend or school or your future career in law. There will be things you pursue that you may later regret or that prove to cause you pain or discomfort. There’s no way around that — it’s life and it happens to all of us. And when that happens, you’re going to need to be extra strong, especially in the face of what could potentially be your father saying “I told you so.” He’s going to be watching you carefully and waiting for his chance to show you what a mistake it was to defy him. And when that happens, you may be dealing with heartache or grief or disappointment, and your guard and defenses may be down. It may feel tempting to give control back to your dad because taking responsibility for your grief is hard. It’s hard for anyone, but at your age even more difficult because you have very little experience being fully responsible for yourself, and you may even have very little experience making decisions that don’t pan out. It’s going to happen eventually, it’s going to hurt, and you’re going to have to be extra strong and stay steadfast in your ability to drive your own life. That’s the price you pay for personal freedom. I wouldn’t say it’s a “small price to pay,” but I do believe it’s worth it.

P.S. 15 Things Couples Should Do Before Moving in Together

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

28 comments… add one
  • Diablo

    Diablo March 21, 2017, 10:20 am

    It’s time for you to be your own person. If your father is determined to be unpleasant about it to force you to cave, you have to show him what you should already know at age 20: you don’t base your life decisions on his approval, but on your own judgment. When/If you decide to marry, it won’t be because he approves. He can either pursue an adult relationship with you or you will limit how much you tell him about your life, and maybe even limit contact. He can contend with you as an equal or not at all. But Wendy is right. There is a high price to be paid. Your safety net is gone, so now you have to take full responsibility for your life, finances, and mistakes (we all make ’em). You can do it. And you will pay for this (we all do). Show your dad you are cooler than him by not being too bothered by the consequences. That’s life, after all. You’ve got this.

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  • juliecatharine

    Juliecatharine March 21, 2017, 10:25 am

    OP, you are so far ahead of where I was at 20. I agree with Wendy and Diablo; you’ve got this. Good luck in CO.

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  • avatar

    Rebecca March 21, 2017, 11:20 am

    You’re an adult, and this is an adult decision, and while I disagree with your father’s methods (’cause, duh, you’re an adult…) I don’t think you’ve thought this through completely.

    You want to attend Boulder Law, and do internships first? Great! What if there’re no internships available for you? What if you don’t get accepted to Boulder? Are there “safe” schools in the area where you could go and then try to transfer in? If there aren’t, will you be happy in that area doing something other than law? If you get out there and just completely founder, will your boyfriend support you (as in, not “can” he support you, but rather have you had the conversation with him, and possibly gotten it in writing?)

    You should do what you feel you need to do in life, as an adult, without consultation with your father, but you should also play through the various consequences before you make a huge leap.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros March 21, 2017, 11:48 am

    If you had only started college or something like that, I might have a different answer. But there are plenty of people who graduate college and do not receive any financial support from their families — not resulting from conflict, but just because they are adults who are expected to support themselves. So, it’s not the worst thing in the world. But you do have to consider that you will have to start thinking like an adult, like the others said, in terms of having backup plans, planning out your finances, etc. Sometimes when you have parents to fall back on, it’s easy to assume that they’ll figure it all out (as in, they’ll tell you if something you’re about to do is not financially the best decision, etc.) if needed. So, you just have to keep in mind that these decisions will fall at your feet, and you’ll have to handle any of the consequences.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark March 21, 2017, 11:59 am

    Wait, wait, wait. So… your boyfriend is moving to Colorado with you so you can attend (maybe, hopefully) Boulder Law — to which you have no idea of if you’ll even be accepted? Christ, HIS father is the one who should be upset… 😉

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    • avatar

      Northern Star March 21, 2017, 12:05 pm

      “Finances will not stop me from my dreams.” Well, that’s nice and all—but reality will intrude. Make a budget. Determine whether an entire year of studying is feasible, given your income. Will you make it without your boyfriend, if living together doesn’t work out? What will you do if you don’t pass your LSAT, or if you don’t get into the school of your choice? What are the potential consequences? Address all of those concerns before cutting off family support.

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      • avatar

        Ruby Thursday March 21, 2017, 12:27 pm

        The LSAT is not pass/fail, but scored like the GRE. LW, if you can work it into your budget, I recommend looking into a LSAT prep course. It’s a very unique test that requires a different approach than other graduate entrance exams. I benefitted a lot from mine (and I’m a lawyer now, so it worked out!). It’s totally possible without a prep course, however, if you really maximize your study time.

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      • Copa

        Copa March 21, 2017, 1:02 pm

        There are too many law schools these days, and not enough students applying anymore at this point. There will be a local school that will accept her, almost guaranteed, if her first choice school doesn’t work out. If I were LW, I’d be less concerned about getting in to a school and more concerned about the ROI.

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  • Copa

    Copa March 21, 2017, 12:18 pm

    My dad was/is similar, so I get this. I’m sure this will sound silly to some people, but after my junior year of college, my dad wanted to dictate how I’d spend my summer by telling me he wouldn’t pay my rent if I didn’t do what he wanted me to do. I did what I wanted, and while I saved next to nothing that summer, it was a good life lesson in more ways than one. I learned just how hard it can be to get by in an expensive college town on minimum wages jobs. But even though I had literally no idea what I was doing in terms of managing my own finances, I also learned that I was more capable than I knew at the time.

    Anyway, I agree with what’s been said. You’re on the brink of graduation, and it sounds like you have a plan and some money to help get that plan started. I’d recommend working in a law office if you can find an entry-level position as a paralegal or something, and doing that for at least two years before enrolling in law school. I think a lot of people go to law school for horrible reasons, and the easiest way to make sure it’s the right fit for you is to spend time at a firm/in the field.

    Also, yes to having more discussions with your boyfriend about what your relationship will look like in different scenarios if you get out there and things don’t quite go as planned (e.g., it takes a long time for you to find a job, if you break up, etc.).

    One of my friends STILL lets her parents call the shots and I think it’s embarrassing. She wanted her boyfriend to move in last fall and had to ask her parents for permission (she lives in a condo they bought for her). They said no. She’s 29.

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  • avatar

    Demitasse March 21, 2017, 12:34 pm

    LW, you sound like a smart, thoughtful, and mature person, and I salute you! Speaking as another daughter of a dad with control issues, I also send you sympathy. I can only forcefully echo Wendy’s advice; I think it sounds very healthy to start figuring out and negotiating what your relationship with your dad will look like now. I disappointed my dad a lot during my 20s, but I don’t think financial help isn’t worth the emotional blackmail that goes with it, when dealing with a patriarch of this mold.

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    • avatar

      Demitasse March 21, 2017, 12:36 pm

      Argh, “don’t think… is.” Sorry. Anyway: authenticity may mean a loss of intimacy, and that’s a hard line to find, but I think you’re wise not to agree to smother yourself for the sake of your dad’s vision.

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  • avatar

    Ron March 21, 2017, 12:36 pm

    This reads as strange. One does not need to take a year to study for the LSATs. One does not need an internship to impress law schools. LW is graduating college a year faster than typical, which suggests she is at least fairly solid academically. So, does she think she needs all this boost to get into what is not an A-level law school, or is she looking for essentially a year’s vacation before entering law school? If she hasn’t even applied to law schools yet, why the total fixation on Boulder? Sorry, it’s just odd and in addition to being controlling, her father may be reacting to the oddness. There just seems to be something about this ‘dream’ that she is leaving out. Is she essentially going to be a ski bum for a year? I know a lot of people who have gone to law school, some from top undergrad schools, some from middling undergrad schools. None took a year off to study for the LSATs.

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    • avatar

      findingtheearth March 21, 2017, 1:04 pm

      Internships are very much favorable on applications for law school. Experience in the field or other types of philanthropic service do help people get into law school.

      I personally think taking a year to study for the LSATs is extreme. But I do understand possibly wanting to gain some legal footing and experience before entering law school.

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    • Copa

      Copa March 21, 2017, 1:08 pm

      It doesn’t take a year to study for the LSAT, but as someone who went straight from college to law school, I think taking at least a year off to get some real-world experience is smart. A lot of people take time off between undergrad and graduate/professional school. And if she wants time off just to have time off… I mean, so what?

      If her sights are set on living in Colorado, I’m betting UC Boulder’s law school is the top in the state and wouldn’t be a bad choice for regional employment prospects post-grad.

      The things you’re fixating on as as “odd” actually don’t seem that weird.

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      • avatar

        LW March 21, 2017, 1:31 pm

        I am the individual that Wendy wrote this article about and I want to thank you so much for your empathy and advice. I know that the control never stops.. like you said about your friend that is 29 and is still suffering from her parents’ tyranny. My dad wants to cut me off both financially and emotionally because I am not obeying his wishes. The financial part, I agree with. If I claim I am responsible to make my own decisions, I should 100% be responsible for my finances. However, threatening to not have a relationship with me has to do with his own ego. He is angry that he no longer has control. And this control would never stop. Whether or not I wanted to move into my own apartment 10 minutes away from my dads house.. or to another state.. if it is not HIS wish, then he threatens everything. It has been suffocating to me.

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    • avatar

      LW March 21, 2017, 1:39 pm

      I am the individual that submitted this concern to Wendy. I have appreciated a great amount of the advice that I have received. In particular, I would like more feedback from you. My plan for next year is to study for the LSAT for a few months, while interning for the rest. I should have made this clear in my original submission.. but I have an internship already available to me based off of a connection I made from my previous law experience. I would spend August, September, October and November studying for my LSAT. The Kaplan course I would be taking is a 4 month program. After I take my exam in January and February while submitting my applications, I would work this job that I have coordinated to work full-time to earn money for law school. My boyfriend has agreed to pay for my rent until I can pay for it myself. I also have 22,000$ in inheritance money just in case for emergency. Therefore, if we were to break up, I would be able to live on my own. Do you feel this plan is less “odd” now that I have provided you with more insight? I would appreciate your feedback.

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      • Copa

        Copa March 21, 2017, 6:44 pm

        I highly recommend TestMasters for LSAT prep. It’s what I took, and at least when I was studying for it, it was more highly regarded than the other companies. It raised my score like 15 points from diagnostic exam to actual exam.

        I also recommend working part-time while you study for the LSAT. Four months of non-stop studying is unnecessary, and it sounds like you’d be relying a bit too heavily (financially) on your boyfriend in those first months. I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable with a boyfriend paying my rent, even if he’s able and willing.

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      • avatar

        Ashley March 21, 2017, 8:01 pm

        On the one hand I’m like, “girl go for it alone if you got that kind of seed money!” And on the other hand I’m like 22,000 a year is probably poverty level wages for a year in boulder. I hope you seriously consider everyone’s suggestion that you make the move alone. Can your boyfriend come? Sure! by moving alone you avoid some high potential minefields such as your relationship breaking up, you not getting into the school of your choice etc. flexibility in a young person such as yourself, who isn’t really established, is key. like Wendy said, some things aren’t going to work out, and you need to be able to roll with the punches.

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        ktfran March 22, 2017, 8:20 am

        LW, it sounds like you’ve thought long and hard about this and I commend you for that. Granted, things could happen, but it seems you have a plan and back-up plan.

        I’ve not a lawyer, have never been to law school, and so I don’t know what it’s like. But I do think Copa offers a good suggestion to find a part time job, even if it’s 20 hours a week, while you’re studying for you LSAT. At a minimum, that will help with groceries and basic living expenses so you don’t have dip into your inheritance immediately.

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      • avatar

        Kate March 22, 2017, 10:19 am

        Is your dad going to cut you off if you move to CO regardless, or just if you move in with your bf? If the latter, I personally would go out there, get a roommate, internship, part-time job, whatever, and let him continue to help you financially. As someone who got married at 21 largely to get out of my parents’ house, I’m not sold on the idea of moving in and playing house with your college boyfriend of one year, letting him pay your rent. I don’t think it sets the relationship up for success, and what if he ends up not being able to handle all the expenses? I think you want to keep that $22K intact as long as you possibly can. Like someone else said, you can blow through $20K in no time if you’re using it as living expenses. Then you’re left with no financial cushion, emergency account, first & last month’s rent if you need it… nest egg for deposit on a house maybe. Once that money is gone, it’s not coming back, and it represents flexibility and freedom that you can count on much more than a young college relationship.

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    • avatar

      Shakeourtree March 21, 2017, 2:42 pm

      She won’t be studying for the LSAT the entire year. If she wants to start school in 2018, she’ll probably take the test in the fall. And then she’ll still have several months to intern or work or whatever before school starts. I am also a lawyer, and I worked for a few years after college and before law school, and I would highly recommend for others to do the same. Finally, UC Law is a top-tier school and will likely serve her well if she wants to settle in Colorado.

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    • avatar

      dinoceros March 21, 2017, 8:02 pm

      Not everyone HAS to have an internship, but having some experience with law will help your chances. I know that when I was in grad school (not law school, but still), having worked beforehand and taken a break from school helped me immensely. She’s going to need to get internships during her summers, at least, and having had previous experience will help her get them, especially if they are competitive ones.

      I’ve known several people who went to law school straight out of undergrad, and this is pretty common with several of their experiences.

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  • avatar

    MoeP March 21, 2017, 1:18 pm

    My first thought is not about the father at all. Certainly you can give up your happiness to live by ever rules he comes up with and he will never be happy, so you should do what you need to do. My FIRST thought is that you, who have not lived with your boyfriend before, will move with him to CO and spend a year…interning/working part time and studying before applying to a college you are unsure you will be accepted into? Has you boyfriend agreed to mostly support you financially for this year? Have you found specific internships or jobs? It sounds to me that while I love the idea of seeking one’s fortune, that you really need a specific plan to make this a reality. It could TAKE most of a year to FIND a decent part time job in your field in a new area. I think to me it sounds like you understandably want to get away from your father but past that, the plans seems week.

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  • avatar

    va-in-ny March 21, 2017, 1:48 pm

    Honestly, I don’t understand why the boyfriend is a player at all in this. Why couldn’t you move to Boulder, get some experience, and go to law school without living with the boyfriend? If the boyfriend part is preventing the money train, then live alone! Or is it simply the idea of moving at all?

    If finances won’t stop you, then do it. Move to Colorado and follow your dreams – but do it on your own.

    My concern would be that you would move from being financially tied to your father right over being financially tied to your boyfriend. Break away from it and do it yourself.

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  • avatar

    Ashley March 21, 2017, 2:01 pm

    I think everyone has brought up some good points. As someone whose college sweetheart went to law school, I have to say, have you thought about what your life is going to be like once your in school? It leaves little time for a relationship. Think about what you are really asking of your boyfriend here, to move, to wait, to possibly support. Is your one year old relationship ready for that? I remember being 20, and I saw this a lot….myself included. The desire to do grown up things without the thinking through…maybe that is why your dad is upset, but he just can’t articulate it.

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  • avatar

    lsbc March 21, 2017, 2:31 pm

    I’m not quite sure about the “father cutting you off financially” part of your letter. You’re graduating college in two months – it’s time for dad to close the wallet and to expect you to stand on your own two feet. It’s time for YOU to start paying your bills, not to expect dad to pay them. I’m pretty sure, from the tone of your letter, that you didn’t pay for college yourself and that you’re not coming out of college with a heap of debt – because if you were, you’d HAVE to get a job to start paying off your loans. So….get a job, start saving, start studying, and do what you’re capable of doing on your own.

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  • avatar

    SpaceySteph March 21, 2017, 3:26 pm

    I agree with others that you don’t have to move IN with your boyfriend to move to Colorado. I am always a proponent of living on your own as an adult before moving in with an SO (student housing not the same, even generally being in college is not the same). You both can live separately in the same place (as, presumably, you do now) and continue to date.
    Don’t do that to appease your dad, necessarily– do it because it makes sense– but if that does appease him, then that’s a bonus.

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  • avatar

    wobster109 March 22, 2017, 11:39 am

    Hey LW, I’m happy for you, and I’m proud of you. It isn’t easy taking charge of your life, especially with standing up to controlling parents. It sounds like you have a solid plan – part-time job, study, applications, so go forth and be awesome. To the commenters saying “she hasn’t been accepted”, yes, but so what? She’ll get a year of living in her dream state. Even if she moves later, it’s a year well spent. But I do agree with everyone to make sure you have a backup plan.

    As to your father, don’t set yourself up for disappointment by trying and hoping for him to agree with you. Imagine if you had a friend of a different religion. You wouldn’t try to convince her using logic and arguments. Instead you’d say “I understand and respect that this is important to you”, and she’d say the same to you, and neither of you would expect the other to change your view. And you wouldn’t bring it up constantly or force the each other into debates either. Your father is just as unlikely to ever agree with you, but you can still foster respect and tolerance by living well.

    Here’s how that goes. “This is what works for me, and it’s not up for discussion. How’s the basketball bracket?” Then he’ll scream, “you’re a bad daughter and I won’t support you and you’ll be sorry!!!” You suppress the urge to retort “I don’t need your money anyway” and instead say calmly and cheerfully, “It sounds like you’re really upset, so let’s talk when you’re calm. I love you dad! Bye!” Make sure to hang up every single time he yells or refuses to drop the subject. If you sometimes give in and get dragged into an argument, then that teaches him that if he’s provocative enough or angry enough, he gets your attention.

    Finally, thank you for the reminder not to tie influence to money. A parent who tries to control through the purse strings may find that their influence vanishes overnight. Influence based on love and respect is more likely to endure.

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