Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Wealthy Family Won’t Approve of My Poor Boyfriend”

Love or money

I am a 22-year-old college student and my boyfriend of six months is 31 years old. We love each other very much, but I don’t know if love is enough to maintain a happy long-lasting relationship. He doesn’t have any degree and works temporary jobs. When I ask him what brought him to this situation, he talks about his past relationship where he had to provide for his ex and her daughter and didn’t have time to take care of himself. He lost his license and dropped out of the classes he registered for in college last year. He tells me that he is trying to get his life together and that I should give him some time and be patient and understanding.

I come from a pretty wealthy family but still very traditional. That is, if I get in a relationship or when I get married, the man is supposed to pay most of the bills and the woman has to help but not be the one who takes care of everything. We talked about getting married one day, but I am scared to even continue in this relationship knowing that he is still struggling in life and doesn’t have any degree that will bring me “financial safety” later in life.

I am not comfortable with the fact that I will be the one who will make more money since I am almost done with my degree. He treats me well and takes me out when he has money, but I have been used to a more “wealthy” lifestyle and I know that my family will never accept this relationship. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I am being selfish and judgmental because I have never been in his situation or if I’m being too naive. I would really appreciate any advice you could give me. — Poor Little Rich Girl


Your first question is easiest to answer, so I’ll start there: no, love is NOT enough to sustain a happy, long-term relationship. It’s certainly not enough to sustain something as serious as a marriage. In addition to love, you need: shared values; mutual respect; compatibility (both in the sack and out); some common interests; and a shared vision for the future. You also need to be on the same page in terms of finances.

Maybe you have a few of those things — maybe you have enough compatibility to be happy for another few months even. But from the sound of it, I doubt you’ve talked much about what your vision is for the future, or what your financial and career goals are, and it doesn’t seem like you have much respect for your boyfriend, so there are some big strikes against you. But these aren’t the only strikes I see against your potential for a happy long-term future with this guy — or any guy, for that matter.

You’re very young and very naive. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily, but it doesn’t bode well for the happy longevity of this relationship — or, frankly, any relationship, any time soon. You have a lot of ideas of how things are “supposed” to be with little, if any, idea of how reality works. A college degree — even from a wonderful school — doesn’t guarantee an immediate, well-paying job. A marriage — even to someone financially successful — doesn’t guarantee “safety,” and following everything your parents ever taught you was right — for you, for them, for your culture — doesn’t guarantee happiness.

The best way to personal fulfillment, both in your relationships and in your career, is to figure out what YOU want. Forget for a moment, if you can, what your family’s expectations are, and what you think society expects, and think about what you want for yourself. Do you want to be a wife and mother? Do you want to stay home with the kids? Do you want a husband who is emotionally attentive and a hands-on father, even if it means bringing home less money that maybe your father did? Or, would you prefer a man who is career-driven and financially ambitious, even if he has to sacrifice time away from you to meet his goals?

You talk about your boyfriend “struggling in life” as if you’re immune to struggles yourself – as if struggles are something you might catch by proximity, a risk you take being intimate with someone who isn’t wealthy. But everyone struggles. Everyone. Some people’s struggles are more obvious than others. And not every struggle can be solved with the flick of a credit card or the material comforts you’ve been used to all your life. Some struggles — most struggles, actually — are relieved most effectively by compassion, generosity of spirit, faith in something bigger than one’s self, and commitment and trust.

I don’t know what your boyfriend’s specific story is. He may not be a catch at all, but not because he doesn’t have a college degree or hasn’t found great financial or career success. Those things aren’t what make a person worth investing in, not really. He may have other things that keep him from being the kind of partner someone like you might want to have for the long-term. Or, he may be exactly the kind of man who will pick you up when you inevitably fall — and you will fall; everyone does — because he knows what it’s like to be low and he can give you the kind of compassion you may not get from your judgmental family with their high expectations and traditional, inflexible view of “success.” He may be the kind of man who will make you laugh when you’re down and celebrate you when you’re up. He may be happy to take on the brunt of the house work if his partner is happy being the main breadwinner. This doesn’t make him lazy, but it may mean he isn’t the best match for YOU — though he may be perfect for someone else — if you see yourself being the stay-at-home spouse in a marriage.

Again, you have to figure out for yourself what you want and quit relying on your family to decide what will make you happy. And you have to ditch your idea of a perfect life with a perfect linear trajectory where everything lines up just so and the only people who struggle are the ones who weren’t lucky enough or smart enough or sophisticated enough to go to college and get a job and marry well.

People get sick, jobs are lost, accidents are had. People die, money disappears, mistakes are made. Natural disasters strike, houses collapse, families fall apart. Shit happens. It will probably happen to you. And when it does, who do you want by your side? Someone who will love you whole-heartedly, despite your flaws, despite the mistakes you’ve made that have brought some of your own struggles? Or is it more important to have someone your family deems appropriate?

Maybe you’ll get lucky and find someone who will be both, and I hope that’s the case. But you’d be wrong and naive to think the latter guarantees the former, or that “financial security” lasts forever and you’ll never struggle as long as you’re rich. There are bigger and better armors against life’s struggles than wealth, but even the best of them — love, family, knowledge — can’t always protect you, and in the end, you’re better off facing them with people you really like, not just those who look good on paper.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].

166 comments… add one
  • avatar

    cdobbs February 12, 2013, 9:06 am

    never rely on a man to support you…women are now equal and it should never be expected for a man to make more and pay more bills…at the same time he is not a child and you should not have to support him either…there is no reason why he can’t get a decent job and be a contributing partner (oh and never let your family dictate who you love and end up with)

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      csp February 12, 2013, 12:27 pm

      I would also add, don’t let a man ruin you. A guy like this could drain her dry

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        cdobbs February 12, 2013, 2:03 pm

        Agree! Thank you csp!

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    • avatar

      Riefer February 12, 2013, 5:05 pm

      Never rely on *anyone* to support you. Not a spouse, not your parents, not your kids. Unless you have some kind of debilitating condition that makes it impossible for you to care for yourself, you should make sure that you are able to.

      Of course, there are times in your life when you will lean on someone else. I took a leave of absence because I burnt out at work, so my husband took on the mortgage during that time. But once I was working again, I took on my part of the load again. And I would do the same for him if he needed a break.

      Maybe a family does decide that one person will stay home, and the other will be the sole breadwinner. If you do this, you need to “take care” of yourself by ensuring that the two of you buy life insurance, have investments for retirement, have savings for a rainy day, etc. And it wouldn’t hurt to make sure that you have some kind of marketable skill that you could bring into play if you needed to. Otherwise you’re putting yourself in a pretty risky position.

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  • avatar

    Desiree February 12, 2013, 9:15 am

    LW, you have a long way to go in terms of figuring out what you want in life. You need to sort out which values you were raised with that you want to keep, and which you are happy living without (very few self-actualized people end up being exact carbon copies of their parents). And until you do that, you should not commit to a permanent future with anyone. Wendy is exactly right: you think money buys a whole lot that it doesn’t (security, etc.), and you need to re-think that approach. However, even if you do, it’s clear that you don’t respect your boyfriend and therefore this relationship can’t work. On some level, I empathize with your feelings. I am drawn to super passionate people who pursue their vocation, whatever it is, with gusto; so I probably wouldn’t be happy with your boyfriend either. But I think you need to sift through which feelings are related to money, and which are related to deeper personal qualities in your boyfriend.

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    • avatar

      kerrycontrary February 12, 2013, 9:21 am

      Totally agree with you Desiree. The LW needs to figure out her values. Maybe she agrees with her parents on most of their values, maybe she doesn’t. But a lot of people don’t have concrete ideas of what they want out of life when they are 22 (some do). It’s important to pick a marriage partner with purpose, i.e. not just because you are in love with them. Also…This guy kind of sounds like a loser to me. He’s 31, why hasn’t he done anything with his life yet? All he has to provide is excuses. It’s not like he tried and failed. It just seems like he hasn’t tried yet.

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      • avatar

        LT February 12, 2013, 4:29 pm

        I’m curious about the fact that he lost his license. That is NOT a good sign- either he is an incredibly reckless driver, or he was drinking and driving, possibly multiple times.

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    • avatar

      csp February 12, 2013, 11:51 am

      So true. I don’t think it is money but basic motivation that is the problem here. When she was in college and had alot of free time, this was a great boyfriend. But now, she is looking at him and going, “Why does he have no direction or follow through at 30?”

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  • Fabelle

    Fabelle February 12, 2013, 9:25 am

    Wendy’s response was lovely, & I hope, LW, that you really take in what she’s telling you about personal struggle/how money does not necessarily equal security.

    With that said, it’s still clear that you don’t respect this man—even though you may love him—& that you’re worried about your future together. And I think you’re right to feel that way. He could just need time to get his life straightened out, but his current situation, as you’ve described it, seems to indicate a general lack of stability in character. You’re 22 year old. You don’t need to attach yourself so soon to someone you aren’t even sure about.

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  • Fabelle

    Fabelle February 12, 2013, 9:27 am

    Also (& I guess it’s good this is a separate comment, because it might be kind of derailing & could get the LW on the defense) but the age thing doesn’t sit right with me. He’s 31, she’s 22. It’s not a HUGE gap, but with those ages—they’re at completely different places in life. The fact that he went for someone that young is another flag to me that he’s sort of…under-developed…himself.

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    • avatar

      kerrycontrary February 12, 2013, 9:38 am

      WFS…It’s frankly a little creepy to me. It’s not that its a 9 year age gap, it’s that those are very important 9 years in your life.

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    • avatar

      MissDre February 12, 2013, 10:34 am

      I agree.

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      • avatar

        Doodles February 12, 2013, 1:44 pm

        I would have to agree and yet disagree. I think it depends on the maturity level of both people involved. My fiance is 91/2 years older than me and he was 31 when I was turning 22 when we got together (7yts ago) but we also had the same values, outlook on life etc. And we are a great match for each other. We also knew each other for since I was 19 because we hung out with the same group of people and I was great friends with his best friend who is between our ages. Also I am mature for my age, I always have been. But if I was immature it was not gonna work.

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    • barleystonks

      barleystonks February 12, 2013, 6:55 pm

      Ok, I’m going to out myself because when I was the same age as the LW I was dating a *19* year age gap. We’re now happily married. The age gap isn’t the problem, in my opinion, it’s that she has expectations that he can’t fulfill, which isn’t fair to him.

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  • katie

    katie February 12, 2013, 9:32 am

    “That is, if I get in a relationship or when I get married, the man is supposed to pay most of the bills and the woman has to help but not be the one who takes care of everything.” –you are in for a long and unhappy life, i think, with this attitude.

    this reminds me of a book a read last weekend. it was called four wives and it was about these four women (wives and mothers) who live in a very rich suburb of NYC, and all their struggles. one is stupidly wealthy and has “people” to do literally everything for her, and she hates her life, and her husband is a dick and is violent with her. at the end of the book she fires everyone because she figures out that she isnt living her life- she is simply managing the people who are living her life for her… mothering for her, taking care of her house for her, cooking for her, planning her parties for her, ect. she also leaves her husband, the first in her family of wealthy NYC-ers who stay married no matter what for appearances. the other wives have other issues (one is having an affair, one has a deep dark secret that is threatening to come back and ruin her, one is a divorce lawyer who is working a case where a baby died and she thinks her client is the one who killed her), but i thought that the rich character’s struggles were very poignant. all the money she had and her “perfect” life meant nothing- if anything, her perfect life and money were killing her. in the end, she finds happiness in herself… because thats where it comes from.

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    • avatar

      Desiree February 12, 2013, 9:38 am

      Princeton did a study about money and happiness. They found that up to $75,000 a year, more money “makes” a person happier. After $75,000, however, more money did not seem to increase happiness at all. So, financial instability can be a point of unhappiness in a person’s life, but being super-wealthy (contrary to social convention) doesn’t make a person happy. I really liked this study; anytime I have fantasies about being super rich I just think of this study and remind myself that a huge bank account wouldn’t really enrich my life that much.

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      • katie

        katie February 12, 2013, 9:42 am

        oh yes, i have heard of that study and i absolutely agree. my dad used to say “the only thing that money does is alleviate the need for more money” and its completely true.

        you know how people always fantasize about what they would do with a lottery win? i always find it so funny what people say they would do how and how they would feel… and im always like, well you know you would have the same issues, right? that wouldnt, like, solve your life for you.

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        lets_be_honest February 12, 2013, 10:32 am

        Great comment. Its true money will relieve a lot of stress and allow you to experience some cool things like traveling for example, but that’s about all it will do.

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      • avatar

        kerrycontrary February 12, 2013, 10:45 am

        Eh, I would like more money. But I’m well below the 75K mark. I do think that financial stability does contribute to a level of happiness though my reducing stress. More money would enrich my life in the following ways: 1) relieve stress about student loans 2) I wouldn’t have to watch every single penny I spend and debate what month I can afford to get a haircut/buy shoes that I need 3) I could live closer to work so I didn’t have an hour commute (My office is in one of the most expensive suburbs in the US)

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      • katie

        katie February 12, 2013, 10:59 am

        well, see, exactly like my dad said, all that more money would give you is the elimination of the need for more of it. money can be a source of stress, sure, but all your reasons for wanting more of it only have to do with money. you never say “my relationship will work if i had more money” or “i would have a happy life if i had more money”, or something, because thats not how it works.

        thats i think where this LW ultimately will fall. the money = happiness thing isnt real, and so if she keeps banking her happiness on the money that will be provided *for her* own life, she will never actually find happiness.

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      • avatar

        Riefer February 12, 2013, 5:17 pm

        If you made more money, you’d probably have a more stressful job though. So your stress about the student loan would go away, only to be replaced with work stress, which may actually be worse. That’s been my experience, anyway. My husband and I make enough that we don’t really think about money, but it has definitely come along with stresses of its own in terms of the jobs we have to do to make that amount.

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      • avatar

        BreezyAM February 12, 2013, 10:38 pm

        Yeah. Money doesn’t buy happiness… snort… that’s what the 1% keep telling the rest of us to keep us complacent.

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      • avatar

        MMcG February 12, 2013, 11:10 am

        Money can’t buy happiness… it can just buy you more choices and apparently a never-ending cycle of feeling unfulfilled because you should be happy with “everything” but there is always someone else who has something bigger/better/more.

        Like Biggie said – MO MONEY MO PROBLEMS 🙂

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      • katie

        katie February 12, 2013, 11:15 am

        RIP biggie.

        lol

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      • iwannatalktosampson

        Iwannatalktosampson February 12, 2013, 1:19 pm

        My brother always says – money can’t buy happiness – but it can buy me a jetski which would make me very happy.

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      • avatar

        csp February 12, 2013, 11:53 am

        But I think this LW would be thrilled if this guy made 75k. He can’t hold a job, lost his license, and dropped out of school. Those are characteristics that could lead to unhappiness.

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      • avatar

        AliceInDairyland February 12, 2013, 12:17 pm

        Do you know if that was $75,000 per person in a couple… or the net income of a couple? Did it make a difference if there were children or not? Interesting study, I just have so many questions!

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      • avatar

        csp February 12, 2013, 12:36 pm

        The number was per family/household. So if you had two people each making 37k. That is doing great. It means that you can afford the basics (rent, car, food, clothes, going out once and awhile) Anything above that amount would give you better of all those things (better house, newer car). IT was an average. So, I am sure if you were surprised with triplets that all needed day care, It wouldn’t hold up. But that number basically took away the stress of not paying your bills.

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      • avatar

        AliceInDairyland February 12, 2013, 12:41 pm

        Okay sweet, at first I was thinking that was per person… and I was like “Woah… that seems like a LOT of money”. But $75,000 for a couple/family seems reasonable and makes the results even more interesting! Thanks!

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  • avatar

    lemongrass February 12, 2013, 9:33 am

    Screw what your life “should” look like. Screw the “should” altogether.

    Lw, you kinda sound like a gold digger. There is nothing wrong with wanting a traditional marriage where the woman stays home, I have one. It sounds though like you expect to just waltz into a relationship where the man is ready for that so you don’t have to work. Most if those marriages and relationships go through “poor years” in the beginning where you build up to be able to do so. It takes sacrifice.

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    • avatar

      csp February 12, 2013, 12:30 pm

      If you come from money, how could you be a gold digger. I would be much more worried that it would be the guy in this situation who is with her for her money.

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      • avatar

        lemongrass February 12, 2013, 12:41 pm

        Her parents have money, that doesn’t mean that she does. My point is that she should be turned off by his lack of ambition not his lack of fancy things.

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      • avatar

        csp February 12, 2013, 12:59 pm

        you are right. But I think this LW isn’t articulating herself well. She is saying “wealthy” but I think she means the “values that make you wealthy”. I mean, every line in that letter reads that his lack of future potential is the problem.

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  • avatar

    Oldie February 12, 2013, 9:33 am

    “He lost his license,” is glossed over quickly. Multiple DUIs? Multiple reckless driving and/or speeding citations? Red flag, something amiss here. Hard luck from having to care for your girlfriend and her daughter does not equate to having to lose your license. He is telling the tale of being in difficulty, because he was so responsible and supportive of his ex. The lost license and school dropout tell a different story.

    Wendy is right that you sound naive and sheltered. You also sound like you are unable to think for yourself and bouncing back and forth between what your parents think and what your bf thinks. Given that, a 31-year old guy graduate of the school of hard knocks is simply to old for you. Some 22-year olds can handle that age/experience difference, but it sound as though you cannot.

    You sound really traditional for a young woman of your generation. If you are dating a guy whom you know to be hard up and have done so for six months, why does he still do all the paying when the two of you go out? If you are almost finished with a college degree and come from wealth, why do you feel that your future financial stability is dependent upon the earning power of the man you marry?

    You and this guy seem way too different for this relationship to work. It might be good experience for you, but it isn’t going to last. I don’t think you will really be able to have a healthy ‘forever’ relationship until you can establish some independence from your parents, supporting yourself, setting your own goals, living your life by your own values, and telling your parents that you love them but will happily accept responsibility for your own choices.

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    • avatar

      MJ February 12, 2013, 9:48 am

      That lost license was the thing that stuck out to me, too. Why did he lose his license, and have the issues that caused that to happen been resolved?

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    • avatar

      csp February 12, 2013, 12:33 pm

      “If you are almost finished with a college degree and come from wealth, why do you feel that your future financial stability is dependent upon the earning power of the man you marry?” _ he could drain that wealth. He is jumping from job to job, no license, dropping out of school. This guy sounds like a mooch.

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  • avatar

    bethany February 12, 2013, 9:39 am

    WWS.

    One of the things I’ve struggled with a lot as an adult, was that I just always sort of had this idea in my head of what my life was going to be like. I assumed I’d have a life like my parents, as I think many of us do. I figured I’d meet a guy in college, get married, have kids, live in a nice house in the burbs, the husband would be the main financial supporter, and I’d stay home at least part time with the kids. But it didn’t work out that way for me, and it’s ok.
    LW, you need to embrace the fact that your life can be whatever you want it to be. Just because your family does things one way, doesn’t mean that you have to do it that way, too. It’s a lesson that could really benefit you in the future, so, please think about it.

    Despite what I’ve said above, I don’t think this guy is the guy for you.

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    • katie

      katie February 12, 2013, 9:44 am

      i also dont think this guy is right for her, but i think its because she is the ultimate issue… like, i feel like she is going to go through boyfriend after boyfriend, trying to find this perfect man to fit her mold, but ultimately, she is going to be the main issue that gets in the way of her own happiness, you know?

      until she addresses these weird issues she has related to money and marriage, i dont think she will be happy. she will end up like the characters in my book.

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  • avatar

    Addie Pray February 12, 2013, 9:49 am

    Damn, Wendy is on a roll lately! So wise and compassionate. Only thing I got is a WWS.

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    • avatar

      rachel February 12, 2013, 10:04 am

      Agreed! Well done Wendy!

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      • avatar

        No_Clever_Name_Yet February 12, 2013, 5:07 pm

        I am already imagining Wendy at 89 with a long and loyal fan-base reminiscing about her musty old web-site and regular commenters. 🙂

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      • KKZ

        KKZ February 12, 2013, 7:06 pm

        Maybe by then, we’ll be writing to Dear Jackson! 🙂

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  • avatar

    Daisy February 12, 2013, 10:04 am

    WWS!

    Just want to echo Wendy’s sentiments about realizing what is important to YOU in a partner or relationship, rather than what you think it “supposed to be” important.

    As an example, I am in an amazing and fulfilling relationship with someone who makes less than half my salary. Our financial situation is not really the scenario I’d envisioned for my ‘dream relationship,’ but my partner is loving and wonderful and contributes to our life in a hundred ways that have nothing to do with his paycheck.

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  • Heather

    Heather February 12, 2013, 10:09 am

    Wendy, awesome response. LW, no one can decide what’s best for you except for YOU. Yes, parents have some words of wisdom for sure. And god knows at 22 the chances of us having it all figured out are zilch. Hell, people go their entire lives without figuring things out. But you know yourself better than Wendy, than any of us commenters, than your significant other. Just remember that. And don’t necessarily let someone else’s expectations about what you SHOULD be doing monopolize your decision.

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  • avatar

    GatorGirl February 12, 2013, 10:20 am

    You can not have a successful long term relationship with out having similar financial goals and expectations. Seriously. If you and your partner don’t see eye to eye on spending and saving and on the kind of financial lifestyle you want for your life, it’s not going to work.

    So no, love isn’t enough to sustain a relationship indefinitely. It’s takes a lot of hard work, compromise, honesty, forgiveness…the list goes on and on.

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  • avatar

    Sophronisba February 12, 2013, 10:25 am

    I would like to know if anyone has actually gotten their desired happy outcome by “waiting and being patient” for an unknowable amount of time while their under-invested (or under-achieving) partner…decides if marriage is for them…finishes their novel…finds themself…pulls it together…gets a real job, etc.

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    • Jess

      Jess February 12, 2013, 10:40 am

      It does seem to be a recurring theme in letters…

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    • avatar

      kerrycontrary February 12, 2013, 10:41 am

      Lol…I would like to hear about this too!

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    • avatar

      Daisy February 12, 2013, 11:06 am

      My situation seems to finally be working out — although I don’t want to jinx it with this comment 😉

      I wrote in as an LW probably close to 2 years ago. At the time my boyfriend and I were considering moving in together (technically, his moving in to my tiny studio), and I was concerned because he was a full-time student who’d never really worked whereas I had been working and supporting myself for several years already. I worried that we were in different stages of our lives and that things couldn’t work out.

      A number of months after my letter appeared (and Wendy advised us not to rush anything, which was great advice), he did move in and about a year after that we moved together to the apartment where we live now.

      There have been ups and downs, and I’ve often had concerns similar to those I expressed to Wendy so long ago. For about a year my bf worked at a series of temporary jobs — 5 months, here, 3 months there, etc. On the one hand, I was of course happy that he was working and contributing (and feeling confident and good about himself for working and contributing). At the same time, however, it was frustrating that he not only lacked a permanent, long-term job but that he seemed to lack even the desire to find one.

      Anyway (far too late to say long story short!), I guess it was about 2-3 months ago that everything finally came to a head (is that a real expression? it looks weird in writing!) and he told me that I was trying to change him and that he didn’t think he could be who I want him to be. I totally broke down at this point and told him that I’m not trying to change him, I’m trying to help him grow up! I told him that I don’t care how much money he makes but he needs to contribute something financially and not just rely on me for everything. And I told him that if that’s not something he wants or feels capable of, then it’s time for me to seriously consider going back to my home country. Honestly, this was a conversation that I should’ve had with him a year ago! Obviously it could’ve gone the other way, but in our case my sort-of ultimatum snapped him into gear and, amazingly, he found a full-time job within a couple weeks! He’s now been working for a bit over a month, and he’s happier than I’ve ever seen him. He enjoys his job and feels fulfilled that he’s doing something.

      And… we’re planning a trip to Prague for the spring and talking about getting married next year! No joke – he’d been working for a week and was already saying now we can get married!

      So… this was crazy long (sorry!) and maybe it’s the exception to the rule, but I am incredibly happy and grateful that I stuck by my smart and amazing but semi-directionless boyfriend. THE END – phew!

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        Trixy Minx February 12, 2013, 5:58 pm

        I am so happy for you Daisy! I’ve been waiting patiently for an update 😉

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  • Diablo

    Diablo February 12, 2013, 10:34 am

    Great response, Wendy.

    LW, my wife and I met in college, and for a long time we never had anything. By our mid-20s, we both had Master’s degrees, but due to economic circumstances in our part of the world, we had no jobs and no prospects. I worked several minimum wage temporary manual labour jobs after I had my Master’s. because you do what you gotta do to get by. We both re-invented ourselves several times, and neither of us is working in the field we envisioned when we started. But we are happy and are finishing a lot stronger, in part because of what we had to go through and the struggles we had to face in order to become real adults, and to take full responsibility for our choices.

    If you had judged me by the same standards as your guy, I would not have looked like a catch. I’m not rich now, so your parents would likely not approve of me. Wealth is not a big priority in our life, possibly because it was never an option. But I earned every single damn thing I have. I am self-made. And my wife and I, thanks to having faith in each other and our relationship, have shared more than two decades of life and love.

    TL;DR: Sort your values out and grow the hell up. And let this guy go, because it’s not fair to him to subject him to your skewed view of the world. Frankly, right now, you are the one who is not much of a catch, but you might grow into one, once you’ve gone through a buit of real life.

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    • Diablo

      Diablo February 12, 2013, 10:38 am

      Oh and another thing: don’t you want to achieve something with your own life, and not just be “cared for” by some man? Is this modern times or what?

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        Addie Pray February 12, 2013, 10:45 am

        I dunno, I’m really starting to believe those idiots in college going for their MRS degree were on to something! Careers are so overrated, especially now that day-time TV is getting better, what with all those movie channels available.

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      • Diablo

        Diablo February 12, 2013, 10:51 am

        Think of all those wasted days at work, just going through the motions, with literally no clue who the baby daddy is. We’re missing out on important stuff.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow February 12, 2013, 10:56 am

        Right? Is that even a thing to “strive” for? I am not sure what to focus on in this letter – her naive hopes to be “cared for” by a man even though she comes from wealth and seems to be perfectly capable of supporting herself, or the fact that there are tons of red flags in her relationship.

        If you skew traditional, fine. That’s your choice. But you’re probably screwing yourself if you are expecting to be taken care of by your future-hypothetical-husband. You need to learn to be independent first. Shit happens. Don’t rely on anyone but yourself. (If this sounds pessimistic, it is. I know that once you’re in a stable marriage, you should be able to depend on your spouse. But I feel like this LW just expects some imaginary white knight to ride in and pick up where her parents left off, and that’s not very realistic).

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      • FireStar

        Firestar February 12, 2013, 11:15 am

        I’m in a stable marriage…but that doesn’t mean I haven’t put plans in place to protect me should something unforeseen happen. It jut makes sense to be able to provide for yourself should you need to. People die or leave, wealth and money come and go, fortunes can be lost or stolen but your abilities, your education, your ability to ‘hustle’ – that’s yours. That’s how you know you’ll be fine.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow February 12, 2013, 11:31 am

        Yes. I think that’s what I meant. If you want to be a stay at home parent and have your partner be the primary breadwinner, that’s fine, but don’t depend solely on another person to keep you afloat. Also, what are you going to do in the meantime? Before you find a husband? Before the kids are born? What if you never find someone who wants to marry you, or don’t find that person until later in life? What if you fall in love with someone who is perfect in every other way but doesn’t make enough to support the family on his own? What do you do after the children are grown? Being a wife and a mom is a fine goal but being self-sufficient is an absolute necessity.

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      • FireStar

        FireStar February 12, 2013, 12:02 pm

        Oh I was totally agreeing with you! I probably should have led with that…

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        GatorGirl February 12, 2013, 11:06 am

        While I get your point, and think this LW is a little misguided- I don’t think there is anything wrong with a woman choosing to be a stay at home mom or the like (assuming it was a mutually agreed upon decision with the partner). Just as I don’t see anything wrong with a woman choosing to be career focused. (or a man choosing either route.) Some people are just drawn towards one life path rather than another.

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      • katie

        katie February 12, 2013, 11:18 am

        isnt there a huge difference between being a stay at home mom and being “cared for”, though? i see those things as hugely, hugely different. you could be a very self sufficient/smart/hustler of a SAHM, and you could also be a “cared for” SAHM, you know?

        i dunno, to me there is a huge difference.

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        GatorGirl February 12, 2013, 11:33 am

        I agree- there is a difference in being “kept” and being the person who manages a household/raises children/etc. This LW sounds like she just wants to sit around and eat bon-bon’s all day. But it sort of sounded like to me Diablo was saying why don’t all women want career’s?? (I could have been reading into it) and I, personally, think it is perfectly fine for a woman to want to stay home, run the house, raise children, etc. You know what I mean?

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      • katie

        katie February 12, 2013, 11:37 am

        yea, that makes sense. i didnt get that at all from diablo, though.

        i guess to me being a stay at home mom means that you have a job, its just not paid. being “kept”, means, as you said, just eating bons bons all day and not having a care in the world- and thats not a job. thats not a contribution. that is nothing to offer a partner. the LW said ” the woman has to help but not be the one who takes care of everything”. how is that desirable in a partnership? “yea, i mean, ill help, but you have to take care of everything.” when would a real SAHM *ever* say that?

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      • Fabelle

        Fabelle February 12, 2013, 11:42 am

        Honestly, I think her phrasing was just a little off & some people are reading too much into it/assuming she’s a spoiled, clueless brat who wants to marry a millionaire so she can sit at the spa all day. My interpretation was just that she’s internalized a bit of her parents’ more traditional values, and therefore wouldn’t feel right being the main breadwinner whenever she marries. A lot of people do feel this way at heart—she just may be too young to realize that she’s being unrealistic, or that her beliefs are largely rooted in an antiquated notion.

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      • katie

        katie February 12, 2013, 11:44 am

        well, honestly, i hope your right… that is an issue that you can at least hopefully fix with growing up a little.

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        lemongrass February 12, 2013, 12:38 pm

        Sure there’s nothing wrong with staying home, we all know I do. But I’m not “cared for” by my husband. We do equal work, his just comes with a paycheck.

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      Desiree February 12, 2013, 10:44 am

      Great life story, and I think the LW can learn a lot from it. But the comparison between you and her boyfriend doesn’t hold up in my mind. You tried and, due to some external factors, struggled. It doesn’t really sound like the boyfriend is trying (and, the lost license suggests serious issues as well). I don’t think a 22 y/o who hasn’t figured out what she wants in life should be dating a 31 y/o who also sounds like he hasn’t figured out what he wants in life (or perhaps just doesn’t care).

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      • Diablo

        Diablo February 12, 2013, 10:48 am

        Fair point. I just wanted to express that most smart capable people still have to struggle and search to find a real and meaningful life. You get out what you put in. Either way, this relationship doesn’t look like lasting.

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      • katie

        katie February 12, 2013, 10:54 am

        to be fair though, we only have a tiny little snippet of info on the boyfriend… its a very small amount of info to go on, even though i do think the “losing his license” thing is weird.

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      Eagle Eye February 12, 2013, 10:59 am

      I think that this actually goes back to a point you made yesterday, what’s she bringing to the table exactly? If she’s anticipating that her husband is going to be doing all of the breadwinning (which is fine) what’s going to be her role in the relationship?

      Also, what’s she going to do when all goes to Hell? Because crap happens, is she going to be able to weather the storm when they don’t have enough?

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  • Jess

    Jess February 12, 2013, 10:39 am

    Firstly, and most importantly, everything that Wendy said. Excellent advice.

    Secondary message I want to add is this: as they age, people tend to become more traditional and gravitate more towards their upbringing, not less.

    What I mean is that, after all Wendy’s important caveats, there is also the truth that marrying someone from a very different background, culture, socioeconomic category, is hard to sustain over time. There are surely examples where it works but… I just know that, time and again, people who stray from the values of their family, reject them as stuffy and conservative, etc —usually end up finding their way back to them. Oftentimes this happens when one has children and the question of teaching values comes up.

    This isn’t to say that you should run off and find a church-going, old-money, wall-street working husband that will keep you in pearls for the rest of your life (or whichever model your family endorses). As Wendy said, even if that’s desirable, it may not be possible or sustainable because everyone does struggle. It’s just that, as much as we may want to be more open-minded, finding someone who shares a similar background/upbringing goes a long way towards long term success. This guy doesn’t sound like it.

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      kerrycontrary February 12, 2013, 10:48 am

      I agree with you Jess. I think that sometimes it is just easier to be with someone who had similar values/upbringing as you. When you bring together two people of a similar upbringing, the expectations of how to function as a couple or a family are often very similar. There usually (not always) aren’t as many disagreements about how to raise children, what church to go to, how to manage finances, etc….

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    • lynn

      Lynn February 12, 2013, 10:48 am

      + a million on gravitating toward your upbringing.

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  • lynn

    Lynn February 12, 2013, 10:47 am

    I get it. I have the same mindset as you, LW. I’m 22, too. Even if it’s unrealistic, I expect the man I marry to be the breadwinner. I have every intention in the world to be successful and make money, but I would like the guy to be the breadwinner. My dad is the breadwinner in my family, and that’s how I want my future husband to be. My mama calls the shots though 😉 … they have a pretty perfect marriage.

    Is that unrealistic? Maybe? I don’t know. But I also get that I might fall in love with a guy who is a provider but doesn’t make more than me. Or that I might fall in love with a guy who might one day lose his job or become ill… etc. etc. And that while money is great and cool — it isn’t the end all.

    Honestly, I think you need to be in a relationship that you’re comfortable with. That’s not OK that you’re not “comfortable” with making more than him. It’s not going to work. And again, you might meet someone who makes six figures… and that might not work either. I dated a guy for about two months, and it turned out he’s a VP for a stock brokerage firm. He was a little older, sweet and seemed to be looking to settle down with someone, and I realized that person wasn’t going to be me, because I wasn’t that into him… and my interest was waning. If I kept going out with him, I could have possibly been provided me with the life I have always imagined. But I wouldn’t have been happy, so I broke it off. Because happiness means a hell of a lot more to me than a pocketbook.

    So, it’s great to know what you want. But you want to be happy — remember that. You also want to be with someone who’s on the same page as you, someone you’re going down a similar path with.

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      Oldie February 12, 2013, 10:56 am

      No, for most families that is not realistic. Globalization and falling real middle class wages put an end to that model for lower-middle, and middle-middle class families. If a guy can earn an upper-upper-middle class or better salary, then this model is still doable. These jobs tend not to provide fixed hours or the ability for a lot of family time. Think hard on what you really want.

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      • katie

        katie February 12, 2013, 11:04 am

        “Think hard on what you really want.”

        WOS. “expecting” anything over basic respect is not a good thing, in my opinion.

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        BreezyAM February 12, 2013, 10:00 pm

        Low Standards eh?

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        Eagle Eye February 12, 2013, 11:04 am

        Plus, you’ll just never see your husband. I grew up extremely comfortably in this model and while I love my father to pieces, I never saw him much growing up. He missed alot, before the age of cell phones he would watch quite a bit on the camcorder that my mom brought to everything.

        To his credit, he made it a priority to spend time with my sister and I despite all of this. But this is not a perfect model by any means.

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      • lynn

        lynn February 12, 2013, 11:14 am

        I guess I’m not realistic, but I did grow up with a dad who was always there. He’s his own boss. He never missed anything. He was at every spelling bee. He moved me into college and moved me out. He flew up to come watch my university’s football games. He picks me up at the airport every time I come home. My parents have been very active in mine and my siblings’ lives and never missed out on anything.

        So maybe that’s what I want more than a guy who is the breadwinner… someone who is always going to be there. But my upbringing and the kind of people in my life — makes me think that what I’m looking for in a guy isn’t totally unrealistic.

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        GatorGirl February 12, 2013, 11:37 am

        Sorry to burst your bubble but you had a utopian upbringing from the sounds of it. Life doesn’t play out that way for most people.

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      • katie

        katie February 12, 2013, 11:40 am

        i agree- that sounds like the exception, definitely not the rule.

        also, ill add- if “being there” is what you ultimately want, remember that has absolutely zero to do with money, earning potential, and who is the breadwinner. that is an innate character trait that you will find over all different socioeconomic layers.

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      • lynn

        Lynn February 12, 2013, 11:44 am

        I know I was really blessed and fortunate growing up. But like you all give different perspectives based on how your lives have gone… I am able to give a perspective from how my life has been. The LW may be able to relate to me more than others because I grew up kind of similar. I’m not rich by any means, but I get it.

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        GatorGirl February 12, 2013, 11:51 am

        I grew up kind of similar too. After my mom married my step-father, she was a stay at home mom, full time. He was able to go to every event (his family owns the business he works for), we were always together, both parents were highly involved all the time. When I was 20 or 22 I assumed my life would be the same way. Marry, have children, stay at home and raise them. Now at 27 I realize that is never going to happen. It’s virtually impossible for me to be a stay at home mom full time, even though I want to be. Neither my fiance or I have the earning potential to support a family off of one income alone, and he is about to have a Phd. It was a crazy thing to realize- but most people can’t live off of one income any more.

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        Eagle Eye February 12, 2013, 1:06 pm

        As someone also working towards her PhD in a non-STEM field – there’s nothing worse than realizing how little all of that education translates to earning potential.

        Although I’d love it if my eventual PhD meant that my bf could become a SAHD, I think he’d be great at it!

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        CaraM February 12, 2013, 1:20 pm

        My boyfriend and I are both PhD students in the humanities and would love to have any good job prospects at this point! We’ve also talked about how we’re both willing to be a stay-at-home parent if the other gets a good job but that’s just dreaming at this point.

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        Eagle Eye February 12, 2013, 1:40 pm

        Hah, yeah, my boyfriend is a PhD in a STEM field, and he’s kinda over science at this point, so he’d LOVE to be the home-maker. It was kinda sad for us to realize that I’d never make enough for us to really live off of!

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        CaraM February 12, 2013, 1:55 pm

        Eagle Eye, it seems like all you can do is stay positive at this point and hope for a job! I’m about a year away from finishing and would seriously go anywhere I had a job offer. Our ultimate hope is that my boyfriend is able to get a job at the university where he did his undergrad (it’s a pretty small school so they definitely remember and really like him and I know that sounds like a silly reason to think he’d get the job but there’s more going on because it’s on a small island that’s really community-minded so that’s where he’d like to be and they’d probably prefer to hire someone originally from the island…and now I’m rambling) and move back to that area where the cost of living is pretty low and homes are really affordable, but that may or may not happen.

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        AllegroFox February 12, 2013, 3:40 pm

        CaraM – you wouldn’t happen to be from PEI, would you?

        Wild guess.

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        CaraM February 12, 2013, 10:51 pm

        AllegroFox, I’m not from PEI but my boyfriend is! Good guess! How’d you know?

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        CaraM February 12, 2013, 10:52 pm

        AllegroFox, it’s my boyfriend who is from PEI — good guess! How’d you know?

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        CaraM February 12, 2013, 10:52 pm

        Weird double post, oops!

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        AllegroFox February 12, 2013, 11:39 pm

        CaraM, I have family there! And it’s the only place I know that people refer to as “the island” – and people are either “from the island” or “from away.” 😀 (I get a huge kick out of telling people “I’m from away” when I go visit.)

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        CaraM February 12, 2013, 11:52 pm

        That’s awesome! I absolutely LOVE PEI — the beaches are amazing, the seafood is delicious and so cheap, and the scenery is beautiful. My favorite beach is Greenwich, which is pretty far away from most places (by PEI standards) but never seems to be crowded and has gorgeous sand dunes and a cool lagoon.

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        BreezyAM February 12, 2013, 10:25 pm

        this really depends on what you’re willing to sacrifice. I’m so tired of people saying “we can’t live on one income!” when what they mean is “in a house over 1000sq ft that we own with a yard the size of Montana, in a burb we like, with the “right” schools, with two (late model) cars, yearly vacations, groceries at whole foods, regular trips to Target & Starbucks”…..etc. etc….

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        Eagle Eye February 12, 2013, 1:04 pm

        Yeah, I mean, I grew up in the upper end of upper middle class, so, I was reading her discussion of wealthy to mean closer to what I experienced.

        Its just, as with anything in life, everything comes with a price, which is not always necessarily money.

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        BreezyAM February 12, 2013, 10:13 pm

        I grew up dead broke with a dad like LW’s BF.
        There is a REASON I chose men with serious career ambition and potential for husbands. NOTE that was not the only criteria. As I explained to my then teen daughter once…

        First, you eliminate all the jackholes. No one who is mean to animals, waitresses, poor people, or kids.
        No republicans (YES I am serious. Aforementioned dad is a Rush following GOP card carrying member. Just Hell No).
        No one who is over 40 and never been in a serious relationship. There is a reason.
        No Virgins.
        No fundamentalist atheist, jews, muslims, vegans, or christians
        No 12 steppers (long story but just as I the meat eater would never date a vegan for a Serious Relationship because I enjoy sharing the experience of food similarly I am not interested in AA members or anyone abstaining 100% from alcohol).
        If he can’t kiss he can’t fuck.
        Just because he can kiss doesn’t mean he can fuck. Find out before you let him put a ring on it. And it WILL NOT get better. Sure, overall maybe but if he can’t get the wheels to peel out he’s not gonna get the engine over the redline later.
        You first lover did not make you come. Just Stop.
        If he asks for sexting DTMFA. If he’s too lazy to get off his ass to inspire you to show your tits he doesn’t deserve to breathe near you.
        He need not make six figures but he should have enough to not blush and claim to forget his wallet when you grab a pint.
        He can have a vespa, a transit pass, or cab money but he should not be sponging off you.
        Yes, it IS different for a man thanks to our socialization. And yes, it IS bullshit these are expected roles. But men who don’t conform to it by and large there’s a REASON. And you should either just nail them, or run.

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        bethany February 12, 2013, 11:51 am

        True that. My dad was the breadwinner, and my mom stayed at home, but there came a point when my dad came home from work early, tried to hug me and I freaked out, because I didn’t know who he was. My dad asked to be demoted after that.

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      Desiree February 12, 2013, 11:07 am

      I think it is problematic for women to pursue advanced careers and then still say the man should be the breadwinner, because it becomes statistically more difficult to achieve. I am in medical school. If long ago I had said “I won’t date a guy unless his career goals are more financially profitable than mine,” my dating pool would have been rather small.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow February 12, 2013, 11:34 am

        Good point! And the LW seems to be limiting her dating pool by wanting a man who is not only willing but capable of supporting an entire family on his own. It’s not that easy to do these days.

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        csp February 12, 2013, 12:48 pm

        You are right. But it also doesn’t mean that you need to marry a layabout with zero direction either.

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    Anna February 12, 2013, 10:48 am

    “He may not be a catch at all, but not because he doesn’t have a college degree or hasn’t found great financial or career success. Those things aren’t what make a person worth investing in”

    I love this, Wendy. It echoed my thoughts exactly. It seems that the women who choose their mate based on his “resume” (education, career, bank account balance, social standing) are often the ones who end up the most unhappy. If you find someone you love hanging out with even if date night consists of Kraft mac n cheese and Franzia, you’ve found the golden ticket in life and love. Your “wealth” could disappear in a second and then what will your relationship be based on? If it’s based on true love, it won’t matter.

    Also, you’re an adult now so it doesn’t matter what your family thinks about your boyfriend. It’s your life to live, not theirs. Do whatever makes you happy.

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    • Diablo

      Diablo February 12, 2013, 10:57 am

      Anna, even though I have grown and matured over the years, I still effing love Kraft mac n cheese! Joy can be a very simple thing!

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        Anna February 12, 2013, 11:02 am

        So do I!! And I love Franzia too. No shame here 🙂

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        Anna February 12, 2013, 11:05 am

        And I think that example came to mind because I am currently eating mac n cheese and drinking Franzia chardonnay. It’s evening in 3rd shift land.

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        MMcG February 12, 2013, 11:17 am

        Godspeed Anna… drink one for me! And thank goodness you mentioned the third shift because here on the east coast I was having a hard time imagining a mac&cheese and chard breakfast!

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  • TaraMonster

    TaraMonster February 12, 2013, 11:05 am

    I really needed to read this today –not because I have the same issue as the LW, but because I’m just starting to get a sense of what I want for my future. I had one vision for it, but since life has forced me to rewrite that script, these are the kinds of questions I need to ask myself. Last night I was talking to my best friend and had the realization that I may be capable of having feelings for someone other than my ex -no one in particular, I just think I’m there, so to speak. It’s both exhilarating and terrifying.

    And just to reinforce what Wendy was saying, LW, my ex is very well educated and incredibly ambitious. He has a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps success story. I always respected his hard working attitude so much. And he loved me like crazy- still does- but (you knew there would be a but!), he can’t get out of his own way, he’s ambivalent about every.single.decision he makes- and that included us. Over time, that took a huge toll on my sense of self. As my best friend says: On paper he and I are perfect for each other. And then life happens, resentment builds, shit gets complicated. There is no perfect formula. The only thing you can do is figure out what you want, and put your whole self into that. Listen to your gut, but keep an open mind. You’ll make better choices if you’re honest with yourself. Promise.

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    MMcG February 12, 2013, 11:05 am

    “I come from a pretty wealthy family but still very traditional. That is, if I get in a relationship or when I get married, the man is supposed to pay most of the bills and the woman has to help but not be the one who takes care of everything.”

    Ewwwww. Please don’t marry anyone LW until you give this some serious thought – is this you or your family and you just never thought about it!?! And if this is you at least be open and honest with any partner you may be with that this is how you feel. And how do you end up even dating someone and falling in love with a man you clearly don’t respect. You have a lot of time to grow up and start thinking for yourself – I hope you do that.

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      6napkinburger February 12, 2013, 11:20 am

      i wonder if it isn’t the age/maturity/life-experience of the LW coming through with that description. I come from an upper middle-class family (probably on the upper end of that), and my parents value education and intelligence. I can guarantee that my parents want me to marry someone who loves me, who values me, AND who can support me. I don’t think they’d be thrilled (read: pretty f’ing skeptical) if I HAD to be the breadwinner because my partner didn’t have the skills, education, intelligence OR wherewithal to do it (i.e. if it wasn’t a decision we came to, but a requirement).

      That being said, my parents raised two incredibly self-sufficient daughters (and one moderately self-sufficient son) and always expected excellence and success from us. We have very well paying jobs and good educations (and we paid for grad schools ourselves). So they’d be disappointed if we married “beneath us” — whatever that means. If that just meant low earning potential, then I’d agree that that’d be crappy, but it isn’t that — its the gestalt of the person and if they are smart enough, kind enough, ambitious enough, supportive enough, loving enough, successful enough, skilled enough, interesting enough, etc. Otherwise, they see it as their child “settling” for a less happy life than a parent feels their child deserves. But when I was younger, I might have seen it more simply as my parents wanting someone “who could take care of me.”

      So this LW might be missing the point with her parents, unless they really just sent her to college to get her MRS. degree, there is probably more to the story to their expectations.

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      lets_be_honest February 12, 2013, 11:57 am

      While YOU may not want that for your future, I really don’t see how its necessary to say EWW to what she wants for her future. Are we really telling women they are gross or wrong in whatever it is they want for their life?

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      • katie

        katie February 12, 2013, 12:04 pm

        i dunno, i would say EWW to anyone who’s life plan is to be “taken care of”- because leeches are gross.

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        lets_be_honest February 12, 2013, 12:12 pm

        I don’t like leeches (or mooches either), but I read this more along the lines of that’s the “tradition” she wants, like her parents, dad works, mom stays home and gets her nails done and bakes all day. I wouldn’t choose it for myself, but that doesn’t mean I have a right to call her gross for wanting something different than me.
        And seriously, aren’t we all for feminist values here? One of which being women should be able to make their own choices without others bashing it?

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow February 12, 2013, 1:22 pm

        She can choose whatever she wants, as long as her partner is on board. But she’s severely limiting herself if she expects to be taken care of her whole life and never figures out how to make it on her own, in case her plans don’t pan out.

        And if a man wrote in and said, “I’m getting a degree, but really I just want to marry someone who will be the breadwinner and take care of me,” what would we say to HIM? In the interest of gender fairness, I bet he’d get just as many, if not more, “eww” comments.

        I just can’t wrap my head around NOT striving to be self-reliant and self-sufficient. If you would prefer to be a stay at home parent when that time comes, then great. But to just expect someone to take care of you seems foolish to me.

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        lets_be_honest February 12, 2013, 1:29 pm

        Like I said, I wouldn’t choose it for myself, and it isn’t the wisest thing at all. I certainly wouldn’t tell my daughter this is a good plan. Basically, I agree that its a bad idea, and I think everyone, man or woman, should be self-reliant, I just didn’t see the need to say eww to someone else’s life choice. However, you’re right about the ‘if it were a man’ because I think my sister’s bf is a total loser for mooching off her, but even then I’m told that if they are both ok with it, its not my place to say anything.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow February 12, 2013, 2:49 pm

        Haha, yeah, and I admit I’m personally biased as well because I just cannot imagine that lifestyle for myself.

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        CaraM February 12, 2013, 1:35 pm

        I am totally with you in being baffled by people who don’t at all aspire to be self-reliant and self-sufficient. I have a friend who’s married but has been unemployed the entire time she’s been married (about a year) and isn’t really even looking for or applying to jobs. She is perfectly content for her life to be cleaning their one bedroom apartment and cooking her husband dinner. Her life, her choice, but I just can’t at all understand not wanting to do something for herself — volunteering, a hobby, anything. It makes me sad that all she seems to want in life is to make her husband’s life easier and not have any personal aspirations.

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        MMcG February 12, 2013, 2:19 pm

        I was saying ewww to the fact that it seemed like she was parroting something her parents told her, and at 22 I need her to start thinking more for herself. I never said the outcome of what she wanted was wrong, in fact I told her if that’s what she wants to be open about it with her future partners. I just don’t think she’s thought about it and there was a lot of projecting and immaturity there that made me go EEWWW, not her values.

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    j2 February 12, 2013, 11:22 am

    Whatever you do, don’t keep this BF in any misguided attempt to “prove” you are egalitarian at heart.

    Because you are not.

    At least, not yet.

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    csp February 12, 2013, 11:47 am

    LW, I think you need to reframe this a little bit. I think this guys sounds like short term material, not long term material. It isn’t the no college vs. college thing. It is the lack of motivation. This guy goes from dead end job to dead end job, loses his license, starts going to college and dropping out. Let me be clear. I think a college drop out has no value for money. If you are going to pay 10s of thousands of dollars for an education and not see it through, then he isn’t worth it.

    Wendy is right that life will hit you hard at times. However, a hardworking man that values money can weather storms much better than a spend thrift. If he had a direction, then it might be different. If he had one job that he was slowly working his way up or going to trade school that you can see the determination to do better, it would be different. But all he has shown you is that he does just enough to get by.

    I think this relationship is just rebellion on your part.

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  • avatar

    SpaceySteph February 12, 2013, 11:51 am

    It doesn’t really sound like this is the relationship for you, but I have some advice for when you meet the next (next, next?) guy…
    Your family may surprise you. I married someone I didn’t expect my family to like because he wasn’t perfect “on paper” (specifically, I though the major sticking point for my rich, old-fashioned grandparents would be our difference of religion, as well as his lack of “good breeding” whatever-the-fuck that is worth) but they surprised me by seeing past his “resume” to the fact that he made me happy and our personalities complemented each other.

    Being a grown-up means you sometimes have to decide what’s right for you and not listen to your family. Being a grown-up also means approaching this in a productive manner rather than stomping your feet and slamming the door all “It’s my life!”

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      HmC February 12, 2013, 12:14 pm

      Hey as a side note, I found myself browsing your blog the other day and I wanted to let you know that you seem so awesome! You have a great voice on your blog, your job seems soooo cool, and you seem like such a fun, interesting person. 🙂

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        SpaceySteph February 12, 2013, 1:31 pm

        Thank you. It’s either a compliment that I’m interesting, or a compliment that I’m a good enough writer to pretend to be interesting when I’m in fact boring as hell. 🙂

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      lets_be_honest February 12, 2013, 12:17 pm

      I stalked your blog too to see wedding photos. Beautiful!

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        SpaceySteph February 12, 2013, 1:32 pm

        Thanks. When I get the professional pics in a couple weeks, I’ll definitely share!

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        LANY February 12, 2013, 4:16 pm

        SpaceySteph has a blog?! I want in! Link?!

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        SpaceySteph February 12, 2013, 6:55 pm

        Linked from my user name (any purple username is a link to something). Here:

        I’m working on a great post right now about how many people it takes to change a light bulb in space. I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s more than you usually need on earth.

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        fallonthecity February 12, 2013, 11:11 pm

        Sounds awesome! Seems like maybe I remember you writing about driving ISS before. I’m going to follow your blog – hope you don’t mind! I don’t find the time to write much (okay, ever) – but I work in propulsion at NASA in AL and I know soooo few young women in the space industry.

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    Flip February 12, 2013, 11:53 am

    I really think the focus on her traditional mindset is misplaced. What we have is a naive 22 year old, starry eyed over her older man, eating up his adoring ways– and ignoring the very significant deficits that he has as a partner. So while, yes, LW needs to work on understanding her own worldview before confining her life to the worldview of others, she, more importantly, needs to recognize her own need for safety from leeches, i.e., the 31 year old man who seldom has cash, doesn’t have a drivers license, takes temporary odd jobs from time to time, has a child, and generally just manages to scrape by. This is not the man for ANY woman, let alone the LW. Honestly, she doesn’t sound like a gold digger– he does.

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      6napkinburger February 12, 2013, 11:58 am

      Well said. Her midset is the red herring of this letter. ( Though one that she can benefit from examining in general.)

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    • LM

      LM February 12, 2013, 12:13 pm

      YES! LW, MOA… he doesn’t have his priorities in the right place and love isn’t always what you need. Great, it’s there, but is he in love with you or the potential that he just doesn’t have to give much? Past experience dictates this one… if your family doesn’t support you SO, life is so HARD. Harder than it needs to be.

      LW, find someone who is your equal.

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    6napkinburger February 12, 2013, 12:02 pm

    It’s funny — when I was 22, I couldn’t have cared less whether a guy had money or not. As I’ve grown older, I start caring about their earning potential a whole lot more. I make a good salary, so this isn’t gold-digging, it just factors into the equation way more now. Has anyone else experienced that?

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      rachel February 12, 2013, 12:09 pm

      I think that’s probably fairly normal. I don’t think I had a really good idea of what life costs when I was 22, and I was much more flexible about where I lived and how I spent my time, so it didn’t at the time see too important that my boyfriend worked at crappy part time jobs. Now I wouldn’t be able to deal with that, because I want someone whose values and work ethic match mine.

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    • mandalee

      mandalee February 12, 2013, 12:15 pm

      I did- to a degree. I didn’t really factor in my husband’s “earning potential” when we were thinking of getting married, but his dedication to his job and maturity with financial matters mattered more later on in our relationship than it did when we were in college or other relationships. Thankfully, he has a well-paying job that he is dedicated too, but I would care more about the dedication to some sort of career path that is stable now, then the zeros that come after his salary. Lifestyles can be adjusted to fit incomes, but you can’t force someone to be responsible.

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        6napkinburger February 12, 2013, 12:51 pm

        That makes perfect sense. Though I think we are agreeing — I don’t think of earning potential as just a number “david can earn x amount, whereas john can earn twice that, so john scores higher in the earning potential category”. That of course isn’t totally absent (and I’m not sure I believe anyone who says that they literally never once for one second thought about how much a potential partner makes — if only to figure out what restaurant to pick the next date at), but “earning potential” also means “ability to earn at all amd willingness to work” i.e. not a moocher, not a lazybones– which goes with dedication and ambition and work ethic — all which your husband has and which you value.

        Who knows? I may be ok with a stay at home dad while I work, but I think it matters to me if they COULD and WOULD work and support the family and do so somewhere within a certain margin of my ability to, not necessarily equal, but still a reasonably comfortable level – and I consider that when picking a mate. [Note: I said CONSIDER — it isn’t despositive. It isn’t dealbeaker. It just goes into the consideration process.]

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      GatorGirl February 12, 2013, 12:19 pm

      I started dating my fiance at 22 and didn’t think about his earning potential at all. But now at 27 I don’t really think about it either- in terms of “is he a good partner”. I’ve already decided he is the right partner so we just have to figure out how to deal with the money we do (or don’t) make.

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      kerrycontrary February 12, 2013, 4:07 pm

      I was more concerned about how someone managed the money they earned. Did they buy a new tv or put it into savings? Did they have credit card debt? How are they paying off student loans? I had a boyfriend who was shitty with money in college and it really bothered me so I knew I couldn’t deal with that again.

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    • theattack

      theattack February 12, 2013, 5:49 pm

      Not me. I’m not someone who cares about having a lot of money, but I’ve always been very concerned with how a potential partner manages money. Even as a teenager that was very important to me. I don’t think I was ever lacking realism about the world, but that probably has something to do with 1) growing up learning how to be poor, and 2) living in a region where people commonly marry young. I think that factors into why I’m comfortable setting down in my early twenties while the rest of the DW community freaks out about it.

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  • AKchic_

    AKchic_ February 12, 2013, 1:02 pm

    What caught my eye here is the fact that the boyfriend is 31 and from the LW’s admission, has only worked temporary jobs to supposedly support himself. He claims that it was because he was supporting his last girlfriend and HER daughter. Excuse me? A man who is SUPPORTING a (psuedo) family will work something other than temporary jobs because they want a STEADY paycheck to ensure the bills are being paid.

    Note that he centered the blame on the girlfriend. How long were they together? A few years? Since high school? He says he applied for school last year. He would have been 29/30 then. She was the blame for him dropping out. So what the hell about the rest of his 20s?

    Something doesn’t smell right here.

    I came from a “traditional” family. I bucked tradition. My first husband had enough damned excuses to fill the senate floor. Granted, I was also in my teens while he was in his 30s. We didn’t last long because I smartened up and got tired of being walked all over (among other things).

    You need to do more digging into this guy’s history. Get the whole story. I highly doubt the story at it’s current face value. I don’t think the relationship will last, and I think you should move on to something a bit safer. Let this guy know that when he finds steady work and is in a better space to be dating (because financially, he doesn’t sound like he’s in a good place to be dating), then he can give you a call. Then maybe change your number?

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  • avatar

    Doodles February 12, 2013, 1:33 pm

    WWS! LW I would like to add some things here though. Money can buy a lot of stuff, but money cannot buy you a healthy, happy, caring, supportive relationship. That is something that has to be worked on. Relationships are alot of work. And the work does not stop once a wedding ring goes on your finger either. No relationship is perfect because people are not perfect. I also do not think you know what you want in a partner. You are a young woman, and I do not know what kind of relationships you have had in the past. You need to figure out what you want out of life: type of career, where you want to live, if you want children etc. Than you need to figure out what you want in a partner, and I do not mean ‘ he has to be the hottesr guy in town’ or ‘ he must have blue eyes, blond hair, and a tight butt’ or ‘he must be loaded so daddy likes him’ but what do you really want? A great personality, awesome sense of humor, career driven, does/does not want kids and the list can go on and on and on. It has to be someone who brings out the best in you, who makes you extremely happy, who you want to see after a long day of work. And do not fret over whether your parents like him because of his financial situation. Because in the long run, if this guy makes you really trulyhppy, your parents will see that and respect him for it. Everything is not about the almighy dollar, it is more about your happiness and for future and doing whats right for you.

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    Lindsay February 12, 2013, 1:52 pm

    There are two issues here. One, this isn’t just about someone who makes less than you. He lost his license? That’s a big red flag. Holding on to your driver’s license is not difficult at all and has nothing to do with being ambitious or making a lot of money. Also, I don’t think this is just about the money either. I don’t think it’s wrong to want to be with someone who is actively working toward their goals. Maybe he is working TOWARD them, but he’s clearly not making much progress. I’m not trying to bash the guy, but I’m not sure it’s clear here that he’s actually trying or if he’s making excuses. Either way, you can’t base a relationship on someone’s “potential” because they may never make it there.

    The second thing is that the LW talks about things her family wants and how they’ve affected her own thoughts, but sometimes you have to make your own decisions. You don’t have to go through life believing everything your family believes. Sounds as though the LW wants to, which is fine, but at least own up to this stuff instead of blaming it on your family. Also, I’ve dated a few guys who came from wealthy families, and I honestly never heard so many references to their families’ having money in the entire time I knew them as in this letter. Being wealthy doesn’t instill certain values in you. There are many “traditional” families that don’t have that much money. I think the LW just needs to be her own person and not base her entire world view on the fact that her parents are wealthy.

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    AliceInDairyland February 12, 2013, 2:24 pm

    Okay, I think most people covered the important stuff so I am going to skip over the “he makes more money than me” thing. Listen to that, and take it all into account. I put this graph up here because I feel like this LW may be living in a little bit of a bubble in another way. I have no idea what you are getting your degree in, and because you are “wealthy” I am going to assume that you didn’t have to pay your way through school. BUT…

    A DEGREE IS NOT A GUARANTEE OF A JOB AND IT SURE AS HELL IS NOT A GUARANTEE OF $$. If you got your degree in English, don’t be so sure that you are going to be making more money than your BF. Even if you got a degree in something that you might assume would make you money, the job market is tough out there and it may be a BIG wake up call for you. You sound a bit like a “friend” from freshman dorms who got her degree in Biological Anthropology, started dating a Dairy Science guy, and then was so confused when her degree was both useless and she couldn’t just instantly be a stay at home wifey.

    I just don’t like this whole “I have a degree and therefore I am going to be making to much money” mentality… because I have seen quite a few times recently that that is just not true in this economy.

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    • avatar

      rachel February 12, 2013, 2:28 pm

      Yeah…I’ve got friends with Masters degrees and even PhD’s who are struggling right now. A degree doesn’t guarantee anything.

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    • TheLadyE

      Elisse February 13, 2013, 9:10 pm

      I had a Master’s degree at 24. I’m 30 now and I make $31k/year.

      So, yeah…WAID said.

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  • avatar

    spark_plug February 12, 2013, 2:26 pm

    I skimmed some of these responses and I think that people are being overly harsh on the LW. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a partner who’s financially stable and can hold down a job. Honestly, you’re 22 years old.. when you graduate and get your job, you’ll got to HH and events filled with other 20-something year olds also with college degrees and similar fields that you are in. Why not explore your options and maybe, just maybe, wait for the guy who you like, treats you well and is financially stable and can hold down a job? Even if this guy is the love of your life and your soul mate, at 22, you’re still too young to figure that out, so go out and date whoever you want to date. From 21-27, I date all kinds of guys that weren’t right for me and would never be long material but it was fun! Now that I’m finally ready to become an adult and take things seriously, my priorities and what I look for in a guy has totally changes. There’s no more heart-wrenching “but I love him but he’s not right”. It’s more like “he’s not right” and that’s it. So go out, have fun and stop being serious.When you’re ready, your priorities will begin to change as well.

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    • CatsMeow

      CatsMeow February 12, 2013, 2:47 pm

      Oh I definitely want a partner who is financially stable and can hold down a job. I just don’t expect him to “take care” of me and make more money than me.

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        Lindsay February 12, 2013, 6:16 pm

        Exactly. The thing is, she wasn’t simply saying that she wants a guy who is financially stable and can hold down a job. She wants him to make more than her and pay all the bills, and to continue living a “wealthy” lifestyle. Those are completely different things. And really, based on her description, even if he had a stable job, it doesn’t seem like it would be enough to her unless he made A LOT of money.

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        BreezyAM February 12, 2013, 9:53 pm

        What is wrong with that? It’s something important to her, a value, and how she wants to live. There are men who feel similarly (hint honey: they’re in the Business Admin and Finance sections of your college/uni, NOT the philosophy dept). They should hook up.

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  • iwannatalktosampson

    Iwannatalktosampson February 12, 2013, 2:34 pm

    The thing I’m most concerned about in your letter is how far apart you are in age and in life. 22 and 31? How did you meet? What do you have in common? Let me guess he’s hott right?

    Just kidding. Kind of. I’m not judging you for wanting a good life. I do too. I’m just trying to provide it for myself in case, god forbid, Ethan dies or we decide we hate each other. But still – if you’re willing to risk those two options for your potential husband you can spend your life however you want.

    People are ragging on you because you’ve worded your letter to sound like you’re speaking for your parents. But I’m interpreting all this to mean that while your parents opinions mean a lot to you – you also feel this way. And that’s okay! But can this guy give you what you’re looking for.

    I’m going to share an unpopular opinion. The chances of someone getting their shit together – when they’re not on track to do so – at 31! is unlikely. So now you need to make a choice. And frankly you’re pretty young to be settling on something that is so important to you. You will likely never be able to be a stay at home mom (or wife) and if that’s important to you you need to bow out now.

    There is a happy medium between CEO and unemployed. There are plenty of careers that may never make you rich but will provide a happy stable life. Teachers. Firefightings. Accountants. If stability is what you want in life you should be with someone that is capable of providing that.

    Or alternatively, sign up for who wants to marry a millionaire.

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    • iwannatalktosampson

      Iwannatalktosampson February 12, 2013, 2:38 pm

      Also he lost his license? How hard is it to keep a drivers license? I totalled 2 cars (1 of them twice!!) before the age of 19 and I never lost my license. He kind of sounds like a dud.

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      SpaceySteph February 12, 2013, 3:21 pm

      “The chances of someone getting their shit together – when they’re not on track to do so – at 31! is unlikely.”

      A thousand times this. I was casually dating a guy a couple years and he was teasing me for wanting to settle down because he was having “so much fun.” I told him he would probably feel that way in a few years. That’s when he told me that he was 34…
      Yeah that guy was never going to settle down.

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        SpaceySteph February 12, 2013, 3:21 pm

        That should be ‘a couple years ago’ which is very different from dating him for a couple years, which I did not do.

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        csp February 12, 2013, 4:13 pm

        Totally agree. So My husband and I are in our thirties and are home owners, 401K contributors, productive members of society. My husband has a few guy friends that still live with thier parents! All of them have dreams but no motivation to do anything. They smoke pot, blow money at bars, gamble, then say ” I would be a great xyz.” I think if you want to be a writer, then you should write every day. If you want to be a rock star, you should be calling gigs, making youtube videos, sending out demos, ect. I don’t accept when people have dreams of fame and fortune then don’t work thier hardest to achieve it.

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        csp February 12, 2013, 4:16 pm

        We have another friend that is a “personal trainer” but refuses to train early in the morning or in the evening and has been fired from 3 gyms. How can you call yourself a PT but don’t work the hours that people need a trainer? So he still lives at home at 33 and dates tons of 21 year old girls who don’t have the expectations of a woman in her 30s.

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        lets_be_honest February 12, 2013, 4:29 pm

        ugh, the people you describe drive me crazy, but you hit the nail on the head with your last sentence!

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        csp February 12, 2013, 4:45 pm

        Totally agree. I have two friends who wanted to be actors in hollywood. One is sitting around waiting to be discovered and the other is working her butt off. She hasn’t “made it” but she is doing voice over work and web series and behind the scenes stuff and improv groups, and she did a small independent christian movie. Whatever someone will let her do, she will try. That is where the difference is. One is wasting days and the other is trying everything to make her dream come true.

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        lets_be_honest February 12, 2013, 4:51 pm

        Its so funny, because it was like a lightbulb moment for me when you described those people who wait for magic to happen. The few guys I thought of who are like that are all dating someone in their early 20s too.

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    Lily in NYC February 12, 2013, 2:41 pm

    Please separate out your worry about your family accepting him and first decide if he’s right for you. I am from a affluent family and my parents always said they don’t care if I fall in love with a ditch digger as long as he is a ditch digger that takes pride in his work and treats me well. I don’t buy this guy’s excuse about not taking care of himself because he had to support his family. That doesn’t explain why he lost his license. Honestly, I think you guys are just too different for this to work out for the long run.

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  • avatar

    watersedge February 12, 2013, 4:50 pm

    Guys, am i missing something? This guy has no real job, no degree, he lost his license, he dropped out of college recently, he blames his ex for his problems, and he has no real plan to fix any of the above. I don’t think this girl has the right words to say what she knows in her gut. Its not just that this guy doesn’t make good money, its that he is kind of a loser. And she comes from a family of winners. Honestly LW, your instincts are right, even if your choice of wording is off. There is nothing wrong with wanting a husband who has steady employment (or wife, for that matter). Enjoy his while it lasts but know that this will end eventually. And that’s for the best.

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      kerrycontrary February 12, 2013, 5:01 pm

      I think he’s a loser too!

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    • iwannatalktosampson

      Iwannatalktosampson February 12, 2013, 5:02 pm

      Couldn’t have said it better myself. Everyone around here loves to believe that the world should be idealistic. But idealism doesn’t pay the bills. The fact of the matter remains – a loser is a loser – and having basic standards is necessary (and good!)

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    • Fabelle

      Fabelle February 12, 2013, 5:33 pm

      “Honestly LW, your instincts are right, even if your choice of wording is off.”

      Yeah, this. I think everybody got kind of sidetracked by the LW’s imperfect phrasing, which led to other discussion about finances/expectations/whatever.

      But the fact remains…this guy seems like kind of a lost soul who is most likely a drain on this LW’s potential. Soooo I hope she reads all the responses THOROUGHLY & isn’t just like “No, no, I’m not shallow, I swear! To prove it, I will continue dating this man!”

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    • avatar

      AliceInDairyland February 12, 2013, 5:41 pm

      I agree, she really doesn’t need to justify to us that she doesn’t want that kind of future with this guy… But I also think that she may be the idealistic pie-in-the-sky about what she wants from a partner. And that needs to be addressed as well. Or she needs to become a more effective communicator.

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    • avatar

      Lindsay February 12, 2013, 6:24 pm

      I also think he’s a loser. However, just because THIS particular guy is a loser doesn’t mean that she’s completely right. She’s certainly free to look for whatever qualities she wants in a man, but if she honestly only wants a man who makes more than her or who is wealthy, she might miss out on some good, hard-working guys simply because they work in a lower-paying field (teaching, as an example, comes to mind).

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      • avatar

        watersedge February 12, 2013, 7:21 pm

        I don’t think that financial status should trump good character when looking for a mate. But i also think that un or under-employed guys who blame others for their problems and can’t stick to anything in order to accomplish it (never mind dating impressionable girls 9 years your junior) don’t really have good character. Good character is more than just being nice.

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    Sue Jones February 12, 2013, 9:37 pm

    MOA. If a 31 year old guy struggles over the simple things, or the logistical things or has a problem keeping it all together, when he is in a committed relationship guess who is going to have to keep it all together for him on all levels? His partner! Find someone who has his shit together a bit more.

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  • avatar

    BreezyAM February 12, 2013, 9:46 pm

    Holy Hell you are 22 and been with this guy six months you shouldn`t even be talking about DATING exclusively much less marriage. Stop letting HotOlderManSex cloud your brain. Enjoy boinking him*, go to school, make your own life.

    *this does not mean USE HIM or be cold or meaty. It means “we are in a relationship today and we have hot sex and enjoy watching Dr Zhivago together”. It means a specific absence of “omg should we get maaaaaaaaaaaaaried?!”

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    Sue Jones February 12, 2013, 9:47 pm

    And I want to add that I did this. I was 18 and worked at a national park during the summer after freshman year. I ended up dating a hard luck but compassionate alcoholic who was 24. His whole life was a hard luck story, and he liked that I listened to him. It ended when I went back to college at the end of the summer. A google search of him doesn’t turn up his name, but he has a son with the same name ( spitting image) who was born the year after I knew him by some other poor girl and the son has an extensive criminal record and is in jail…. I never met the man again, he called me only once while I was at college, though a few years later I was taking a bus to the west coast and saw him loading baggage, he worked for Greyhound…. and a few years after that I got an AA type confessional letter… but he could very well be dead now. A learning experience, yes, but not LTR material at all…

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  • avatar

    Karen December 20, 2013, 3:09 pm

    You are so spot on, Wendy. Yet another beautifully written and incredibly useful piece of advice.

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