My boyfriend lived with his father and is not financially successful or stable. He studied law and has a JD, but he has not been able to pass the bar. Last year he was 36 points away from passing. He does legal translation a few times a week, making an average of 36k a year. He has some consumer debt and student loan debt, but I don’t know the amount of either. I do know that every time Sallie Mae calls him, he hangs up on the lender. He wants to marry me and has given me an engagement ring, but I am having cold feet because of his debt. I don’t feel safe starting a life with him. I am not the type to go in 50/50. I think the man should be the sole provider.
Despite his financial situation, he is a good person which is rare to come by as per my experience. I want to get married before I turn 40 in May (but don’t see that happening). I want marriage (I always have) but don’t want children due to a few health problems. Considering my age and no desire for kids, I know the pool of men is very small. I’m confused as to what the right thing to do is. Help me sort this out. Thoughts? — Cold Feet
My thoughts are: Why on earth is a woman who is months away from turning 40 so concerned about finding a man to financially support her? You’ve been an adult for roughly twenty years. Who’s been supporting you all this time? I assume you’re been supporting yourself at least part of these last two decades, and, if that’s the case, why would you suddenly not be able to or not want to do that once you’re married? It would be one thing if you hope to have children and want to be a stay-at-home mom, though even then I would hope you would want to at least maintain skills and the ability to support yourself if something ever happened to your husband or your marriage. But, you don’t want kids! You just…want to be a housewife and be financially supported 100%?
Ok, fine, so you want to be financially supported 100%. Well, this man isn’t going to do that. At least, not right now. Maybe eventually he will get a well-paying position and be able to support you in the way you want him to. Or, maybe he won’t. Maybe you’ll meet and marry someone else who is already in a well-paying position and will already be able to provide the lifestyle you want. But maybe THAT person loses his job one day and can no longer provide for you. All kinds of things can happen, really, to change a person’s or a couple’s or a family’s financial position. Being cautious about marrying someone who carries a lot of debt is wise, as is knowing how a person manages his money. But to marry someone simply because he can be the “sole provider,” or to not marry someone simply because he isn’t currently in a position to 100% financially support you is… well, it’s incredibly short-sighted, and it says a lot about your values.
I’m also concerned that you have seemingly agreed to marry someone without discussing things like the amount of debt he has and what your financial future together looks like. Does your boyfriend know you want to be financially supported 100%? Have you talked about what you each want your roles to be in the marriage? Does he support your desire to be a housewife? If you haven’t discussed these very pertinent issues, as well as these other topics, he should never have asked you to marry him and you should never have said yes. You don’t know each other well enough. You may love each other and may be good companions and even share some similar values and interests, but you clearly aren’t ready to share your lives together.
I answered a similar question to yours a few years ago, and my advice remains the same:
“If money is important to you — and it’s important to most of us! — then why shouldn’t it be a reason to end a relationship if there isn’t a financial match?? If, on the other hand, you see more value in other things he can provide: companionship, emotional support, etc., then maybe you’ll decide that the money issue isn’t a deal-breaker. But that’s a decision you have to make and you need to be aware going into a potential marriage what your boyfriend will and will not be able to provide you.”
If you’re looking for the situation to change and for your boyfriend to suddenly be the financial provider you desire, that’s probably not going to happen. But what CAN change is your perspective and your communication with him. You have to decide how important the money thing is, and how realistic it is to find someone else who not only can be a sole provider, but wants to be a sole provider for a 40-year-old woman who doesn’t want children (arguably, most men who are able and willing to be sole providers are looking for women who want kids, with the idea that, if they are the sole provider, their wives are the main caregiver to the children).
If you think there’s a better match out there for you, do your boyfriend the favor of letting him know now that you’re out. But if you think your boyfriend is actually a good match and that you can continue supporting yourself as you have been, in addition to enjoying whatever financial contribution he can make to the household after the debt is paid off, consider that a life with him may be a happier one than any other you might have with someone else.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.