Karl lives differently than I do; he doesn’t save money, doesn’t pay bills, and lives paycheck to paycheck, even though he wouldn’t have to if he’d manage his finances better. He hasn’t paid his taxes in 10 years, the IRS has been to his home, which also almost went into foreclosure a few years ago, and he doesn’t pay any of his medical bills because “health care is too much in this country.” He receives collection calls and mail daily. He spends a fortune at the grocery store unnecessarily (lots of expensive meats, cheeses, and produce, plus all brand name items, a third of which gets thrown away because he doesn’t use it up). He only pays his internet, mobile, and utility bills when he receives a disconnection notice, and he has the money to pay long before that happens! It’s like self-induced drama. I admit that he doesn’t blow money on drinking or gambling and he doesn’t spend much on clothes. But he still spends $500-$700 per week at Walmart. If he can’t find a tool in his crowded garage, he just buys another.
I make a lot more money than Karl does and I couldn’t even justify buying what he does. In all fairness, he doesn’t ask me to pay for any of his stuff, and if we go out for dinner, we take turns paying. He makes fun of me for contemplating purchases. We’ve talked about a future together. I’m starting to wonder if I can just watch this happen if we are living together. He doesn’t react well if I softly suggest the possibility of making better purchase decisions.
Can this be resolved by having completely separate financials? Or is this lack of discipline just the way it is? We were raised very differently when it comes to money. — Freaked out by His Walmart Spending
It’s often easier to hear from someone else that we need to do something we don’t want to do rather than have only ourselves to “blame” when we feel the inevitable discomfort of doing the thing we didn’t want to do but know is best for us. So, let me give you someone to blame for the heartache you’ll feel if/when you end your relationship: There probably is not a happy future in a relationship between you and a guy whose values differ so greatly from yours. This is more than his being irresponsible with money, which is something a lot of couples face and work through; your boyfriend is a criminal, he’s selfish, and he evades contributing his share to the communal pot that allows our society to run smoothly. He’s immature and irresponsible, and he doesn’t seem to respect the boundaries you’ve set for yourself (making fun of you when you carefully consider spending money on something).
You’re better than this – than the promise of your relationship and the way you’ve sold yourself short – not because you make more money than Karl. You’re better than this because you’ve traded your scruples for someone whose redeeming qualities – if there are any – didn’t even warrant a mention in your letter. Yes, you say your relationship is loving, but you give no examples of Karl actually acting lovingly and you give no details of any of his positive traits at all. You didn’t even try to defend him against my potential attacks – which you must have been expecting – beyond saying that he doesn’t blow his money on drinking or gambling and that when you go out, you take turns paying. Yay?
Look, I can appreciate that the dating pool of a well-educated, professional woman in her 50s is different from what mine was when I was single and dating in my 20s. I understand that you have to make some compromises in exchange for companionship and affection. But I still think you’ve set the bar too low. What do you think? Maybe you disagree. Maybe the companionship and affection is worth whatever you give up in dating this guy. But don’t marry him! Don’t merge finances. Don’t move in with him. Don’t do anything that would complicate your ability to walk – run! – away from him as quickly as possible. Because I do think there will come a time when you’ll want to leave, even if you aren’t quite there yet. And you might need the voice of a harsh, critical bitch to blame for the potential heartache you might feel, so here I am. But I promise the heartache will pass quickly when you realize you’re better off without him. Because you are.