All that said, I feel like I’m trapped in this relationship because I can’t afford to move out or live on my own right now. This has become a toxic environment for me, and it’s only making my illness worse. I’m at a complete loss as to what to do right now. He is my only support system — I should say “was” my only support system — and now I feel like I’m ruining my own life (and his) by forcing this to be our only option. What are your thoughts on this? — No Other Options
My thoughts are you need to get out of this relationship, expand your support system, and reduce your expenses while finding a way to generate some income. Easier said than done? Of course! But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. People do it all the time, and often when they have dependents (like kids) they’re responsible for, too. The problem here is that you’ve given yourself a choice, and part of that choice includes remaining dependent on your boyfriend. What if you had no choice? What if he didn’t exist? What would you do then? Would you move to a cheaper place and get a roommate? Would you look into part-time temporary work, like subbing or waiting tables or working retail or stuffing envelopes or whatever the hell you could get (and might have the energy to do) to generate some income? Would you apply for government assistance? Would you beg your family for support? Would you get resourceful because you HAD to because you had no choice but to suck it up and deal because you’re a grown-up and you don’t have a Plan B so you better create a Plan A that keeps you alive, with a roof over your head and food on the table? I suggest you start doing all of the above now because the choice you’ve given yourself isn’t much of a choice at all and, as you said, the toxicity it’s creating in your life is only making things worse for you.
I’m sympathetic that your health isn’t great and that you felt you had to take a leave of absence from school to seek treatment. But that doesn’t mean you should be relying on your emotionally abusive and unsupportive boyfriend to… support you. You have to be proactive in supporting yourself — or seeking support from someone else. I get that you’re in survival mode right now, but your energy would be much better spent focused on getting well and getting independent than on maintaining even the most tenuous of connections with your abusive ex. I have a feeling getting out from under the roof you share with him will do wonders for your health, which, in turn, will go a long way towards helping you realize financial independence.
Things are going well. She likes me and I like her. We connect with each other. She’s a really great kisser with plenty of sex appeal. We get along well and the conversation flows nicely. We’re both in our mid-40s, with no kids. She married at 27 and divorced three or four years later. She said her ex-husband was very money-hungry and a very jealous person.
She likes eating out at nice restaurants, and she enjoys art and interior designing. She has a nice place and drives a Mercedes. She’s paid for the majority of our dates. As for myself, I own my own place and have a job that pays OK (not a high salary, but I’m happy). I’ve never been super ambitious. I like to travel and have fun. I “work to live,” as they say. I come from a working class background and have never been concerned about being rich. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be poor either, but I’m not obsessed with money.
My issue is that I often feel inferior and inadequate to Louise. She makes much more money than I do and her family is from a business background while mine is working class. I often feel she’d be more suited to a businessman because I’m much more laid back whereas she’s more driven.
I want a woman to accept me for who I am. I don’t want anyone to change me. A few weeks ago she asked me about my aspirations regarding work and I told her I’m not really interested in climbing the corporate ladder. There was neither a positive reaction nor a negative one. She hasn’t given me any indication that she wants me to change, but perhaps she may do this down the track. Who knows.
Should I tell her I feel inferior? (I don’t want to.) Am I overthinking this? Are we suited? Is it a bad sign that I’m asking you all these questions? Does this mean, because I’m not sure, that I should end it? It’s been awhile since I’ve had a long-term relationship, so maybe I’m coming up with excuses not to. I’d love to hear your thoughts. — Feeling Inferior
Honestly, I think you’re being sexist. You’re dating a woman who has given you zero indication that she’s unhappy with who and how you are, your background, how you’re living your life, or your personal and professional aspirations. You seem to enjoy each other’s company. You sound compatible, which you say is what you’re focused on finding. Your inferiority sounds 100% self-created. You don’t like that a woman you’re dating makes more money than you do, even though she has expressed no qualms about it herself. If, in your mind, your relationship would feel more balanced and well-matched if YOU were the one making more money (or if you made the same amount), that’s sexism. When your income imbalance creates no other issue except your own inferiority complex, that’s sexism. This could be a great relationship. You could be really well-matched. You might be exactly what she’s looking for in a partner, and vice versa, and you might blow it because you can’t deal with a girlfriend owning a Mercedes when you drive a Honda (or whatever). In short: You best check yourself before you wreck yourself.
But saying that won’t make the inferiority disappear, I know that. You know what might though? Communicating to Louise. No, don’t tell her that you feel inferior. Not only is that a turn-off, but it’s also a quick way to sabotage any potential your relationship might have. But you can tell her that you were thinking about your discussion the other day when she asked about your professional aspirations. Tell her just what you told me — that you work to live and that, rather than focus on climbing a corporate ladder or aspiring to making loads of money, you focus on enjoying the small and big pleasures of life. Tell her that, while she may have different priorities, you respect and admire her ambition. Can you see how your lifestyle and values might complement hers? Can you see how you might grow and learn from each other? If so, tell her.
Ask if she sees your lifestyles as complementary and compatible. Maybe she doesn’t know yet, and that’s ok. You’ve only been dating for two months — you’re still getting to know each other and figure out whether you might be a match. But give her the time and chance to figure it out. Don’t decide for her that you’re “inferior” because you don’t have the same professional ambition that she has. Maybe she doesn’t give a shit about that. Or, maybe, as she learns more about you and how you two mesh, any idea she might have had about the kind of guy she was looking for will morph. Often it takes falling for a specific person to realize that what we thought we were attracted to (like brown hair, for example), was superficial, and that it’s the other stuff that we can’t always put a finger on that has a far greater impact on our relationship success.
P.S. It wouldn’t hurt to pay for dates more frequently. Just because she CAN and DOES pay for the majority of them, doesn’t mean she wouldn’t appreciate your doing the treating more often than you currently do. Choose activities that are within your budget — cooking dinner for her, for example, or planning a picnic spread — could be both affordable and romantic, and they could show her that you value her beyond her sex appeal and bank account.
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].
Brise May 9, 2017, 8:46 am
LW1: yes, you have an option. Go home to your family, treat your health there for free, and come back to school once you are cured. All the rest doesn’t make sense. Your boyfriend is not your medical insurance. The solution is quite obvious!
LisforLeslie May 9, 2017, 8:48 am
LW#2 – Louise may be actively avoiding guys who are only into making bank – who are all about what they can buy and who they can impress.
LW#1 – you mention this is your only support system – you have no family or friends that you can rely on? Is this part of the abuse that your bf doled out (isolation)? I”m leaping here, perhaps your family is worse than the bf. Call RAINN or an abuse hotline and discuss how to build a new support system and what resources may be available in your area. You need to get out and get access to the available resources. It won’t be easy, but it sounds like you’re between a rock and a hard place. good luck.
Hannanas May 9, 2017, 8:49 am
LW2, this kind of strikes a chord with me. I’m a woman and I’ve often in the past felt inferior to rich(er) people, coming from ‘middle class’ myself – so I don’t think you’re being sexist. You’re feeling inadequate and perhaps somewhat intimidated by these big shot, successful, rich people and I get that. I started telling myself: they have something I don’t have, and I have something they don’t have. That changed my outlook. In the end we’re all just people with hopes, dreams, fears and our own stories.
bagge72 May 9, 2017, 8:56 am
I mean I hardly think this women fits into the whole big shot, successful, rich people category that you are talking about.
She actually sounds like a really nice and humble person, who doesn’t ever brag about her or her families money, and is genuinely interested in guy she’s dating career aspects. He is projecting his own fears knowing her families background. If he didn’t know her families background he sounds like the type of guy, who would be writing in about how his average looking girlfriend is just a coffee shop owner, and how does he get around that since the women he normally dates are so much better looking.
Hannanas May 9, 2017, 9:01 am
Please note that I didn’t say anything about her specifically, and was making a general statement. He is indeed projecting his fears, that’s what his letter – and my comment – is all about.
bagge72 May 9, 2017, 8:50 am
Has any ever noticed that when guys write in, they always need to tell you how pretty or ugly the person they are writing in about is? I mean why is this always included like it’s going to make a difference in the advice? I guess it actually shows their true colors. Add on top of that the money insecurity issues, and you can see the progress we are making… I mean kudos to LW2 for dating down for love and money…
LW1: You are using your emotionally abusive asshole of a boyfriend as a free place to stay sooo I don’t know, maybe stop using the asshole, because you don’t want to really put the effort in to leave.
csp May 9, 2017, 10:09 am
I totally agree about the looks comments. Like she is pretty but not THAT pretty. so frustrating.
AuntyMacasar May 9, 2017, 10:49 am
Yes, the blow-by-blow on her looks is so…weird. I would hate to be described like this by someone I was dating. Ugh.
Bittergaymark May 9, 2017, 1:16 pm
This is SUCH bullshit. Worse, it’s silly. Look, ALL He is saying she is not “conventionally” beautiful. A fact which our vapid society of worshipping at the alter of beauty makes abundantly clear. Go to ANY fucking newstand. Look at the covers. Beauty has a very narrow definition — clearly spelled out by Vogue, Glamour, Cosmo, actually EVERY magazine… You are all latching on the most trivial of details. If somebody wrote in and said my BF is not handsome, but he’s attractive… nobody would have even so much as batted an eye. And they shouldn’t. That’s so NOT the issue here…
bagge72 May 9, 2017, 1:21 pm
I think the point is, why did he even need to say it? What does that add to the letter?
Kate May 9, 2017, 1:22 pm
He didn’t say she’s not conventionally beautiful but he loves how she looks, which would be a totally fine way to put it. He said she’s “attractive-ish.” It’s like, “meh, she’s just ok looking, but she’s good in bed.” I don’t know, I wouldn’t describe someone I was into like that. I’d say he may not be conventionally hot, but he’s handsome to me. And I don’t need to be the hottest chick a guy has ever dated, but I do want him to find me very attractive.
Bittergaymark May 9, 2017, 1:28 pm
He might NOT love the way she looks. But hey — look around! Not everybody’s relationship is dependant on being head over heels for appearances. If that truly is the cast then more than half the world clearly has terrible taste.
dinoceros May 9, 2017, 1:02 pm
The part that really bothers me is that he frames it as she IS attractive or she IS NOT beautiful. Instead of saying that he thinks she is attractive or not. He’s not the decider of who is beautiful or not.
baccalieu May 9, 2017, 8:06 pm
This time I disagree with BGM and agree with everyone else. He spends way too much time describing exactly how moderately attractive she is and how her looks compare to other girl’s he’s dated, then says he is mainly concerned with compatibility. Then why go through that whole exercise?
I wouldn’t say that all or even most male letter writers do this though.
Kate May 9, 2017, 8:54 am
Ugh, I think Louise can do better than a guy who barely thinks she’s attractive and resents what she’s accomplished.
Hannanas May 9, 2017, 8:58 am
I’ll agree on the ‘attractiveness’ comment, but where do you get that he resents what she’s accomplished?
Kate May 9, 2017, 9:02 am
It bothers him enough that he wrote in about it, and he’s super focused on what SHE has, down to the brand of car.
Hannanas May 9, 2017, 9:04 am
He is super focused on what she has, that’s the whole point of his writing. It’s still not resentment though.
Kate May 9, 2017, 9:19 am
If it’s not resentment then what is it? It reads like scorekeeping to me, with the whole, she’s not all that attractive, not really my type, so I’ve got something on her, and by the way, I let her pay for everything.
Hannanas May 9, 2017, 9:32 am
If he’s scorekeeping (and I think that that comment misses the point here), he’s definitely not winning. According to his own comment. That he indeed feels inferior to her.
Kate May 9, 2017, 8:59 am
If a guy I was dating had these thoughts about me – just ghost me, dude. I don’t need your stank.
Dear Wendy May 9, 2017, 9:50 am
The idea that he’s “not winning” in the scorekeeping is the whole point! That’s what he resents! He’s a man and she’s a woman who isn’t even very attractive, so, in his mind — and let’s face it, in lots of men’s minds — HE should be winning. A woman’s true value is in her looks, after all, and if hers aren’t the best, her value should be lower, putting someone like the LW at a higher value level. But it screws everything up if she’s successful and drives a mercedes! It makes her value seem higher than it should be for a not-very-attractive woman, and now the LW feels inferior…
Kate May 9, 2017, 9:57 am
Right, that’s what I felt about it, thank you for articulating. I would want him to just cut me loose. Ick. I’m sorry, but I know there are guys who make a fraction of what she does who wouldn’t have any of these weird feelings, would think she’s gorgeous, treat her to some fun dates, and be glad to call her their girlfriend.
Hannanas May 9, 2017, 10:02 am
I get what you’re saying, but I didn’t read it that way. His comment: “I often feel she’d be more suited to a businessman because I’m much more laid back whereas she’s more driven.” doesn’t seem to me that he thinks he should be ‘winning’.
I think that he thinks that (oh god) he doesn’t deserve her.
MissDre May 9, 2017, 10:06 am
@Hannanas I think it’s completely possible that he’s feeling both things simultaneously.
Hannanas May 9, 2017, 10:10 am
@MissDre Perhaps she reminds him of his non-existing ambitions.
ktfran May 9, 2017, 10:23 am
Yes! This is what rubbed me the wrong way. He first tells us that she’s so-so on the attractive scale, and not really his type in the looks department. Then he lists all the things she has, compared to him. Once he did that, the ick factor was raised.
He has a valid concern, one that is all in his head but still valid. The way he got there though… again… ick.
He could have left all that stuff out and simply said he’s dating a successful woman and he’s not sure he measures up. I think responses would have been different.
He placed a lot of emphasis on looks and money and if that comes across in real life like it does in the letter, hard pass. Next!
Lucy May 9, 2017, 2:28 pm
THIS x 1000.
Arra May 9, 2017, 9:18 am
LW-1: I would imagine (not knowing what area of the country you live in) that there are many resources available to you that can provide living assistance and financial assistance. And being that you are in an abusive relationship and suffer from significant health issues some of those resources may be available to you immediately. I would encourage you to start by contacting the health department in the county where you live.
Fyodor May 9, 2017, 9:29 am
I don’t know if it’s sexist as such. This is a thing that *often* matters to women, especially higher achieving women. She’s asked him about his “aspirations” which means that it’s on her mind.
Let’s say a woman was overweight and was dating a really fit guy. She knows that weight often matters a lot to guys. You wouldn’t think she was crazy or sexist for wondering if it was going to be an issue.
The intro paragraph on her looks relative to the people he’s previously dated is extremely d*ckish.
Kate May 9, 2017, 9:35 am
Yeah, he came off like a dick right out of the gate. Poor Louise.
Copa May 9, 2017, 9:49 am
LW2 – I don’t know if I agree that it’s sexism so much as it is insecurity, but Louise isn’t causing or contributing to your inferiority complex. Don’t tell her you feel inferior. I think the solution here is resolving your own inadequacies. If you can’t be confident in who you are, what you bring to the relationship, and how compatible you are, Louise is probably better suited finding someone who isn’t intimidated by her. And who thinks she’s more than “attractive(ish).”
Bittergaymark May 9, 2017, 10:15 am
LW1) you aren’t your boyfriends financial responsibility or liability. Stop blaming him for not wanting to deal with you and your illness…
LW2). Reactions here are off. He says she’s NOT the most attractive woman he’s ever dated. Eh, she probably isn’t! But look out! The blood is in the water! He’s SEXIST!! Um, no. He just is worried that they might be incompatible as he is NOT driven enough for her… Seems valid. (lord knows we’ve gotten enough of those i-make-more-money-than-my- bf-and-its-starting-to-bug-ME letters around here in the past.) So, LW. Have an honest conversation about this. Ask her if she likes you as you are? Who knows? She might! She might not secretly expecting you to magically change into somebody else… (another recurring theme in letters.)
Bittergaymark May 9, 2017, 10:21 am
PS — that she brought up future career ambitions and then gave such a decidedly deliberate non reaction to his honest response — frankly, understandably gave him pause. How could it not?
bagge72 May 9, 2017, 11:23 am
I’m not sure why that would give him pause. She asked about his ambitions like any person dating somebody would, and he answered with the fact that he doesn’t have any. What kind of reaction is there to that? She wasn’t positive or negative because it probably really doesn’t matter to her, she was just trying to learn something about him, and really didn’t get too much information out of him.
Bittergaymark May 9, 2017, 11:42 am
Nobody ever asks anybody if they plan on changing something if the person asking genuinely has no problem with the present situation.
Extreme silly example: “Hey! You are so much fun right now? Do you ever see yourself getting suddenly boring?”
More grounded example.
if somebody is thin, you don’t ask — “gee, do you ever plan on REALLY letting yourself go?” But if someone is dating somebody on, say, the heavy and asks — “hey, what are your future plans for fitness? Do you ever see yourself losing weight?” The heavy party might suddenly suspect (rightly so) that their weight IS a problem.
By asking about future career goals, the GF is telegraphing rather clearly that the LW’s status quo is a problem.
csp May 9, 2017, 12:19 pm
Maybe this is me but I think the goal in life is always to grow and progress and she is asking where he sees his life going. It doesn’t mean money necessarily. If he said, “I want to save enough to quit my job to write a book or focusing on rock climbing” those just show that he wants to expand his life. With most of the letters we get about lower wage men, it is that they fill their life smoking pot and playing video games. If these guys were making furniture with their own hands, I think it would be different.
bagge72 May 9, 2017, 12:25 pm
That 100% makes no sense, and those are all terrible examples. It’s a pretty common question to get to know somebody. I’m sure plenty of people use to make sure their life goals match up with somebody else’s, but is also used just to get to know somebody, maybe a way to find something in common. Every question doesn’t have to be away to subtly hint to somebody that you want to change them. For the most part I would not care what my wife did for a living, but I still thought it was a good idea to know what she wanted to do with her life, and it’s been fun to watch her change careers, and watch her go for the goals she has always talked about, and to talk it through with her to help her make decisions. I didn’t ask her to see if it was something I wanted to change about her.
Bittergaymark May 9, 2017, 12:30 pm
Nobody ever asks anybody what the future holds for your hair because they like your hair… my Mom is a master of this.
Trust me., If we get an update, just wait. It WILL be an issue.
Bittergaymark May 9, 2017, 12:35 pm
But also — it wasn’t just the question. But the SILENCE that followed his response. Saying nothing can speak volumes. And it did here.
There is nothing WRONG with her for not being thrilled about his career goals. But it does mean that this relationship is not for the long haul. They aren’t a match. He rightly senses this and gets branded SEXIST. Instead, I say he sees the writing on the wall.
bagge72 May 9, 2017, 12:45 pm
You keep associating getting to know a person with physical attributes, they aren’t the same thing. But he is obviously worried about her physical attributes, I mean is he going to ask her to changer her hair down the road, or get plastic surgery since she isn’t typically what he dates. If we get an an update I bet it will be an issue too, because he has already made it one in his head, I’m guess he is going to stick with it, and use it as an excuse as to why they broke up.
bagge72 May 9, 2017, 12:46 pm
also he didn’t say there wasn’t silence, just that she didn’t positively or negatively reinforce him. So because she stayed neutral on his career goals she all of the sudden looks down on him.
Bittergaymark May 9, 2017, 12:57 pm
I don’t think she was looking down on him. But rather having her own unward moment of clarity. “Oooh. This might not be a match.” I could be wrong. But I think his suspicians that she might be more comfortable with a business man are far from out of left field here.
bagge72 May 9, 2017, 1:26 pm
I think her moment of clarity is going to be that he has a problem with it. The may not just be compatible, and he some how thinks that only business type people, drive Mercedes, like art, and going out to eat at nice places. He has a very warped sense of associating what somebody does with what class they should be in.
dinoceros May 9, 2017, 7:22 pm
A deliberate nonreaction? Sometimes people also ask questions to get to know the other person. In my field, a lot of people have master’s and a lot have phDs. If I asked someone if they wanted to move on and get a phD, and then said, “Oh, ok,” that doesn’t mean I am judging them. It means I was curious about their plans and then acknowledged that they spoke and I heard them.
baccalieu May 10, 2017, 10:31 am
BGM, Aren’t you being a bit inconsistent? You say that her lack of a response to the answer she received about his ambitions speaks volumes, but that the commenters here shouldn’t draw any negative conclusions from the fact that he spent basically an entire paragraph discussing her looks before he got to the point.
Fyodor May 9, 2017, 2:21 pm
I think that this is one of those things that yes, everyone thinks, but is maybe not so nice to say about the person you’re dating.
wobster109 May 9, 2017, 11:41 am
I have to admit, I felt harsher towards LW2 after he went on about how she was blonde and not beautiful. Why on earth was that necessary to bring up? It’s fair that he has this opinion. We all have our preferences. But why mention it in an unrelated question about wealth/lifestyle differences?
I also think he gave a slightly defensive response to career aspirations. He said he’s “not interested in climbing the corporate ladder”. I hear that he’s judgmental of corporate ladders, judgmental of “my” family (since Louise comes from a family of business people), and doesn’t want to talk about it. You can’t expect a positive response to “I’m not interested in X”? No one’s going to respond with an enthusiastic “that’s so cool” to such a passionless answer.
Clearly LW2 does have a passion for travel and fun experiences, but it didn’t come through in his answer. Instead I’d suggest answering like he said in the letter: “My aspirations are to have a job with a stable income and hours that leave me time to paint in the evenings. My current job also gives me the flexibility to travel, which is awesome. This summer I’m going to New Zealand.” This kind of enthusiasm opens up conversations, rather than “I’m not interested” which shuts them down.
dinoceros May 9, 2017, 7:23 pm
Sounds like he wants to take her down a notch, since he’s built up this idea in his head that she judges him. It’s like an entire relationship is playing out in his head that she knows nothing about.
dinoceros May 9, 2017, 1:26 pm
LW2: Instead of just saying “I am not confident enough to be with someone who has more money than me or who is more ambitious than me” and leaving it at that, you’ve decided, through no evidence whatsoever, that she would prefer a different type of guy and that she must be judging you. So, now you’re essentially blaming her for insecurities that come from within you and talking yourself, seemingly, into breaking up with her BECAUSE of her, when in reality, it would be because of your own feelings.
I think this is a situation where maybe you need to learn that it’s OK to feel insecure sometimes. It’s OK to wonder if you’re “good enough” for the person you’re with. It sounds like maybe you are so bothered by having that feeling that instead of being with a woman that you like, you would rather trade her in for someone who you perceive has lower standards.
At the very least, be honest with yourself and acknowledge that if you don’t want to be with her anymore, it’s because you don’t want it. Not because you have decided she doesn’t want to be with you.
Miss Anne Thrope May 9, 2017, 8:19 pm
So, given the narrative, I thought his explanation on her (not a 10) looks plus money supported a worry that she might see men who don’t live in her lifestyle as gold – diggers. Feeding into his anxiety that she might see him in this was because he’s fine enjoying the benefits of her hard work, without a desire to work that hard himself.
Dear Wendy May 10, 2017, 6:31 am
From the LW:
Kate May 10, 2017, 6:39 am
Hannanas May 10, 2017, 7:24 am
Thank you Wendy and good luck LW! If you truly ‘connect’, like you say you do, different ambitions and backgrounds shouldn’t matter.
bittergaymark May 10, 2017, 2:41 pm
The solution then is to have a very blunt and direct conversation about this with Louise. Good luck!
for_cutie May 10, 2017, 11:17 am
LW 1. Most of my friends are grad students on stipend, and your stipend is much larger than any at my University! My friends all took out cost of living loans to keep them in grad school. This is a common thing students do so they can focus on their studies and not have to work at the same time. I encourage you to look into it – it is very common and the rates are comparable to education loans. Grad School is a privileged and your health should be worth the sacrifice to take out loans to get yourself back on track (assuming you cannot take previous advice to move back home temporarily and get well).
Morecoffeeplease May 10, 2017, 2:13 pm
LW1, I think you do have options. Can you move home till school starts? This makes the most sense to me. Can you work an easy (not sure if you are able to work or not) part time job? Get a part time job and move out. When I was in grad school we would share a house, duplex, apartment, or whatever with multiple friends. One small house might have 6 people living in it. We found places to live by asking around or looking at ads in the school paper or local paper. Ask other grad students you know. Ask your professors. Ask your girlfriends. Ask at your church, your exercise gym, your local coffee shop. We lived in the grungiest little places but we were too busy to really care about our living arrangement. All you need is a place to put your mattress that is semi private. Surely you have another grad school friend who can take you in or knows of someone looking for a roommate. I think I made a whole $10,000 a year in grad school. Good luck. Don’t stay with the abusive boyfriend that’s for sure.