“My Parents Won’t Pay My Tuition If Live With My Boyfriend”

My partner and I are both 22 and have been together for almost four years. We have talked about getting married and I think this is in the cards for us, but my parents are pressuring (forcing?) us to get married next summer, before we are ready. I am about to start law school in August, and my partner and I will be doing long-distance for about eight months. Then the plan is that in May he will move out to meet me and we will begin the next phase of our relationship and life together! The problem is: My parents have agreed to pay for my housing, tuition, and living expenses while in law school, but they said that if we live together without being married, that offer will go away.
My partner and I are at a loss. We want to be together and will eventually get married, but we want that to be on our terms when we feel it is right for us. So now we are stuck between choosing to take out 200K+ in student loans or marry while feeling forced to by my parents. I feel like this is an unfortunate position to be in, and I want to have a serious conversation with my parents about the strain they are putting on our relationship and our future! I am trying to stay positive, and I do know that everything will work itself out just the right way. Any advice? — Pressured to Marry

I’m going to go easy on you because you’re young – you could be my daughter – and I think a combination of some privilege and straight-up naivety is keeping you from seeing the whole picture here. The truth is that no one else is going to read your letter and consider the position you find yourself in an “unfortunate” one. Your parents offering to pay your entire housing, tuition, and living expenses while you’re in law school – to the tune of about 200k – is a gift beyond most people’s fantasy let alone reality. It’s a gift that will give you at least a decade head start toward financial security over most people exiting advanced degree programs, and you would be foolish to pass it up.

So what that you won’t be able to share an address with your boyfriend while your parents are subsidizing your life? I mean, there’s no rule against seeing him, right? Your parents aren’t going to be stalking your apartment to make sure he doesn’t ever sleep over, are they? There’s no reason your boyfriend can’t rent a room in an apartment with roommates and spend every night with you. You’d still be able to see each other as much as you want while respecting your parents’ wishes of having separate addresses.

Your boyfriend will have to pay rent for another place, but what’s the most that could be if he had roommates? Even in NYC, where I live and where rent is astronomical, a student could find a shared living environment for under $1k if he looked hard enough. Even paying that every month for two years, that would still be a fraction of 200k, which you’d be giving up if you turned down your parents’ gift so that you could share an address with your boyfriend.

And what’s the rush? You’re 22! If you’ve been living on your own at all, it’s only been a few years. You’re talking about marrying this guy and spending the rest of your life with him. Why not enjoy these couple years of having space that is just yours? Before you become a lawyer and a wife, and your life speeds up and your time is broken into smaller and smaller pieces among different and more obligations, why not give yourself the gift of your own space? You may never have that again.

I hope you can see that far from being in an “unfortunate position,” you are in an enviable spot. You have your whole life ahead of you, full of prospects, with an expectation of early financial security. You’re young and in love, and you have parents who care about you. These are all wonderful privileges, and you should let yourself enjoy them and not kick yourself in the foot. Living with a boyfriend at 22 years old is not worth 200k. It’s just not. Put that on hold, get through law school, and then, when you have financial independence, you and your boyfriend can decide what step is the best one for you to take next in your relationship. And when you take that step, you’ll do it without 200k in debt, and that’s amazing.

My boyfriend, “Michael” and I are both in college and our campuses are a 35-minute drive apart. Michael’s parents also live 35 minutes away from him, are very attached to him, and have a problem with his not visiting every week. He has confronted them about this a couple times and is going to counseling.
Spring break is next week and I look forward to spending a lot of time with Michael. We’ve talked about maybe doing a hike on Monday and sleepover on Wednesday. I sort of wanted to see him during the weekend, but he said he wanted to be home over the weekend. With his parents. Recently, there was a situation where one of the parents insulted me, and now I’m going nowhere near their house.
Where I’m trying to go with this is that Michael is filling his spring break with other things, like hanging out with friends and family, and he’s only going to spend two days with me, which doesn’t seem enough. I love quality time, but Michael always has to go home because of his overbearing parents, and it sort of ruins the moment.
Am I asking too much from this relationship? I’ve already told Michael my concerns about the relationship with his parents, and he knows that it is not a healthy relationship. He is actually talking to them about it and he’s trying to make improvements for himself, but it still bothers me that we are only hanging out two days out of the break next week. I don’t feel special and I don’t feel important in his schedule. And I’ve told this to him. What else do I do? I want to be with him, but at the same time I don’t feel prioritized. Am I being over-attached to him?? — Tired of Not Feeling Prioritized

I don’t think you have a clear understanding of what a healthy relationship looks like. First, you claim that Michael’s relationship with his parents is unhealthy and have urged him to talk to them about it, but the only example you give in your argument that his parents are overbearing is that they’d like to see their son once a week. That’s not an unreasonable request given that they live only 35 minutes apart. Furthermore, Michael doesn’t seem resistant to it though I’m curious what prompted him to seek therapy. Is there more to this story? Is Michael truly in therapy because his parents put pressure on him to see them once a week and he has a hard time setting boundaries, or is there something else he is working through?

Going back to the idea that you don’t seem to have a clear idea of what a healthy relationship looks like: I say that also because your desire that Michael fill his spring break with mostly you and not take time to see his parents or friends isn’t reflective of healthy, normal expectations. You wonder if you’re asking too much from this relationship and, clearly, it does seem you are asking more from Michael than he’s interested in or available to give you. But I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a boyfriend in college who wanted to dedicate the entirety of his free time to you, with no thought of seeing friends or family. In that regard, you are asking too much.

If you’ve already talked to Michael about your concerns and how you’d like to see more of him and you’d like his parents to see less of him and he isn’t changing his behavior to make you feel more prioritized, then no amount of continued pushing him is going to bring you the results you want. You’ll only succeed in pushing Michael away while potentially driving a wedge between him and his parents (which really wouldn’t serve you in the long run should you stay in his life).
You have two choices here: Back off and accept that Michael has other people in his life that he cares about whom he’s going to prioritize along with you and his school work; or move on because you feel your needs aren’t being met. If you decide to move on, know that what you are asking for – a partner who will devote nearly all his free time to you at the expense of his relationships with family and friends – will not only be hard to find, but also may not fulfill you in the way you expect it to.

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


  1. Anonymousse says:

    Boy, I wish I’d had that choice to make for schooling. I took out loans because I had to- in combination with many, many scholarships I worked hard to get and I am still paying my college loans back, many many years later.

    Even if the difference weren’t close to a quarter of a million dollars in debt- which would skyrocket with interest- it’s really nice to live alone or with roommates while you date your future husband.

  2. Anonymousse says:

    I agree that you seem to have unrealistic expectations. You guys are young and in college. It is totally normal to be doing multiple things with family, friends and spending 2/7 days with his girlfriend. I think that’s actually a pretty good amount of time.

    I had unrealistic expectations like this sometimes especially in relationships where I didn’t really trust my boyfriend, I’m not sure if that’s how you feel. When I met my now husband, in my later twenties, I was taken aback when he wanted time alone. He very patiently explained that although he loved me, he needed time alone to recharge, time with friends, etc. Having a healthy relationship is having other things going on in your life and coming together out of choice, not dependence. Let go a little bit and find some activities to keep you busy like friends, clubs, hobbies. Don’t spend your college career tied at the hip to a boyfriend.

  3. LisforLeslie says:

    LW1 – this is a fantastic life lesson for you. When you receive significant amounts of money, there are usually strings attached. You can’t simultaneously have your hand out and demand to be treated like an adult.

    Wendy has it right. Your parents are not stupid. Your boyfriend gets a place of his own and that’s where his stuff lives. When your parents come to visit, and they will come to visit, your apartment should look like you live there… alone. No giant TV set with huge gaming rig. No gaming chairs (you’re in law school – no time for gaming). The art on the wall is your art. There are pictures of the two of you, but none of his family. If you have two nightstands, one has all of your stuff and the other has just a lamp. The drawer has junk in it. The closet is filled with your stuff and maybe he has a drawer. It’s a long con, but if you want your parents money – you abide by their rules. Fair or not. Learn this now and it’s going to help you when you get your first job in law, when you deal with clients, when you deal with bosses. That’s how this works, the purse owner sets the rules.

    LW2 – it sounds like the two of you are not on the same page. He seems to want you as part of his life, you seem to want to be his whole life. Or at least a significantly larger part of it.

    1. allathian says:

      The other alternative, of course, is to elope and get married. That would also comply with the parents’ wishes, whose main issue seems to be that if their daughter moves in with her boyfriend they can’t fool themselves into thinking that their daughter isn’t sexually active, rather than actually objecting to the relationship while she’s in grad school.

      That said, I’m not in the US, and here tuition is free up to and including a Master’s degree, so this sort of parental blackmail is rarely an issue. Sure, students have to live somewhere, but I graduated with a Master’s with less than 20k in debt and paid it off as soon as I got my first FT professional job. The idea of a 22 year old being financially dependent on their parents is off-putting to me. Adults shouldn’t be beholden to anyone else when making decisions about their personal lives. I think her parents should apologize and pay with no strings attached.

      Of course, the parents may be hoping that she’ll drop this boyfriend while she’s in law school and start dating someone else with better financial prospects than he has, and I noticed that the LW isn’t saying much about what her boyfriend’s planning to do while she’s in law school. But they’ve been together for nearly 4 years, so this is clearly a serious relationship.

  4. I once dated someone whose parents would only pay for college…if he came home every weekend. He said he didn’t want to do it (though he took the hot meals and laundry), and it was just part of an unhealthy relationship pattern. Whether it’s unhealthy or he wants to spend time with them and others, perhaps your relationship styles are incompatible.

  5. To LW1. Gosh. What a predicament. I’d love to be in your shoes. With the benefit of hindsight, which I have an abundance of at my ripe old age, can I tell you that the boyfriend you have now may fade into absolute obscurity once you get to law school and meet like minded, diverse and brilliant new friends. This happened to me and my ‘boyfriend’ at the time I started law school saw the writing on the wall and freed me up, for which I owe him a lifelong debt. You were 18 when you got together. How will you feel about him at 28, or 38, or 48? Don’t rush into marriage and don’t live with him now. Accept your parents’ amazing gift and open yourself up to the brilliant possibilities awaiting you as you enter this next chapter of your life.

  6. LW1 – It sounds like your parents are discouraging you from moving in with your boyfriend, not trying to force you into marriage before you’re ready. If your parents can afford to pay your tuition and are happy to do that for you, let them — live apart from your boyfriend for two years. Repaying student loans is no joke and even with federal loans, you’re still staring down a higher interest rate for graduate-level programs. Not to mention, unless you’re going to a top school (or at the tippity top of your class rank), odds are you’re not going to be a baller right out of school.

  7. LW1: Wendy’s advice is spot on. If your parents are paying, they get to make the rules. And it’s not such a bad thing for them to not want you to live together. It’s actually pretty reasonable. You and your boyfriend can still have a successful relationship while having separate addresses. (And if your boyfriend is pressuring you (not saying he is, but just in case), then shame on him- guys like that aren’t worth it.) Enjoy law school and the time you have now and then think about getting married. $200k is too much to give up for any guy.

    LW2: Totally agree with Wendy’s advice here as well. It sounds like your boyfriend simply gets along well with his parents. That’s a good thing! It’s not your call to make in terms of how much he spends time with his parents. I once had a boyfriend who resented the fact that I got along well with my parents and tried to pressure me to distance myself from them. I eventually dumped him. If you don’t feel this guy is making you enough of a priority, you might want to find someone else, although Wendy’s correct that guys in college aren’t great candidates for wanting to spend most of their time with a girlfriend. One thing I’ve learned over the years is- if a guy wants to call you or spend time with you, he will. No matter how busy he is, he will make the time if he wants to. Why not enjoy this time, spend time with your friends, get your education, do the things that you enjoy, and not worry so much about a relationship with a guy?

  8. Anonymousse says:

    Think of it, maybe this way- I moved right in with my bf in undergraduate…guess who spent so much time with her bf and focused on her bf and making life easier for her bf….all the while neglecting her own scholastic work and goals that she now counsels women to dump their bf’s at school and focus on work and friendships? Me. That’s me. This is an amazing opportunity for free living, education, etc. It’s probable that your parents just don’t want you putting your focus on your relationship over your future…which I can totally understand.

    You can still date him.

    Take the money, date the boyfriend, enjoy not expending energy worrying about his life by living on your own.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Wendy you are spot on for LW1, however they do not state they are female. (At least that i saw).

    Just an observation.

    1. Sorry, for brevity sake I edited out this part in the letter, and I should have kept it in to clarify gender: “My partner (22M) and I (22F)…”

  10. HeartsMum says:

    “He who pays the piper calls the tune” but as much as LW’s parents might want LW to just hold off getting married, they’ve foolishly said it such that LW might expect them to pay school fees & costs IF LW married tomorrow. I would be wary of them keeping their word, it would be a lot more adult to make the support conditional on a lifestyle conducive to studying, explain their concerns, etc. but I guess when you’ve got $200k cash to spare, it’s tempting to play deity.

  11. Don’t move in with him! You will be kicking yourself if this relationship doesn’t work out AND you left all that money on the table. You can still date and see each other all the time. I didn’t live with my boyfriend in law school and my parents paid my tuition and rent and let me tell you it was awesome. My condo was awesome and I still fantasize about my bachelorette pad days. My boyfriend (who I met in school) rented a place with a roommate and we mostly hung out at my place. I gave him a key eventually so he could come and go but he kept nothing there besides a couple shirts, boxers, socks and a pair of jeans and a toothbrush. But most importantly I could have my privacy whenever I wanted. I moved in with my then fiancé into a new place one week before our wedding and cried at the idea of giving up my place.

  12. LW1: I commend you on NOT getting married right now. If the relationship is strong and marriage is the right choice, it will be the right choice in 3 to 4 years.

    Your parents are definitely being a bit of an *eye roll* but it is their game to play. If your boyfriend is serious he 100% can get an apartment near you and you guys just do what you want to do and clear out your apartment when they come to visit. Do NOT go 200K into debt just to live with your boyfriend.

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