It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing today. After the jump, we hear from “I Wish I Were Homeward Bound” who was annoyed that her live-in boyfriend insisted they spend every weekend with his parents out in the ‘burbs.”They’re lovely people,” she wrote, “but I can’t seem to get my boyfriend to understand that I don’t want to spend weekend nights at their place more often than maybe once a month, even if we don’t have anything else planned. I miss just being able to head out into the city at random, looking for things to do, which is what I did when I was single and even when my boyfriend and I weren’t living together.” Keep reading to see whether they’ve reached a compromise on how they spend their weekends.
I really appreciate the advice you and the commenters had for my situation, and I realized that the actual issue was not necessarily the parent visitation, but it represented larger issues about how to reconcile my desire for independence with being in a relationship (which involves things like making joint decisions on how to spend weekends/holidays and how to spend money).
In any case, we had a huge discussion about things like how we decide to spend weekends and how to budget alone-time — this was also useful when either of us wanted to do weekend activities that the other wasn’t interested in (like skiing). We also had major talks about how to split finances, which I think was the larger issue. We agreed that since the rent, groceries and utilities were still way under my projected budget (i.e., my budget had I been living alone), we would split those equally, while extra expenses such as dinners out and trips would be mostly split in proportion to income (especially with my student loans becoming due, which was another financial discussion we had). So far, it’s worked very well!
Since our talks, the last six weeks have been really wonderful! Our communication styles are becoming more in sync, and now we can have discussions about these sticky issues relatively calmly and with resolutions that make us both happy. He doesn’t feel financially burdened, even though I can’t contribute as much financially, since I think he now realizes that I do a lot of other things that make his life happier/easier because I have the more flexible work schedule. I don’t feel financially overwhelmed when he suggests dinners out or weekend trips. And if I ever do feel financially overwhelmed, I tell him, because usually he has no clue about when I’m feeling these things (I guess it’s a chip that many guys are missing?), because we keep separate bank accounts.
I know people were critical of the early co-habitation, and I worried about it as well…but we’re both in our late-twenties with a lot of dating/relationship experience, so we can pretty quickly figure out what will work and what probably won’t. And a lot of the issues we were having wouldn’t really have crept up in a more casual dating situation. I don’t think the amount of time in a relationship has a direct correlation with whether a cohabitation situation will work — it’s how comfortable you are discussing issues like money, independence and family (which incidentally should be easier in a more long-term relationship). In any case, the worst thing that would have happened is that we would part ways after our lease was up.
So my take-home lesson from all of this was to communicate, early and often, to prevent misunderstandings which can later lead to resentment which can lead to fighting about things that are not the central issue.
Sounds like you guys are on a great track. Thanks for the update and best of luck for continued happiness.
If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at email@example.com with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.
WatersEdge April 5, 2012, 1:10 pm
I agree about living together. Funny how there was an underlying issue! Good for you two for figuring out how to manage finances peacefully early on.
parton_doll April 5, 2012, 1:22 pm
Glad you were able to resolve your concerns. But I don’t think that guys are necessarily “missing a chip” when it comes to knowing when women are financially stressed or hy they are stressed in general. You just have to tell him what you are feeling. I am the breadwinner in my household and my husband had no clue how stressed I could be about money, because we’d always had enough to live comfortably. After talking with him initially about it and continuing to talk to him, we stay on the same page. I always try to remember … he can’t read my mind so I have to talk to him, even if I feel he should know how I’m feeling.
Betsy April 5, 2012, 1:35 pm
I agree. I also think that people have a tendency to minimize the outward signs of financial woes. No one wants to be perceived as broke.
I know I will think everything is just fine financially for my boyfriend, until he starts turning down every suggestion I have for things to do. This then leads to an argument about how he’s suddenly super lame, and I have to pull it out of him that he has little discretionary money at the moment. Well… JUST SAY THAT!
theattack April 5, 2012, 11:20 pm
I’ve definitely learned that my friendships are much healthier if I’m just honest that I can’t afford something. I used to have major issues keeping friendships, and I could never figure out why. Pretty sure it’s because I turned down almost everything anyone wanted to do because I couldn’t afford it, and I never explained or offered cheap alternatives. It makes SUCH a huge difference to be honest.
Ani Nani April 5, 2012, 2:05 pm
Yeah, I didn’t understand that comment either, especially since she goes on to state that they have separate accounts. How would he know she was feeling overwhelmed if she doesn’t tell him? But obviously, there is a communication issue, which she had recognized and is working on.
Fabelle April 5, 2012, 2:42 pm
I think she was most likely joking, like, “oh haha, whaddya know?”