Does my 52 year old underachieving boyfriend use me?
My boyfriend is a little underachieving. He is 52 years old and earns $15 an hour working about 25 to 30 hours a week. He has his paychecks garnished for child support. He says he was injured and couldn’t work much when his kids were growing up, so he only pockets a few hundred a week. He lives with his parents and pays neither food nor rent.
Meanwhile, I’m a single mom making over $100,000 working two jobs. I’m not super rich because I have college-aged kids and a pretty big mortgage. I paid off my boyfriend’s past debts, cell phone bill, car insurance, and all of our dating expenses, like entertainment and dining out. It’s getting expensive and I’m going into debt.
I miss being able to take a few decent vacations every year. (He says he’ll go with me, but he has no funds to contribute.) He’s a really lovely man who treats me very well, but I’m starting to resent this arrangement. Does he use me?
Maybe your boyfriend is using you, or maybe he’s really lazy. You will never know with 100% certainty what is going on in his head. Either way, it sounds like you felt used in this relationship. Don’t dismiss this feeling.
Another glaring red flag you shouldn’t ignore is your boyfriend’s overdue child support. Do you believe he did his best to support his children? If the answer is no, RUN. Someone who shirks their responsibilities as a parent is unlikely to be a good partner.
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Suppose you still want this relationship to work. The easiest way to tell if your boyfriend is using you is to close your wallet. Stop paying for dates. And for heaven’s sake, don’t pay that grown man’s bills anymore. Tell him the truth, which is that you need to cut your expenses because this relationship is putting you in debt. If your boyfriend uses you, he will run away pretty quickly.
But if he’s just being lazy, he may stick around, even if he doesn’t value your relationship very much. Of course, he will be disappointed that his girlfriend is no longer his ATM. But sometimes sloths linger in relationships because they receive entertainment and affection. If you let him down, your boyfriend would have to find those things somewhere else. It requires at least a minimum of effort.
What you need to do is test if he is willing to match your efforts once you have taken some money off the table. If he values the relationship, this is a perfect opportunity for him to prove it. Ask him to take turns cooking dinner for each other at home or planning cheap date ideas. See if he can come up with something better than Netflix and relax.
Earning more than your significant other doesn’t necessarily mean losing a relationship. What is often a deal breaker, however, is when your work ethic is completely out of sync. You obviously have goals if you’re pushed to work two jobs and earn six figures on top of being a single parent. But some people just feed and clothe themselves, even if it means living with their parents forever and never getting out of debt.
Even if you say your boyfriend is a nice guy who treats you well, don’t give him too much credit. It’s easy to be nice when someone cares for you, especially when you don’t have any expectations of them.
If you decide to pursue this relationship, it is essential that you keep your finances separate. That means no co-signing for him, no paying his bills, and no moving in together.
And once you’ve paid off the debt you’ve accumulated in this relationship, please take one of those vacations you missed. Even if you are still with your boyfriend, there is no rule that you must travel together. You can take a solo trip or travel with a friend or take a group tour. Don’t put your life on hold in hopes that your boyfriend will grow into a financially responsible adult.
At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself if you’re ready to continue with things more or less as they are, paying the bill for every madness. Maybe you enjoy his company so much that it suits you. But it’s also OK to decide that you want to build a life only with a partner who shares your ambition.
Robin Hartill is a Certified Financial Planner and Senior Writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].