Dear Captain Awkward,
My boyfriend and me have been planning to find a place together for 6 months now. He’s an amazing guy, he’s smart, funny, he understands most of the things I say, I always felt like he was a very reliable person and I know him for 8 years now. We’ve only been together for a little more than a year though.
I’m 35 and while I’ve got my own place and I’ve been working for a while, I haven’t been able to save anything so far. Only very recently has my income gone up enough for me to be able to afford things. My boyfriend is 27 and he inherited a lot of money years ago. Before we started having a relationship he used a good share of that to take a year off from work. The rest he started using when we started meeting. He blew a lot of money on clothes and since we don’t live in the same country on flights and transport. As did I.
In September 2015 we decided to move in together summer 2016. I told him I may not have the money to fix my old place and move things over to his country and pay half the rent and a deposit at the same time. He said he’ll cover it, whatever it takes. Since then I’ve been saving.
Sometime last year he ran out of extra money. He said he wanted to save in 2016. It’s April now and he hasn’t saved a cent. He said he wanted to sell some personal belongings but that hasn’t happened either. Additional money from his birthday (that was left after buying what he really wanted) was instead invested in a Kindle because he took up reading.
I handed in my resignation and my boss and me are currently looking for someone to fill my spot. By the end of July I’ll be jobless and would need to move in with either my mom or his mom if things don’t work out. We need to find a place for the end of June.
He says he’ll save enough in the next 2 months and it’s all going to be okay. I told him I’m extremely worried and he said he can’t do anything but reassure me that we’ll be fine right now. I really want to trust him, but this is my life and I’m starting to think he doesn’t quite know what he’s doing or he doesn’t do well with money or maybe he just doesn’t really want to commit. Mentioning his leftover birthday money simply got me a “Am I not entitled to use my birthday money as I please?”.
In the past 8 years I’ve never seen him not commit to things he wanted to do. He is very high on my list of people I would absolutely rely on, but this situation scares the shit out of me.
Dear Really Scared:
I recommend that you un-quit your job ASAP and do whatever you can to secure your own financial well-being. More to follow.
Dear Captain Awkward,
I’m a young lady of 23 years old. I am a supervisor at my job and make decent money. I have my own apartment which I acquired and pay for completely on my own.
My boyfriend of 2 years lives with me. I love him dearly. When we moved in together we made an agreement. Since I work 50+ hours a week, he would do the house work. He agreed. I admit that I’m a bit of a clean freak. My mom is OCD and so I’m used to a very clean house.
It’s been a couple months now. He doesn’t clean.
I used to write down specific things on our white board for him to do (because else he wouldn’t do anything???) and I talked to him about it. I asked him if he needed the direction or if it felt like I was micromanaging. He responded that he liked it and would appreciate it if I continued to do so. So I made a list for the week, made it simple and not over the top trying to keep in mind my cleaning standards, and made it easy by narrowing it down to a room a day (apartment isn’t very big). That way it’s less work for me, and he knows exactly what is expected.
He still ignores it. I find this extremely frustrating and disrespectful. He doesn’t currently work or go to school. I tried to explain to him my frustration, explaining that when he doesn’t clean it is upsetting to me because of a. Our agreement and b. I feel he is disrespecting all that I have worked so hard for. I clean when I’m home, I clean on my days off. Everyday when I get off at 11pm I make dinner and I also make breakfast. This isn’t too big of a deal because I like to cook. But if I’m cooking and cleaning and paying, I find myself wondering why he lives with me?
Whenever I bring up our agreement and explain that I’m starting to feel frustrated he always turns it around on me for some other injustice I have done him.
Please help, I feel like I’m babysitting and micromanaging, even if he doesn’t. Which is also something I have tried talking to him about.
How can I help him understand that I don’t want to be his mom and direct him all the time? And how do I explain to him the importance of chores because the direction he has asked for is not helping?
I’m not that bad of a neat freak
Dear I’m Not That Bad Of A Neat Freak:
I think the only way your boyfriend will “understand” any of this is if you ask him to move out. More to follow.
To me these are the same question:
A romantic partner and I made an agreement about how we would handle something. I held up my end of the bargain and he did not. I tried many different ways of communicating with him about it, and he still did not/does not/will not. Now what do I do?
This can’t be fixed with a script, aka, a better way of asking. Y’all already asked, thoroughly, and in the best possible way that you could, in a way that totally makes sense and is respectful and kind and clear.
Letter Writer #860/Really Scared, your boyfriend handles money in a very different way than you do and I think you are right to be concerned here. When you are thinking of joining your life and financial well-being to someone else for the long-term, it is a good idea to evaluate how compatible you are around money, saving, spending, long-term planning, etc. It’s not “does everyone contribute the same” it’s “do you trust each other about money.”
Letter Writer #861/Not That Bad A Neat Freak, your boyfriend doesn’t think that keeping his living space clean is important and he also thinks you should cook every meal that you both eat. Those aren’t even the biggest deal-breakers in your letter. This is:
Whenever I bring up our agreement and explain that I’m starting to feel frustrated he always turns it around on me for some other injustice I have done him.
I was about to say that whatever good things these men are and do in your lives, they increase your stress and anxiety around important things. But then I re-read that part of your letter, #861, your boyfriend is not only selfish, he’s mean, and there can’t possibly anything he contributes to your life that balances that out. Please, please, please get yourself out of there, before you start to internalize his hurtful messages any further. The problem here is not that you are too much of a “neat freak.” The problem is that he is a selfish asshole. If you’re not ready to see that or say that yet, try “We are incompatible as roommates and I want to live alone from now on.”
LW #860, there was also a whiff of your boyfriend turning your anxieties around on you, like you’re the problem – “Am I not entitled to use my birthday money as I please?” – Like, of course he is, but are you all 10 years old? You’re planning a major life change! You sum him up very well as someone who always commits and follows through on things he wants to do. I think your script is probably some version of “I’m staying at my job for now. Let’s revisit the plan at the end of the summer.” What he does will tell you what you need to know.
327 thoughts on “#860 “When does having faith become stupid?” and #861 “Neat Freak Babysitter””
I have nothing to add other than take the good Captain’s advice. Neither of you deserve this.
He inherited a lot of money “years” ago and has already run out. Obviously that’s his decision and he might feel it was worth it but I think it’s an important data point. Are *you* the sort of person who’s okay with spending that much money on transient, non-physical things like travel and a year off work, or is it important to you to be able to save to make big purchases like property? Especially when it’s an either/or situation. Granted, that money was his, not both of yours, but will his spending habits change when you join your finances together and start sharing a household? If it were me I’d be tempted to explain my anxieties to him and ask to see what his concrete plans are so my brain weasels don’t go rabid. If he doesn’t have any, that’s a financial problem. If he has them but refuses to show you, that’s an emotional support problem. If he does have them and does show you, it might be a communication problem or an understanding problem that he didn’t think to give you any details before now and just dismissed it with “we’ll be fine”.
Yes, this was my concern as well. He goes through money quickly. Okay. Is that something you can live with? Because that’s who he is. It’s possible he can change his money habits, but he has to want to do it. If he doesn’t want to do it, well, you already know what you’re going to get. It’s up to you to decide if that’s compatible with what you want/your financial strategy.
I’m going to speak up *very* slightly in defense of the boyfriend here, only with regards to spending the inheritance money, because I kinda did the same thing. Got a very nice inheritance, and went a bit bonkers. Until you find yourself in that situation, you can’t imagine just how easy it is to do. And I had even planned fairly well, I thought. A chunk of it was declared “mad money”, to have some fun with, because I’d spent the 4 years previous running myself ragged trying to take care of my mom, who had both advanced Parkinson’s and dementia. The rest was to be saved.
That didn’t happen, because I had to quit my job over a disagreement on a medical issue (long story), and have had trouble finding work since then. And, of course, *poof* went the chunk I had saved.
Big difference between me and boyfriend, however, is that I freely admit I screwed up. A lot of stories from those times begin with, “You know, when I had money and was stupid….” I don’t blame others for my own screw-ups, and freely admit I used poor judgment. As a meme I saw on FB once said, “If I win the lottery, I won’t quit my job, but my bad decisions will become epic.”
Adults take responsibility for their screw-ups, instead of whining about them.
Also side note to LW: International moves are incredibly difficult & expensive, no matter how well prepared you are. If you’re not completely sure about doing this, err on the side of caution and stay where you are. I’ve considered one myself, and my father & my mom’s parents were all immigrants from Germany. I’d like to move there, but even being very familiar with the culture and having a passably decent command of the language, it’s still a daunting prospect….
Yup. I was thinking this as well–I did the same thing. It’s actually pretty normal if you aren’t used to having money and suddenly have money. I did make a number of smart decisions with it, but money skills with small amounts of money are not the same thing as money skills with large amounts of money. You can’t just scale your skills up; it works totally differently.
I’ve made two international moves and they are always more complicated than you think they will be.
I got lucky in that I inherited a financial planner along with the money, and since we decided to leave things essentially the same as how my mom set things up, withdrawing more than the minimum necessary amount as part of the distribution would lead to staggering amounts of paperwork and taxes, neither of which I have the executive functioning skills necessary to process. I’ve used the money in ways that might raise eyebrows–I have a brand new (at the time) car that I paid for in full at closing, and I bought my home outright, plus there have been a few international trips here and there, but a decent chunk of the principal remains untouched, largely thanks to my mom’s advance planning and my laziness. :p
Exactly. And when you add grief on top of the way a windfall can affect your decision-making, unwise decisions happen. A lot.
That said, even when you take the blown inheritance out of the equation, LW 860’s bf is simply not making their plan to move in together a priority at all, which is causing the LW stress and putting her in a position of financial insecurity.
Oh definitely. This dude is not responsible at all and there’s no way he should be cut any slack in this situation.
Echoing echoing echoing the Captain’s advice. Relationships are about partnership. Both of these men seem to be getting a lot and not contributing much. Money is scary and hard to talk about, and I still struggle with my own husband, and I’ve been in the same place at #861. They don’t think you mean what you say until you back it up with actions. Tell them why you’re doing what you’re doing, and make it stick.
#860 – take care of you and your finances as much as you can. Best of luck.
#861 – kick that dude out, tell him why and stop letting him mooch. I presented my husband with a clear and complete picture of the financial situation we were in (before being married) and what it was costing me to feed him, house him, clothe him, etc and I said “I’m not your mom and I’m not going to be. Get a job by X-date and start contributing a proportional amount to the household or get out.” (He’s able-bodied, it’s was a reasonable request.) He got a job and started contributing.
It’s okay to put yourself and your financial future first. It’s okay not to want to mother your significant other.
. . . I was married to both these guys.
It was the same guy.
For 20 years.
LWs, don’t take these bets. These men won’t change.
LW #861, please get out ASAP. That habit he has of turning stuff around on you? That’s a noose. And he’s never going to let go of it. No, I mean it. Literally never. No joking, no ifs ands or buts, he is NOT going to change in time to avoid doing you lasting harm. Please get out.
Take it from someone who was there, and who was almost strangled by it in the end. This ends in an ugly, sad, desperate, painful place where you parent your partner, who in turn is cruel to you to keep you staying out of guilt.
Please, please do not fall for it. Please get out.
Please, please listen to this comment and to CA.
Let me be blunt about that ‘turning stuff around on you’ thing: that is a tactic to shut you down, and if it ever stops working on you, he will lose his shit. There is no way to be right with dudes like this. They will never agree that you have a point. Because to them, the disagreement is not about what YOU think it is about (the chores, the money) – it is about him protecting his self-image as a good, deserving dude who treats you fairly, and he will never, ever admit that self-image is incorrect under any circumstances. Therefore, even if he has to rewrite reality to make it so, he will.
One more chiming in on this point. This dude is not reasonable, so he can’t be reasoned with. DTMFA.
“Let me be blunt about that ‘turning stuff around on you’ thing: that is a tactic to shut you down, and if it ever stops working on you, he will lose his shit”
This sentence is 100% accurate. I have a friend who had a husband who would do this all the time. She had a plethora of mental health issues that he used to his advantage. She ended up making some changes to get healthy mentally and suddenly started calling him on all his stuff. During their marriage counselling he actually told her that he preferred her when she was mentally ill because he could get her to do whatever he wanted her to do. He then turned to the therapist and demanded that she be taken off of medication immediately because he wasn’t happy with her backbone. My friend moved out that day!
My (now ex-)husband did this too. Somehow every discussion about something he did that upset/distressed me or hurt my feelings ended with me apologizing or comforting him while he cried about how haaarrrrrd he was trying but I’m just so unreeeeasonable.
It’s a bright red flag, LW. You deserve better, and this does not get better.
He said that out loud? In front of a third party?
I will never understand people.
AlexTheBunny, I’m sorry you had to be married to my ex!
I was too stupid to leave him because I had vowed to remain with him. When he left me, I proved in court that the 17 years we were married, I contributed close to $500,000 to our relationship and he proved he contributed $17,000. Not per year, total. When he left, I had no money and was newly disabled.
Looking back, I realise I could have been a lot happier by blowing that money on a gigolo. The sex would have been better and I’m betting a gigolo would be an expert at making their clients feel admired, appreciated, beautiful, etc, as part of his profession.
Were you married to my late husband? Because I just left a similar comment.
Same here. Although mine did have a job and worked, he refused to ever clean anything, was so terrible with money that it really fucked up our lives, and whenever I would try to talk about a problem he would start accusing me of stuff to derail.
I dated a dude like this, and although he knew he was terrible with money, he had a childlike approach about it. Like, he knew that it caused problems, and he felt bad when he spent himself into a corner and had to ask for money to be bailed out. But he only saw it as a character problem, Iike “Everyone’s human, and the people who really care about me will accept that I suck at managing money.” He couldn’t understand *at all* that it had consequences for the people he borrowed from, too.
At the time, the lenders in question were his parents, who were wealthy and could afford the few hundred bucks every month that he would ask for. But because his attitude about this was basically, “It can’t really be a problem if someone has the money to give me, and the people who truly care about me won’t really mind,” I saw very quickly how he could potentially rationalize asking *me* for the money instead. Or…not asking, just borrowing it. Or opening a credit card using my information, because his intentions would be good and I love him, so I wouldn’t really mind. And when I would try to have a conversation about using his money more wisely, he would get defensive and point out things I’d just bought, as if that justified the money *he* spent. My 9-year-old beater died during the relationship, and I replaced it with a sensible gently-used 1-year-old car that was easily within my ability to afford, and when I tried to tell him that maybe it wasn’t a good idea to spend $400 on a new grill for the house he was foreclosing on, he got all, “That’s pretty rich coming from someone who just bought a NEW CAR.”
I can afford the car, you cannot afford the grill. That’s the difference. But he only saw it as a “bigger bowl of ice cream” issue, as though because I spent several thousand dollars on a new thing, he should get to do the same. He could not understand. Or would not.
I dumped him two weeks later. Nooooooope. When his parents die, I sure hope they put everything in a trust and hire a professional to write him a check every month, because otherwise I am 100% sure he’ll blow through every penny in a matter of months, and wind up living under a bridge.
Ha, I dated a guy like that too. He had terrible money management skills, inherited from his parents who also had terrible money management skills (“we’re this close to declaring bankruptcy, but we *really want* this hand carved solid oak faux fireplace and matching bookshelves, so we’re gonna get it anyway!”). Dude was self employed but was a terrible businessman so basically lived off his almost-bankrupt parents.
Because he’d basically been taught that you spend money even if you don’t have money if there’s shit you want, he got really angry at me if I wouldn’t do the same. I remember we went on a week-long trip that I really could not afford and I told him I would have to be ultra careful on my spending and budgeted a tiny amount per day. But he bullied and emotionally blackmailed me (“This is my first holiday in YEARS, don’t you want me to enjoy myself just for a change?”) into spending money on all sorts of fancy meals and stuff I didn’t really want until my debit card was declined on the second day in. I was horrified and started panicking but dude couldn’t see the problem. He’d just get his parents to send more money, of course! Which they gladly did, even though they were being threatened with having their utilities cut off (which I didn’t know at the time, thank goodness).
Financial incompatibility was one of many reasons why I broke up with this guy, but it was one of the big ones.
Wow. Honestly that sounds pretty manipulative and I’m glad you broke it off with him.
My recent ex is impulsive and basically places his immediate desires ahead of all other considerations. So you know, there’s a hole in the roof and the car needs a tune-up and he’s 3 months behind on the mortgage but he bought plane tickets and an Amazon echo and who knows what other BS.
Holy hell, how were we ALL partnered with the same man?!? I’m not even going to bother posting my own comment, as the territory seems to have been very well-covered already, but suffice to say that 861’s boyfriend sounded…familiar.
The only thing I do have to add, 861, is that I spent far too long issuing ultimatums and waiting for him to pick up his game, but he didn’t. Now, if you’re like I was at the end of the relationship, you might be terrified at the prospect of losing someone you’ve invested so much time in and having to start all over again. I thought it was going to hurt like hell when I dropped him off at the airport to go live with his parents after six years together. I cried that whole night, got a solid nine hours of sleep, and woke up perfectly fine. Evidently one night of shut-eye uninterrupted by Assface’s stomping in at 5 a.m., opening and slamming shut ever drawer in the bedroom, flopping into bed with an exaggerated sigh, and then hogging the covers was enough to convince me of the rightness of my decision.
As for the “starting all over” piece…I haven’t been on/had any desire to be on a date since I dumped him three and a half years ago. There are other dudes out there, if you want to find them, but you may discover the same way I did that singledom is pretty sweet.
Good luck to both LWs.
I wonder that sometimes because seriously, it’s not like he was even that hot once you took all this stuff into account! 😉 How could so many other women also have fallen for his line? 😀
Bees! So many evil bees!
My heart goes out to both these LWs. They deserve better. Definitely don’t move in, on the one hand, and definitely move out, on the other hand. It’s not going to get any better. This bleak estimation is based on personal experience. Sometimes people don’t think of themselves as selfish takers-advantage-of. But their actions speak much, much louder.
Your boyfriends both have aspects of my ex husband. When we needed groceries he bought a remote controlled flying thing with his birthday money, which he promptly broke within a week. He’d have no trouble staying up all night talking on the phone with people then claim he was too tired to clean. I should’ve broken it off early on when I found days dirty dishes shoved in the TV stand (?). With the birthday money, how could I be so horrible as to take away his happiness, even though I was solely supporting us? The dishes, he didn’t know why he did that, ok? And I left lots of messes* so I had no right to call him out.
*I have a high clutter tolerance, but I don’t play with food and dirty dishes.
Ah, yes, the “what’s yours is ours and what’s mine is mine” thing, whereby what you bring is is fair game, but what they get is theirs and you’re a meaniepants for expecting any kind of sharing.
I ran into that, oddly enough, not with a partner but with a roommate. I made considerably more money than her, and because of that, I was fine with paying more towards bills and rent. In that case, we still split the chores evenly, but I was okay with that.
What I was not okay with was things like her using up all of the food/toiletries/other consumables and then getting irritated when I didn’t replace them fast enough, or bugging me to pick up things ‘for the apartment’ on my own dime (ranging from furniture to things like DVDs or art or collectibles) whenever I came into a bit of extra money… but treating any extra money she got as hers and hers alone, such that if she’d ask me to buy a DVD ‘for the apartment’ and I’d suggest she get it with her Christmas money, she’d pout and say that because she never has money she wanted that to be for something ‘just for her.’
It was… not tenable.
My only defense is that she was very good at wielding the ‘check your privilege’ argument to explain why I needed to buy a figurine or a DVD ‘for the apartment’ that she wanted. I was privileged by having a better-paying job, you see, and so it was oppressive for me to expect her to pick up her own copy of Final Fantasy 12, or to expect that she might buy the next lamp or Crunchyroll renewal when she did have money.
I know that class privilege is a very real thing (I grew up quite poor; I do know), but I wish I hadn’t been quite so gullible as to how she wielded guilt.
Yeah he wielded “I went through X add a kid” and I bought that for too long. If CA had been around before I got married…but that would undo my daughter. At least I walked away with an awesome kid.
This is my ex-boyfriend so hard. He worked for his dad, making an obscene amount of money doing pretty much nothing – he literally sat on his computer watching sitcoms all day – and yet all that money would vanish into video games and art commissions of characters from his games, and the actual financial burdens of bills would fall on me – as well as the tasks of cleaning, cooking, taking care of HIS cat (I was not allowed to have any pets, as his mother owned the condo we lived in and she limited it to a one pet policy, which she only allowed at all because he already had a cat) and preparing for the weekly game sessions he insisted on holding at our place despite it being too small for the large number of people he wanted to cram in, having to cook for the entire group that night and clean up afterwards because he was always ‘just so tired’ – despite having plenty of energy to play video games and such all night, or roleplay, or whatever else he was doing – in addition to taking care of the numerous health problems I was suffering from (including multiple hospitalizations) and working at two very physically demanding jobs that didn’t pay even a fraction of what he was paid.
People who put the kind of importance on their wants and desires – the kind of importance that leaves the burdens of NEED solely on your shoulders – they aren’t going to change, not if they can get away with it, and they will try to use you to keep getting away with it. In both cases, my suggestion is to dump them and move away. Make sure that there is no financial connection to them whatsoever so they can’t claim that you owe them anything. Better yet, cut off contact, since any contact after you reclaim your financial independence is probably going to consist of whining and manipulation.
I would add that the first guy may very well be the kind of guy that comes through in the end. But I also suspect that even if he is, what you are seeing now will be part of a *pattern* of down to the wire solutions. Which is a LOT of stress to be accepting into your life. You need to think about how to take care of yourself around this type of pattern–and that may involve setting a boundary of NO commitments on your end until his side of the bargain is accounted for. (You don’t like gambling with your finances. This is valid. Don’t let him make you feel obliged to.)
Yes, even if he does come through, you’re going to be sweating it out till the very last minute wondering if he’s going to make it. That is not a happy way to live, and I really doubt it will be the last time this happens.
Dear LW 860: The Captain is right on every count. I’ll go a little farther and say that I think you can, if you are honest with yourself, feel in your bones the rumbling of the stress train coming toward you. He may be a delightful boyfriend-playfellow, but he is not ready to commit. Dial it back. Do not leave your job, do not move, do not change your present arrangements. When he is ready, on his own, to rent an apartment, furnish it, and welcome you like an adult on account of you would be leaving your own country to go live with him, then consider doing that. But this sounds like a really dicey situation to move out of your country for: all the risk and commitment are on your side. You don’t mention whether you’d be able to work after relocating; it’s not relevant to the immediate question but it is important for your own long-term well-being. Sometimes a charming man turns out to be all charm and no, er, man. Adult man, I mean.
Dear, kind, wonderful LW 861: You are a lovely, sane person, and you are not his mom although he is trying to pretend you are at the same time you are sleeping with him, and your cleaning standards are not the problem here. The problem is, really, how to proceed with tossing this sponge out of your home and your life? He is not going to have an epiphany and start vacuuming. He might do it once after you tell him you cannot have him as a roommate any longer, but it won’t last. I suggest that you remove any valuable and/or beloved items to a place he cannot get them before delivering the eviction notice, get him out, and change the locks the very hour you get him gone.
“All the risk and commitment are on your side.”
This point is huge. HUGE. So many times partners we love try to draw us into situations that get them something they want, but all the risk and commitment is on our side. It’s not hard for a perfectly nice person to get so dazzled by the vision of a dream coming true that they suggest something that one-sided, but a good person will snap out of it when called on it and be willing to talk about something where the risks and rewards are mutual.
I have an example from a past relationship — a long-term boyfriend of many years suddenly announced he wanted to live in City X and was thinking of taking a job there. I was pretty taken aback. Since he had never mentioned this to me before in the years we’d been together, AND he’d gone as far as lining up a job to accept before simply announcing this was what he was thinking of doing, AND since he made no mention of me in this announcement, I naturally assumed he was talking about moving on with his life without me in it. I was very gracious and wished him well in his new life, because what else can you do?
He was stunned by this response — it eventually turned out that he was thinking this would be some kind of movie scene where the hero announces his awesome life decision, and the girlfriend side character maybe throws some static, but in the end says, “City X, huh?” with a smile and proceeds to simply…change her entire life as though it’s nothing.
So he was shocked when I wished him well in his new life. He said something like, “NO!…You could…go too.” I gave him a blank look and said, “But I’m not moving to City X.”
Further conversations on this ensued, but they were as equally disconnected, because he not only wanted all the risk and commitment to be on my side, he wanted me to act like it was all of my own spontaneous choosing and that there was nothing else I’d rather do — to the point where he would never actually say he wanted me to go with him; he would only express that he was upset that I wasn’t volunteering to do so unasked with no consideration for what it would do to my life.
Let me repeat that: He was so determined that this be one-sided that he wasn’t even willing to say the words that he wanted me to go with him. I was just supposed to suddenly decide I’d been dying to live in City X all my life and be thrilled that this was “a chance”. A chance for what, you might wonder? I have no idea — I guess a girlfriend side character in a movie might do something weird like always wanting to live in City X but never actually moving there unless she has a boyfriend to follow, but I don’t know real women who act that way.
He did try to thrown in some lip service about how his real goal was that we both get our dreams realized together, so I tried offering a compromise: He wanted to me to abandon a full scholarship and stipend to grad school in favor of this City X business. I said that if he came up with the money — actual cash — to cover my tuition and expenses to complete my grad degree at the school of my choice in City X, I would be willing to look into transferring.
He said he was sure I would be offered scholarships/funding at City X schools if I applied. I said that might well be the case, but applying to transfer research while being assured of full funding support is not a small undertaking, and since I was already golden where I was, I wasn’t going to take on trying to arrange a mid-degree move without a guaranteed financial outcome, so if he could provide that guarantee, I’d put in the work of seeing what was possible and seeing whether it would actually turn out to be a good move for me.
I got the impression he wasn’t going to do that, because he kept repeating “It’ll all work out” like simply saying that was some kind of solution, so I thought we were done with that conversation. Silence on the topic ensued.
A couple of weeks later, he asked if I had filled out any City X grad school applications yet. I gave him a blank look, because he hadn’t mentioned coming up with the money. I asked if he’d met with any loan officers at banks to arrange the funds. He said no. I shrugged and said something like, “Well, there you go then.”
He got upset and said, “Well it’ll never happen if you don’t at least try!” I just kept shrugging — me living in City X was his goal, not mine, but he wasn’t willing to put ANY effort or resources toward making that happen, so I wasn’t going to invest any effort in it until he did.
LW1, that’s the problem you’re facing — you’re investing all the effort and taking all the risk. It will only end badly for you. If your SO were really into the two of you reaching this goal as partners, he’d be right there alongside you investing effort and risk at the same level and speed you do.
I’m impressed. Good work. I saw that as a film unrolling – a very satisfying film.
Mind just completely blown. Well-told tale!
An incredible example of the “I am the star of my own movie!” Syndrome.
I want to know the end of this story. Did Ex move to City X? Did it work out for him? I’d understand if you’re less concerned about the outcome than I am, but I wonder if you know. We so often hear the story where she does move to be with him and how that goes in the end. I want to know how it goes when she doesn’t sacrifice/risk everything for true love. (Sarcasm acknowledged.)
My rule is Do Not Move for A Significant Other Unless There Is A Ring On Your Finger.
Or, to refine that for those who might not wish to marry – do not move for someone else unless that person is willing to assume a lot, if not most, of the risk associated with your moving.
Yeah….I have adopted that rule after having moved across an ocean for a boyfriend who was then not willing to take a train an hour and a half to visit me even once a month (but expected me to go see him weekly on my grad school budget).
Thankfully I had only chosen grad school partially for him and it remains the best choice I’ve ever made, but nope, never rearranging my life for a boyfriend again.
Exactly this. I moved cities when I married b/c my now-husband had tenure and a house whereas I only had an apartment and a commute. Yet to this day, my husband sometimes expresses regret that I had to move in order for us to be together, because he knows more of the burden of change fell on me. When work was going really horribly for me and I went through some homesickness, he even started seriously looking for other jobs back home. I told him it was crazy for him to give up a tenured faculty position he loved when I could probably just go find another job (which he helped me do).
The risk might not fall evenly on both of you, but at the absolute least, the person not assuming the bulk of the risk/costs should at least *recognize* that’s what’s going on and do whatever they can to make it easier. That’s not happening for either of the LWs.
Change out your insistance on normative marriage for some kind of reliable commitment, and I’m with you, but you really should stop pushing marriage (especially with the expectation of a ring – why, exactly?) as any sort of assumed state of affairs or with any assumed meaning.
I thought that too at first but to be fair, that is THEIR rule, for THEIR life, and they did take the trouble to add an alternative view for people who don’t want to get married.
Indeed. Johann, methinks you are picking a fight where none exists, and that kind of thing is for your own blog.
Amen to that. I knew a relationship was dead when an ex told me that he wanted me to move with him across the country, and he wanted me to have his children, but he was never going to marry me. “But we might have a handfasting!” was his concession. Yeah.
I missed that boychild for a total of 2 hours after he moved. It was scary leaving him up until the moment I did it. And then I felt so, so free. I didn’t realize how much stress the relationship had put me under until I left.
I had a similar story. Ex and I broke up because lots of things but the final straw was he wanted to move to *country* x (where I didn’t speak the language and likely wouldn’t be able to work). I said I could only move to country x if we moved acknowledging that we were at that particular stage of our relationship – that I was moving *for* him and accordingly he would acknowledge this was a big deal and treat it as such. E.g. he would cover the cost of the rent if I couldn’t get work and I could do language classes, or have a baby, or whatever else we decided as a couple would be a good use of my time. I was also very worried he hadn’t lined up work, to support this part of the risk. (I was actually LW #228 at that time)
My other option was to still move for his career, but to country y, where we both spoke the language at the fluency required to obtain employment. Many many tantrums later (it’s not his fault I couldn’t speak x language! why couldn’t I just spend my savings? other girls just treat ‘travelling together’ stuff as an adventure!) we broke up, cue the misery (which passed, thankfully, just as dear Captain said it would. Of course!). I was left for a long time thinking ‘he just wasn’t ready’.
Actually, the end of the story is, he moved to country x without me, quelle surprise couldn’t get work because even his language skills weren’t good enough, and moved to Country Y a few months later. He has since met and married someone else there, and as far as I know they seem pretty happy. A nice thing happened to me when I heard that – I didn’t really care. I felt something on the scale of happy for him if it worked out to completely neutral.
I also felt totally vindicated that that tiny (so tiny i actually didn’t really know it was there) voice in my head made me stand up for myself that one and only time with the cautionary warning of “don’t go on those terms” even though I had my heart crushed. I wasn’t conscious of making the choice – I wanted to choose him – but it was just too much risk. I’ve re-read my letter a couple of times since then and am amazed how different the situation looks in hindsight. But also how small that tiny voice really was, when it was so right all the time.
I want to see this movie. We start out as though Boyfriend is the lead character, he makes his big announcement, the audience is as surprised as he is that Helen isn’t moving with him! And then the rest of the movie follows Helen, who is living in her original city doing amazing research which results in curing a disease or eradicating poverty or something. Later in the movie Boyfriend turns on the TV to see Helen all over the news for her work.
It did turn out kind of like that. I’ve gone on to ever more impressive achievements, moved to various other places for exciting career opportunities, got that grad degree and a PhD on top of it, had an intercontinental romance that spanned years and adventurous locations and reads like some epic romance novel, the works.
Last I heard the ex is still sitting in the same original city, never moved, and still doing pretty much the same job, just going the mundane, play-it-safe route.
Yeah, you heard me: He never moved. He never made any realistic effort towards moving. That job offer he said he was thinking of taking? That turned out to be a job posting he was applying for. He hadn’t even had the interview yet.
I can’t really say what the hell was going on in his head. It’s *possible* but not likely that he never intended to move, but this was some attempt at an elaborate game to convince me to move to mess with me and his intention was for me to move with him shortly to follow, but then he’d just never follow through. That would be a bizarre way of destroying a relationship, but not as bizarre as what he eventually chose.
It’s *possible* but slightly less unlikely that he was just screwing with me, hoping to make me think I suddenly had to move to City X and he was hoping to watch me run in circles disrupting my life, and then eventually tell me he’d decided against it, nevermind. He eventually turned out to be a physically violent domestic abuser and a rapist, so this would not surprise me.
What I suspect was going on, but can’t truly know, is that he wanted to move to City X, but he was a chickenshit. (Well I do truly know the chickenshit part, because that’s what all domestic abusers and rapists are.) I think he wanted me to want to move myself to City X, and then he would just piggyback on my efforts — he wouldn’t have to figure out any of the hard parts of relocating or getting set up in a new place or building a new life or social circle — he’d just ride along on me doing that.
I think that’s at the core of why he was so careful to never use any phrasing that would either ask me to go, or that would imply we would go *together*. He was really clear he wanted me to move to City X, and felt that I was somehow doing something bad to him by not doing so, but he was also really clear that I was supposed to suddenly want it for entirely my own reasons, and probably be indebted to him or something if he went with me.
Actually, yeah, he did that kind of thing before — turn a favor I did him into something he claimed was a favor he did me for which I owed him. And he did try to sell me the City X thing as him “giving” me “a chance”.
“A chance at what??” I asked in utter bafflement.
“At City X!” he yelled in exasperation at my obtuseness.
“But I have no reason to move to City X,” I said, still baffled.
“But…but…IT’S CITY X.”
“So?” I said. Dead silence.
I continued on: “If I wanted to live in City X so badly, I’d be long gone. I wouldn’t be sitting around waiting for some dude to hand me “a chance”. I’d have been living there for years by now.”
“And,” I went on, “If I were going to move somewhere just for the fun of moving somewhere different, it sure as hell wouldn’t be City X, it’d be Country A or Country B. If you want to talk about that, I’m interested.”
He was pretty stunned by all that. The girlfriend character is supposed to be dazzled by the “chance” the Hero offers her at a supposedly better dream sidekick-life in a supposedly better city. She’s not supposed to have bigger and more impressive dreams than the Hero does. He flat-out said that Country A or Country B was more of a change than he could handle, more adventure than he could stomach.
It’s just odd, though, that he got himself into this headspace — he had already had to swallow the fact that in math and science, I was smarter than he was, he knew I had done much more impressive and adventurous things in my life than he had, I was better educated, the higher earner… How he convinced himself that he was the Hero to my sidekick is a mystery to me.
Other, than, you know, I Blame The Patriarchy.
Oh please somebody make this film.
I’d watch the ever-loving shit out of this movie.
After I watch the movie, can I quit my job and form a religion dedicated to you?
Alas, I was married to a version of this guy. My ex-husband was able to convince himself that he was the Hero to my sidekick mainly because he met me at a really unstable time in my life, made more unstable within the first 3 months of our relationship. I was the most emotionally vulnerable I’ve ever been, but I was still far more driven and at least as intelligent. I think he thought he was rescuing me, because I didn’t take the traditional path through my education? Because my parents had recently divorced? Because I seemed sad? And because Patriarchy.
He resented every step forward I made. He was an emotional abuser, but HOW DARE I point that out. He didn’t think I should take advantage of a job benefit that would pay for graduate school, because what if he got a job offer in [his home state or the one next to it]? Mind you, he’d never said anything about moving there anytime soon and had no idea what jobs were available, and my career had already surpassed his so I’d be more likely to get hired from out of state if I wanted to move somewhere… but WHAT IF? And at this point, I was already paying 70-75% of our expenses and doing all the cooking and cleaning.
True story: The first year we filed joint/married taxes, he assumed he should check “Head of Household” because he was male. This is a guy who really, honestly considered himself a modern, equality-supporting dude. Having done my own taxes since my late teens (his dad, a finance guy, had always done his), I explained what that term meant to the IRS and pointed out that it applied more to me than to him.
(That did not go over well.)
It took more time than I’d have liked and several therapists and prescriptions, but I got out. It’s amazing how quickly the switch flipped, too. One day, I worked out the fact that I could leave, and so I did. He went on to marry and divorce again, and did move “back home.” I reconnected with the love of my life, then we maintained a long-distance relationship so I could get that free-to-me (mostly) master’s degree that he fully supported. We eventually decided where to live and moved there, where we continue to live reasonably happily every after. (Which is to say, we’re pretty lucky and usually happy, but life is never simple. Also, we’re raising our toddler, which can make anyone cranky from time to time.)
My personal experience has been that I attract men who think they love smart, driven women, only to find that they want those women to be smart and driven *at* someone else. Somewhere, deep within, too many of them still have outdated expectations of how marriages work and how women/wives *should* be. My current partner isn’t like that and I certainly know a lot of dudes who aren’t, but historically, the men *attracted to me* have revealed a certain…pattern.
LWs, honor your instincts. You’ve written to the Captain because you know something is off. I knew it, too, and plowed forward because I doubted myself and my resources. Don’t waste that time–skip that step and move forward. There’s better out there.
@8junebugs, you’re right, some of them want smart, driven women, but they want them to be smart and driven at someone else.
Some want smart, driven women, but they want all the smarts and drive put to work in their service only, and certainly not used for the benefit of the women themselves.
There’s a pair of science/math/engineering variants I’ve run into, where the guy fantasizes about a techno-talking babe (I’ve been called that more times than I can count). In the first variant of this, the fantasy is simply that she likes hearing about the guy’s geeky interests — except note the wording: She’s only supposed to like HEARing about HIS geeky interests. She is not supposed to have an opinion of her own or want to talk about her interests. Somehow if she expresses her own opinion, that is emasculating, these guys have told me. Poor little dicks fall right off.
The other variant is that the guy loves the fantasy that she’s brilliant, a genius…because he will inherently always be just a little bit smarter on everything, and so the more obviously brilliant she is, the more it proves how brilliant he must be, because everyone knows he’s always just a bit better. Because Gender Roles. I tend to attract those ones in droves. And when they run smack into the reality that they’re not smarter and smack into my Asperger’s at the same time, some mighty fine comedy tends to ensue:
“So, um, you’re like, really smart. I mean, REALLY smart.”
“Yes…” With a why-are-you-stating-the-obvious raised Spockbrow.
“No, I mean, like…you…might actually be smarter than ME.”
More raised Spockbrow. “Yes, we know this. We’ve known this all along.”
“Really? Everybody else does.”
As often as not, this would turn into a conversation about how I needed to DO something, because a Fragile Male Ego was HURTING here. HURTING, I tell you.
I would tend to shrug and say something like, “Well you’re smarter than me at Z, and that doesn’t bother me.”
But there is a Fragile Male Ego HURTING here. HURTING, I tell you!
“Why do you care? There will always be someone smarter than you at everything. There will always be someone smarter than me at everything. Why do you even care?”
Emasculation! That’s why!
“Don’t be silly. I met a Nobel Laureate and my ovaries are still in place and my boobs did not fall off.”
It’s different when it’s your girlfriend!
It just is!
“No really, why?”
It just is. You have to DO something about this HURT!
“If you choose to be hurt over freaking out that someone on the planet is smarter at something than you, you’re on your own. I have real things to think about.”
“As often as not, this would turn into a conversation about how I needed to DO something, because a Fragile Male Ego was HURTING here. HURTING, I tell you.”
I’m trying and failing to imagine how that piece of the conversation played out for real. I mean, what did these dudes want you to do? “You’re smarter than me at Z” wasn’t soothing enough?
@cinderkeys Well it would start with them not being able/willing to say what they wanted me to do. I eventually realized they were trying to instantiate a script / social ritual in which the CisMale Indicates That He Suffers Angst. This is supposed to immediately obligate all CisFemales to turn supplicative and soothing and to gently coax out of him, with questions to which he need barely more than grunt in reply, what the matter is and what CisFemale Soothing and Service can be done to soothe the Great Male Angst. Because all CisMale Angst is Profound, PROFOUND Suffering.
I’m not very good at that script. I usually wonder WTF the weird posturing is about.
So some versions of that conversation eventually turned into me saying that if there was angst being suffered and some sort of help wanted from me, Big Boy Words were going to have to be employed to indicate what it all was.
You’re not going to believe where this tended to go. With multiple guys.
After flailing about a bit for something to put into words other than a display of The Panda Is SAD, I Tell You, many of them told me I was beating them up with my giant brain.
I’d heard this before. I’ve heard this all my life. Gifted girls with high-performing Asperger’s get that from the cradle. If anyone has seen Frozen, you’ve seen the story play out — we get told that our mental powers HURT people just by their existence, so we must hide them, don’t let anyone know, don’t have any emotions or the powers might leak out, and so on. The mere existence of the giant brain in a female body constitutes bullying of others — again, we get this from the cradle.
So I’d heard it before. And I would search my recent behavior to see if there was any grounds for the Male Angst having come from me maybe riding verbally roughshod over the poor emasculated one. And I would be unable to come up with anything. So I would ask for examples or ask for what behavior exactly was being asked of me.
I got the exact same answer from multiple guys. I even got handed the same lecture by a group of butthurt male posters on a message board. The only way, they told me, that they would stop accusing me of beating them up with my giant brain, was if I accepted and enacted a complete and extreme double-standard for expressing disagreement. If the Dude expressed disagreement with, “Nah, I don’t think it’s X, I think it’s Y,” then that is right and proper dudely speech. However, if I employ the exact same words and tone in an equivalent situation, that is me beating him up with my giant brain.
True equality, they told me, was to disagree with my brain tied behind my back. So they could get verbally rude and aggressive about disagreeing with me, and that would only be fair because they were up against my monster brain. But I should avoid expressing disagreement at all, or if I did, I should supplicate — start by saying that of course, I’m Sure He Is Right. But it crossed my mind that under certain circumstances, might it possibly, did he think, turn out to be X, not Y? I’d really like to know his thoughts on the matter. But I’m Sure He Is Right And Will Know Best and Nevermind What I Said Because I’m Sure He Is Right And I Am Wrong, The Moon Really Is Made of Green Cheese Because He Has Spoken.
I wish I were kidding.
Of course, they wouldn’t come right out and say they wanted a double-standard — they’d start out by saying I was mean and beating them up with my giant brain. If I asked what would not look mean to them, I’d get their descriptions of these visions of my extreme supplication and bowing before the Almighty CisMale. They’d tell me that this was how civilized *people* should disagree, as though this was something we were both going to do whenever one of us disagreed with the other.
I’d give ’em the old Spock eyebrow but say maybe we could try it.
But then it would promptly transpire that they wouldn’t hold up their end — they’d get verbally aggressive and rude about disagreeing with me on some point of fact where they were clearly wrong. I’d make short work of that. They’d then throw a fit about how I was victimizing them with my giant brain again.
I’d point out that they had not followed their own prescribed script about how civilized people disagree.
And that’s when they’d tell me, No, That Is Different. The CisMale orders, flings his opinions about in lordly fashion. The CisFemale supplicates and self-denigrates. That, they said, is the only way to be Fair. Anything else is Unfair Use of the Giant Brain.
What I eventually learned to do when some guy starts this crap — they don’t do it just in the confines of romantic relationships, by the way — is to say I’m very interested in understanding what he wants, but I don’t follow what he’s getting at, so can he show me by example? When he disagrees with me in the future, can he show me what he thinks the right way to express it is, so I can watch him and see by his example what he thinks works as a proper and civil way to express disagreement?
Because, of course, by asking that, if someone really is trying to solve a difference of manners, this is a way to do it.
But what tends to happen is the CisMale gets really freaking upset and agitated at being asked to show how he wants to be treated by how he treats me. Because that would be Bad and Wrong. Because Giant Brain. And Emasculation. And Hurt, I tell you, HURT. And WRONGNESS.
Yeah, I don’t take those conversations seriously after that point.
@Helen Huntington: Dear god.
I can’t even imagine this mindset. Can’t imagine how entitled they’d have to feel to insist on this behavior from women when the double standard is made clear as day.
@Helen Huntington, your comment is giving me life right now. Such badassery!
Sometimes…Asperger’s really saves your ass.
How girls with Asperger’s are brought up tends to set us up as perfect targets for domestic abusers, because we are brought up from the cradle being told that our feelings are wrong, how we express them is wrong, everything we say is wrong and hurtful and other people know how to read other people’s minds so we should too…
Yeah. That tends not to end well for us.
But sometimes the Aspie brain saves us. The ex did a spectacular acting job portraying how this City X thing was What Was Best For Him, trying to lead me into committing myself to City X, and I just kept cheerfully telling him that if this was what was best for him, he should absolutely do it! And I would wish him well!
From the start he kept trying to lay out leading cues for me to be the Loyally Supportive Minor Character Girlfriend…and I kept completely failing to pick them up, or even recognize them for what they were.
Dude sounds like a Delegator who’s seen too many movies. Like he thought that the way it was supposed to work was that he would declare the grand direction of your lives unilaterally (City X!) and then you would immediately leap into cruise director mode and make it all happen. The next time he would be called upon to do anything would be to walk across the threshold of his new home in City X. And so, when he made that declaration and yet cruise director mode didn’t happen, he didn’t get it. He kept trying to prompt you to get into it, because he’d already done his part! He told you he wanted to move there! Why weren’t you springing into action? So he kept telling you and telling you, like one would repeatedly press the button for an elevator that stubbornly won’t arrive.
Hilarious. And yeah, of course he never did move there, because the system broke down. When he expressed his intention to move, nobody followed up to make the arrangements! What else was he supposed to do?! Up is down, black is white, cats and dogs getting along. Nothing makes sense anymore!
Just chiming in to agree that applying logic instead of picking up social cues is sometimes the best! It would be nice to know when people are hitting on me, but the ability to be miss other types of cues is pretty neat.
Before I started dating I decided that a long-term boyfriend should be an upgrade over or on par with my cat in terms of reciprocity, openness, cleanliness, etc. This turned out to be a surprisingly high bar but one that has served me well.
Please write this as a movie script – I want this movie, not the manic pixie dream girl movie your boyfriend was writing! I want ‘blank look wtf are you shitting on about’ girlfriend movie!
I keep looking at this sentence again and loving it: “I want ‘blank look wtf are you shitting on about’ girlfriend movie!”
I would like to add to the chorus of people asking for this to be a movie. I would love it.
“Well it’s never going to happen if you don’t at least try!” Works just as well, turned back on him and him lining up the money. -Oh, the day I realized that the people trying to derail me were handing me the very argument points I needed to use towards them.
For once, yours was a story I read happily, knowing it ended well!
I actually did do an international move for a partner, and four months before the move was due to happen, we split up. After the mandatory “ARG AVOID AVOID” period we were having a fairly awkward conversation, in which she said that she felt really bad and asked what I was going to next (academic) year, now that we’d split. She was very surprised when I said I was going to stick to the plan, move, and start the undergrad programme I’d signed up for. I did and it was one of the best decisions of my life.
I think the key factor in making it all work out was that I’d made plans which worked *for me*, regardless of my gf. I was in a fairly advantageous position, in that I didn’t want to move in with her (she lived with her parents and brother, and while I liked them, I didn’t want to live with them and hadn’t been invited to do so); and I was financially secure, as I was 18 and starting university with the financial support of my parents. So, it was fairly easy for me to make a plan which I could execute successfully on my own.
I wanted to be as close to her as possible, but there was really nothing for me in her city except her, so I picked another city which was within easy visiting distance and also had a university I liked with a programme I really liked. I wanted to have space for her to stay, but I couldn’t afford anywhere with room for two people, so I got a single-person (single bed) studio that was within my budget and figured we’d work something out, maybe get an airbed.
I made sure the situation would work for me with or without her, and she was kind of almost perturbed that I’d done that, like, making life plans that don’t need to include your partner to be viable, that’s not very romantic/committed! But tbh, much as relying on each other is a big part of long-term relationships, it’s never unreasonable to want to have a whole life on your own or to know that you, on your own, are fine, and then your partner is the cherry on the top. Especially if the communication in the relationship isn’t great or if you’re not feeling terribly secure.
Someone who loves you will fully support you putting yourself first; and if they don’t, then it’s probably even more important to make plans that work without them.
Helen, thank you! I laughed all the way through this.
“When he is ready, on his own, to rent an apartment, furnish it, and welcome you like an adult on account of you would be leaving your own country to go live with him, then consider doing that. “
This is such an important point.
In the Bad Old Days, when men were the only ones who could earn, and a man had to ask permission from a woman’s father before he could officially propose, it was considered important that he prove him self ready to support her. (they threw in, “in the manner to which she is accustomed,” but that was less important than simply being able to, period–no pie-in-the-sky; actual income, buddy, and a more-than-solid level of reliability–because you will be all she has)
There was much to be valued in some of the etiquette and standards of that time–we’ve thrown out some good stuff along with the bad.
Nowadays, since both partners can earn, I think it is absolutely critical that each partner prove they are financially ready and able to support one another.
He’s not. He needs to prove he is before YOU commit.
I call this the Rummikub / ante-up theory. In Rummikub, you can’t enter the game until you’re able to play 30 points all at once. No coming in by dribs and drabs; no building off someone else’s already-played points. You have to put something of strength on the field. Your opponent did–no fair playing off their strengths.
In poker, likewise, you can’t enter the game until you demonstrate that you are risking the same thing as everyone else.
OK, so this is love, but it’s a partnership!! Too many people forget that and focus on love.
So maybe one of you earns more–it’s less about whether you’re earning and paying the same, and more about, “are you committing the same energy?”
If Boyfriend 860 was saving a steady amount of his money–or if it got depleted because of Crisis–he’d be demonstrating the same commitment.
Both these guys need to ante up.
Full disclosure: My husband hasn’t worked outside the home since 2001. He’s done freelance work, but not a lot. And he’s not that energetic about it (one year he earned–no kidding–$1,000). I am the sole breadwinner, for all intents and purposes. It sometimes really bothers me. But he does tackle the food, the kids, etc. Maybe not as much as he should, but he does.
If his friends come over, he does the bulk of the work; we are a team. I am not his mother.
So most of the time, my DH antes up with his energy and time.
“He is not going to have an epiphany and start vacuuming. He might do it once after you tell him you cannot have him as a roommate any longer, but it won’t last.”
Hahahahaaaa, my ex and I had to spend a week cohabiting after I told him I was at the end of my rope. All of a sudden, the dishes he couldn’t bother to clean (in spite of the fact that I was not “allowed” to wash them because I “left crusty bits,” WTF) and the laundry he couldn’t bother to wash (also not a task I was “allowed” to manage because…uh…your guess is as good as mine, actually) got done. But he’d already moved up his flight back to his hometown, so I never did get to put a timer on how long it would be before I’d have to swing by Target to pick up yet another six-pack of undies because the ones I had were squished down at the very bottom of the hamper.
Every time with my ex-wife was like this. There are few things as frustrating as being told that you aren’t allowed to do a chore because you do it ‘wrong’ and them never actually doing it ‘right’ and the drag-down fight that ensued anytime you did it because ‘I was going to do in 5 minutes when my show ended’ (when it had been already sitting undone for three weeks). Whenever I (yet again) had the talk about how now that I was no longer the stay at home parent and was working full time and she was at home that she needed to start doing some of the housework there would be a day (or maaaybe two) where something got done before the usual excuses started piling up again. The ultimatums that ‘things have to change or were done’ (which to my shame and regret I always ended up walking back) were only ever good for changing things short term because she ultimately didn’t care didn’t care enough about me or the kids to make a change or get help.
860: I don’t think your BF is a bad man, but I would not commit myself to anything – let alone moving to another country – for him. You’d be putting yourself in the position of being financially dependent on someone who is not able to care for himself financially.
861: Is that the Imperial March I hear? Yes, it is.
Oh yes indeed!
What about boyfriends who have shades of both of these, but aren’t full-blown into “this is obviously bad” territory? Like, if LW didn’t cook the meals or pay the bills, then is it okay for the boyfriend to not do much cleaning even if he doesn’t really work, and she works 50+ hours? Is it the level of importance that matters? Like, if she was okay with this then it wouldn’t be a big deal? Is not doing housework really *enough* of a deal breaker when a relationship is otherwise decent?
Asking for *cough* a friend.
“Is not doing housework really *enough* of a deal breaker when a relationship is otherwise decent?”
Who’s paying the bills in this HYPOTHETICAL situation in which Party A works 50+ hours and yet is not paying the bills although Party B is not “really” working? Elvis?
If Party B is not contributing to the house financially while Party A works 50+ hours, then Party B can damn well do 100% of the household maintenance chores, including meal shopping and prep, while looking for work. If Party B is on disability then Party B gets some slack, but, all respect to those who cannot do chores/shopping for medical reasons, that is not the question here.
Is not doing housework really *enough* of a deal breaker when a relationship is otherwise decent?
Yes. It’s cute for a couple of months and then… it is not. She may be okay with this but believe me, Marty Farley, it is corrosive and it is a relationship-killer, no matter how “decent” one of the parties thinks it is.
If your *cough* friend wants the relationship to succeed, your *cough* friend will learn how to clean to professional standards (which are, hand to heaven, NOT THAT TOUGH TO MEET), do the laundry without destroying it, shop like a bargain-hunting coupon-clipping demon, and cook good food.
Go read the threads everywhere on emotional labor.
Well, in this admittedly not hypothetical thinly veiled personal situation, Party B would be contributing financially through savings/student loans. So, Party A is working and Party B is not, but Party B is holding up a fair financial split. Just not a household chore split.
Also, admittedly, I’m Party A, and constantly making myself sick over the idea that I expect too much/am lazy myself (like, do I REALLY do my fair share of the cleaning? Maybe I don’t; I’m not sure; maybe I’m secretly really lazy and unfair and lacking self-awareness), or have too high of standards or am a neat freak or care about really un-trivial stuff because he LOVES me and why am I such a b-word to start fights about something as stupid as the dishes and…. yeah.
If he loves you, then why is he ditching chores on you to the point that you’re worrying yourself ragged and calling yourself names?
Agreed completely. I hate housework but I care about my roommate more than I don’t want to clean the bathroom.
Part of doing chores is just being an adult who can take care of their own living space, and part of it is having a basic level of respect for the people who share that space with you.
Probably at least partly because of stupid gender roles that have been drummed into him since day one. Like….my husband clearly loves me a lot and really does not (consciously) think housework is for teh wimminz, but he just…doesn’t do it unless I ask him to do specific tasks. I honestly believe this is because he just hasn’t been socialised to see housework as important, because people have always done it for him and he’s never really had to think about it. I’m someone who finds it really hard to keep stuff tidy but he just doesn’t even notice mess whereas I get stressed out by it.
He used to live in a house share with 4 other people and they pooled money to hire a cleaner. I, on the other hand (a woman), grew up with all sorts of ugly messages about how no man would want a slob and leaving mess was unladylike, while observing that all the cleaning in my home was done by my mother (or delegated by her to the kids).
Let me make myself clear though: this is not and never will be an acceptable reason for a man in a heterosexual partnership to leave all or most of the housework to his partner. Just because he’s never had to think about it before does not absolve him of the responsibility to do so now. My husband is getting better. I hate that I have to do the emotional labour of initiating these discussions with him, but I don’t think it means he doesn’t love me, even if sometimes I get really stressed about it.
@amberxebi, I don’t disagree with you that this can be influenced by gender roles, but that isn’t a reason to keep on ‘not seeing’ tasks and ‘not remembering’ chores once it’s pointed out to him.
Think of the working world – we would never nod understandingly at an employee who constantly refuses to keep up with their workload, or who wanders off to play with their phone while others are working if they said “Well, I wasn’t raised to do [tasks] because my mom always did that for me, so I don’t notice when it needs to be done.” We expect grown adults to be responsible, to learn how to do things, and to find some way to manage reminders and obligations.
And I do think it is possible for someone to love you, and yet still be selfish and firmly wedded to their comfort zone. It is entirely possible for a man to love a woman, yet still value himself and his time more than hers, because of gender roles.
“I don’t disagree with you that this can be influenced by gender roles, but that isn’t a reason to keep on ‘not seeing’ tasks and ‘not remembering’ chores once it’s pointed out to him.”
That’s exactly what I was trying to say with the second part of my comment. Sorry if it wasn’t clear.
I get that, and I know you weren’t making excuses. Just that ‘well he was raised that way/men aren’t taught to…’ is one of those straws we grasp at when trying to square the circle of 1) I love this dude but 2) he doesn’t treat me like an equal.
If you go to a site like salary.com and look at the descriptions for progressively more advanced jobs (“Junior Widget Maker” / “Widget Maker” / “Senior Widget Maker” / “Expert Widget Maker”), you will see a change in the job descriptions from “works under close supervision” to “performs many tasks with minimal supervision” to “independently plans and executes tasks” and so forth.
Housework is a job, and because of socialization etc. etc., it’s common for a twenty-something man and woman, when they start living together, to find that the man, even if he means well, only has skills at the “works under close supervision” level while the woman has been at “independently plans and executes tasks” for so long that she can barely remember being so unskilled, and she doesn’t relish the prospect of being the one to provide that close supervision on top of everything ELSE she has to do.
But just because the man *starts* the relationship at this low level doesn’t make him *incapable* of leveling-up.
In October 2014, my husband quit his job to take a year off. He has been in his profession for 30 years and had been in the same job for 15 and hated it. We had discussed this to death and figured out the money. The deal was that if I was the one going to work every day, he would be the one doing the cleaning and the house maintenance.
And he has done it. There have been some curveballs – shortly after he quit, his drunk father fell on his drunk mother, broke both her knees, and put her in the hospital. She died a few weeks later; then his dad went into the hospital for surgery and died two months after his mom. My husband spent most of his year off dealing with his parents so couldn’t do the housework. However, when he was home, I came home (and still come home) to a clean kitchen, a clean bathroom, a bed that’s been made, laundry that’s been done, grass that has been cut. He agreed to that deal and has stuck to it.
(And I promise you guys – I would be happy to do the housework myself just so I would not have to watch how miserably they treated him.)
(BTW, they made him executor of their will but disinherited him.)
(Don’t have parents like my husband’s parents.)
You split the finances 50/50, you should also split the chores 50/50*. I cannot recommend enough a chore wheel that you’ve created together: agree on what chores need to be done and a schedule where you each do half of them. You could prep for this by spending a week making a list of every single chore you’ve done and how much time it took. You could also ask your partner to do the same and get an idea of how fair the current split really is. I think this also might make it clearer to your partner how unfair this is now.
* unless you have an *explicit* agreement where doing extra chores is compensated with commensurate labor from the other party.
Also note when every explanation, chart, graphic and whatnot you create (on your time) which cleaning should be done and when is never enough for your partner. It’s not that you are incapable of expressing yourself, it’s that they do not want to do the fucking work. If you are micromanaging someone else’s cleaning tasks, YOU are taking on ADDITIONAL work, not them. They know what they are doing and trying to wait you out. People who respect their partner are not trying to wait them out.
Really the answer is “a solution everyone is as happy as possible with”. Even if that means one person gets their happy by leaving.
You split the finances 50/50, you should also split the chores 50/50.
My one exception here would be if one person is a highly paid something-or-rather who gets paid as much for doing 5-10 hours work as their partner on the minimum wage makes working 60. If I were the highly paid one, I’d expect to do more chores as well as paying (at least? idk, depends on partner’s finances) half.
I don’t agree on the 50/50 thing. I think it should be 60/40 and then 40/60/. I also think it’s OK for it to get divided by time available, skills, etc.
My husband, e.g., does 99% of the cooking, 99% of the shopping. That’s not really OK–I’m screwing up. OK, I feed my self sometimes, and I don’t care if he doesn’t cook; I consider it a gift that he does. I’m happy to do it if he asks me. But I generally don’t do it; I just leave it to him. Not really cool.
It’s OK on the weekdays; I don’t get home until 7, and he’s home all day. But weekends, I need to start stepping up so he gets a break.
I do 99.999% of the earning. That doesn’t really absolve me from the need to tidy up, vacuum, clean up my own mess, cook.
Someone once said that “fair” is “both of us have about the same amount of leisure time.” That seems better for me than pegging it to cash earnings.
I just want to jump in and say I had a really good experience a couple of weekends ago making a household chore list with my husband. Together, we listed all the things we do to keep our household running. It was really illuminating! We discovered that my husband actually does more of the household work, but I do way more emotional labor (writing thank you cards, planning kid’s activities, scheduling dr.’s appointments). Writing down all the things we do initiated a great convo about gendered labor and re-distribution of household chores. (This isn’t necessarily relevant to the LW, but I wanted to share a recent success story regarding negotiating household duties.)
Yes, and agree on the frequency and standards required for the jobs before divvying them up.
I’m against the even split. Women usually are paid less, and the items marketed to us are priced up, from shoes to insurance. So in any partnered situation, its more equal to go for a percentage split. Whoever makes more pays that percentage of the bills — same personal outlay on bills and household items for each, by percentages.
The issue is really one of attitude, rather than the specific division of responsibilities, right? LW 461’s boyfriend is basically doing whatever he wants, rather than meeting his fairly basic promise to letter writer. Which is basically a sign of his attitude toward LW and/or his attitude toward actually doing things like a productive adult human. If you’ve had a “Hey, you need to do 50% of the upkeep of our lives, which things do you want to take on” conversation and Party B still doesn’t even try to do their share: that’s the red flag.
It actually doesn’t matter, though, whether your standards are high or whatever. The fact that this situation is making you this miserable, making you doubt yourself, making you expend all this emotional energy to second-guess whether you’re being fair and to try to find a way to blame yourself…it’s so clear that you’re not happy. I can hear in your comment that you’re trying so hard to convince yourself that the problem is with you, because the alternative is confronting the fact that your partner is not being the partner you need him to be and that the situation just is not tenable. You’ve asked for what you need and it’s not on offer. Your needs are reasonable and they’re not being met.
I don’t know where you need to go from there, but simply acknowledging the above is probably a really good starting place. Don’t worry about assigning blame for now, just work on finding a solution that works for everyone. Maybe that means breaking up. Maybe it means not living together anymore. Maybe it means moving out for a while to get some space (if that’s a doable thing), or asking him to do so if it’s your place you’ve been sharing. You know your situation best, and I know you’ll know what needs to happen. Good luck.
Yeah, I was going to say something similar. If it’s a problem for you, it’s a problem. That doesn’t mean one of you is “right” or “wrong.” (Though if you’ve tried to address this with him and gotten the sorts of runaround/throw it back at you stuff the captain highlights and that’s mentioned in the first couple comments, that’s Very Not Good.) It sounds like this is getting to you. You get to make your own choices about the point at which enough is enough, but you’re not a bad person for being bothered by this and saying it freely. You’re not a bad person if you make this clear to him and he feels “pressured.” It is totally reasonable.
I do not work because I’m raising our 2 young children at home full time. When my partner is home, I want both of us to enjoy leisure time. So when partner is working hard at work, I do as much housework as I can so neither of us have to work when he’s home. We’re both working hard for our family. He provides the money, I provide the food, clean towels, tidy home, living children, whatever. We both WORK. We both REST. Now swap the genders and it’s still the same situation. Or take out children. Same.
I care about my rest time. Because I care for my partner, I care for his rest time too, which means me doing the housework so he doesn’t have to do it when he comes home. If your partner is expecting you to work when you get home so that he can have double the rest time, he does not care for you.
“I do not work because I’m raising our 2 young children at home full time.”
Sounds like work to me!
I like your POV, KDawes!
This sort of supports that “we both get the same rest/leisure time” idea. I’m with you! If I were the one on the home front, then I’d want my days to be “work”–so both our evenings could be leisure.
But I still wouldn’t be happy if my husband never emptied the dishwasher on the weekends, or invited his friends over and silently expected me to do all the hosting work (I would want him to assume I’d be a big part of hosting, of course).
This is much less measurable, but I don’t want to feel taken advantage of.
I think that’s what both these letters boil down to.
I think you’re measuring the wrong variable. It’s not, “What money/chore split is acceptable?,” it’s “Am I able to talk to my partner about important everyday things, and when we do have those conversations, do I feel understood and satisfied with the outcome?” The fact that this topic is constantly making you feel sick seems like a bigger problem to me than the details of your/your partner’s incomes/habits.
That’s a great way to put it. My sister just finally left a 10-year bad relationship which was saturated with gaslighting and manipulation. She’s healing now, but still processing, so we talk about it a lot. This is a great, concise way to cut through the details and to the real point, which was that for like, 8 years, he answered any and all of her requests that he help her more at home (she was a textbook example of that “second shift” thing) with absolutely horrible, vicious dismissal. She sent me an email he’d written to her and I counted up the dismissive words he used and sent them to her:
“Out of your mind”
“Get the hell over it”
That, WAY more than the details of what he does/doesn’t do around the house, was the real problem.
Anyway, she’s out now. This is a success story. She’s a rock star.
I’m concerned by the “helping” framework. It’s like referring to fathers “babysitting” for their kids.
If you live somewhere you’re responsible for the upkeep. The people in a household divy up tasks however works best of course (which may be “equal” shares, or may not), but each person does their share. I hear “help” as “only some people’s responsibility”
So glad your sis is out of that, Fishmongers’ Daughters. Ugh.
I wanted to address this line from your first comment:
Is it the level of importance that matters? Like, if she was okay with this then it wouldn’t be a big deal?
It breaks my heart that you would ask this when the stress over his behavior is making you so unhappy. You’re trying to convince yourself it’s your fault, but this isn’t a flaw in you that can be cured by you magically caring less (about something that is important and totally legit to care about!)
In the same vein as “wanting to leave is enough”, caring about something is enough! Even if it were the smallest, pettiest thing, if it’s upsetting you then you’re allowed to be upset by it. Your feelings are valid. Please don’t make yourself smaller to accommodate someone who’s not willing to make an effort for you.
If the financial is half-half, chores should be half-half. If you want you could make a chore list together and agree on how often. Then keep track somehow of who has done what and reevaluate periodically. If he still doesn’t do anything, he can pay for a cleaner or move out.
Erm, student loans need to be repaid. Does Party B expect Party A to do that? What’s the length of time discussed by both parties to allow for debt repayment, understanding the impact the debt will have on vacations, medical emergencies, home-buying, starting a family?
care about really un-trivial stuff because he LOVES me
This sentence would make more sense if you’d written “trivial stuff”, but actually I think your typo/Freudian slip is right. Housework is never trivial stuff. Your partner repeatedly demonstrating that they don’t care whether you are happy in your living environment or whether you spend all your non-paid-work time doing chores is not *trivial*. It’s hugely important.
I don’t think it’s “not doing housework” that is the deal breaker here. It’s that he’s not contributing. You are earning, cooking and cleaning, and he’s…what? Playing video games? This is not a partnership, this is one person acting like a child and expecting the other to take on parental responsibilities.
I find it strange how many people say, “You’re not his mom!” From the age of thirteen onward, if I needed clean clothes, it was on me to do laundry. From fifteen onward, I cooked dinner for the family one night a week. I set the table and washed dishes from childhood. My allowance was contingent on the bathroom being clean and the vacuuming done, and the same was true for my brother. My parents didn’t so much think it was their job to take care of me as to teach me how to take care of myself.
Note that even *that* responsibility is not what a romantic partner signs on for… 😛
whingedrinking- I’m glad that your parents were able to do that. I think that’s the kind of setup my mum wanted. Due to a few factors (my dad barely helping with both the housework and the child rearing, her depression) she never had the energy to make sure we did our fair share around the house, so as kids we grew up barely helping. That changed when I finally realised what was going on. I felt terrible for how lazy I’d been, felt like a terrible kid. I still do, as a grown up. My younger brother, meanwhile, does not show any signs of getting the idea. Is this because girls are socialised to be more empathetic than boys, and that’s how I picked up on what was going on in my house and decided to change myself? Possibly. At any rate, my brother will likely not change. And my mum is very invested with how ‘boys are different from girls!’ so she will never mind. It’s not about looking after himself outside the home. He lives at uni during termtime and he does fine.
I appreciate your comment but I just wish I had grown up like that, it would have saved me much heartrending guilt. 😦
mossyone, I always used to characterise the difference between the amount that I helped and the amount my brothers helped as teenagers as me thinking, “If I don’t do it, Mum will have to” and my brothers thinking, “If I don’t do it, Mum will.”
(I mean, it was *years* after I left home that I realised *quite* how much my mum was doing. But I did start making dinner and tidying up the kitchen when I was thirteen or fourteen!)
I think another problem is LW 861 has no down time.
There was a point when I was working full time and my love wasn’t. He was looking for work (sometimes), and theoretically doing more housework but actually not.
I didn’t mind working full time and doing most of the housework (including cooking and meal prep) because I did get me time and down time.
If I hadn’t? Ooof. I’d have minded a great deal.
Yes. That’s exactly what he’s doing. He plays videogames all day. He’s a collector and on occasion makes money from buying and selling them but I don’t ever see any of it. It goes back into buying more games.
Awww, Hell no! Playing video games you trade and sell to buy more to play is a hobby. You, dear 861, deserve a partner. That is not what you currently have.
I spent six years with someone like this. Opening “our” business I did all the physical labor, painting, having furniture built, getting up on the ladder with the drill, cooking, cleaning, while he watched basketball and chatted on skype. It is such an abusive dynamic. In my case, I needed to receive permission from someone outside to leave because I felt I owed him something. Of course, the imbalanced power dynamic and let’s call it what it is, sexism (among other things) had me brainwashed by that point. Underneath somewhere though, I knew that if I stopped doing what had to be done, that he would not step up. Eventually, a dear friend told me that leaving was utterly justified and I chose to believe them, and everything began to go so much better.
Good luck, 861. You sound like an awesome person.
That sounds so disconnected and unloving on his part.
He will not change, LW #861, because right now you are doing all the work and paying all the bills while he gets to spend all day on his hobby, from which he keeps all of the money. The closest thing he does to ‘work’ is gaslighting you into feeling terrible about being unhappy about this situation.
If he’s making any money off of video games, that is income and it should be used to contribute to the household.
If the only money he’s making is off of video games, that is his career, at least for the moment, and he needs to treat it like a real career and make sure he’s bringing in enough money to support himself and work to improve and to increase his earnings.
If he can’t bring in enough money to support himself, he may not be cut out for professional videogaming as a career and should find a day job until he can, the same way every aspiring writer or artist or musician or actor or poker player or anyone else pursuing success in an extremely competitive, hard-to-break-into, financially volatile industry has to do.
If he doesn’t waaaant to worry about bringing in money via video gaming because that makes it, like, *work*, and he wants it to be *escapism* and not *work* and you’re *ruining* it if you ask how much money he thinks he can bring in with it, then he’s a lazy bum with no sense of responsibility. But I think we knew that already.
There are many ways to show or tell someone you love them.
Living in a household while contributing neither money nor time to the household is a message: “I love myself, not you.”
Harsher: living a parasitic lifestyle is a strong sign of someone without a conscience. What adult in good conscience lets someone else provide for them in every way?
You make a good point. For me, even if I could tolerate going to work and then doing all the housework while my partner did nothing, it would ultimately kill my respect for him.
” What adult in good conscience lets someone else provide for them in every way?”
By this “logic”, every SAH spouse is a “parasite” and “without conscience”. So are elderly people, the disabled, etc. Which is a pretty gross attitude.
Surely and SAH spouse, as well as many disabled and elderly, provides time for the household? The issue was providing neither time nor money.
I think it’s not so much about the specific contributions of money/time/effort each party is putting in as about whether both parties are in good faith doing their best towards having a functioning household they can both be comfortable with and meeting each other’s needs.
My wife and I have both had periods where, due to various disabilities and health issues, we’ve been unable to contribute much to the finances or the chores and the other one has had to carry the greater share. But when she’s the one doing more, I try my best to take on those tasks I can do and to try and give caring and emotional support to ease the stress she’s under; when I’m the one doing more, I always, always know that she would do everything she could do to contribute. It doesn’t really matter whether that’s sweeping the floor or working part-time or just putting energy into caring about the other person’s day.
Of course, not saying that it isn’t hard when one partner has to carry the household’s practical needs for reasons that are no one’s fault – but it’s a totally different thing from when that one partner has to carry those needs because the other partner doesn’t care to. The former is a partnership doing their best with what they’ve got, the latter is parasitical.
What about the ones who are unable? “Time” isn’t something you provide for someone else, or a basic need; it’s a thing that happens regardless of our actions.
@Ms. Pris, I’m a physically-disabled person who has been a spouse — and I agree with Tim on this one.
“Time” is a vague way of putting it, but there are many substitutes — love, attention, affection, support, emotional labor, non-physical chores (for example, even when I wasn’t physically capable of handling many household chores, I made all the time-consuming necessary phone calls, did the bills, booked appointments, kept up with everyone’s prescription refills, managed the social calendar, etc.), and whichever other arrangements make sense to the parties in the relationship.
When a partner is not contributing financially nor contributing their share of effort to maintaining the household, *absent* a disability, they are a parasite.
A disabled partner who does what they can to contribute, involving whatever skillsets and abilities and needs are appropriate, is not a parasite.
If she were okay with this, she wouldn’t be asking. The problem is not the chore assignment, the problem is that one person is deciding not to contribute anything and then blaming that decision on his partner, who (we shouldn’t forget) has been socialised to feel like it’s her duty to take care of men with a smile on her face and no recognition whatsoever for that task.
Yes! Pretty much all the stories I have read on here so far are about exes. Mine is slightly different and involves my oldest brother.
He is 6 years older than me and has lived with my mum for almost all his life. When she became mentally ill, I moved back into her house in order to support her financially because my oldest brother was in and out of work and even when he was working, he never contributed financially to the household bills, but liked to ‘borrow’ money to go to the pub or whatever.
When I moved in, I immediately began kicking his ass, telling him that if he wasn’t going to work then he sure as hell was going to wash the dishes and deal with the laundry. Not all of it, mind, I often did the cooking and my own laundry myself, and mum would do it when she was feeling up to it. He very quickly got a job, but avoided paying his contribution. Every time mum asked for it he’d claim to have spent all his money for that month. He thought that because he was working now (but not paying for anything), he didn’t have to do any chores. We got into a pretty huge argument about it to the point where i pointed out that despite having a job, he still wasn’t contributing and was expecting me to not only work AND pay bills with my earnings, but also expected me to cook the dinner, do the dishes AND do the laundry.
He had the cheek to argue: “It’s all women’s work, anyway.”
I pointed out that according to his misogynistic, ancient, backwards view of the world, HE should be the one paying all the bills but oh look! It’s the womenfolk who are managing the household finances.
I said if he took up the sexist stance of the man of the house and paid ALL the bills himself, then I would concede to do all the “women’s work’. Guess who STILL doesn’t pay for anything and never has?
I don’t live there anymore, i moved out and now it’s another brother’s turn to deal with trying to coerce money out of my oldest brother.
My ex is a very nice and thoughtful person, and he even cooks. I’d always made more than he did, but when he lost his job and couldn’t pay rent for over a year, it started to wear on me. Combine that with not being a very neat person and being super picky about what jobs he’d apply too and I started to resent him. He became this irritation in my life, so I broke up with him and asked him to move out.
We’re still friends and I value our friendship a lot, but we’re not compatible life partners.
Sometimes relationships don’t work out, even when both people are nice. When you start to feel resentful, your relationship is in critical condition. If the both of you aren’t willing to drop everything and fix your relationship then it’s pretty doomed.
“When you start to feel resentful, your relationship is in critical condition.”
Uh-oh. So, um, resentful for like 6 months is…. probably a bad sign then? We are in therapy (have been for about a year), and this issue has only been on the table for about half that time, but I’m constantly wondering if maybe I’m just being idealistic to care so much about the damn dishes, especially when I’m no saint myself, and when none of my friends seem to see it as a critical issue. Doesn’t help that my love language is Acts of Service, and me sitting there *obviously* killing myself over work while there are dirty dishes in the sink and he plays video games makes me feel like… well, maybe I just flat out don’t deserve to be taken care of, and I’m a needy princess for wanting/expecting it.
You’re not a needy princess for wanting the dishes to be clean! Whether this is an issue to your friends or not doesn’t matter. It is important to you, and it’s totally reasonable.
It doesn’t matter if none of your friends think “but he never does the dishes” isn’t a critical issue. It’s a critical issue *for you*. Coming home from your job and seeing the fucking, fucking dishes that have been in the fucking, fucking sink since BREAKFAST while he sits on his ass playing videogames all evening (and possibly all day) is *upsetting to you*. Look what you’re saying in your last sentence – it makes you feel like you don’t deserve to be taken care of. All your partner would have to do to make you not feel like crap is get off his backside and do the dishes and he won’t do it. For six months he’s known how you feel and he won’t do it. It’s bigger than dirty dishes.
Yeah, it’s not just about the dishes–it’s about the fact that he’s VERY WELL AWARE this bugs you, but doesn’t care enough to fix it, despite this going on for six months.
PREACH THIS FROM THE ROOFTOPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Or coming home from a week’s work trip and the dishes irritating you when you left have multiplied, and your partner refuses to cook unless the kitchen is clean (while you were away, they ate emergency meals you stashed in the freezer). NOT THAT I’M STILL ANGRY ABOUT THAT YEARS AFTER DUMPING THEM OR ANYTHING… 😛
Also, your friends might be going nbd because otherwise they would have to look at what’s going wrong in their relationships. Just saying.
Funny you mention video games. A fair number of them involve spending many hours completing dangerous tasks to rescue a princess. Yet in real life, he won’t take half an hour to do a non-dangerous chore that would make you happy.
LOL yes! But seriously, after reflection, I think there is something bigger about toxic gender identity to unearth here.
So I had this situation, so similar to everyone here — I was was going to law school full time with two part-time jobs. Boyfriend was at home doing nothing. Nothing! Well, okay, he was romancing his PS2 (yup, that long ago) for 18 hours a day. He hadn’t graduated college yet, and so told himself (and me) he was ineligible for a “good” job. He also insisted to himself (and me) that it was beyond him and his pride (he was accepted into an Ivy League, see) to take a position at, say, Kinkos. (Of course, it was just fine for *me* to wait tables at 6am for the business-buffet at the local Chain Commuter Hotel on weekends).
I think this killed, annihilated his sense of masculine self-worth. I think he compared his Man-Penis to my Lady-Balls and felt small. And so getting “nagged at” to engage in even more Penis-Destroying-Activities like Sweeping and Getting the Groceries would have been too much for him. And so refused. And refused to even acknowledge that such things were sort of necessary life requirements.
Ha! Yes. I have a running joke with my friends about how much popular culture romanticizes huge, extravagant, unlikely acts of heroism from dudes. It’s funniest in song – I first noticed it with Bon Jovi’s “Die For You.” But my favorite example is Bruno Mars, Grenade:
What you don’t understand is
I’d catch a grenade for ya
Throw my hand on a blade for ya
I’d jump in front of a train for ya
You know I’d do anything for ya
I would go through all this pain
Take a bullet straight right through my brain
Yes, I would die for you, baby
But you won’t do the same
Like, OK BUT WILL YOU PLEASE JUST TAKE OUT THE DAMN TRASH. Because seriously, a situation cropping up which would require you to throw your hand on a blade for me is STATISTICALLY UNLIKELY. Also, you seem to have some very specific fantasies about putting yourself in pain for my sake, maybe talk to someone about that.
But seriously, there’s so much more romance and drama in all the ways men are shown proving their devotion to women. It’s like a shortcut – after he saves that princess, he’s won himself a grateful little Cinderella to clean up under his ass for eternity. Real life is lots less dramatic, and more menial. As a culture, we could do better at teaching men to find the romance in the quotidian.
Funny enough, apps like Habit RPG try to be chore-based games. Because people have an urge to play, that makes sense. But somehow, a lot of guys don’t really realize that women are the same and just grit their teeth and do it anyway. Theirs is the playtime. Women don’t need that.
Honestly, from what I’ve heard from Chore Vaders I gather women seem to have invented household chores solely to harass poor men with asking them to do them. As if their perceptive of reality was like ’50s advert is the norm but turned misandric dystopy’.
Ah yes, I recall a guy I dated for a few months whose entire friends-group was trained to knuckle under and not complain about any of his behavior whenever he would drag out the, “I love my friends enough that I would die for any one of them!”
It was a real bombshell for all of them when I started with responding with, “But not enough to be honest with them.”
Ran out of nesting, but I feel you, LetterWriter.
My ex-husband got a PS2 for Christmas one year, then fell madly in love with Final Fantasy X. I was working and going to school; he had quit both his job and school. It got to where my first chore after getting home was cleaning up where the dog had peed on the carpet… because he would not get up off his ass for long enough to walk her. To him, there was no problem! All he had to do was wait for me to get home to clean the mess! He made dinner sometimes, though, so it was totally even.
…note, ex-husband. =P
@fishmongers’ daughters: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I had a fight with an ex who was pulling this kind of drama, and was all “I WOULD DIE FOR YOU I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!” and my response was “love me less and treat me better.”
Yeah, we broke up. It was pretty funny, even at the time, that he didn’t understand that all of his devotion made up for a complete lack of respect.
HOLY SHIT miss_chevious…”Love” me less and treat me better is a goddamn life changing sentence, forever thanks!
It’s not just the dirty dishes. It’s everything that comes along with it. It’s taking you for granted, it’s you constantly having to clean up other people’s messes, it’s disrespect. He’s showing that he cares more about his entertainment than about your living conditions, and he’s also showing that he cares more about his entertainment than about YOUR TIME and your efforts. Think about what it means when you come home and there ISN’T extra work that he created for you to do… versus when you come home, there are dishes everywhere, everything’s a mess, and he’s sitting there playing games like a toddler instead of cleaning up his own shit. And even toddlers get taught how to put away their toys.
It’s really never about the dishes. It’s about discourtesy. It’s about disrespect. It’s about him treating you like you aren’t equals in this relationship. I’m not a huge fan of “you’re not his mother” because it can imply that it is a mother’s job to do that sort of thing. I tend to phrase it as, “you’re not his servant”. You aren’t a needy princess for wanting not to be treated like your boyfriend’s servant. And if you are his servant… well, that’s an actual job and should come with a salary and days off.
I agree, I hate that phrase. It’s not your mother’s job to walk around cleaning up after you.
It makes it sound like this situation would be OK if he was sharing housing with his actual mother!
It’s more like, ‘is he five years old?’ or ‘are you being paid to clean up after this presumably grown man?’
There are circumstances where unequal splits of money/work/chores in a relationship work. I know excellent relationships where the ‘job’ of one partner is “Get Better.” Housework chores are things like “Do yoga for 10 minutes” and “Take medication” and the dishes get done by the spouse working full time. However, they knew this going into the relationship. They talked about it. They discuss (and fix) problems within their relationship because it was founded openly and honestly.
In 860 and 861, I don’t sense that they’re starting off the relationship on an open and honest footing. They should call everything to a halt until such time as it gets there. The same goes for you. Sometimes the balance of “Chores to Video Games” slips in my partnership. And then the person who feels overloaded calls a discussion (or sometimes melts down if we’re all having bad brain-weather weeks) and lays out their point. We talk about it, decide if or how we need to re-balance things, and then we WORK AT RE-BALANCING IT. This includes checking in a week or so after the discussion to make sure that we’re following through. We also let things go. I leave trash scattered everywhere. Not big trash, but I have a bad habit of shredding paper, and my spouse spends a lot of time either picking up bits of paper to throw away, or reminding me to throw away my trash. I try to take steps to improve this habit; he accepts it as part of the price of admission for all of my other awesome qualities. He can not turn off a light fixture to save his life. I sigh, turn them off behind him, but accept it because he is otherwise amazing.
You have every right to care about the damned dishes. Only you can decide if the benefits of your partner outweigh pots and pans in your sink. In this case, I don’t think you think he does.
and sometimes relationships change, and become unequal in terms of money/work/chores. and that’s OK, as long as the people involved can talk about it. (In our case, I developed an autoimmune disease over a decade into our marriage.) one solution has been that we hired someone to help keep the house from devolving into complete chaos (it’s still pretty chaotic), and I do what I can, as often as I can, even when I would really rather not — because realistically, Mr Hypotenuse has to do a lot more of the work to keep things running these days.
That is a very bad sign. I’m so sorry.
Your partner might be wonderful, but they are not taking your feelings seriously, and that is terminal.
Here’s an example of what it looks like when you express your concerns to a partner who takes your feelings seriously.
1. They turn off their game or whatever and give you 100% of their attention.
2. They listen without arguing. They might ask clarifying questions, but only to better understand.
3. They apologize for neglecting your needs.
4. They offer a detailed plan on how to address your concern that involves them doing at least half the work.
5. Later, they check in with you to see if it’s still a concern, and if they need to do anything else to help.
This sounds like a lot, but it’s necessarily when one partner starts to feel neglected. Your relationship is on fire, and you need more than a glass of care and compassion to put that fire out.
Whoa there. You are not a needy princess. You’re someone who needs certain things from a live-in partner, and this person is not providing them and will not change. Your needs are totally reasonable.
I think how he’s behaved has been callous and gross. His desire to live like a slob is totally reasonable, but it means that he needs to not live with you. I’m side-eyeing him pretty hard for not changing his behavior when he’s been well aware for a while now that it’s making you miserable.
“His desire to live like a slob is totally reasonable, but it means that he needs to not live with you.”
DING DING DING DING, WE HAVE A WINNER.
I can’t even keep track of how many guys have tried to convince me they’d be a good matrimonial prospect when they don’t keep house to a level I find comfortable — every single one of them has tried to whine about how relationships mean compromise, meaning the woman compromises so that the man is comfortable.
The baseline is that my home is comfortable for me. Nobody gets to live with me who messes with that or who even wants to mess with that. If my idea of comfort isn’t someone else’s, they are perfectly welcome to have their comfort somewhere else and not interfere with mine.
“every single one has tried to whine about how relationships involve compromise, so the woman has to compromise so that the man is comfortable.”
where’s the darn like button
YES this compromise point is excellent – major point of issue in my relationship is that my complaints about dishes and cleaning and BASIC HYGIENE are met with ‘well you should just stop being upset because you’re making the house tense’ as opposed to actual action – the consequence for not doing the basic cleaning things is Annoyed Girlfriend and Tense House! to fix those, CLEAN STUFF!
If there are dishes in the sink and he’s playing video games while you work, he’s being a selfish little shit. The problem here isn’t you.
You need to recalibrate your feelings, and if therapy isn’t helping you with this, you need to break up with at least your therapist, if not both. You totally deserve to be supported, especially if what you’re asking for is no big deal. (Unless your partner has a physical disability, all you’re asking for is trivial amounts of time and effort. I say this as someone who used to be bad doing dishes for myself.)
The dishes are a big deal *to you*, and as Alex said, this is a reasonable (and widely-shared) demand. But if you’ve brought it up repeatedly, and your partner’s response isn’t ‘I can’t see what the big deal is, but if it makes you happy, I will do the dishes’ you may be dealing with someone who *doesn’t* ask themselves, ever, ‘how can I make my partner happy’. And that sounds very much like a critical relationship issue.
Also, ‘obviously killing yourself over work’ is a situation where any decent person would try to step up and make sure that you get some more me-time and pampering; it’s not always easy or possible to find a job to enable the other partner to change jobs/work less, but that doesn’t mean not trying is an option that bides well for a long-term partnership. He’s getting twice the time off and you’re getting twice the work. Or rather, three times the work: you work, you do the housework, *and* you have to try and manage your relationship and find compromises and find the magic words that will make him, finally, act like an adult and do the bloody dishes.
I admit, I do feel quite a lot of resentment around the “work” thing. I have had a giant, soul-sucking project for at least two months now where I’m working most evenings and weekends (and no overpay; hurrah salary-based…) My partner is very, very good at comforting *words*, like constantly saying he’s sorry to see me so stressed, and do I want to talk about it, and words words words I’m so sick of words. His love language is VERY much verbal, and I…. can take or leave verbal. I’ve expressed multiple times that it’d be a HUGE load off my stress if the house was consistently clean (daily chores are: no dishes in sink or on the counter, counter cleared of food/garbage; weekend chores are me vacuuming and him cleaning the bathrooms; we do our own laundry) but it very rarely happens.
But I also wonder if maybe I’m being selfish/needy, because we got a puppy about 5 months ago, and he’s with her all day at home taking her out and watching her, so that I don’t have to crate her or put her in doggy daycare. When I’m home in the evenings, he’s usually the one taking her out and feeding her so I can work. Complaining about the dishes, when he is doing more work for the dog, makes me feel super ungrateful and selfish and awful.
I think part of the struggle for me is figuring out what IS reasonable. When we first started dating (8 years ago), my partner would sometimes say I’ve been warped by Cosmo and romance novels and hold my partner up to unrealistic romantic demands. My friends also seem to think that I’m probably being unreasonable because, well, I’m not much of a catch/saint, so I’m asking for more than I might deserve (sorta kinda similar to the overweight homebody who demands he will only be satisfied with a gorgeous MPDG, except my standards are around romantic acts and not looks.) I’ve started to wonder if maybe I AM just too warped to be in any kind of romantic relationship. Maybe if I was kinder or hotter or better than it’d be easier to make me happy. Maybe I’m a sourpuss who is never happy.
Ugh but how the heck do you figure these things OUT?!
Honey, no. No, really no. Just because a lot of people (therapist, boyfriend, friends) are telling you a lot of stuff that ain’t true doesn’t make it true. I’m sorry that you have so many unsupportive people in your life. You deserve happy and listened to in a relationship. Every person deserves that and it’s heinous if people want to deny you that based on looks or whatever faults they find.
Also you are telling us your boyfriend taking care of the dog is somehow in any way shape or form equivalent to you taking care of everything else. It’s not by far. And I sure this is due to the messages you are getting in this relationship and I’m sorry these people are not taking better care of you.
If you feel like it, I’d encourage you to take this to the forums because I’m sure there are a lot of people who’d like to help you figure out what reasonable means to you.
@thwartedneedle: words in general mean very little when someone does nothing to back up what they’re saying. Your partner can apologize until the cows come home, but that’s not going to clean the dishes. Especially when you’ve explicitly told him what he can do to make things easier for you. He’s basically saying: “I’m sorry you’re stressed, but not sorry enough to help.”
And plenty of people manage to have pets (or children) and still get housework done when they’re home all day. How much time does it actually take to feed and take out the dog? As much time as a full time job? Probably not.
Lastly, please be kinder to yourself. You deserve someone who will love you and be your equal partner in life. It’s not ridiculous to want a partner with a romantic streak if that’s what you’ve always dreamed of. They exist! Your partner will never be that person if it’s been 8 years and he hasn’t changed. You deserve to find a partner who will speak your love language even if it’s not theirs. You’re allowed to want a partner who cleans up after themselves (really that should be a bare minimum thing once you’re an adult, and yet…). You’re also allowed to say to a partner that small gestures mean something to you. You deserve someone who remembers your favorite take-out places and picks up dinner for you when you’re too busy. Or someone who, I don’t know, grabs one of those $5 bouquets in the grocery store, because they were thinking of you. I hope you find that person.
Can I just ring the buzzer on we got a puppy about 5 months ago, and he’s with her all day at home taking her out and watching her, so that I don’t have to
You both got a puppy. Just as fathers aren’t babysitting their kids (it’s called parenting) he’s not looking after the puppy FOR YOU; he’s looking after HIS dog. And if he’s home than he’d better look after the dog instead of shutting her away so he won’t be disturbed. He’s getting to spend time with the puppy, while you have to work (both in the house and out of it). Sounds to me as if he’s getting the better part of that deal, too.
I’m not much of a catch/saint, so I’m asking for more than I might deserve
You’re not much of a catch because you’re not a fish, but a human being looking for a partnership. And from what you write, it sounds as if you’re working plenty hard to do your bit in creating a good home for you and your partner.
You deserve respect. And you deserve a partner who acts like a partner. Those are not unreasonable demands. (Asking for grand romantic gestures – especially expensive ones; demanding that your partner reads your mind however many times you change it; spending all your time how you want it and ignoring your partner when they ask whether you can do your half of household chores, *those* are unreasonable things. You’re not doing any of them.
My partner and I have found a chore balance that works for us (we cook and do dishes together; I mostly do other things; but I refuse to be the ‘person who does all the chores all of the time’; I usually do them because I’m working less (and have no commute) than he does; but when I’m in a crunch he volunteers). That, admittedly, took two adults willing to work this out (I’m not sure how good I would have been at this in my twenties), but we both feel that we’re doing these things _to help make our lives better_. And thus, doing the dishes or taking out the rubbish becomes something that we do voluntarily.
I, too, come with a whole lot of baggage (who here on CA does not?) so I can relate – but ‘I don’t deserve a caring partner’ is brainweasels talking. If your friends are saying them, they’re not acting like friends towards you.
@thwartedneedle, out of nesting.
You are not overly needy/damaged/’too warped” to be in a romantic relationship. You have perfectly reasonable needs which you have communicated; your partner is not meeting them despite having time to play video games. If Partner has some disabling condition, you haven’t mentioned it, so I’m going to assume he’s abled.
As others have pointed out, when adults (and even older kids) live in a residence, they have a responsibility towards maintenance of the residence. The exact division of the tasks of residence maintenance depend on the people involved, and the One True Solution is what works at least reasonably well for all residents of the home.
News flash: Nobody is perfect. None of us are some Magnificent Catch. No one’s a saint. Everyone has flaws. In the best relationships of choice (by which I mean romantic relationships and friendships), you find someone (or several someones) whose good qualities and bad qualities complement yours, and while relationships involve some emotional maintenance work, it shouldn’t be this kind of tie-yourself-in-knots to try to invalidate your need NOT to come home to a sink full of dirty dishes while Partner has been screwing around playing video games and occasionally taking the puppy outside to pee and poop. Romantic relationships and friendships should have a net result of “I enjoy being around this person,” and that doesn’t sound like what you’re getting here.
This guy sounds at best like Ill-Fitting Pants for you. You deserve to be with someone who will complement your qualities and fucking well listen when you talk and respect you. Someone like that is out there. Best wishes!
@thwartedneedle Take it from a dog owner – he can find time in his day between walking the puppy (which I sincerely hope he’s doing) to do a load of dishes. Dogs do take work but not that much work. It’s fantastic that he’s home with her and giving her attention (again, I hope) but he could confine her to a room/a crate/a fenced yard for a couple of hours to wipe down counters and push a vacuum around.
@thwartedneedle: you have a lot of people in your life gaslighting you. Here is what is normal, regardless of how “hot” or “needy” or “demanding” you are:
– Your partner treats you with respect.
– Your partner makes sure that, overall, you both have an equal amount of responsibility and downtime.
– If you are upset with how household chores/emotional labor are split up, your partner is willing to discuss that with you fairly, without whining about how mean you are for even asking.
– You can have discussions about things that bother you without ever coming out of them thinking ‘he turned that all around on me’ or ‘he twisted that all around’.
– He does not say or even imply that your having feelings and wants is unreasonable, demanding or needy.
– If something is important to you, he treats that is important, rather than ranking it on some Objective Importance Scale.
One simple test: if he were to read your comments here, would he be horrified that you are tearing yourself up? Immediately rushing to reassure you that he loves you and had no idea that the chores were stressing you out so much? Or would he roll his eyes and make comments about you being needy? Because if it’s that last one, he’s not a good dude.
Oh god, your story breaks my heart. All the other commenters here have given you great advice, so I won’t repeat it, but I do want to address the puppy thing.
I have raised two dogs from 8 weeks old to the end of both their lives, they both lived to be 12, the older one died in 2008 and the younger one in 2012. The “but he takes care of the dog” excuse is crap. I managed to take care of BOTH my dogs, work, study, *and* do the damn dishes (and other housecleaning) all by myself. The dog chores are not so overwhelming that their necessity precludes the ability to do the dishes–this is true even for dogs that require more work (by their middle age, both my dogs had medical problems that required extra from me. Still not too much to clean the fucking dishes!). Please please please don’t let that fly. Your resentment sounds 100% justified. I think you are incredibly capable of finding a much, much better partner for yourself.
@thwartedneedle: I have a high-maintenance toddler, and I have to do most of my household chores while literally balancing all 11kg of said toddler on my hip. I also work 4 days a week in an office an hour and a half away.
I still somehow manage to do the damn dishes (mine AND the toddler’s! and you know how much mess a toddler can make!) on the days when I’m at home with him.
@thwartedneedle, I know this isn’t much in the way of practical advice, but I wish you had a better Team You. Your boyfriend sucks, for reasons you have articulated very well, and your friends suck for implying that you’re being unreasonable because you’re “not much of a catch/saint.” NOBODY is a saint, and EVERYBODY deserves to have mutually respectful relationships with people who care about them. If your friends are actually telling you that you don’t deserve any better than your sucky boyfriend, then they’re really no better than he is.
As for you being needy, well, guess what. You need things! So does everybody else! You need things like love and respect and emotional support, and for your boyfriend to do the fucking dishes once in a while. That doesn’t make you needy, it makes you human. You are allowed to need things, and you are allowed to ask for things, and you are allowed to get mad when you don’t get them.
Oh, no, no, no. If your love languages are incompatible, you work to bridge the gap. If he knows that coming home to a filthy house makes you stressed and miserable, he has the time and ability to make the house not-filthy, and he’s sitting on his ass playing videogames instead, he’s a selfish asshole no matter how many times he says he’s sorry things are tough for you and offers to talk. Talk is cheap–and I say this as someone who is verbal, who does express affection verbally. My husband speaks love with acts of service–getting me things I like, doing chores I dislike–and it’s not natural to me, it doesn’t occur to me without thought, but the thing is, that is a completely different thing. Speaking love through acts of service involves going above and beyond for you, going out of his way to get you treats you wouldn’t expect. It is not performing the basic responsibilities of a halfway decent roommate.
tl;dr, he’s not failing to do the dishes because his ‘love language’ is verbal. He’s failing to do the dishes because he can’t be bothered to put a minimum amount of effort into the relationship. Take it from someone whose love language is verbal: we’re perfectly fucking capable of washing dishes.
I’ve linked an article as my ‘website’ that is really relevant here. It’s not just dishes. It’s that he’s completely disrespecting and disregarding your comfort.
This perfectly reasonable thing matters to you; therefore, it should matter to your partner.
My sweetheart works out of the office for as much time as I do, and is as tired as I am at the end of the day. He doesn’t care about the dishes in the sink in the least. However. Because it bothers me, when I do not have time to do the dishes before bed, he makes a point of doing the dishes so that I come home to a clean sink. He doesn’t care about the dishes – but he cares about me, and so treats my concerns and wishes as important and valid.
It doesn’t matter what your friends think about dish washing in general, and it doesn’t matter that you aren’t a saint (really, other than the list of canonized people, all of whom are dead and so wash no dishes at all, who is?). The dishes matter to you, and you should matter to your partner.
It’s never about the dishes. It’s about the disrespect, inconsideration, and selfishness that constant unwashed dishes represent.
My algorithm for this is “express my feelings every time bothers me.” If that ends up not being often, it’s fine. If I feel like all we ever do is argue about that thing, then apparently it is that important to me.
THAT is up to you. Seriously. Himself is currently not working. He decided to take over household procurement and inventory (aka, grocery and other shopping) as well as cooking and lots of errand-running. We’re good with that.
I think the biggest problems with the LW situations is that the partners are *turning it into what’s wrong with the LW* when called out on failing to abide by agreements.
Not doing the housework is a symptom. The disease is, as Tim very wisely said downthread, selfishness and treating your partner as an accessory. It is, literally, stealing their free time and hours of their life to feed your own.
The key point in both these cases is not some set level of housework, but that the LWs have communicated unhappiness with the way things are and the BFs have failed to take the unhappiness seriously, or have sort of pretended to care at little but not actually changed any behavior. If your *cough* friend’s partner/roommate is totally fine with the way chores and money earning are allocated in their relationship, then yeah, no big deal. However, since your friend wanted you to ask, I imagine that friend has reason to believe that his partner is not 100% OK with the current allocation, or feels himself that he isn’t being entirely fair to partner. I’d tell your friend that if he’s worried that he’s not pulling his own weight, he’s probably not. Doing things that need to be done without waiting to be asked, bringing up stuff up to be discussed and re-evaluted before the partner gets full-on fed-up, that’s the way to go in a relationship you care about with a person you love and respect.
Have you read #813: Labor & Leisure? There is some stuff in there that definitely applies to your *cough*friend’s*cough* situation.
The super short summary of that letter is that money isn’t the only way to contribute to the household and both partners should feel valued, not taken advantage of, and that you should both get roughly equal amounts of leisure time.
Or to answer your question directly, YES IT’S A DEALBREAKER. You count, your needs count, your wants count, your happiness counts and you deserve better than wondering if you’re allowed to be unhappy about stuff that’s making you unhappy.
Cooking for you is nice and all, but there’s no way that takes up 50 hours a week, which really makes it sound like the two of you are not putting equal amounts of effort in.
Is that the post with the robust comment thread on housework? I was going to go looking for that because it helped me make some big leaps in understanding my frustrations, what I was willing to do about them, etc. I won’t say everything is resolved, but clarity is no small thing.
There is an older one that’s even longer that was titled something like “It’s twofuckingthousandfucking….”
You say the relationship is “otherwise decent.” Are you sure?
The thing is, it’s not about the cleaning, it’s about respect. Respecting your time, respecting your cleanliness standards, and respecting YOU. Knowing your partner is working 50+ work weeks and then still making them put hours into cleaning simply because you do not want to is not respectful. And it’s not kind.
LW #860: You know this dude’s bad with money. Do not join your finances and make him bad with YOUR money. Best of luck.
Also–“decent”? That’s kind of tepid.
If it’s ONLY “otherwise decent,” and there’s also frustration over the division of labor or bills, why be in the relationship?
I’d rather be alone. It’s half the dishes.
Marty Farley, it’s not about the housecleaning to me, it’s about the importance of the matter to her. If the housework wasn’t important to her, it wouldn’t even be an issue–he wouldn’t clean and she wouldn’t feel bad about it.
The problem, to me, is the pattern of his having made an agreement, being in default and then finding ways to attack her when she tries to address his default. Since this is working so well for him (I mean that seriously), it will grow into other areas if it hasn’t already.
This is true: “it’s about the importance of the matter to her. If the housework wasn’t important to her, it wouldn’t even be an issue–he wouldn’t clean and she wouldn’t feel bad about it.”
I mentioned above that my DH does almost all of the cooking. He hasn’t said anything about it bothering him. I don’t get testy remarks. It’s probably not a problem for him. And I feel a LITTLE bad about it, but not horribly bad about it.
So yes, an apparent imbalance might be an acceptable imbalance. But “otherwise decent” is kinda lame.
If it bothers you, and you’ve discussed it, and nothing has come of it? If promises have been made and then ignored or broken? Yes, of course.
But as the good Captain says, wanting to leave is reason enough to leave. I think it’s nice to give the partner a chance (see above: the discussions and solution finding) but wanting to leave is enough.
If you have to ask the internet for permission to leave, you should probably leave.
I am/was in this dynamic! And I was the one not working (severe depressive episode), and my SO was the one who was working full time. Damned straight I did every bit of housework and chores I could muster, despite being so ill it took me hours to drag myself out of bed in the morning. If I can contribute when I was that messed up (and, mind you, had a legitimate excuse NOT to do chores) then anyone who’s simply unemployed AND not contributing is a categorical loafing, mooching asshole.
“Otherwise decent” is not really a high standard, though. That is the real problem.
Because this person is not contributing much of anything, from the sound of it. And this has a corrosive effect on someone who is the one building the life and the other one sort of hanging around it.
Ask *that friend* if this will be enough for how many years? Which is a wise saying of the site.
I say that’s a personal call. CA has even shared times when live-in situations were made tenable for hiring a cleaning person because they had mix-matched cleanliness standards. But if it IS that important to one party and the other party argues back and gets mean about it when questioned, there is cause for concern.
But this means that the matter has be discussed and a workable solution resolved. It is the acknowledge problem/find solution/try solution.problem solved part of what you describe that is not happening for LW
“Is not doing housework really *enough* of a deal breaker when a relationship is otherwise decent?”
I think it should be, and here is why: because this is already “obviously bad”, and because it tells you that you live with a slob, and also, because it’s probably going to get worse. When someone never cleans their space, that should be a warning sign. He does not want an equal, supportive partnership with you.
When my ex first moved in with me, we were both paying bills equally, but at the time he worked and I did not (because I was too sick.) I was glad to do most of the housework because he was working and I was not, but I did expect him to *clean up after himself*. He would not do that. It led to many arguments.
10 years later things were not better, they were worse. He ended up refusing to ever clean anything, including up after himself. He turned out to be a trash hoarder who is ok living in filth.
I think it’s only a deal breaker if it’s an important thing *for you*. If *you* are a person who needs a clean, tidy house to be happy then you get to say that this is important to you and if he doesn’t clean then it’s a deal breaker.
If you are both slobs and like being slobs then it might be not at all important, and nothing like a deal breaker.
I think an easy way to think about this is to relate it to sex. For some couples having sex once a week, once a month, a few times a year – for some couples those are acceptable arrangements. If two partners are largely satisfied and happy with the frequency of sex, then there’s not some external arbiter standing over the situation saying “booo – end the relationship because your sex is not appropriate!”
What I think makes both of these letters particularly problematic is that the situations are clearly bothering the letter writers and their words and feelings in the situation are not being heard. In a cohabitation situation where a relationship overall makes partners happy, but neither one is terribly invested in cleaning and it serves as a lingering “we’re adults who should have a cleaner place to live” echo – then there is another option. Look into cleaning services – particularly ones where you can arrange for them to only come once a week (or every two or three weeks). Particularly if one partner isn’t working, what you’re asking for is just for that partner to arrange their schedule to be home at X time for the cleaning.
What’s very different in the following letters is that whether it’s household maintenance or money – that mutual conversations and plans aren’t happening. Being bad with money, being an ambivalent cleaner – none of these are deal breakers on their own. But how a couple comes to terms with that is where I think a lot of issues come to play.
Everyone gets to decide for themselves what are deal-breakers and what are not. If your question was “CAN doing housework really be enough of a deal breaker?” my answer would be yes, it very much can. But is it? Really, only “friend” can answer that.
(I also wasn’t clear on what you meant by “pay the bills.” Husband and I both work, so in that sense, we both “pay the bills.” But as far as actually getting the money into the hands of the people to whom it is owed…that’s all me. Anyway, the actual paying of rent/electric/water/Internet/etc is its own chore, is what I am trying to say.)
“Like, if LW didn’t cook the meals or pay the bills, then is it okay for the boyfriend to not do much cleaning even if he doesn’t really work, and she works 50+ hours?”
1) If Boyfriend “doesn’t really work” and other partner isn’t paying the bills, who is paying the bills? If Boyfriend inherited millions of dollars, then it fine if he doesn’t clean, provided he’s also paying for a maid service out of those millions.
2) No, it’s not okay. It’s categorically unreasonable for the person with more professional demands to also have more domestic demands. Dissimilar division of labor is fine as long as it’s equitable, which the situation you describe is not.
If neither primary party is paying any of the bills because, say, a parent is, that raises a distinct-but-related set of issues. If it’s your – excuse me, your friend’s – parents who are paying, dump the leech and move on: he is literally contributing nothing material, and that’s unlikely to get better (it’s likely to get worse, with even any immaterial contributions slowly evaporating). Unless he’s basically a trophy boyfriend and having that is worth the cost. If it’s his parents paying, that raises other concerns, mainly that your and your boyfriend’s – excuse me, your friend’s and zir boyfriend’s – shared household is not shared with the boyfriend so much as with his parents. He could make it his household, too, by contributing something. Unless one has a very large dwelling, needy dependents, or excessively exacting standards (fully cleaning all surfaces daily, or more?) domestic labor should constitute a part-time job, which would allow for part-time work or job searching.
Hiring sex workers is cheaper than supporting someone completely, as is hooking up with strangers, or even friends, for people who can make that work. Emotional support can be provided by friends, family, or therapists. A household with other people can be provided by (rent-paying) flatmates. I think it’s time for an analysis of what, exactly, you are – excuse me, your friend is – getting out of the relationship, and whether it’s worth the cost.
#860 The two of you have such wildly different ideas about money that you should not try to live together. Given the time invested, you should by now have reached agreements about money. Money trouble destroys a lot of marriages. I predict it will destroy yours based on what you have told the Captain.
He didn’t use the money he had to provide for a future for the two of you.
Now the future is here, and the provision is not.
“He says he’ll save enough in the next 2 months and it’s all going to be okay.”
Is he still living at home with his parents *and* not paying rent *and* earning a really high salary? Because that’s the only way I can see him having first month’s rent + damage deposit. He sounds like a last minute scrambler kind of guy. The inherited money started a pattern of spending without budgeting, so he doesn’t know how to do that.
Are you going to be working when you live there? If not, you’re completely dependent on him. Completely. Think about it.
“In the past 8 years I’ve never seen him not commit to things he wanted to do.”
Key words being “things HE wanted to do”.
As for the second LW, the answer is simple. He’s shown you what he is. Believe him. You say you want to make him “understand”. Well, he understands just fine. He understands that all he has to do is passively dig his heels in and you’ll do everything. Just toss this loser out. He won’t change. Surely there are better men than him out there somewhere. You say you “love him dearly”, but I’m at a loss to understand why.
Oh LW 860, that makes me so worried for you. If he reliably commits to things he sincerely wants to do, that really makes me wonder how much he actually wants to be with you. I’m suspicious this relationship suddenly got too real for him and he’s now dragging his feet in hopes the problem will just go away on its own.
Even if I ignored all the other terrible red flags in your letter, LW 861, that one alone is enough to tell me your relationship is dead but nobody wants to admit it. I don’t believe there’s any coming back from having contempt for your partner, and feeling like you’re his babysitter is definitely (well earned, to be clear) contempt. Even if dude started acting like a grownup, that wouldn’t erase the memory of him having treated you like an unpaid babysitter.
LW 861, the time you spend writing down what this guy should do is also work. Take that into account for how much work (emotional and otherwise) you’re doing, and I think you’ll see a very skewed scale.
Someone in one of the threads linked above called it “being the field marshal of the household.” Even when you aren’t physically doing the dishes, you’re the one reminding him to do the dishes and making sure it happens.
It’s so tough to love someone who doesn’t have a real sense of responsibility. But they can’t learn it from you – they will dig their heels in like teenagers being told to clean their rooms. You take on the extra and unnecessary work of being the manager/parent, while they make it as hard for you as possible to get any work out of them so you’ll think twice about making them do any more.
And believe me, nothing kills your sex life like being put into the mom role for your grownup partner.
So to both of the letter writers: these guys aren’t mature enough yet for you. Let them learn responsibility out in the world, where they can’t delegate their growing up to you. It’s better for both of you to break up now, before you have destroyed yourself.
Amen to the seX-life killer. #861, you are the household manager on top of everything else, and he sucks as an employee. It appears to me, from way over here, that allowing you to make the lists and set priorities is his way of appeasing you. And, it appears, it allows him to reject those priorities as unreasonable (whether he says this or just plays on preexisting self-doubts).
Ay-ya. LW’s, my best friend and I had a roommate like this. We are a couple of pretty laid back people and our prevailing policy is “As long as we can see you’re really trying to improve (whatever) we’re there.”
(I am using “we” because Steahl and I have lived together since 2007 and after that amount of time we have managed to create a certain level of house-rules that we agree on and enforce together. Yes, I *do* know how lucky I am.)
That little aside said; we had a roommate like this. When he moved in it was cross-country after he lost his job but with a tidy nest egg and a resume that yelled “Employ me!” We were to find, over the next several years, that he wasn’t interested in actually finding a job. Or cleaning. Or *anything else* that might have contributed to the household after his nest egg and unemployment ran out. Which they did faster than they should have because “new iPad” was higher on his radar than “rent”.
I’d love to say that we wised up and kicked him out, but no. Optimism can be a flaw. It took him marrying someone just like him and the two of them deciding that Steahl and I were horrible awful mean people who were always in their faces. In the end *they* skipped out on *us*, leaving us staring at the 7k$ that they owed in back rent and utilities, the unGodly amount of trash we took from their room and places they’d hidden it such as under the stairs – we had to rent a *dumpster* and the pile was taller than my 5’4″ of height, and a loss of trust that I doubt we’re ever getting back.
Please, both of you, don’t let that happen. The trust may already be a lost cause, and the trash (God willing) won’t pile up that high, but the money could still happen. Easily.
Thank you for that incredibly vivid image. Nearly four years after the divorce, I still wonder once in a while if I am the horrible slob that my ex used to accuse me of being; now I know I’m not.
My ex threw my untidiness into my face at every opportunity. Then we moved out and I moved all of my things from the living room into the van, and the living room was still a complete and utter mess because half the clutter had been his. I wish I’d realised THAT months earlier.
Yes, but *tidying* his part of the clutter was your god-given job due to ladybits, so he’s still right. 🙂
Oh dear. Please listen to the Captain’s advice.
LW 860, Please get your job back. If/when your fiancé has the money, revisit the move.
LW 861, He’s not a rotten boyfriend for not cleaning, he’s a rotten person for not doing what he agreed to, and gaslighting you.
LW 861 – please look at your lease agreement and familiarize yourself with the law in your area re: roommate and temant rights and common in law marriage status. You want to know what you’re dealing with if, as we all dearly hope, you nope the fuck out asap.
LW 861 – never ever put yourself on the line like this for anyone ever. If this doesn’t work out you are effectively homeless. This cannot happen, please take all appropriate steps to make sure your future is secure.
Sorry, meant LW 860. Advice still stands
“Mentioning his leftover birthday money simply got me a “Am I not entitled to use my birthday money as I please?”.”
LW860. Hon. He *literally* just told you what he wants. He wants a Kindle more than he wants to save up to live with you.
HE WANTS A KINDLE MORE THAN HE WANTS TO LIVE WITH YOU.
This. Even if you moved overseas to be with this guy, these type of situations would keep happening (based on his past behaviour). LW 860, consider educating yourself more about personal finance so you have clear words/ideas to discuss with your partner. I love Mr. Money Mustache…http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/ (am I allowed to put links here? apologies if not!)
LW 861, I would highly recommend figuring out what you’re spending on the leech’s food and entertainment and whatever, and how much cheaper it would be to hire a maid and come home to an empty, clean apartment at the end of your long work day.
Too bad we don’t have a “thumbs up” thing on these posts. 🙂
I helped a friend crunch the numbers when she was splitting up with a bf who thought he deserved to be awarded her house because he had paid the rent while he lived there. The simple fact that he would have had to pay rent no matter where he lived failed to convince him that she did not owe him such an enormous debt that the only way to be fair to him is to give him the house. We did the math and she gave him a bill instead.
A maid and a meal delivery service would be a much better investment, because if they don’t provide the services you are paying for they can be fired.
That is partially how I justify my own delivery-and-occasional-cleaning-service budget. Hell of a lot cheaper than what I was paying for my freeloading ex.
LW860, please get your job back! You need time to step back and really examine your relationship and whether the two of you are compatible partners now.
Although you’ve known your BF for 8 years, if he’s 27 now, he was a teenager when you met, so how well do you actually know the adult him? It doesn’t sound like he spent the last several years working on improving his adulting skills.
If he was basically a kid for most of the time you’ve known him, the total length of time that you’ve known him doesn’t really count towards judging your compatibility.
If you got together about a year ago, and in September 2015 you decided to move in together, you’ve now been a couple longer after the decision than you were a couple before the decision.
So more than half of the time that you’ve been a couple, he’s been doing nothing to prepare for the move you both agreed to. Making “plans” that he doesn’t carry through. That doesn’t sound like someone you can rely on now.
He might develop into the most reliable person in the world, but he should be there before you quit your job and moved to another country, because if he does, yay! you survived his nerve-wracking apprenticeship, but if he doesn’t turn out like planned….
Dear both LWs:
DON’T MOVE IN WITH THIS GUY/KICK THIS GUY OUT. Take the Captain’s advice. Do whatever you need to do, but DON’T COHABIT WITH THEM AT ALL/ANY LONGER.
The cleaning thing is exhausting, 861. I spent 3 years working 45+ hours a week at a physically and emotionally demanding job and then coming home and working a full second shift cleaning and doing yard work. Then I went back to school, and worked 20 hours a week while going to school full time in a major rife with overload courses, still cleaning and doing yard work. Then I went to grad school and TAed 2 courses and worked on research projects and maintained my 4.0 while cleaning and doing yard work.
It never ends. It won’t end. Kick him the fuck out and end it.
And 860, this is also an aspect of my relationship. My late husband would literally spend the rent money on bullshit. There was our money and his money–he literally sucked my savings account dry by intentionally overdrawing my chequing account 100$ at a time one month, leaving me broke. He would buy multi-thousand-dollar tools and there would be no money left for bills or food. He left the electricity unpaid so long once that we were two years paying it off. He died seven years ago next month and I still freak out about rent stuff and dealing with landlords. Do you want this to be your life? No! You don’t! Please don’t move in with him.
LW 861 – Several years ago, I was you, student edition. I was going to college full time while working two part-time jobs, and I had a live-in boyfriend who didn’t contribute any money because he didn’t have a job. I was in debt up to my neck, completely stressed out about it, and often so tired by the end of the day that I would just play video games for a few hours before sleeping.
All that I asked of him was to make supper on weekdays, pick up groceries, and keep the place kind of clean. As in I didn’t care about a sink full of dishes as long as there was still a single clean bowl for me to eat cereal. I also didn’t care much about clutter and dust but I did like there to be less food on the walls of microwave than what was on the plate.
It was still like pulling teeth. He complained about all of it and often didn’t do it either. He also complained about having nothing to do because he had played all the games and watched all the Netflix. Anytime I tried to get him to do something, even if I was tripping over myself trying to say it in the nicest way possible, he always made it feel like I was this horrible nag that was always hounding him.
This lasted for something like 3 years. I was a wreck: getting physically sick often, my chronic depression worsening, and just being so stressed all the time made me highly irritable. The worst thing is at the time, I didn’t really want him to leave. I was that wrapped up in all of this.
Once he did go, I was sad for a while. But after that, I felt so free again. I slowly got my life back together and looking back now, making him leave was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Though I still have moments at the grocery store where I suddenly wonder if I’ll have enough money for my groceries and then panic. I have a phone app that tells me how much I have in my bank account just to reassure me in those moments.
I don’t think you’re a neat freak, LW, but I bet your boyfriend wouldn’t do the cleaning or the cooking even if you were. He seems oblivious to the fact that it’s putting so much stress on you, just like how my ex was. You’ve worried, you’ve brought it up, you’ve even taken the time outside of your 50+ hour work week to write to CA about it. How much energy, physically and emotionally, has he put into working this out?
The Clue Bat isn’t working on him so I highly recommend following CA’s advice and using the Log of Not-Taking-Your-Crap-Anymore.
To both LWs, so many Jedi hugs to you. I not only dated iterations of these people combined for 10 years, I also have close family members who are them!
I think the most, most, MOST important thing I learned from my cautionary tale (or life) is that you have to accept that this is the person you are having the relationship with. Not the person 6 months from now, or when they save enough money, or when they get a better job, or when you have kids. THIS is the person you are relationshipping with. With my Ex, he’d start doing housework when he moved in. Then it was when he was feeling up to it. Then it was that he was GOING to do it but forgot. Then it was he was GOING to do it but I nagged him about it so much he’s not going to now and I should do it myself. Then it was just silence. Yet he still swore up and down he’d change and start doing things he’d agreed to do years ago when we had kids.
You can’t sacrifice happiness in a relationship now in hopes of the relationship that it will be whenever a certain milestone is passed (there are circumstances where I might argue against this, but overall, a relationship should be making everyone involved happy to be there). Because it’s a moving target. It honestly is not about money or responsibility or cooking or cleaning.
It’s the fact that their feelings and thoughts matter more, and yours don’t matter to them at all. If it was a relationship of equals, everyone has an equal say, right? Everyone feels equally involved and invested, and it’s going to look different for every single relationship. But your say would MATTER. YOU care about their feelings and thoughts and act in accordance, but they do not reciprocate.
Some advice to the last letter was “Reasons are for reasonable people”. Good faith is also for people who are acting in good faith. These two people have proven that they are not. Repeatedly. They can say whatever they want and have whatever reasons they want, but their actions (or failure to act, and not acting is really easy, especially if it means you get out of doing the thing you don’t really want to do) matter, and the way it impacts you matters tremendously. Someone acting in good faith is not more invested in arguing why your feelings are wrong than in the fact that you are feeling hurt and betrayed.
I might have left my Ex, but my siblings are some of these people. I love them and care about them but I also know that I absolutely cannot rely on them for some things, so I do not put myself in a position where my perpetually late and forgetful (or self-involved, took a nap, or was watching a movie and lost track of the time and didn’t notice my calls and texts) brother is the only person who can give me a ride to or from a critical event (like surgery, it was bad y’all). I do not put myself in a position where I loan my sister money or things (or in a position where she has access to my money or things). I do not date my Ex because I couldn’t rely on him to be honest with me, to act in good faith, or to care about my thoughts or feelings.
It’s not “Why would they keep hurting me like this if they love me?”.
It’s “Would someone who loves me keep knowingly hurting me?”.
“It’s not “Why would they keep hurting me like this if they love me?”.
It’s “Would someone who loves me keep knowingly hurting me?”.”
Also, the questions I have finally learned to ask myself, “Am I comfortable?”, “Am I happy?”, “Is this how I want to be treated?”
As an extra bonus round – My ex constantly claimed not to have understood what I needed. I now know that I do not want to be in a relationship with someone who cannot understand me when I talk to them. It is not my job to find the exact, perfect words to explain myself. Literally everyone else in my life understands me perfectly well; I am adept at expressing myself. I will no longer waste my energy and life with someone who cannot or willfully will not understand me.
I dated a guy for nearly a decade who constantly told me that I was a poor communicator and that he just couldn’t understand what I wanted. Everyone else in my personal and professional life could understand me just fine; he just chose not to. We actually went to couples therapy where he told the therapist that he just didn’t know what I wanted, and I said “I want X, Y, and Z,” and the therapist was like, well, that seems very clear to me.
I feel like 860’s SO is a probably-nice person who sucks at budgeting and ALSO has no particular interest in getting better. He wants a lot of things, but just assumes he can wish them into existence. DO NOT commit to living with him. You don’t have to break up, just wait for him to get his shit together before binding yourselves together legally and financially a lease.
861? DTMFA. You’ve made absolutely rational, reasonable, and polite requests. You even consulted him on the best way to deliver those requests. And he proceeds to openly ignore them, while getting in your face when you bring it up. He’s a sponge, and has no interest in doing any work, physical or emotional, for the relationship. I’m a SUPER lazy person, but I would be embarrassed and horrified if my SO came to me and was hurt that I hadn’t done something. I would do that thing, and try to be sure it never went undone again. This guy does not care. And he apparently doesn’t care enough about you to change even one iota of his personality and lifestyle. Nope on out.
Regarding the niceness of 860, I find there is a very suspicious coincidence of timing between ‘Sometime last year he ran out of extra money’ and ‘In September 2015 we decided to move in together summer 2016’. And also between ‘Sometime last year he ran out of extra money’ and ‘I know him for 8 years now. We’ve only been together for a little more than a year though’. It’s certainly possible that it really is all a wacky coincidence, and the blossoming of their relationship has absolutely nothing at all to do with the end of the BF’s free ride. It’s also possible that it isn’t. I don’t think I’d rush to tie my finances to someone who has every reason to be saddling up Freed Ride Number 2.
I got the same impression from the timeline — it sounded like he was lining someone to support him. Now that the LW is expecting that he contribute, he’s not interested.
I don’t mean to derail (I agree with the Captain SO VERY HARD HERE) …
But “My mom is OCD” kind of strikes me as, “My mom is very, very neat and tidy,” and not, “My mother has OCD.”
I dated that guy for 5 years. We didn’t move in together until year 3, at which point I found out that although he was 23 years old, had graduated from college, and could do multivariable calculus in his head, he didn’t know how to clean a toilet.
For that third year, it wasn’t too bad. I was in college, and I was fairly disciplined with my time, and I didn’t mind cooking and cleaning. And he was smart and nerdy, and the sex was pretty good, and I was worried that he was the best match I would ever be able to find.
For the fourth year, I was taking some extra classes and was marginally employed as a tutor. He was “studying for the actuary exams”, which seemed to involve an awful lot of him playing videogames in his boxers. It was frustrating, but again, I had plenty of time, and I was young and in love, and he seemed just contrite enough that I thought maybe I could train him and he would change.
For the fifth year, he got a full time job halfway across the country, and like an idiot, I followed him. I was stitching together part time jobs and tutoring gigs, and still completely holding down the fort on the domestic side of things, getting increasingly fucking angry at having to pick up his fucking boxers off the fucking bathroom floor for the 35th fucking time because he couldn’t be fucking arsed to carry them back to the dirty laundry hamper after his morning shower. When what was supposed to be a 4 day trip to visit my Nana turned into her getting violently ill and my father and aunt flying in and all of us spending 2 weeks watching her slowly die while arranging her end-of-life care, I returned, exhausted and emotionally drained, to find that the house was a complete mess, no laundry had been done, there was no food in the house, my cat’s litter box was filthy, she had vomited on the carpet in several places and it hadn’t been cleaned up, and the toilet was growing black spots of fecal bacteria.
I wish I could say that was the final straw. I wish I had told him “fuck this shit, I’m out.” Hell, I wish I had followed the advice my Nana gave every woman in the family, which was to never get involved with a man who hadn’t lived on his own (because even though she was born in 1911, she understood that if a woman was responsible for every bit of care for herself, a house, a man, and ensuing children, she was going to be a miserable fucking woman) But no. I stuck around until he dumped me for not being ’emotionally supportive enough’.
Dumping me was honestly the best thing he ever did for me in 5 years. I cried it out, moved all my shit back to the west coast, easily found a teaching position now that I wasn’t tied to a large metropolitan area, adopted a kid I knew who was in a shitty situation (who, incidentally, was a much better person to live with than ex-boyfriend was vis-a-vis keeping shit clean, despite being only 17), and what I found was that being single was so much happier and less stressful than being with a partner who wasn’t actually a partner. And eventually met a Significantly Awesomer Guy. After a year, we wanted to move in, and he said that he would do all the cooking, dishes, and kitchen upkeep, while I would do the weekly chores that could be saved for the weekend.
And you know what? Every night, he cooks me dinner, and then does the dishes, and then cleans up the kitchen. He’s also been doing most of the laundry, since he’s currently at home during the day teaching himself how to code. Pretty much all the housework I do is keep my shit orderly and contained, and clean the bathroom on the weekend. My life is SO MUCH LESS STRESSFUL than I ever thought possible because I don’t have to manage my significant other like he’s a fucking 5 year old anymore.
LW, I know that every piece of socialization is telling you that household duties are a silly little thing, and not worth ending a relationship over. But household duties are a big. fucking. deal. They take up a lot of your time, and keeping track of it all takes up a lot of your mental energy, and your frustration that your partner isn’t contributing to them will grow into resentment, and eventually flat out anger. Please. PLEASE. Do the thing I should have done, saddle up your nopetopus, and nope the fuck out of unpaid domestic servitude.
‘Mentioning his leftover birthday money simply got me a “Am I not entitled to use my birthday money as I please?”.’
Even if he hadn’t promised and made an arrangement with you – that you’re quitting your job and moving to another country for – is ‘finally getting to live with this awesome person’ not something he really really wants and is excited about? He is talking about making that happen like it’s a chore, almost.
I think either he isn’t as excited and eager about you moving in as he once may have seemed… Or best case, he is really fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants person who just does not/will not plan ahead for practical things at all even when they’re massive financial things involving life altering changes for people he cares about.
861, hi, I also had a white board. In fact, still up on my fridge because this was less than a year ago for me. And cooked (liked cooking too!) and had a non-working non-school attending boyfriend who would go so far as to stash trash in the coffee table to avoid getting up to throw it out. Now, I feel like my time was wasted on something ugly. I was about 23 or 24 when I got into that relationship (I’m 27 now). Everybody is saying dtmfa for all the reasons you apparently already kinda know about but it seems like you’re at the “I can fix this” frame of mind. It’s okay to be wrong about a person. You already know that this sucks. What was your life like before this relationship? Are you missing out on any friendships or hobbies or events because your time is being spent cooking and cleaning? What’s best case scenario for your non-romantic life if you stick it out? What’s best case scenario if you don’t? Don’t be me.
So much good advice in Captain Awkward’s text and the many commenters’.
I only want to add one thing. Both of you write that you love him and that you have a good relationship. If that is actually true, and it very well could be, I have a suggestion that doesn’t address the problem as much as the situation.
Go on having a good relationship, but do not share accommodation and/or money. Clearly, in that context, they are both spectacularly unreliable as well as unable to understand how frustrating it is to you.
Eliminate that source of frustration by living in your own place and making your own money while your partner does the same. It could work.
Maybe it also doesn’t work, maybe the problem is bigger, but in case it doesn’t work out you will be in a secure position as far as your income and home situation is concerned when it ends
Seconding for wisdom: “Go on having a good relationship, but do not share accommodation and/or money.”
If it’s too expensive to live on your own, live with a (non-romantic) roommate. Or two. I spent my post-college years up until age 30 sharing apartments with one or two other single women (we each had our successions of non-live-in boyfriends, who generally had their own roommate setups) and it was a great way to arrange that phase of life. We learned how to share space as adults with other (non-parental) adults at that stage in life, and had that knowledge in place before moving on to the next phase of learning how to share space with a committed romantic partner.
During the time between the end of our schooling and the beginning of our “settled-down” adulthood (whatever that means for us) we’ve got a lot of learning to do: Learning to handle the daily realities out-of-the-nest life, work life, adult social life, forming and sustaining healthy adult relationships, etc., etc. Why take on all those tasks at once?
“Go on having a good relationship, but do not share accommodation and/or money.”
THIS. This is what tends to work for me. You’d be amazed at the stress and bother it saves. If a guy wants to share accommodation and/or money, he can demonstrate desirable skills FIRST.
Really Scared, if your boyfriend was committed to your shared goal of moving into a house and saving, he’d have had his shit together long ago, (like, before he even knew he was going to date you, he should have had some idea of how to plan his life) never mind this 2-month deadline nonsense. Do not rely on him to fix this at the last minute, he’s been heading towards Zero Money for some time, and really should have seen this coming.
This should not be a seat-of-the-pants kind of move, or some kind of trapeze act without a safety net. Halt any deadline on moving in until you can both agree step-by-step what you are going to do to ensure that you’re both earning and saving enough to cover your living costs. And if one of you can’t stick to the plan, re-consider moving in together entirely.
Not-That-Bad, it’s just horrendously unfair that he contributes zero effort to your living space. You’ve communicated clearly and even put in extra effort to break it down into a simple list, and he still won’t do the chores.
You do 50+ hours work, AND cooking, AND cleaning, which all fall to you because he won’t pick up his end of things? DTMFA. There’s no fixing that level of selfishness.
I wish you both better life-partners.
I’ve found it helpful to flip the situation around and ask myself how I would feel were the behaviors reversed.
How would I feel? What am I saying to my partner? What kind of person would that make me, be?
It can break the habit of making excuses for them.
This is a good way of looking at things.
Especially for #860, I just want to put this out there–if there is any hint from your boyfriend of “If you realllllyyy loved me, you wouldn’t be so worried/hesitant to jump in with both feet. If you reaallllly cared about me, money wouldn’t be so important!” Because I can see this reaction coming when you tell him you are not, at this moment, going to move in with him because of these problems (and you are right to be scared of these problems, because they are big and important). In my experience, any sentence starting with “If you really loved me, you would…” can be translated as “Your needs/concerns/comforts aren’t important. The only thing that matters in this relationship are MY needs, and one of them is that you are constantly proving your love and devotion to me.”
Also, if there is any voice in your head that says “well if I really loved him, I’d want to do this…” that just means you’ve already internalized this dynamic. Fight that–it’s a trap.
Also, beware any rebuttal from a partner that is “but I’d do it for you!” 100% of the time, the thing someone wants me to do for them that they would do for me? I DON’T WANT. 100%.
If someone says “If you really loved me,…” try turning it around, at least in your own head: if they really loved you, they wouldn’t be pressuring you to ignore your real concerns. If they really cared about you, they would want you to be happy, not stressed out and broke. If they really loved you, they wouldn’t answer a reasonable request with a tantrum. If they really loved you, they wouldn’t demand that you prove your love by letting them ignore your desires.
I see money as a tool. It serves a purpose and when it comes to living as a couple; the amount you have is not as crucial as how skilled you are at working as a team to use your money well. Really scared, the scary thing is that he cannot manage his money as an individual. By his late twenties, he should have some medium term saving and budgeting skills. I dated a guy in almost identical circumstances. Quit my job, moved in to discover he had concealed a lot of debt and I lost a lot of my money and heart trying to dig us out.
Fortunately, I started again and eventually met a guy who had his financial shizzle sorted.
Even on our tiny budget, I know that knows that while my fella cannot always protect us from being poor, he is always willing to plan with me to use our money well. Being poor and homeless is a big fear for me, it happened years ago and so to be respectful, he is fantastic at budgeting *with* me. We are a team. We have separate accounts but we also have money boxes and saving goals we share. I know he will pay our bills and never hide or lie to me about our situation even if we are broke this month. My desire to discuss money is never dismissed or met with defensiveness.
We use a calender to help plan our social and disposable spends. We have a check in if a non essential hobby purchase is over a limit of £60 so that no one buys a Kindle when we need to pay the rent. Moving in together and taking holidays has meant we have had to talk about money to find our limits and agree how we handle money as a team. He gets more money than I do and it takes some juggling to even it out equally but he does it because I am his equal and he likes seeing me at my happiest.
It is not a chore to act in a loving considerate manner toward your partner. Healthy adults don’t approach love by trying to coast and avoid stepping up. They don’t feel good about hurting their partner. They see their partners feelings and needs as important and they are willing to learn about them. They don’t approach a partnership as a intrusion on their perpetual adolescence.
Someone who loves you will want to make a massive life change a good experience by DOING THE THINGS THAT NEED DOING vs ‘trust me, babe! ‘
This is so true! I’m so glad you have found someone who treats you like the awesome person that you are.
Yes! I live with a partner who is not great with money. They make a lot of impulse purchases and are almost always broke at the end of the month. But they make sure the important stuff gets paid first, and they are always open and honest with me about what’s going on financially. At the moment our finances are pretty much completely separate (apart from bills which I give them money for and they pay – reliably and on time); but I know that if we do ever combine finances, we’ll be able to sit down and discuss, and agree that x amount from each of us will go to rent, and x amount to saving for a y, and so on; and that agreement will be upheld.
And then, AFTER the money they have agreed to contribute to our joint needs and desires has gone out of the bank… that’s when the discretionary money will fly out the window to be replaced by board games and etsy products.
Long time lurker, first time poster.
LW#860 please reconsider the situation.
I was in a very similar situation( hindsight is 20/20).
I dropped out of school, hurt my parents really bad, to move to a different country to be with my then bf. I was 21. He was 29. It. Was. Hell. He was supposed to save up so we can move from his moms place to a new appartment and start a life together. I arrived (after burning bridges with my own family) only to find out he had no savings whatsoever, he lied about the severity of his drug abuse and to top it off he had cripling debts. It took me 18 months working as a dishwasher(only place that would hire me) to get enough together to go back home. He was unemployed for most of that time(without unemployent benefits). He was also mentally and phisycally abusive. I was lucky my parents were forgiving, understanding and loving.
I got lucky. I might have not been able to get out of that living hell, and dread what could have happened.
Please think of yourself first. In a way this is like a business deal. If they dont hold up their part of the contract, you have no obligations to hold up.
Be safe LW and take good care of yourself first and foremost.
Woo! A post I almost have some expertise in! Like your boyfriend, 860, I also inherited a big chunk of money in my 20’s and also like him, it sort of kept me from working- my therapist calls this the golden handcuffs, which I just tried to find a link to but discovered it usually has a different meaning involving a high-paying but unsatisfactory job. Unlike him, however, I’m slightly less impulsive than a child and can do a small but not negligible amount of forward thinking (ie, while I don’t frivolously spend the money I also never put it in interest-bearing accounts), and so it’s lasted me like 15 years. Now that I’m down to a quarter of it remaining, I have to start looking into reentering the labor force. It’s difficult psychologically and also it’s hard to explain large gaps in your resume- so if for whatever reason you decide to stick it out with him, I would strongly encourage him to get some CBT or a career counselor, or a life coach.
I’m surprised no one has brought this up yet: Do you know the residency laws with regard to the country where your BF lives now? Do you have any and all appropriate visas, so you might secure work and/or study while you live there? Do you have enough savings to be able to live two years or longer in the new country, while you wait for your residency application to go through?
Residency in a new country requires *a lot* of paperwork and money; sometimes in the form of fees, sometimes in the form of bribes to ensure your paperwork gets through to the right people. Sometimes, this may require additional testimony and paperwork and money from your host in your new home country.
And if your BF can’t even manage his money, how might he manage a long term paperwork and financial drain while you work through the bureaucracy of residency?
More often than not, unless you have a work or student visa, you will not be able to work or study in your new host country.
Ask yourself, do you really want to risk being stranded in a different country without resources or means if things go south?
We can love people who don’t love or respect us. This is not your fault. Any forgiveness should be for yourself for giving someone more than the benefit of the doubt, but they are not returning this courtesy to you.
Also, it has been mentioned here before, beware of the Sunken Cost Fallacy and liberally apply the Sheezlebub Principle to the situation: Can you see yourself living like in the current situation in the next six months? The next year? The next five years?
The Status Quo works just perfectly fine for BF: He has a maid and doesn’t have to lift a finger to contribute to the household expenses. All he/they have to do is make some appeasement noises to get you to drop the subject while you still take care of everything.
Dude may be perfectly lovely to his friends and co-workers and he may even have some likeable qualities… And he’s being sh*tty to you. He is continuing to chose to be sh*tty to you.
He hears you perfectly fine. He is just choosing not to do anything about it. And unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to get him to honor and respect you enough to pick up the slack.
You deserve so much better.
If you have an EU passport, you have the right to live and work in any EU country, so depending on where the first LW lives, moving country could be a simple as moving to a different city (at least as far as visas and other paperwork goes, you simply don’t need ’em).
We can love people who don’t love or respect us. This is not your fault. Any forgiveness should be for yourself for giving someone more than the benefit of the doubt, but they are not returning this courtesy to you.
So worth emphasizing this. Loving someone who is a user can feel like “see, I’m an even WORSE person because I did not ditch this loser ages ago”. The problem is not with you, dear LWs. The saying ‘you can’t cheat an honest man’ is exactly backwards when it comes to gaslighting and unfairness – the kinder and more generous someone is, the easy it is for a terrible SO to use those qualities against them.
Excellent advice but FYI ‘stupid’ is an ableist slur. I was quite surprised to see it used on this blog.
Given that not a lot of people know or consider “stupid” to be an ableist slur, while it’s not a bad idea to make a comment about it if it bothers you, it seems a little surprising that you’d be surprised.
The Cap generally does a very good job of keeping the site slur-free, so I can understand the surprise. I foresee a blue-highlighted comment incoming.
Ack – just realised this was referring to the title and not a previous comment. Don’t I feel silly?
My impression has always been that it’s a slur when referring to a person but a simple, non-slur assessment when referring to an action, attitude or decision.
I’ve heard that some consider “stupid” to be an ableist slur, but I don’t count myself among them. CA’s title doesn’t denigrate people with intellectual disabilities.
I don’t want to derail by elaborating on my thoughts here, but I posed the question on the forum: http://friendsofcaptainawkward.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=9078
I think the problem I have with that is that it’s not even policing the word so much as the concept itself, and that starts to make me twitchy. Like, okay, so replace “stupid” with “foolish.” But it feels like the argument could still be made? Some people are foolish, etc etc. Because some people are.
If “stupid” is supposed to apply as a descriptor of a person–an immutable fact about them–then yes, I could see that as a slur. But when it’s applying to a situation, or even more often how I’ve seen it policed, about how a person is personally feeling about themselves (a temporary assessment relating to a specific action or inaction usually), then it just…
Like I said. It makes me twitchy. It makes it harder for people to express themselves when they have to police the relatively common words related to their own emotions.
I get why it’s not a word to be used on CA, and I’ll try to watch myself and not use it here because it makes people uncomfortable. But honestly, this is one of the few times that the word policing actually makes me kind of uncomfortable, and I have a difficult time of expressing exactly how. It just starts to edge a bit into double-plus-ungood territory, I guess.
You’re right, I’m sorry. I included both email subject lines verbatim from the letter writers as the post title and I didn’t really examine them.
“Am I not entitled to use my birthday money as I please?”
I mean, like, sure, but it also means that it doesn’t please him to help you, or to help you move in with him, and that he’s putting your well-being and the prospect of you two living together at a lower priority than immediate gratification with whatever little things he’s using the money for now.
That’s really the trick, LW. Everything your boyfriend has done in this situation indicates that you are a low priority to him. He’d probably like to keep you around, and heck, he probably even likes you very much. But he doesn’t want to put any effort into keeping you around, or into moving y’all’s relationship forward.
Here’s a thing I know: you can rely on some people for some things, but not for other things. I love my BFF/roommate, but I don’t know that I’d call him reliable. I can rely on him to pay his share of the rent, and to take care of the utilities. If I ask him to when I’m out of town, I can rely on him to feed my cat. If I’m sad or need to vent and he’s around, I can rely on him to listen to me vent, to take my side when I’m frustrated, and to give me hugs. But I can’t rely on him to always be around, even in situations where he probably should be around. I… okay, I don’t want to go on a rant, but experience has taught me that there are a number of things–some of them kind of important–that I can’t rely on him to do.
And that’s okay. We’re not in a romantic relationship. We’re friend and housemates, and I know what I can reasonably expect of him, so I don’t take for granted that certain things are going to happen.
You might be able to rely on your boyfriend for some things, but when it comes to adult things like money and living together, and prioritizing your needs over his immediate wants…it doesn’t seem like he’s that reliable. I’m sorry.
A thought that might be relevant to the first LW: If someone tries to make you feel guilty about not acting enough like you trust them, that’s not a sign of a trustworthy person. A trustworthy person will just… act trustworthy.
I was in an emotionally and psychologically abusive marriage for WAY too long (23 years plus two years of him dragging out the divorce the way he vowed he would). Any time I’d ask for “help” (yep, I thought of it that way) he’d respond that he DID do housework: He made the bed and washed the dishes.
Obnoxious answer. “Making the bed” meant pulling up the sheet and comforter, and the only dishes he had to wash were the plate he used to heat up the food I’d made and left in the fridge (we worked different shifts). Occasionally I’d timidly suggest that my full-time job plus lots of concurrent freelancing plus all care of the child plus any household repairs that needed doing plus shopping and cooking and cleaning meant I was constantly exhausted, and that perhaps we could make up a list of mutually agreed-upon basic chores and divvy them up.
That’s when he pulled his trump card: shouting. He knew I can’t abide raised voices, which make me tremble and feel physically sick and have even triggered asthma attacks. He’d yell that I was obsessive and he wasn’t going to be told what to do. Of course, he had no problems noting that there was mud on the floor or that he was going on a work-related trip and I needed to come in and fold his shirts so they wouldn’t get wrinkled in the suitcase.
In retrospect it sounds incredibly dumb. All I can say is that Stockholm Syndrome is REAL.
A dozen years later and I’m with an amazing, caring, adoring partner. Truth be told, he does more of the cooking than I do and a lot more of the outside work (I’ve got shoulder issues that make shoveling snow pretty difficult). He also cleans like a demon, in part because he likes a tidy environment and in part because right out of college the only job he could get was overnight janitor at a JC Penney.
When I thank him for doing so much to make our life together comfortable, he looks surprised. If it needs doing people should just do it, he says.
It was hard for me to explain just how important this feels to me. I wrote about it on my website, comparing his Nike-like attitude with those of so many of the boyfriends/husbands I’ve observed over the years. The point I made is that anything these dudes do is “an anomaly worthy of praise,” i.e., that not only do they have the OPTION of whether or not to “help,” but that they get headpats and cookies for doing so. (And that it’s often their wives/girlfriends who initiate the praise, in hopes that maybe the guys will do another load of laundry some day.)
Boy oh boy, the comments….! Let’s just say that more than one woman referred to this problem with EX-husbands, but a few also said it was a current problem with their long-term marriages. My (least) favorite was the guy who, when asked to help, would deliberately do asshole things like buy bags of individually wrapped Reese’s Cups then lie on the couch eating them and throwing the wrappers all over the living room.
Sorry to have written a novel here, but this is SUCH a pet peeve for me. I’m 58 and I honestly believed that things would be easier for the generation that came after me. That we’d have more equitable relationships, that women would be able to ask for what they needed and their partners would understand that it takes two to run a household — and that if they truly cared about the women, they’d want to do things that made them feel happy, supported and loved.
I guessed wrong.
A lot of this sucks, but it’s great you found this guy! You deserve to have a good partner.
The Reese’s thing made me literally SEE RED. SO glad you are out of that relationship. I hope they find that guy smothered under a layer of discarded candy wrappers.
That was an experience reported by one of my personal blog readers, but yeah, it made me feel both dizzy and enraged on her behalf. I believe my response to her was, “Gee, why is he your EX-husband?”
I am happily dating a man 11 years my junior. Before he and I became a thing, I’d been dating younger men since my (much older) husband died, because my experience with men my age was that they gave lip service to egalitarian relationships but still expected to be waited on; older men just frankly expect to be waited on. Younger men in general assume a more appropriate baseline of effort in relationships, in my experience.
Nike products are often made by child slave labor. I’m sure your partner has far higher standards than those of the Nike corporation. Probably a good idea not to support public confusion over Nike’s actual ethos.
Possibly she meant the winged goddess of victory.
I suspect she meant their slogan, “Just Do It”.
Yeah, I think that either the slogan or the mythological reference are most likely to be correct, OR that “Nike” was an autocorrect mistake for something else, than it being a reference to anything positive about their corporate policies.
I’m guessing she was referring to their slogan, “Just Do It”.
Yep, I was. I don’t buy Nike products.
I’m boggling at the guy eating candy on the couch and throwing the wrappers all over the living room in response to being told to pick up after himself. OMG if a guy did that in my house the beatings would never stop.
OMG if a guy did that in my house the beatings would never stop.
I get that you were probably being hyperbolic here, but domestic violence isn’t funny, and while it occurs much less frequently than male domestic partners hitting their wives/girlfriends, men can be victims of women domestic abusers.
INDEED. Not appropriate, Wulf.
I hope I didn’t overstep my place as a newbie commenter; that just jumped out at me because an ex-boyfriend of mine (amicable split, we’re still friends) had been physically abused by his ex-wife.
I also wanted to apologize for the heteronormativity, because I realized that I made my comment all about het relationships and DV does occur in same-sex relationships too and I don’t want to trivialize DV in any context because it’s extremely serious regardless of the specifics.
It’s the kind of behaviour I would expect from my ten-year-old. If a partner did it, they would cease to be my partner sharpish because I don’t date ten-year-olds.
Turns out I owe my ten-year-old an apology. I told her the story and she assumed he was generating more rubbish so he could ostentatiously throw it away and define that as help. That level of ridiculous spite was beyond even her.
#861- I am a single woman living alone in a 2-bedroom apartment. I just timed myself, and in 29 minutes I did the dinner dishes, wiped the counters down, Swiffer drymopped the kitchen/dining/living room floor and the bathroom floor, took out the trash and the recycling, folded and put away a load of laundry, and vacuumed the bedroom, front door mat, the living room rug and the bathroom hallway. In the afternoon I dusted off the TV stand and put my laundry in to be washed. All told, I did less than 40 minutes of work. Normally I’d have a little more to do, but I had a horrible migraine this morning so I’m taking it easy today.
This was just basic housekeeping. I wasn’t scrubbing baseboards or moving the sofa. I did enough today to be sure that my place is picked up for tomorrow, when I will hopefully be feeling better.
Your boyfriend isn’t willing to invest his time in you by doing even the simplest things. Elapsed time on an average day for me to do dishes; that is, wash, dry and put into the draining rack? Six minutes. He doesn’t care enough to spend six minutes so you don’t come home to a mess. Think hard about what that says about where you fall on his priorities list.
Yup. My daily housework routine involves setting a timer for 45 minutes, putting some music in an old fashioned CD player, and going around the house doing anything that needs to be done. That’s making beds, sweeping floors, folding laundry, washing dishes, chopping vegetables for a later meal, picking up papers, throwing out trash, vacuuming, etc. I don’t do everything every day. For example, if a bathroom needs a good scrubbing, I just do that and skip everything else. When the timer goes off, I stop and leave the rest to the next day. The funny thing is that many days, I have to look for something to do to fill the rest of the time. I might not have exacting standards, but my home is comfortable and livable. Naturally it depends on what sort of house and how many live there and how clean you like it, but the principle holds: A clean, neat, livable home is possible in some do-able amount of time if the boyfriend wanted to get up and do the work.
My general motto for figuring out why someone isn’t stepping up to an agreement is to go as far as I can in the direction of can’t and then go as far as I can in the direction of won’t. In other words, my first guess would be that Boyfriend doesn’t know how to do the work, doesn’t have the organizational skills, has never had an example of how a clean household is run. I wouldn’t expect a child to make his bed every morning without having been shown several times how it’s done, then done it with a parent watching to make sure he knows how. I’d take into account that small arms might have trouble with big sheets. I’d do that with Boyfriend first, really make sure he knows how to do each task. I wouldn’t consider it micromanaging so much as ordinary instruction. That’s going as far as I can in the direction of can’t. But then in the direction of won’t: He’s not doing anything. Let’s see if he does his own housework when he’s living by himself.
If you’re an adult, though, if you have no idea how to do something you find out. You ask a friend, or a family member, or you just freaking google it. You don’t sit there waiting for your romantic partner to rescue you and train you like a small child who doesn’t know how to make a bed.
This is what my husband did!
He’d lived at home until he was probably 28, and his mother did most everything. (He once said of a shirt he wore often, “I just put it in the laundry and it comes back clean.” I was really nervous.)
Then his folks moved to a different house and left him in their apartment (they owned a 3-fam house). He said to me, after about 2 weeks, “I suppose I should clean the bathroom.” And then he said, “I really don’t know how to do this. What product do I buy? Can I use a sponge?”
So I walked him through it!
And when we got married, he too had that, “It’s my stuff, my home, why wouldn’t I clean it?”
#861 – Single person, very bad/slack at housework. I live alone, so no biggie. I work full time, have some physical issues occasionally – and I am fully aware that 15 mins a day would basically keep my place OK – not fabulous, but OK. So I make sure that (usually) when I’m nuking something, I spend that 1-2 minutes emptying / loading the dishwasher, putting stuff away off the benches etc. “Come on, Self” , I say, “it’s one and half minutes- you can be inconvenienced for 90 seconds” and I am amazed how much difference this makes.
So – yeah, I can do this minimal stuff (usually) when no-one in the house other than me is impacted, even though I avoid chores like the plague and am skilled at self-distraction. Not doing basic stuff when you’ve said you would is beyond disrepectful – it’s deliberately avoidant. You know this deep-down – that’s why it’s upsetting, over and above the concrete inconvenience.
As many ppl have said better than I – this is not an issue of housework, it’s an issue of respecting your feelings and right to comfort and support.
All the best, and DTMFA.
LW 861, I gotta ask – you work 50+ hours/week, you cook 2 meals every day, you do most or all of the cleaning on your days off and I’m assuming you sleep a couple of hours every night. When do you have time to “do an injustice” to this moocher?
I wonder that too… he gets upset at me for what feels like random out of the blue things. I admit I’m not always the most emotional “delicate” person.
Most of the injustices that I’ve “done” him have been me being insensitive. Which sometimes I agree wih but most times I don’t…
I call bullshit on these supposed “injustices.” From what it sounds like, you are not only doing the heavy lifting, you are doing almost all the lifting in this situation, and should you dare to be a little irritable, he has the gall to get bent out of shape and hold a grudge about it? What the entire and actual fuck?
He needs to grow the fuck up and take care of himself. You deserve a better life than this; single life is way better than taking care of a man-baby, and if you want to be not-single, I expect there are plenty of people out there who’d treat you way better than this assclown.
Sorry for the grouchiness, but I have exactly zero sympathy for him and a whole lot for you.
It’s completely alright. I feel the same way fairly often…
I know he struggles with depression but I’ve known plenty of people with depression who still do everything that they need to do.
You know, there may also be people with depression who cannot manage to do physical tasks. But they are still a good partner, kind, emotionally supportive, fair in discussions. He is neither the one nor the other and it’s not your job to simply “deal”.
I have a depressed partner. They don’t always do everything they need to do, or that they think they need to do (their standards are higher than mine in some areas), but they never act like it’s my fault.
There are plenty of folks with depression and other brain-weasely things who do what they need to do, including seeking treatment and finding tools to help manage the brain-weasely things. Also, they communicate/do that use words thing to ask for help or to keep their loved ones in the know when they can’t or are struggling. It isn’t always easy and sometimes it is scary as hell… And yet do it anyway.
(I may resemble this remark, so I am biased).
You have a right to feel however it is you are going to feel. Feeling tired after working long hours? Valid. Being cranky after a particularly trying day? Valid. Being frustrated that household chore X or bf mess is still undone or there? Valid. Being angry that you’re stuck in this untenable situation where you do all of the economic, household, and emotional labor? Valid.
And yet, when these Valid Feelings and Concerns are brought to his attention, he makes it all about him and how indelicate and injust you are being to him, especially since he is Depressed.
I mean, how come? How dare you? ()
Depression can do a lot of weird things. Depression itself is a weird thing. Depression also doesn’t make otherwise reasonable people turn into manipulative people, unless that was already there in the first place.
I want to give you a jedi high-five for starting to see through the FOG of what is going on. Fear. Obligation. Guilt.
I know people with depression who don’t get a fraction of the things that they need to do done. But when you’re sharing your life with someone else, you need to communicate, and admit that you’re struggling, and find solutions to at least some of the problems. And if, for some reason, you cannot do X, then you should at least volunteer to do Y and Z, so the overall ‘free time’ budget gets rebalanced.
Yeah, sorry, still calling bullshit. I have bipolar disorder myself, to the point that I’m actually unable to work and on disability for it. I just came out of a depressive episode in which my own housekeeping went to hell. For about two months, the only things that got cleaned were the dishes my cat and I needed to eat and the cat’s litter box and the laundry. But, the only residents of my flat are my cat and me, so I wasn’t inconveniencing anyone else and I sure as hell wasn’t blaming anyone else.
Mental illness sucks a lot. I get that. It isn’t, however, a free pass for being an inconsiderate asshole.
Raises hand, calling bullshit on the depression.
I’ve got depression. I’ve ignored the dishes piling up in the sink for a week because I come home from work, eat, and go straight to bed. And being depressed, I know it’s on ME. I know it’s my “fault” they aren’t done, and if I’m embarrassed by the mess, it’s on me, not on someone else.
And on weekends when I’m not a wreck from work, I do get the dishes done, so whaddya know, if you’re so depressed you just sit around all day you can still get the dishes done.
Mind you, my family is all fur children so they don’t care, but I’d like to think if I did have a human living with me, I’d be better on top of things.
Well #861, call *me* insensitive because I wonder if he’s “struggling with depression” or just using it as an excuse to have his way all the time. It reads to me like you’re a kind person who doesn’t want to be insensitive to someone with a mental illness, and he’s using that to shirk *all* responsibility and mooch off you. Does he angrily insist that the constant videogaming is his escape/safety valve/his only coping mechanism and how can you be SO INSENSITIVE as to ask him to put up the Nintendo for twenty minutes and do the dishes??? don’t you know he has DEPRESSION??? Is he actually *doing* anything about his depression, or are you INSENSITIVE MONSTR for expecting him to magically get better overnight (even though you said no such thing)?
You get to leave anyone for any reason, but if you feel bad for leaving him “just” because he’s unemployed and won’t do chores, hold onto this: he is being mean to you. When you try to talk to him about the chores, he makes it all about how insensitive you are and you’re starting to believe it. It doesn’t matter how ill he is. Please do not waste any more of your precious time on this manchild who’s decided that sitting in a nest of junk food wrappers all day and snapping angrily when asked to pick up his shit is a valid lifestyle choice. Let him cry to his friends about how you’re Lucy Daughter of the Devil for kicking him out when he was soooooo depressssed, and let someone else deal with his mooching and his nasty mouth.
You’re right, #861. I have depression and I will be the first to admit I don’t dust or scrub baseboards (I’m nearsighted, prefer low lighting and can’t see minor grime well, so there’s that), but I still don’t let dirty dishes fester or forget to take out the trash or wash my clothing and bed things. Even if I can barely crawl out of bed (or if I can’t), the minute I am able to get my body upright, I take care of potentially unsanitary things and don’t wait for the Cleaning Faerie (or another tired, busy human being) to pop in and make them squeaky-clean FOR me. I spot clean after my animals if they have made a mess.
Depression is real and can make basic chores difficult, but I’m sensing that the situation here is that depression (diagnosed by whom? Himself plus Google Web, M.D., or an actual doctor who is working with your BF to get him meds / therapy (etc.) that can HELP the depression?) is being used as a Get Out Of Everything Related To Adulting Free card. That’s dirty pool, and you have several diagnosed and medicated depressed people here pointing that out, and noting that we still managed to get basic adulting done OR, failing that, we didn’t demand someone else suffer due to our inability to manage. If the situation has gone on long enough to be a noticeable pattern, that’s troubling.
Another personal anecdote: when I am depressed, I have trouble doing so-called “unpleasant” things, but my illness ALSO makes it difficult to do things I normally enjoy, such as sleep a reasonable amount of hours a night, or reading a book, or crafting/knitting/drawing, and so on. It isn’t very selective about what it makes difficult for me, is what I am saying. Take this with a shaker of salt, but I’d be skeptical if your depressed S.O. is capable of doing all the same fun things as always but somehow depression is making ONLY the responsible, adult, un-fun things “impossible,” That sounds like bullpoop.
Or maybe they don’t do everything they need to do–depression can do that.
I’ve lived it.
But when it was THAT bad, I also didn’t do other stuff that I just wanted to do–I did almost nothing. Period.
And if my spouse said, “Can you wash the dishes now?” I would have done it because I’d have been able to borrow motivation from him. Or I’d have sobbed.
I wouldn’t s tart a pissing match about how he was treating me.
Depressed person in a functional relationship #217, chiming in:
Depression sucks, but people who are incapacitated by depression can behave responsibly towards their partners and households by (a) seeking treatment so that their incapacitation is hopefully temporary, (b) communicating and negotiating about their abilities and responsibilities, and (c) doing their damn best.
For a while, I chose the smallest possible chore on my day off and did it. Maybe that was restocking the toilet paper or fluffing the pillows, or maybe it was cleaning my coffee mug, or maybe it was making the grocery list so my wife wouldn’t have to. And then there was this one amazing day where I did all the dishes and scrubbed the counters and mopped the floor and called my wife and went, “BABE! I cleaned the KITCHEN!” because the fog was gone, and doing for her what she had been doing for me felt so, so great.
People who want to contribute do, even in small ways, even if the barriers are big and tackling a messy house is way harder than for someone without a trick brain. It sounds like your boyfriend is struggling with selfishness, on top of depression and whatever else, and I don’t know how you treat that except with the door.
I’m feeling a little less grumpy today, so nicer Mel’s advice is that you cannot love him better. I still think your BF is a lazy jerk, but it’s not impossible he’s using the videogames and stuff to desperately try to distract himself from his brainweasels. You still can’t love him better. You can’t set yourself on fire to keep him warm, as they say.
If something is really wrong, it doesn’t sound like he’s going to get help as long as he can use you to pretend nothing’s wrong. If he really is just a jerk, nothing you say will persuade him to fix a situation than benefits him. Save yourself, no matter what’s wrong you can’t save him.
If you’re really that terrible and mean and insensitive, why doesn’t he just leave you? Oh right, it’s because you do all the work and bring in all the money. That’s a pretty sweet deal for him, the only thing that could make it better for him would be if he managed to crush your self-esteem to the point where you stopped asking him to pull his weight in his own home.
This sounds like classic manipulation and derailment. He always turns things around to focus on your supposed faults to avoid talking about his own. When he says it, it sounds like it is not about something you have actually done but about a power tactic to avoid responsibility.
He knows you are a nice person and don’t want to be insensitive. So you end up talking about him being hurt by you being hurt – instead of talking about you being hurt (see how that works?). Because it IS hurting you, working this hard both physically and emotionally without his help.
He accuses you of being insensitive. But who’s really the person that is insensitive here? He claims that you not only should cook him 2 meals a day, clean and work but also constantly tip toe around him and his emotions. He seems to have 0 sensitivity towards YOUR emotions and YOUR health.
As the Captain, I’m also worried about you internalizing these words he is saying. About YOUR supposed insensitivity, about it all being your fault. IT ISN’T. HE IS THE ONE AT FAULT HERE.
You say he’s depressed. Yes, struggling with depression is difficult. I know. But if he’s in such a bad shape that he can’t even cook breakfast for himself or give you basic support even emotionally, then he needs professional help.
In your letter you asked for a way to make him understand. But you have tried asking. You have used your valuable free time to write down for him what needed to be done. I think you _have the information you need_ in this regard. He won’t actually do what you want him to do, in the situation you are both in right now. For whatever reason. He has already shown that.
I’m sure you consider him a great guy. But that doesn’t mean you have to live with him. For the sake of your health and happiness, I hope you go and live by yourself. He’ll probably fight you on this. He might even give an ultimatum. Like “If you move out we’ll break up”.
But he has _already shown_ that he isn’t willing to do all those things that would make you stay. Which you have clearly communicated that you need in order to be happy, healthy and stress free. He has shown that those things aren’t important to him.
Go, live by yourself and take care of YOU.
“You say he’s depressed. Yes, struggling with depression is difficult. I know. But if he’s in such a bad shape that he can’t even cook breakfast for himself or give you basic support even emotionally, then he needs professional help.”
This. Is he seeing a counselor? Is he doing anything to get better?
A wise person once pointed out that a Dx is not a license to asshole. He may very well be depressed, but he’s also being a manipulative jerk who’s passing the buck to you on pretty much everything.
Well working a full time job and being responsible for all of the household could make someone act a bit insensitive. Personally speaking how much of a sarcastic ass I am is directly proportional to how much of the house work I’m responsible for.
Of course he could also simply be lying or grossly exaggerating things to try and justify his behavior.
They ARE random, out of the blue things. That’s how he keeps you off-balance and away from asking hard questions about his behavior – because you expend all your emotional energy on worrying about and dealing with random attacks.
out of nesting:
BritPopTarts raises an excellent point about depression: because it robs you of the inability to feel joy, you don’t want to do the things you normally do want to do. Not wanting to do what you normally don’t want to do, that’s normal.
So I raise an eyebrow at someone who can do everything they like to do, but not any of their adult chores. That doesn’t sound depressed, that sounds irresponsible.
Most depressed people only just manage to get done what they MUST get done to stay alive, and what they enjoy falls aside. Most people are responsible enough that they scrape together enough spoons to keep functioning, even if that’s ALL they do, and even if they aren’t functioning well. That’s why “dishes-laundry-cat box” is practically a mantra for depressed people. They don’t have enough spoons to do anything else.
I’m *not* saying your BF is *not* depressed, but I’m questioning whether it’s his depression that’s keeping him from the housekeeping.
A friend of mine introduced the concept of ‘activation energy’ to me, and I’ve found it an immensely useful concept: it takes less energy to keep reading the internet than to get up and go to bed, so you stay up even though you’re tired. It also takes less energy to sit in front of the computer and do the next thing the computer tells you to do (there’s always another monster around the corner) than it does to read a book or do the dishes. It takes less energy to zap from one TV channel to the next than it does to decide that you’ve had enough and want to do something else, so you stay and watch whatever is on, and with 200 channels, there’s usually *something* on that will catch your attention for the next fifteen minutes.
So from where I’m sitting, playing video games very much looks like a ‘low energy’ option to me. The other thing is that video games will offer you intense emotional experiences as well as a sense of achievement. (Cleared another level. Beat another enemy. Unlocked another badge on Steam.) When these are things that you cannot easily achieve otherwise, because you’re in a brain fog, doing something dull-but-rewarding is a form of self-medication: you get to feel good about *something* rather than a complete failure at *everything* in your life or merely passively consuming your day. So I get where that impulse is coming from, and I’d see it as a symptom of, rather than an argument against, depression.
This is possibly the saddest excuse I have ever heard for having the energy to do your fun shit, but not the dishes.
Me again. My daughter is a lifelong depressive who also has PTSD from a near-fatal illness and accompanying hospital stay. (Think: Paralyzed up to her eyeballs — yet still in pain — and on life support.) The illness left her with chronic fatigue and a couple years back she was diagnosed with bipolar II.
She’s now off disability, having found a job she can do from home, and her husband is ON disability (fibromyalgia, severe asthma, even more severe eczema). Between the two of them they manage to get an agreed-upon number of things done: catbox kept clean, laundry done, moderate amount of floor-cleaning, occasional bathroom cleaning.
They AGREED on these things. And they also have come to terms with the fact that certain things will be done rarely or never. Neither of them dumps all the hard stuff on the other. That just wouldn’t work. It also wouldn’t be fair or kind to expect your partner to pick up the shitload.
As noted in my other comment, I know from bitter experience how hard it can be to be partnered with someone who thinks nothing of letting you do all the work. You feel devalued as well as enraged. You wonder, “If he really cares about me, why would he let me work so hard and exhaust myself and have little to no down time?” (In addition to the house chores, snow shoveling, home repairs and child care, I had a busy freelance life and also transcribed a lot of the interviews he did so he could write books for regional publishers.)
Here’s one possible answer: He cares about you only as it pleases him to feel magnanimous enough to do so.
Here’s another: He cares about you only if he has enough care-spoons left after caring about himself and his own needs all day long.
I wish you luck, and I hope that [object lesson alert!] you don’t give a couple of decades of yourself to this guy, the way I did.
P.S. One final wish: That you find a partner as wonderful as I did, i.e., one who considers chores and such to be something to be shared because that’s what loving (and adult!) partners do.
Hate to say it, but it sounds like he deserves your insensitivity. I don’t mean in a general sense (being that level of insensitive is just mean-spirited), only in that someone who consistently dismisses, by action or words, your clearly stated needs does not in any way, shape, or form deserve special effort or overly couched phrases to his liking on your disquiet
LW #860: I was once in a similar situation – sick of the long-distance thing, looking forward to my boyfriend finishing his studies so we could be in the same place. But as the time got closer, the alarm bells started ringing for me like they’re ringing for you. He was applying for jobs all over the country and it became clear he was expecting me to follow him to wherever he ended up – but he wasn’t prepared to restrict his job search to places that would work for me. I couldn’t drive, I was building a career that depended on being in a city, and I freaked out at the prospect of living somewhere rural and isolated with no public transport. I ended it because it became clear he wasn’t thinking about our life together, he was just thinking about what was best for his career and expecting me to fit in with it even if that meant making myself lonely and jobless. We had endless discussions, but his idea of negotiating was just to keep re-stating his plans. I think we were both sick of going round in circles, and I also started to get the feeling he was cooling on me – he flaked on a planned visit, got lazy about phone calls and emails. In the end I decided I didn’t want to uproot my life to be financially and logistically dependent on someone who was putting in so little effort. So I ended the relationship. Maybe the “logical” move would have been to just wait and see how his job-hunt panned out – as it turned out, he ended up working in a city anyway – but I was exhausted and frankly bored of trying to plan a shared future with someone who didn’t even seem to grasp the concepts of compromise, negotiation, joint planning. Yes, the break-up was sad, but afterwards I realised how much unreciprocated effort I’d been putting into making the relationship work, how much time and energy I suddenly had for myself. And I was still in the city where I had family and friends, where I’d just got a lucky break in my career, where I was having fun. I now see ending that relationship as one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’m not even saying *you* should end it right now, but I agree 100% with the Captain’s advice not to give up everything and move to another country where you will be dependent on someone who just isn’t putting in the effort. You deserve more.
As part of my old job I had guys in their first ‘adult’ job rotating in and out of my team. They were all c. 25, master’s degrees, on their way to becoming wizards of business. So we’d all go out for beers and eventually they would admit that they had girlfriends. But after even more teeth-pulling, more than one of them admitted that he didn’t like his girlfriend very much, but the sex was good and it was fine and since they were focused on their careers or their friends or whatever it was fine, could we talk about something else please. It was FASCINATING. Eventually more than one of them decided to break up with these girlfriends. Rather than, you know, have an awkward conversation about it, they all used the method of being as half-assed about the relationship as possible until the girlfriends figured it out and dumped them instead. Which they cheerfully straight up told me, when they were out in the bar with us instead of out somewhere with her. I’ve thought about these guys a lot since I’ve started dating again, and it’s been really easy for me not to get hung up on guys behaving weirdly since I’ve been able to say ‘oh well, if he really cared he wouldn’t be doing that.’
More than one of them has since gotten into a new relationship, with women they actually like, and the difference in their behavior is night and day. I hate to say that ‘he’s just not that into you’ are wise words of wisdom, but I really think they are. LWs, if your boyfriends really wanted to be with you, they’d make it happen. If you’re willing to put up with the relationship exactly as it is now, that’s your choice and we all wish you both well. But you can do better. This is your only life!
I mean, I have always shown people I care about that they’re a priority by making time to see them, responding to their phone calls and texts, and wanting to be around them, treating them with respect and consideration, so I give MAJOR side-eye to people who insist that yes! They care! And want to be with you! They just don’t want to put in any time or effort, or you know, DO anything.
I know that sometimes you can care about someone but other stuff gets in the way, but I don’t know, it seems weird to me that someone would profess to care about you and then treat you like shit. I personally cannot reconcile the cognitive dissonance of being TOLD that someone cares about me but being SHOWN by their actions that they don’t.
It’s worse, too, when you’re accused of assuming bad intentions from them when you point this out. So much worse, because then what you do is take them at their word to try and change, as it were, only to be disappointed yet again, but then you feel bad at the idea of bringing this up. (/personal experience)
This is so true. My boyfriend has heard similar from a dear colleague of his (read: annoying jerk, pain to work with). This guy would go on and on about disliking his relationship so one day my bf said ‘why don’t you break up with her?’ Apparently, you would have thought my bf had said why don’t you fly to the moon or something. Impossible! Of course he couldn’t break up with her! He was just going to muddle along, totally clocked out on the relationship (except for the sex) until she finally had to do the hard thing and break up with him.
Oh good heavens, you would not believe the stuff I have heard guys admit to / brag about with respect to their treatment of wives and girlfriends, over my many years of being the only woman amongst a sea of men.
As you said, it provides you with some interesting life lessons. You learned if the guy isn’t attentive to the relationship, it’s a deliberate strategy of not valuing the relationship.
I learned that when married or similarly partner-committed men don’t pull their own weight in the total labor of running the family, it is a deliberate policy to scam off their wives/partners for their own benefit.
There was the one who proudly regaled a huge table at lunch with his successful strategy centered around housework: Play dumb. He said he knows he’s not doing his share. His wife knows he’s not doing his share. But as long has he can keep her convinced that he truly believes he IS doing his share, he’s pretty sure he can get away with her doing his share for him. Which is The Way To Go, Guys, because more time for videogames or rock climbing or whatever. Who cares if she wants to play videogames or rock climb? This is a zero-sum game where there is only so much free time in the relationship, so make damn sure you’re The Man and win that contest by scamming the majority of it for yourself!
He was met with riveted interest and head nods all around. And my Spockbrow. I contemplated telling his wife.
There have been many who explain how they just claim they need to “work” more and it’s can’t be helped, they are utterly helpless in the face of the necessary demands of the job. So they are exempt from dealing with sick children or calls from the school or checkup appointments. And of course they are exempt from doing their share of housework and childcare and household management and emotional labor, because they just stay longer at the office, and fill the time with longer lunches or working out in the middle of the day or actual things to help their career that are optional, not mandatory.
After hearing enough of those, I just plain don’t let men live with me.
A likely scenario: The guy’s strategy works. His wife stops fighting him about it because she never gets anywhere, and she stops trying to make things better. After the relationship inevitably erodes, she decides she’s done dealing with his shit and leaves him.
The guy is blindsided. Heartbroken. Furious. How could she just leave out of NOWHERE for NO REASON when they were SO HAPPY? Women. Who can understand them and their womening ways?
Oh that’s a whole ‘nother class of stories I have heard from the sea of men that lead me to deciding never to let one of them live with me: Stories about How She Left For No Reason With No Warning.
Spoiler: She always gave a reason and a warning.
What with the Asperger’s I tend to fall for it every time some poor guy expresses utter bewilderment over where his relationship went, claiming that she just ended it! With no explanation! No reason given at all! No hint that anything was wrong!
I fall for that because growing up with Asperger’s, for quite a while there most people’s behavior was utterly unpredictable and appeared to be without reasons or hints that it was coming. So to me it’s utterly credible that someone could leave a romantic relationship without ever coming out and saying what was up, because people being inexplicable was my normal for a good chunk of my life. And sometimes it really does happen.
It has not, however, turned out to have happened in any of the many dozens of cases guys claiming bewilderment over the years have told me about.
The conversations tend to start with the guy saying something short about his sense of loss and bewilderment. I express sympathy and horror over the idea that someone would just break things off, when things were fine, and give no hint why and no hint that anything was wrong.
The guy telling the story then tends to open up a little more about what happened, telling more of the story of “Not Even A Hint”. I make more sympathetic noises. Usually this happens in bits over the course of days.
The guy, realizing he has a sympathetic ear, starts to talk a bit more about what their relationship was like. And that’s when it comes: The huge glaring reasons for why she would end it. Her repeated complaints that he repeats to me — proving he knew exactly what was wrong because she told him.
At that point, I tend to interrupt and say, “Oh, so you do know why she left, and it wasn’t without warning. You knew exactly what was up.”
“No I didn’t!”
“Yes you did. You just told me exactly why she left, and that she’d been telling you what the problem was for a while before she left.”
They don’t like being called on it, I’ve learned.
There are various themes that tend to develop from there, like, “I just explained very clearly showing that I understood exactly what the problem was, but I still Just Don’t Understand, Therefore I Am The Victim Here Dammit.”
Or, “But, well, yeah, she did talk about that problem a lot, and I did just shrug off her complaints and refuse to engage in finding a mutually workable solution, but That’s No Reason To Leave! I liked how things were going, so she should have too!”
I usually respond to that one by asking what option did she have left to get away from the problem? He wouldn’t engage on solving it, as he proved by his repeated refusals over time, so if she wanted to get away from the problem, what choice did she have? Invariably they respond that she shouldn’t have left over it (this part is usually shouted). I say of course she should have left over it, since he left her no alternative. This usually gets stunned silence.
Basically what I’ve gotten from these stories is that there seems to be a unifying theme — the guy did know what was wrong, he was perfectly aware he was refusing to do anything about it, but he had decided she should just suck it up and take it, therefore there was no reason to leave.
Of course, if a partner refuses to engage on solving relationship problems, that is pretty much THE reason to leave.
“Basically what I’ve gotten from these stories is that there seems to be a unifying theme — the guy did know what was wrong, he was perfectly aware he was refusing to do anything about it, but he had decided she should just suck it up and take it, therefore there was no reason to leave.”
::prods this bit with finger:: Yes. YES, THIS. The bit about refusing to engage in finding a mutually workable solution is the WORST. ::primal scream::
It is the worst. It’s kind of the Ur-problem.
Or at least, that is how it has looked to my Aspie brain from a very young age, when I started analyzing my parents’ just plain opting out on certain issues.
Would the rest of you say it is the Ur-problem, or is there a deeper layer? Or just a different picture?
Oh, and I forgot the worst part. I’ve heard way too many conversations over the years where dudes tell each other and encourage each other to believe that Women Complain as part of the natural order of things, like dogs barking at butterflies or something. They tell each other it’s just Something Women Do, but just like the dog barking at butterflies, it has no meaning; it just a thing those funny creatures do.
I wish I were kidding.
But as far as I can see, men telling each other that, and a very long history of men telling each other that, is fundamental to a lot of the problems we wind up seeing on Captain Awkward. If some men manage to actually convince themselves that a woman complaining is just something she does that has no connection to action needing to be taken, it explains a lot, doesn’t it?
I should note that non-men also sometimes decide to just ignore a person’s complaints as something that needs no action. I’ve seen mothers-in-law do this to daughters-in-law quite a bit, for example. But interestingly, that’s another case where those that do it are often getting social support from their peers to decide that the person’s complaints don’t matter.
Not sure if this is a different picture or a deeper layer, but in cases like these, I’ve noticed that the man doesn’t consider the woman’s needs/requests that important or in urgent need of addressing. Either the woman is criticized for being “trivial” or “overreacting,” or when presented with potential solutions, are brushed off because “they’re not necessary” or some other reason, even though both parties would benefit from said solutions.
Another result besides the guy expecting the woman to deal with the status quo is that he leaves her because she’s “stressing him out” with her nagging, although that’s because she’s raised the issue over and over (but not really that many times), and yet made the mistake of hoping he’d follow through on his promises to do better, which is probably why she didn’t leave him first.
I had this conversation with my just now ex-partner. That so many of hir male friends had the same such-a-surprise sob story, which I often heard, but then also heard the women talk about escalating the problem repeatedly without result until they finally were done and left. My partner took that on board and said that if I left hir, zie would know why. And it is exactly the ur-problem you describe. A refusal to problem-solve, take responsibility, offer solutions but shoot mine down, and generally derail, shut-down or turn into an attack any attempt on my part to raise my concerns or try to get my needs addressed. At the end, zie finally started taking the initiative to talk through small incidents in the moment, but I realized it was too little, too late, and I needed to just quit and get some space to heal.
Yeah, I’ve noticed that when concerns were raised with me, I apologized and implemented corrective measures, but when *I* raised concerns, it was treated like I’d made an accusation of deliberate cruelty, followed by derailment and excuses, and my apparent lack of understanding that it was Not All About Me and my so-called bad habit of assuming the worst of others.
And then I spoke to other women and found out that surprise surprise, I wasn’t being unreasonable. (/bitter)
@Helen Huntington: “Like dogs barking at butterflies or something.”
Oh man. I remember you posting about that before. It made me so angry. I thought back to a bunch of comments in a men’s-rights-themed blog about how their wives left them without warning and thought, yeah, I bet they had plenty of warning.
I’ve only met one guy in person who said this happened to him. We didn’t have any follow-up conversations about it, so if there were any obvious indications of his ex-wife’s unhappiness, I don’t know what they were. What I did notice was his absolute failure to perceive social cues. He expressed a romantic interest in me. I didn’t reciprocate. He didn’t come out and ask me if I was interested too, and I wasn’t great about Using My Words at the time, so I kept lobbing soft nos at him until finally one of them hit the target. It was pretty easy to imagine him failing to connect the dots with his ex.
LW 861, I have a question about the timing of it all. Does it raise any flags to you that your boyfriend ran out of money at almost exactly the same time you started talking about moving in together? I don’t know you, obviously, but it certainly raises a flag for me. That, plus the other issues you’ve raised, suggests to me that he knows exactly what’s going on here, and he’s counting on you to bail him out of this financial situation.
Hi, never commented before.
LW#860, I think you should consider the possibility your boyfriend didn’t stop spending when he ran out of money; he stopped when he ran out of credit. You know he buys stuff he wants without planning for the future. You know he optimistically hopes things are going to work out when there’s no evidence that they will. He may be up to his eyeballs in debt at this point.
Oops, I meant LW 860 of course.
LW 860 –
I did this. Not the foreign country but an incredibly expensive city on the other side of the continent where all the friends were his, all the housing was exorbitant, and all my job experience was now in a different state.
I picked up and moved to New York City because my boyfriend of a year *promised* me he would go there ahead of me, get us set up with the basics (some form of functional housing, a bed, running water) for when I arrived, so that I had to do was hit the pavement and find a job.
I spent 6 months planning, 3 months packing and selling my things, 2 months lining up professional contacts and job interviews, a month quitting my job and training my replacement, and weeks loading boxes in storage and convincing my family he wasn’t full of sh*t and would do what he said. I sold my car because who needs a car in New York? When I arrived, there was nothing.
He was living in the sub-let basement of a friend’s house where the guy letting the basement to him would be back in a few weeks. There was no air conditioning, makeup I was applying for interviews slid off my face as I was applying it, his friend and her roommate fought all the time, and the one kitchen in the apartment was constantly filthy.
Did I mention he was fighting with me before I arrived and threatened to not even meet me at the airport, or provide the address for where he lived?
I saw how things were immediately, and in addition to the two job interviews I had lined up the week of my arrival (which he complained about because I wouldn’t have time to spend with him), I added deep trolling of internet listings for a place to stay. For me to stay. A place for me to live. With a roommate. Without him.
When I got one in a few lucky days, I paid whatever my new roommate was asking and moved immediately. Boyfriend was soooo unhappy about this because, because, why couldn’t I stay in the (sweat soaked, makeup melting) basement with him. And I started my new job a couple weeks after that, for double the salary I had been making in my home state.
A week or two later, the housemate situation in that household disintegrated, he was also out on the street, and had to find new friends to put him up on their sofas instead. If I’d bought into what he was selling one more time, I would have been homeless in New York city, and almost certainly without the kind of job that could have dug him or me out of that sort of hole. His egomanical cluelessness astounded me. I’d had inklings before, but had never seen it so broadly and clearly painted.
Predictably, we didn’t last another 4 months (I have no answers at to why we even lasted that long). But I lasted in NYC another year before asking myself one day – why am I here, and whose dream was this anyway? Yes, I’d been excited about moving there originally. And yes, once I got there I’d proven to myself I could show up in one of the toughest cities in the world with no job, no housing, about $1200 to my name, and make my own way in spite of ignorance, naivete, being lied to, and all the odds against me. But once that “f*ck yeah” energy came to an end, why was I there?
I realized I had other dreams to dream and other places to live, so I moved on an upward with my life. To a city of my choosing on the other side of the country, where I also moved sight unseen without a job, and where having worked in my industry in NYC for a year netted me more salary than I had been making in New York.
To this day when I visit New York I want to move back there. I still love the city the way you can only love a place that tried to knock you down but you won out instead. I’ll always love that place for what I learned about myself there, and for what that city stripped away from me that had been bad for me in the first place.
YMMV and you’d be hard pressed to find a more nastily irresponsible boyfriend than the one I had. I’m sure yours is not mine. But I’d highly recommend not moving to a new city on the other side of the world based on the tenuous promises of a man your gut is telling you is probably not a reliable person. Especially when it sounds like you are the responsible, reliable party and he is the romantic dreamer. Unless you enjoy getting furious and self-righteous in order to blast through obstacles and come out the other side of them with something that belongs to you, don’t do that to yourself. And even if you do motivate yourself that way sometimes, there’s better ways of doing that too.
You deserve all the highfives for making it through that! And then more highfives for figuring out that you didn’t actually want to live in New York, that’s some serious self-awareness!
One of my favorite relationship blogs is Assume Love, where Patty Newbold writes about relationships. She operates on a three-platform basis, the first of which is to Assume Love. Quoting her here: “When you Assume Love, you try to explain how a loving person might come to do whatever your wife, husband, or life partner just did that upset you so.”
LW861, when your BF turns every discussion about your concerns into a complaint about you, is this something a loving person would do? Why would someone who loves you do that? If you can think of an actual, good reason for it, great. I suspect it would be hard to find that reason, unless he’s just really terrible at self-inspection and unwilling to consider that his own actions might be part of the difficulties in your relationship, in which case, he’s terrible relationship material anyway, even if he really does love you. LW860, would someone who really loves and cares for you truly want you to take such a huge financial risk? Is he even thinking about your best interests?
I suspect both of these men are extremely selfish and mainly concerned with their own wants and their own creature comforts. This doesn’t necessarily make them bad people, but they are not good partner material for our LW’s. Time now to set a boundary and enforce it while you can still get out easily.
The way 860’s boyfriend has behaved reminds me of the way my ex behaved over an essay. We were long-distance, and he had a month-long semester break which he planned to spend with me. Just as soon as he finished this one essay he still needed to do. So we talked on the phone and I kept saying encouraging things about the essay … and then one day he said he hadn’t even started it. All the time I thought he’d been working on it, he’d just been noodling about on the internet and watching old TV shows and stuff.
So I was pretty hurt. One of the things I said to him was “you don’t actually want to come and visit me. You’d like it fine if the essay fairy waved a wand and you could come, but you don’t want it enough to put in the work.” And he was like “yeah, that’s probably kind of true.”
I wish I could say that once I understood this I dumped him and moved on. I did not. I stayed with him for two more years and put dreams on hold for more time together, and eventually he decided he was fed up with the relationship and tried to annoy me into dumping him by acting like a massive jerk. Please, LW, be smarter than me. Get out before it gets to that.
I had something similar happen, except it was about Dumb Ex’s JOB. I thought he was working for his dad alongside his part time job, so when he quit his part time job I didn’t think much of it. Then I wondered if he wasn’t working as much for his dad since he seemed to have a lot of free time, and maybe he should look for a new part time gig? And he lets it drop that, actually, while he technically did work for his dad, his dad didn’t pay him money. So he literally made around $2000 that year. He was 30. And in school. And was making zero effort to find a real job. And was paying for all of our dates with his STUDENT LOAN MONEY.
abort abort abort.
Good thing I didn’t like him much to begin with.
It’s wonderful to hear all the experience anecdotes that refer to an “ex”, instead of the person still being in the relationship with an uncaring doofus. Letter writers: I look forward to hear from you that you have extricated yourself from these situations. 860: please get your job back. Wait until he shows results before moving. 861: nice to see you joining in on the conversation. You deserve better. Allow me to join the DTMFA chorus.
Interesting by-product of these discussions: my SO and I talked about it and are going to hire a cleaning service since neither one of us is what you call tidy. (We both work full time and neither expects the other to do more than we are willing to do ourselves).
Cleaning services are the best! My husband and I just don’t particularly like cleaning and have the tremendous luxury of being able to afford to pay someone else to do it. We literally never argue about cleaning, it’s fantastic.
I’ve always been a bit puzzled about where men like the one in letter 861 come from. Here’s a clue:
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