I have been in a serious committed relationship for six years. We met in law school, moved across the country together, and have been living at my boyfriend’s (“partner”) parent’s house for almost four years. Yup! You read that right! We are both attorneys and we still live with parents.
I have been trying to convince partner to move out with me for most of those four years; obviously without success. He finally agreed to buy a house with me and we have a realtor and finance person. Except we really haven’t made any headway on moving out. Saving money has been slow going because we both work long hours which makes cooking meals at home difficult -and our kitchen is less than ideal. Regardless, when meals are made it’s usually (read: ALWAYS) at the expense of my mental and physical labor- not his. I have tried to get him to contribute more in this regard but to no avail.
If you haven’t already surmised by now, I am a classic co-dependent! I will mother you like no other mother! Except that means I don’t take care of #1 and probably explains why I’m even in this predicament!
Starting a career in law is very difficult and I live in an area with an impacted market. Nevertheless, I somehow convinced a well-regarded law firm to hire me and have been working there for around 10 months. I have started to become heavily recruited by other firms and my career has gone from 0-100 in one week.
Compare that to partner’s career trajectory: never seems to find the right “fit” in a job; liked his first legal job but had some performance issues and became ultimately unhappy; was let go from his last job; and hates his current job and is currently looking for a new job. All of his job woes make me scared for our future because I desperately need stability. Even though he’s a lawyer and so presumably he has the tools to be successful, I’m afraid that he will continue this trend of failing to work hard to achieve goals- even in positions that he doesn’t love.
Last night I was trying to fall asleep in my partner’s childhood bedroom with all of our adult belongings closing in on us and our large, living-room sized TV lighting up the room while partner watched something about video games even though it was late and even though he had to wake up early. My heart was racing with so much anger for him and myself. I want a partner that challenges me and can keep up with my career ambitions.
So my question is: Do I let this ride out and continue to be the supportive girlfriend that helps her partner out of continuous ruts? Is this what love is and have I missed the memo that being in a committed relationship entails dragging your partner along kicking and screaming when you’re traveling a lot faster than he is and you want to help him keep up?
Not Your Mother
Dear Not Your Mother,
What if I told you that your boyfriend will likely remain pretty much exactly as he is now (career-wise and personal happiness-wise and inclination to prepare meals-wise?) for the forseeable future? What if I told you that he might actually allow you to eventually drag him kicking and screaming out of his parents’ house but that you will have to do 100% of the work of finding a place and moving?
Applying the Sheelzebug Principle: How many more years do you want your relationship to be exactly like this? 1 more? 5 more? 10? Forever?
It’s okay to live with family to save up money or because you like it. It’s okay to not be very career-oriented. These things don’t make him a bad person, but you say “I want a partner that challenges me and can keep up with my career ambitions.” It’s okay to really like someone but also decide they aren’t the right fit for you long-term. You have a lot of evidence that you and he want different things from life. An opportunity to get the kind of life you want has arrived, now, calling your name and holding the door open for you. What are you going to do?
You wrote to me (the Marie Kondo of breakups) so I know that you know what to do, but I’ll remind you anyhow:
- Keep kicking ass in your career and follow your star wherever it leads.
- Do some thinking about where you want to be geographically. Is this the right city for you, long-term, if your partner were not a factor?
- Separate your finances from his. Figure out how much house/apartment you (alone) can afford either as a renter or to buy.
- Move to your own place and set up your household exactly as you like it. Make the meals you want for yourself when you feel like it. Watch only what you like on the TV. Stop waiting for him.
- Do not let his name be on the lease/mortgage or any documents, and if you decide to keep dating for a while after you move, do not allow him to move in with you.
- Somewhere in there, end things with him. He’ll be comfortable and happy living with his parents and he’ll figure out his career stuff (or not) in his own time. You’ll miss him for a little while but a) I promise you it will pass and b) if you want to find him, you know right where he’ll be.
You can’t change him. It’s okay to outshine him. Stop waiting for him. Go get your life.
Update (3/14): I don’t know what’s going on, but comments have gotten very contentious today, so I’m shutting ’em down. Letter Writer, it’s okay to leave this guy. Wish you well!