I EARN MORE MONEY THAN MY PARTNER
My partner and I are planning on moving abroad — back to my home country. My dad believes that my boyfriend is paying for his trip, but I earn more money — so I am paying. We are committed to each other, so this isn’t a problem for me. He has never asked me for money, and we split bills 50/50.
My dad is old-fashioned and has always been the breadwinner. I am too scared to tell him the truth. Should I confess and risk him hating my partner forever for “sponging” off his daughter? Am I right to let my partner off the hook, or should I make him pay — possibly delaying our move for years?
There are two issues to address here: your relationship with your father, and the financial agreements you need to make with your boyfriend.
I wonder why you feel so anxious about telling your dad ‘the truth’ about your private financial decisions. You are an adult, living in another country — what you earn and how you spend it are none of his business.
Sometimes, if we’re raised in a family where parents are overbearing, in adulthood we feel we must still explain every minute aspect of our lives to them, and subsequently make choices to appease them.
Your father may have ideas about what he would do — but that doesn’t mean those are the right things for you to do. But it might be that — if you’ve had a lifetime of being told to do things to keep your father happy — you’ve internalized this, and cannot think for yourself without becoming uncertain or anxious.
It’s extreme that you feel like, if you tell your father that you’re supporting your partner financially, he would not only be upset with you, but would ‘hate your partner forever’. This doesn’t sound like a particularly positive relationship — although it could be your fear of not living up to your father’s standards that’s making it sound so bleak.
This isn’t likely to improve when you’re back in your home country. So before you go, it would be worth taking confidence or assertiveness courses, or reading confidence building books, or seeing a therapist to reflect on your family issues, and to feel more in control over your personal matters.
You may have a better relationship with your father by telling him superficial and positive things about your life. If you don’t tell him about the decisions you’re making in terms of work, finances, relationships etc then he can’t interfere.
If he presses you for details you can tell him it’s all fine, or, if he perthere sists, that it’s not up for discussion as you’ve sorted it.
If thinking about setting clear boundaries with him and telling him ‘no’ makes you feel worried, again a therapist can help.
It is worth double-checking whether your father’s attitudes really are based on old fashioned views — or if he’s got your best interests at heart. Assuming that, because you’re a woman, you shouldn’t be paying to support your boyfriend puts him very definitely in the old fashioned camp.
But being anxious about you being treated fairly, and being in a relationship that’s equitable and strong (including being secure about your finances and not liable for another person’s debts or expenditure), is very sensible.
Parents can be overbearing, and sometimes they’re completely out of step. But sometimes, when they want to know their child is safe and secure, they’re absolutely right.
Another possibility is your worries about what your dad might think, are actually a manifestation of your own fears about what you are paying for — and the big step you and your boyfriend will be making. Do you, deep down, feel he’s ‘sponging’ off you?
Although these thoughts are unpleasant, having some time to think about how you feel (rather than what you think your dad or boyfriend would want) is important.
Currently you earn double what your boyfriend makes, but bills are split equally between you. In terms of the move, what will you be funding that your boyfriend isn’t able to pay for? His visa? Plane ticket? Removal costs? Is it the case that he won’t be able to work, or will have limits on his work that mean you would have to support him financially for a period of time?
Given the current situation for immigration in many countries, what will be his long-term prospects of being able to stay with you?
Be straight and open
It’s time for a deeply unromantic but completely necessary and frank conversation with your boyfriend about the options open to you both. It’s a good time to talk, as you’re getting on well and have the excitement of a move to enjoy planning.
Can you note all the opportunities, all the costs (and who is going to meet them), plus potential problems and how you could avoid or address them? All of this is important, as resentments that can build up over money can leave you feeling unhappy, and drive a big wedge through the strongest of relationships.
The things you need to note are the conditions of his visa, what work he will/won’t be allowed to do on return, the security of the job you have when you’re back in your home country, where you’ll live, and how you’ll both budget for living costs.
What are your long-term prospects for work back home — and what are his? What securities do you have in terms of illness, injury, planning for your retirement, caring for your parents as they age, and raising children (if wanted)?
Separate to that, you need to note what costs are going to be incurred with the move back to your home — that includes his visa, tickets, removal costs, storage etc. As there is a year to go before you move, are options for him taking a loan to cover his share (as he’d have to do if he were moving for work independently)?
Or perhaps you can pay for some things, and he can pay you back? Or, given the pay disparity between you, can you proportionally work out shares — so you’re both paying fairly, but based on your individual earnings?
Other things to note ...
If he doesn’t seem to want to discuss things — or it’s a case of you organising and paying for everything — that’s a red flag and shouldn’t be ignored. However, if he is contributing as much as he is able within his means, is enthusiastically joining in with plans, taking the initiative, and intends to go on doing so once you move — then this is not a problem.
It would be prudent, for both of you, to take legal and financial advice about your own finances and status. That’s to ensure that, if you do move together but split up, or there are any unforeseen problems (ill health, injury, or death), that you are both covered as much as possible.
On that note, you may also want to consider issues about your relationship: whether you wish to stay as partners, if you feel marriage or a legal partnership is a good plan. There’s no reason to do anything you don’t want, but again taking legal advice on security for the both of you is good (probably more so for him, if he’s not resident and not your spouse).
You both have a great opportunity here, and you can plan for it, while ensuring you’re not ripped off and your boyfriend isn’t left in a precarious situation in a new country. Among all the practical advice, keeping focused on your future life together and how to enjoy that to the full remains a priority.
Petra Boynton is a social psychologist and sex researcher working in International Health Care and studying sex and relationships. She is The Telegraph’s agony aunt. Follow her on Twitter @drpetra.
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