Re­la­tion­ships:

China Daily - - WEEKEND LIFE - By DR PE­TRA BOYN­TON ZHANG CHENGLIANG / CHINA DAILY

It’s time for a deeply un­ro­man­tic but com­pletely nec­es­sary and frank con­ver­sa­tion with your boyfriend about the fact you earn more money than him.

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.

Cop­ing strate­gies

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.

Mo­ti­vat­ing fac­tors

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.

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.

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.

Email your sex and re­la­tion­ships queries in con­fi­dence to:agony.a unt@tele­graph.co.uk

Pe­tra can­not print an­swers to ev­ery sin­gle ques­tion sub­mit­ted, but she does read all your emails. Please note that by sub­mit­ting your ques­tion to Pe­tra, you are giv­ing your per­mis­sion for her to use your ques­tion as the ba­sis of her col­umn, pub­lished on­line at Won­der Women.

All ques­tions will be kept anony­mous and key de­tails, facts and fig­ures may change to pro­tect your iden­tity. Pe­tra can only an­swer based on the in­for­ma­tion you give her and her ad­vice is not a sub­sti­tute for med­i­cal, ther­a­peu­tic or le­gal ad­vice.

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