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Dear Dr. Debra,


My boyfriend and I are in our mid-fifties. Weíve been together about five years, living together for four. I have adult children. He doesnít. I own my home, which Iím leasing out. Iím living in his house and paying ďrentĒ—half of the mortgage and the utilities. He used to talk about getting married, but now has told me he changed his mind. Heís very controlling about money, keeping track of every penny. Iím looser about money than he is. Heís concerned about mingling our money, although Iíve told him we donít have to.


I donít feel like his house is mine, and I miss ďnesting.Ē The economy has him spooked about his finances, and he refuses to sell his house so we can buy one of our own. Iím concerned about what would happen if he died. His sister would inherit, but I couldnít move back to my house for a year until the lease was up. So in the midst of grieving his death, Iíd also have to find a place to live and move. I nagged at him until he agreed to see an attorney to make a will, which would allow me to stay in the house until I could move home. But he wonít make the appointment or go to counseling because heís worried about money.


I do love him. We get along well, and heís good to talk to, to listen to me, heís supportive of what I do in my life. But, I feel Iím marking time, waiting for his finances to improve, so we can do things to further our relationship. But I feel like my heartís starting to not be in the relationship.


Wondering Whether to Give Up


Dear Wondering,


Itís hard to be in a holding pattern, waiting for circumstances to change so a relationship can improve. Even though youíve written a lot, I canít quite get a handle on your relationship. You mention qualities in your boyfriend—the support, how he listens, getting along well—that are important, but also share about what bothers you.


Instead of giving you advice, Iím going to give you questions to ask yourself. I think the answers to the questions might give you enough information to make a decision.


1. Am I staying in this relationship because I donít want to be alone, or Iím afraid I wonít find a relationship thatís better? Many times, people remain in relationships because theyíre ďgood enough,Ē but arenít entirely fulfilling. But these people are so afraid of being alone, or they believe they wonít find the loving relationship they desire, that they donít risk leaving. They feel they might as well stick with whatís comfortable.


2. Can I improve my spending, saving, and investing habits? Is your boyfriendís complaint about your finances valid? Could you learn from him, and make some wiser choices about your money? (Debtors Anonymous is a great program for finding out if you have money issues. www.debtorsanonymous.org )


3. Does my boyfriend have a generous spirit or a miserly spirit?

A frugal attitude about money, especially in this economy, is a good quality. However, thereís a difference between being frugal and being miserly. Does he take you out for dates? Does he insist you pay half of everything when you go out? Does he buy you spontaneous presents, even if they donít cost much? Does he give thoughtful, generous gifts at Christmas and birthdays? Is he a good tipper? Does he give to charity? Will he lend/give money to family or friends if they are in need?


4. Will heíll change if the economy improves and/or he has more money? Many people have a hoarding mentality, where they fear they never have enough money or security, no matter what their reality is. They always find excuses for their attitude and choices, instead of realizing their inner insecurities. If your boyfriend is like this, heís not going to change, at least not without therapy or coaching.


5. Is he trying to find creative solutions to enhance my lifestyle and add romance to your relationship that doesnít involve spending money? In other words, is he stuck in a tightfisted mentality that extends to his whole life, including your relationship, or is he able to find ways to have fun, enjoy life, and make you feel special?


If you determine his personality is the hoarder type, and heís unwilling to change, youíll either have to accept him as he is or move on. The other alternative is to remain in a relationship where you expend a lot of energy nagging and have little to show for it.


All the best,


Dr. Debra


Debra Holland, Ph.D., is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in relationships and communication techniques.

Feel free to write Dr. Debra with your questions


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Dr. Debra Holland is also a regular contributor to the Wet Noodle Posse Blog.


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