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
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.
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
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
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
All the best,
Debra Holland, Ph.D., is a licensed
psychotherapist who specializes in relationships and communication
Feel free to
write Dr. Debra with your questions.
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