She Works, He Doesn't
Q: I'm 24 and have been in a live-in relationship for almost three years now. I love my partner with all my heart and he is a wonderful person. The problem is, he is financially unstable. He worked in the beginning, but I did not want to pry into his finances. Since then he has not had a stable job and isn't working at all right now. He's taking courses in order to improve his chances of landing a good job, but this has been going on for just about half of our relationship. I have a child from a previous relationship and I have all these responsibilities and goals, but with the added pressure of supporting not only my son but him, as well, I just can't focus. I find myself getting angry at any little thing lately and a bit jealous that he is able to invest time on studies and courses and I can not because I am so drained and stressed out from working. I have expressed my frustration and told him maybe we should take some time off. I am definitely torn because I want things to work out and he is a great person and a great stepdad, but I am going crazy. He has told me that if I endure, things will be better in the future but I don't think I can wait any longer. I'm afraid the situation might evolve into something even worse. Do you think there is any hope of getting through to him? Do you think I should hold on or let go? -- Unity
Dr. Susan: Often, with live-in arrangements, there's a sense of "We'll stick together as long as it's good." I can see where you might be afraid that as soon as your boyfriend gets that great job he's preparing for, he might leave. Or that he'll never be able to pay his own way and your burden will become unbearable. Still, I don't see where taking "some time off" will solve anything. What you need is a good heart-to-heart talk about your mutual goals. How long will his courses last? What are the realistic job prospects in his field once he completes these courses? Is he working part-time to help out and if not, why not? Will he commit to covering the bills so you can take classes once he has a good job? Do you trust him? Has he kept his word about everything else in your joint lives? Would it help you feel less overwhelmed and exploited if he took over a large part of the housework burden since he has a lighter and more flexible schedule? Giving him the benefit of the doubt, let's say he's thinking more long-term than you are. That's great, but that still leaves you to worry over today's bills. Two adults who love each other should be able to find a way to make things feel fair to both of you. Sounds to me like step one is "the big talk," and step two is to get you some stress relief. I don't think he believes how ready you are to blow, and to blow him off.
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Advice for Her
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.