I met my boyfriend “Charlie” through my best friend. He is her husband’s best friend since childhood. We met at a party and really hit it off and, because I assumed he ran in the same social circles as I, I readily agreed to see him again. I soon discovered that Charlie makes less money than I do – a lot less. It turns out that he only has a high school diploma, while I have an advanced degree.
When Charlie told me he had met my best friend’s husband “at school” I assumed he meant college or graduate school, not elementary school! Since we got along so well there was no way I could blow Charlie off without coming off as a snobby b—ch, so I acted like the difference in our earnings did not bother me and agreed to keep seeing him, figuring things would shortly fizzle.
It has been sixteen months and Charlie and I are still together. We have many of the same interests, which surprised me since my tastes tend to run towards the sophisticated, habits I picked up in college like wine tastings and theater. Charlie has been asking me about advancing our relationship. He would like to move in together, and since I own my own home and he rents it only makes sense for him to move in with me. Charlie would be a great homeowner; he is very handy around the house and can fix anything, and he enjoys landscaping and gardening. In fact, he has kept my yard looking exceptional ever since we started dating! I just can’t get past the money thing.
Charlie has offered to pay for half of my mortgage as well as half of the expenses, which will eat up about 75% of his paycheck but only around 30% of mine, should we split things this way. I know in my heart that this is not fair – that a relationship should be 50-50 – but I worked hard to earn my degrees without going into heavy debt and have continued to work hard to keep up my professional certifications. I am having a problem with the idea of parting with an additional 20% of my paycheck just so Charlie can keep more of his.
Do you think I will ever get past this problem with money? Do you think I should encourage Charlie to go to college and earn a degree? He seems pretty happy doing what he does (he assists a local contractor) and I would hate for him to take up a career he hates just for me. Was it a mistake to let things go this far? Should I just break up with him, even though I do love him?
Uncertain In Carolina
Dear Uncertain In Carolina:
Which do you love more, Charlie or money? If the roles were reversed and Charlie made more than you, would you consider this to be a problem? Would you want to put in 50% of your paycheck while Charlie added 50% of his own to your shared finances? Would you prefer that you combine both paychecks and consider all monies household monies? If you can answer these questions truthfully, you will be on your way to knowing why you are having such problems with Charlie’s earning potential.
Quite honestly, you strike me as snobby. You discovered wine tastings and theater in college? My, you are so sophisticated! Most people discover wine while still in high school, while rummaging through Mom and Dad’s liquor cabinet in search for something to bring to a party, along with theater when they try out for the school play or are forced to read Shakespeare for their English class. While a higher level of education can expose a person to more “sophisticated” cultural offerings and a higher paycheck can make those offerings more attainable, such delights are not exclusive to the collegiate arena.
If you insist on reducing everything to money, I suggest you tally up the value of the services Charlie provides to your home. Landscaping and gardening? A landscaper will cost you a minimum of $25 a week to mow the lawn; gardening will go about the same but per hour, leaving you with at least a $200/month tab, if the lawn is mowed and the garden weeded on an alternating weekly schedule. A call to a handyman five times a year will go you another several hundred if not a few thousand in fees, barring any major catastrophes like a broken water heater or hurricane damage, which would put you much further into Charlie’s debt…let’s tack all of that onto Charlie’s financial worth and take it off of your own…are your salaries starting to line up yet, or do you need him to change the oil in and maintain your vehicle, too?
If you have a great relationship with someone, don’t try and put a monetary value on it. If in the end you still can’t see the value Charlie brings to your life (love, companionship, free lawn care), then you need to break up with him so he will be free to find a woman who deserves him. I feel sorry for you; you have a fortune right in front of you but cannot see his value.
Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with Bachelors degrees in Communications and in Gender and Women's Studies. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.