I’ve been living with the same man for close to 27 years. Of course, our relationship was good in the beginning. Most are. However, he has always had an inability to handle money. Our home has always been in my name, usually because of his poor credit. I’ve always had to be the one to plan and pay for any vacations and, frankly, I’m sick to death of him.
A few years into the relationship he had to have a kidney transplant and quit his good paying job as a mechanic. He is now 70. So how could I tell him back then that I didn’t want to be his safety net? For the past 20 years or so, he has had a part-time job with low pay, mostly to help him with his medications that are required post-transplant. He has no savings, at all!
He has always tried to give me a few hundred dollars each month for “rent” and, yes, that has helped, but I still work part-time myself and, at 73, I feel like he just drags me down. He is so negative and would rather sit in front of the TV instead of making an effort to make life more enjoyable. I own the house and I’m ready to just give it to him, and walk away with my small retirement fund.
Neither one of us has any family that is willing to help us. Do you have any suggestions?
Up to my Teeth in North Carolina
He contributes the bare minimum to save his blushes. He expects you to pick up the slack at home and at work. He delivers a daily weather broadcast that is grey and overcast, with the threat of rain. This isn’t about the money. It’s rarely, if ever, about the money. It’s not about a part-time job. It’s certainly not about an transplant operation that took place many years ago. It’s not even about him being a couch potato. This isn’t about love or money. I don’t even know what “love” means, exactly.
Ask yourself the tough questions with the help of a team: a lawyer, therapist and/or financial therapist.
Love means many things to many people. companionship, co-habitation, being married, not being married, spending quality time with each other, being alone together and having downtime, sharing your most important news with that one person that you can’t wait to get home to see, breaking bread together, making plans, traveling the world as a couple, being a team, being the source of a warm light when your beloved has lost their own, growing old together and/or enjoying the moment.
So if it’s not about love or money, what is it about? Your story is about respect, or lack thereof. He doesn’t show respect for you. He doesn’t show respect for himself. You appear not to respect him, and you may not have respected him for a long time. You have stayed in this relationship for probably more years than was healthy for either of you. For that reason, you have not given yourself the respect that you deserve. He’s not dragging you down. You are dragging yourself down.
Help him to sign up for Medicaid, if he has not done so already. Ask him what kind of split he would find fair.
We all have choices. You chose him and you chose to stay with him. From your letter, he is healthy enough to work and go about his business. The kidney transplant was a success. He lives a normal life, to coin an often overused/misused phrase. Devoting your life and your time on this planet to a man you don’t love anymore is not a vocation. It’s not an act of love or respect. You are depriving him of the chance to be his own man and/or depriving yourself of a man who would appreciate you.
If you think you could find a way back to a place you were when you met, that should be your first port of call. A couple’s counselor could help you. But I urge you to give that a time frame and set certain goals for what you would like from your partner, financial or otherwise. I’m not advocating that you split up now after 27 years, but taking you at your word that you are unhappy with the status quo.
Ask yourself why you stayed. Did this relationship feel familiar to you? Did you stay with a man who gave you something that you either did (or didn’t) have growing up? My job here is not to be an armchair therapist. My job is to help you to look in places you may not have looked before, dark corners that may contain answers that will give you the willpower and the courage to live your own life on your terms, so you can be free — financially, spiritually, emotionally. All of the above are related.
You’ve given so much of your life to this relationship. Why sabotage yourself and give up your home too?
You wouldn’t have stayed in this relationship if you did not get something out of it. So what did you get? You may have gotten companionship, a person to come home to at night, a reason and/or excuse not to go out into the world and risk your heart with another man and take a risk on another life as a single woman. Answering this question will help you shift the focus away from your partner and onto yourself. Crucially, it will also help you take responsibility for your choices.
When you ask yourself the tough questions with the help of a team — a lawyer, therapist and/or financial therapist — you will stop suppressing your voice and your true feelings, and start living your life on your terms. North Carolina does not recognize common-law marriage. A lawyer can advise you on the rent your partner has paid, whether it constitutes a contribution to your mortgage, and what might be a fair sum to pay him. Ask him what he believes would be fair. Then give your view.
Help him sign up for Medicaid, if he has not done so. Together, make sure you both have a roof over your heads.
Help him sign up for Medicaid, if he has not done so already. Together, you can make sure you both have a roof over your heads. You did not work your whole life to be miserable. You did not pay your mortgage on a home only to have an 11th-hour case of the fook-its, and give it away to a man that stopped showing up for your partnership a long time ago. You’ve given so much of your life to this relationship already. Why sabotage yourself and give up your home too?
(This story was originally published on Jan. 5 and was republished on Feb. 14.)
Do you have questions about inheritance, tipping, weddings, family feuds, friends or any tricky issues relating to manners and money? Send them to MarketWatch’s Moneyist and please include the state where you live (no full names will be used).
By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.
Would you like to sign up to an email alert when a new Moneyist column has been published? If so, click on this link.
Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas: inheritance, wills, divorce, tipping, gifting. I often talk to lawyers, accountants, financial advisers and other experts, in addition to offering my own thoughts. I receive more letters than I could ever answer, so I’ll be bringing all of that guidance — including some you might not see in these columns — to this group. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.