DEAR FIONA: My boyfriend isn't paying for anything
Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her perspective for a woman whose boyfriend is not helping with their financial struggles and a husband and son whose relationship is deteriorating.
QUESTION: My boyfriend and I have lived together for nearly a year. He lost his job just after he moved in with me so I’ve been paying for everything, even his clothes. It’s been really tight.
For the past few weeks he’s been earning again but he’s still not paid for anything, as he says he doesn’t earn enough. As my own hours have recently been cut back, I am finding it harder and harder to make ends meet.
Bills are mounting up and it’s making me feel really resentful.
FIONA SAYS: I’m not surprised you’re feeling resentful – just about anyone would in your situation. My inclination would be to show this sponger the door, but I get the impression you don’t want to do that.
If you want to give him a chance to change, I suggest you explain to him exactly how this is affecting you, financially and emotionally. The longer you let him get away with this, the more it will eat into your self-respect and the harder it will be to get him to change.
He may not earn much, but he should be contributing. You should certainly stop paying for things like his clothes and if he won’t pay towards rent and food, then stop feeding him.
By refusing any financial input even though he’s now earning, he’s abusing your good nature. It’s about time he learned this is no way to treat a person you’re supposed to care about.
QUESTION: Up until recently, my husband and son were inseparable. They did loads of activities together, like going to sporting events, riding their bikes and sitting in front of the TV playing computer games. You’d have said they were the best of friends, especially as my son is an only child.
Then quite suddenly, it all changed. Now they hardly seem to talk to one another. I’ve asked them both what’s wrong but they both deny that anything’s the matter.
My son now seems to spend most of the time in his room or out of the house with his friends. They are both bad-tempered and argumentative, so much so that our home has gone from one that seemed happily macho to a battleground.
My son’s only just turned 13, so I can see this going on for many years yet and I’m not sure I can stand it. I actually think that worrying about it is making me quite ill.
FIONA SAYS: You’re assuming that something has happened between them for this change in behaviour to have occurred. Maybe it has, but it could also be that your son has stopped wanting to be ‘daddy’s boy’, and wants more independence now that he’s a teenager.
He might have expressed this in some way to his father, which could be why your husband is grumpy. Or it could very well be that your husband is depressed, feeling he’s outgrown his purpose. He hasn’t, of course, because your son will still need a dad, but maybe he needs him to take on a different role.
Firstly, try talking to them both individually again and see if you can find out if something happened. If there was something – perhaps something inappropriate said, for example – get them both to recognise that your son is maturing and needs to be treated in a different way.
If it’s nothing more than your son’s desire for more independence, then it might be time for a family discussion, where you can point out that the pair of them are making you unhappy.
Tell them both that you recognise your son is at an age when huge physical and emotional changes are taking place, and that you understand his need to spend time with his friends rather than his family. Remind them both, though, that this doesn’t mean either of them can treat you as the buffer and that they’ve got to resolve their differences in order to live together.
Your son’s behaviour isn’t in the least strange – almost all teenagers go through hormonal mood swings. Your husband should understand that, as parents, we have to live through this time when they need our patience, as well as our love and support.
I’m sure he feels that he’s lost a friend but I’m equally sure he understands your son’s need to grow and change. I hope he can adjust – the teenage years don’t last and, if he handles this time well, your son will soon want to be friends with his dad again.
If you need any additional support Family Lives can help you, but I hope they can both see sense and that you can get through this.
QUESTION: My boyfriend and I have been together for seven years. We’re really in love, but he wants us to get married and I don’t.
My parents’ marriage was such a disaster that it completely put me off. We want to start a family and he thinks it’s important for any future children’s sake that we get married, but I don’t think it’s necessary.
My parents fought and drank all through my childhood and finally separated when I was 14, after my mother ended up in casualty.
My boyfriend says he loves me, whatever I decide to do, but I would hate it if he finally got fed up and left me because I won’t agree to a wedding.
FIONA SAYS: With such a bad experience of marriage in your childhood, it’s no wonder you are nervous. However, you’ve been with your boyfriend for seven years and, in that time, have you seen any sign of such behaviour in him?
You’re right – marriage doesn’t guarantee love, respect or commitment, even though it generally forms part of the promises people make to one another.
You and your boyfriend are not like your parents though, so the chance of your marriage being like theirs is slim.
You have a positive, stable relationship with a man who loves you and wants to have children with you. You, in turn, love him and are willing to commit to an ongoing relationship and family with him.
Counselling might help you to put some of the unresolved feelings about your parents’ relationship behind you, as it was clearly very difficult for you. It’s worth thinking about the fact that marriage does guarantee certain legal rights – especially once children are involved in the relationship.
If you do decide to get married, it doesn’t have to be a big affair – it could just be the two of you and two witnesses in a register office one day. Whether you do go down that path is down to you, but if you decide not to get married, please consult a lawyer to make sure your will, mortgage and financial arrangements are watertight.
QUESTION: My boyfriend and I were together for five years and I thought we’d eventually get married. I was still very much in love with him when he split up with me, three months ago.
He left me for someone else, but I’ve heard they’re not getting along and that he’s really miserable. I know he’d be too proud to ask me to come back, but do you think I should let him know I still love him? And if I do, do you think he might come back?
FIONA SAYS: You’ve not told me anything about why your relationship failed, so it’s very hard for me to judge how he’d react if he heard from you.
As you say, you’re still in love with him, so there is no real harm in letting him know the fact, but I have no idea how he’ll react.
You are listening to rumours that he’s not happy with his new relationship but that might not be true – it could just be people trying to cheer you up. He might indeed be unhappy, but he also might not have feelings for you anymore.
If you’re prepared for the fact he may reject you then, by all means, contact him. But if you don’t think you could cope with being hurt again, the safer course would be to move on.
Write to Fiona Caine c/o Elise Brewerton, 1000 Lakeside, North Harbour, Portsmouth PO6 3EN or [email protected]. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence, nor pass letters on to other readers.