She Said, He Said: If your partner moves in, make sure their addiction patterns don’t persist
Dear Lori and Jeff,
My boyfriend and I have been together for seven months and recently he advocated moving in with me. We have a lot in common and I appreciate that he helps me have fun. He’s also incredibly loyal and tells me all the time how much he loves me. However, I spent my 20s and early 30s building successful careers and becoming financially independent. He is still âenjoyingâ life and has been slower to figure out what he wants to do. As a result, I foot the bill for most of our dates and vacations. I wouldn’t mind if he was in school or actively working towards a career, but he spends a lot of time on the couch. I don’t want to become his bank account. However, he insists that if we live together he will be more motivated and I wonder if this is the opportunity he needs to get his life back on track.
Lori and Jeff: Seven months is a lot of time to invest in a relationship with someone. Where did you imagine it was heading? Many who stay in a relationship this long see “Mr. Fair potential. Some, including you, are even more attached to potential than to reality. If you just want a fun buddy, him and the arrangement you currently have looks okay. But being in a long-term, committed relationship that is genuinely healthy and lasting requires both partners to fend for themselves.
Lori: The women in your script immediately make me want to explore self-esteem. Concretely, do you have a low bar for partners because you are not sure you can do better? Let’s be honest, we all have to compromise in some places and no one, including ourselves, is perfect. But being in a relationship in your 30s with a partner who needs you makes me wonder if you don’t believe that a guy who has his life together can really want you. I’m not trying to take it out on your boy. I know everyone has their own path to adulthood and I respect that. Where I have trouble is his innuendo that you, and what you can provide, will be the magic bullet he needs to grow taller. Someone who is truly on the cusp of maturity actually becomes more independent.
If you do decide to move him in, be sure to do so because it fits with your values ââand what you want in your life, and not because of guilt or feeling like a bad person if you let him. fall. Be honest with yourself and with him about how much you are willing to give to the relationship and support him. Not being clear here will only cause injury and resentment down the road. And finally, for the sake of (insert your deity of choice here), protect your heritage. You have worked hard to build a solid and healthy foundation for your financial future. Don’t let your credit or savings suffer for someone you date.
Jeff: Before I talk about what your boyfriend might be going through to help you better understand your decision, I want to talk about your state of mind first. You just put the cart before the horse. Allowing him to move in will not create the catalyst he needs to get his “house” in order, but vice versa. He should have to get started on his way before he earns the right to fairly share your space.
As for your boyfriend, he seems to be grappling with some issues that men face more and more these days. We have long been expected to be the breadwinners and the holders of safety and security in relationships. Fortunately, that philosophy has changed, but with it comes the confusion and uncertainty as to what exactly we are supposed to do now and what the expectations are for our new roles. This is by no means a no-get-out map, but it may mean that some men need a bit more time to come together and figure out where their life path is. One of the challenges of this process is that, without a set roadmap, many men get lost or distracted along the way. Eventually, some may lose confidence in their ability to be on the ârightâ track and in their ability to catch up with those who found their way earlier. In response, they simply give up and take refuge on the sofa, Xbox controller in hand. If your non-negotiable list for a partner understands that they’ve walked more miles on their chosen career path, then don’t compromise. Stick to your current life situation and set tougher limits.
Lori and Jeff: If you choose to donate your space, either now or after it has taken a few convincing first steps, make sure you have an exit strategy. Think about how you might need to separate yourself from him physically, emotionally, and financially. Once he moves in, it will be much more difficult to ask him to leave if his addiction patterns persist and he fails to get started.
Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couples coaches at the Aspen Relationship Institute. Submit your relationship questions to [email protected] and your query can be selected for a future column.