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I’m having a hard time finding a job and my boyfriend is getting stressed out about our finances. What should I do? (UGL_UIUC/Flickr))

Dear Steve,

I’m moving in with my boyfriend shortly and I’m currently unemployed. I’ve been going on interviews and applying to jobs daily. I have a master’s degree and didn’t think it would take this long to find a job! My boyfriend tries to be understanding but just like anyone he gets stressed out about finances. How do we avoid ruining our relationship when so often the conversation revolves around finances (that I do not currently have). And how do I assure him that I’m not just sitting on my butt?

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Signed,
Cash Poor

Dear CP,

To answer your second question first: Actions speak louder than words. If you’re truly “going on interviews and applying to jobs daily” I can’t see why you’d have to assure your fella that you’re not just sitting on your butt.

But unemployment is one of those conditions that gets stigmatized, even by our loved ones. It’s especially bad when the economy is struggling. The gainfully employed are basically so afraid of losing their jobs that they tend to demonize — or at least discredit — the unemployed. The way to reassure yourself that you’re not going to lose your job, in other words, is to convince yourself that the unemployed got that way not because of outsourcing or downsizing or corporate malfeasance, but because the workers in question were lazy, incompetent, and/or stupid. For additional details, see “The Grapes of Wrath” or the Reagan era. That’s a bit of a rant (you’re welcome!) but it may apply in this situation.

In the end, it’s not the money that matters, CP, but the respect you guys have for one another, and for yourselves.

My hunch is that your guy is not a Reaganite, or a rapacious oligarchic landowner. He’s just amped up because you’re moving in. Who can blame him? It’s a big commitment. It may also be that money is a legitimate practical concern. As in: With only one income, paying the bills is going to be tough. Or that he, like millions of Americans, locates his anxieties in money issues.

But more likely his anxiety has to do with making sure both of you guys pull your weight financially as you initiate this new level of commitment. And while that may seem stingy or cold-hearted, it’s probably in your best interest ultimately. Because really: Who wants to feel financially dependent on the person they’re sleeping with?

Okay, I admit it. I do. But as regular readers of this column know by now I am a big slut best avoided for sample purposes.

But okay: What should you do? My advice is to make sure you’re applying for every job that seems appealing to you, as well as some that may be less compelling but will help bring in some dough. Please note: I am not suggesting you take a job you hate. But I am suggesting that you’re probably not going to find the job of your dreams, or even a job that fully tests your skills, immediately. And this means you’re going to have to endure what most of the world’s workers already do: A job that feels like … a job.

My hunch is that your guy is not a Reaganite, or a rapacious oligarchic landowner. He’s just amped up because you’re moving in. Who can blame him? It’s a big commitment.

A quick story along these lines: When I was 22, I moved to El Paso, Texas to take a job as a reporter. I was thrilled. A year later, my girlfriend moved from New York City to El Paso to live with me. This was a bad decision on many levels. But we were in love, or whatever disease of the mind calls itself love when you’re that age.

Somewhat unshockingly, there were not a lot of great jobs available for my lady in the greater El Paso metropolitan area; she had studied philosophy in college. But I’ve always admired the gumption she showed in the year we lived together. She worked freelance gigs for a pittance. She got jerked around a lot. She did the best she could with limited options. That’s what mattered to me.

In the end, it’s not the money that matters, CP, but the respect you guys have for one another, and for yourselves.

Sending you major good wishes and lucrative vibrations.

Steve ♥

Okay folks, now it’s your turn. Did I get it right, or muck it up? Let me know in the comments section. And please do send your own question along, the more detailed the better. Even if I don’t have a helpful response, chances are someone in the comments section will. Send your dilemmas via email.

Tags: Advice, Relationships

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  • JuneauXena

    One way to assure your BF that you’re not just sitting on your butt might be to involve him in your job search efforts. Ask him to comment on the job postings you come across – do you think this sounds like a good fit for me? I’m worried I don’t have X or Y qualifications. Or I’m worried I’m over qualified. Ask him to give you feedback on the letters you write. Show him the rejections you receive. He might feel more empathetic. (Then again, that might make him even more anxious… )

  • Jessica

    I’ve had this problem more than once, usually with a partner who’s already set in an industry and hasn’t actually HAD to job hunt.

    I’ve also found that the longer the job hunt lasts, the wider you cast your net.

    Confide in your boyfriend that the job hunt is hard, it takes an emotional toll on you, you’re doing your best. Ask what you can do to help out. See if you can do some of the studies that pay $100 for a couple hours of your time just so you can put something into the communal pot.

    Good luck.

  • Dina M.

    Do what I did, and make your own job. Use your noggin….. Last summer, I sold things on ebay for cash. This summer Im asking for petition signatures to legalize hemp weed. Please join this campaign: http://chn.ge/183Q8rL and sign the petition

  • Nicole

    Moving in together is a big commitment and you need to go into it clear about each others’ expectations on all the major issues from housework to finances and beyond. Have a frank discussion about what you can offer and what you expect or hope for from him. You need to figure out how much your combined expenses will be when you move in together, and how much each of you can and are willing to contribute, and for how long. Discuss your situation. Do you have savings, will your parents be helping you out, is he willing and able to cover more of the expenses for a while, and if so, for how long? Are there ways that you can reduce your expenses until you are employed? If you cannot pay your share and have no job prospects in sight, and he is anxious about the prospect of supporting you financially, maybe this isn’t the time to move in together. Maybe, though, just showing a willingness to do whatever you can to bring in an income while job hunting will ease his mind. Working as an office temp can get you enough of a paycheck to help get by, and can sometimes lead to permanent job opportunities in your field- I’ve gotten two decent full time positions that way. They aren’t glamorous, especially with a graduate degree, but you could even try retail positions, housecleaning, or babysitting to earn some cash.

  • Kim

    I went through the same thing; except I was in your boyfriend’s shoes. My boyfriend and I moved in together and I had one of those part-time-but-really-full-time jobs and my boyfriend worked various temp jobs on and off. He would sometimes go two months without anything at all and it got really stressful. I hated my employment situation but it was our only source of income. I knew he was trying to find a job and constantly meeting with different employment agencies in the city but I couldn’t help but get frustrated. We both had bachelors and my job was in retail so I wasn’t much better than his unemployed situation. I spent so much time trying to find another job and I wasn’t getting one, just as he wasn’t. And yet, I blamed him for all our finance troubles.

    Now, my boyfriend and i both have full time jobs and rarely fight (well, it’s relative…). It’s inevitable that finances are going to be tough to young couples and if that’s all you fight about, then that’s okay… cause it will soon pass. If you’re both making money and share equal finances but fighting about something new, well then…

    One thing I wanted my stay-at-home boyfriend to do was pull more weight around our shared apartment while he was home; clean up, make dinner, do laundry, etc. I’m not telling you to revert back to 1950, but continue to pull your weight to show that you’re not lazy. Another idea is to get an internship or volunteer; they’re great ways to get your foot in the door and a way to show your boyfriend that you are looking for jobs and not watching the Soap Network all day. Good luck! It’s tough, but waking up to each other every day with a smile is something that money can’t control.

  • Robert

    Good advice. My girlfriend and I are in a similar situation, and we are doing what you’ve mentioned. It’s not perfect, but we both know it will get better.

    I do have an issue with the title of the column. Did you pick it, or did your editors? It seems to imply that the boyfriend is giving Cash Poor a hard time about her unemployment. I didn’t get that at all from her question to you. The title’s a bit misleading. Otherwise, keep up the great work!

  • fun bobby

    this is an easy fix. get a job

  • susan tepper

    You should not move in with him (unless you can’t afford to pay your rent). Then you have to move in with him. Which is bad. He will be much worse on you after you are in. It will start to needle him that you don’t have a job even more so when he sees you sitting around (in between job interviews). He may pressure you to take a low end job (such as a supermarket checker) just to bring in some cash. If you have to take a low end job, do it in your own space with dignity. I don’t like the sound of this guy. Everyone knows jobs are scarce these days, especially good jobs. He sounds like a controlling jerk. And kind of mean.

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