"Dear Thelma" is a relationship advice column that appears in The Star, a publication that is part of the Asia News Network.
I have a financial problem with my boyfriend.
He’s 24 (almost 25) and I’m 30. He’s very, very, very mature for his age and sometimes I feel he is the older one – not me. Plus, I look younger than him. And he’s always giving me advice and taking care of me and is always around. We seem to get along fine even with this age difference. It doesn’t bother either of us at all.
He is always by my side, always supporting me. He wants to see me more than I want to see him. He is always calling me and texting and asking when we can meet. Whatever I want he brings me. If I call him in the middle of the night to tell him I have menstrual cramps, he stays on the phone with me till I fall asleep. (We don’t live together since were from conservative families.) We’re so in love.
Emotionally, he’s always there for me, and we’ve been together for eight months now although it feels like two or more years. At this point, I don’t want to let go.
However, I am the one who always pays in this relationship. For everything.
He dropped out of college and started working at a petrol station. Whatever he earns goes to his mum. She expects him to give her cash since he’s the oldest son. What he makes isn’t a lot anyway, so it doesn’t bother me since it’s so measly and not enough to pay for our things.
Like I mentioned, I pay for everything – our food when we go out, his phone credit, his medical checkups, and when he borrows my car, I obviously pay for the petrol. I also give him pocket money.
The situation doesn’t bother me right now. I see it as a temporary situation until he finds a better job or goes back to college and makes something of himself. Because I know for sure, he will take care of me.
He also wants us to get married soon – I’m not sure with what money. But he constantly mentions it. He keep asking, “When are you going to be my wife?” and “When are we going to have some kids?” To be honest, I think it’s sweet and I like it.
However, I’m just not sure if my parents will be willing to give me away to someone like him. Like I said, when it’s between us, this money issue doesn’t bother me. But I don’t want it to become a habit in the years to come. He might get used to it… and I’ll have no one but myself to blame.
I’m not sure where to go from here. I don’t want to let go. I want to stay with him, but I don’t want to feel like I’m being used. I know it’s not like that because he would give me the moon if I asked. But I can’t continue like this.
Should I test him? Should I tell him that I want to quit my job and have no income? I’m sure he’ll say it would be OK and he’ll promise to take care of me. I don’t want to have to resort to that course of action just to see, you know?
Please help me decide!
Woman in charge, Sudan
Dear Woman in charge
You have a kind, loving man in your life but you are filled with resentment because he isn’t earning a lot of money. Your letter is riddled with barely hidden anger at how much you dislike the situation. I think you should ask, where is that coming from?
Suppose you turn this around, and read your letter as if you were the man and your boyfriend were the woman. If that were so, we’d be talking about your potential partner’s character, heart and love. We would then talk about whether you could support a family, and what sort of marriage you’d have.
My point is that you appear to be thinking of marriage in the kind of terms our grandparents did. It is not just your family who is conservative; you are too!
Look, in the old days, men had jobs that supported the whole family and women were mums who doubled as servants. But today most couples need a double income and even then it’s a struggle. And that’s true in Sudan, in Malaysia and everywhere else.
I strongly suggest you dump your preconceptions and discover what you truly want from your life.
When you think of an ideal partnership, what are you looking for? If you want an old-fashioned lifestyle, that’s perfectly okay. However, you’d need to find a man who shares that ideal. If that’s your man, you’d both have to make a workable plan to get to that lifestyle.
However, I would urge you to consider all your options. As you have a job, would you be happy as the principal breadwinner? It may be stressful, especially if you plan to have a family, but with good backup at home, you may forge a wonderful career.
If that does sound nice, is he in agreement? Would he be happy as the homemaker, a man whose first job is the kids, and who does cooking, cleaning and laundry? Of course, he can work a little when the kids are older, but it would be a job purely to earn extra cash, not a career like yours.
Once you get talking, you may decide you both want careers, in which case you both need to earn a stack of cash so you can afford child minders, good schools, etc.
Again, anything you want is okay, just be certain you two agree on what you both want, and be sensible in planning to achieve your goals.
When you plan for your future, consider how you would share finances, homework support for the kids, pension funds – everything in daily life. Then factor in your families and your opportunities. Figure out what options you have, and pick the one you like best.
I do hope you both find a way that makes you both happy.