Dear Thelma: He is not rich, I don't know if I love him

"Dear Thelma" is a relationship advice column that appears in The Star, a publication that is part of the Asia News Network. 

Dear Thelma,

I have been dating K for some time now. However, I'm not sure if he is the guy I want to be with for the rest of my life. K is laid-back whereas I'm a go-getter. From this relationship, I realise that I prefer a guy who is financially stronger than me.

I'm using a car which my brother lent me. We usually go out in my car, which bothers me somewhat. For me, it's the guy who should be driving his girlfriend around. I feel like I am playing the dominant role, fetching him on every date.

He likes to go out for dinner whereas I prefer a home-cooked meal to save money for the future. He wanted to get a car loan but his family was unable to help out. I realise that if I were to stick with him, I may have to help him financially. He promised to work hard to build up his career and be financially stronger than me.

He is a very nice, caring, responsible and patient guy. Despite his tight budget, he will buy me gifts once in a while. I was attracted to him initially as he is smart and humble.

Now I'm not sure what love is. I am in a dilemma - should I forget about this relationship and move on? I'm not sure how to go about choosing a life partner. How do we evaluate a guy? Many said personality and compatibility are the most important considerations, but what about financial security, especially when the kids come along? I can't help focusing on his financial standing; his personality comes second.

I don't know if I love him. And I don't know if I should stick around and wait for him to build himself up financially. - Dilemma

Dear Dilemma,

The doubts you have are common. It may be a blessing in disguise that you are thinking of these issues now rather than later when there are fewer options to consider.

There are a few things to consider, first would be his personality. You are a go-getter while he is laid-back. The second issue is his financial status, and your realisation that you want a boyfriend who is financially more stable than you. These are valid concerns.

When it comes to personality, it may be that opposites attract. Being a pro-active person, it may be a good thing to have someone who is the opposite to balance things out. It may also be nice to have to shift gears when you are so focused on wanting something bigger and better. He may offer that timely and much-needed reminder to stop and smell the flowers. On the other hand, it may at some point irritate you that you are always the one to initiate things.

The best way to decide where the relationship is headed is to see if you click with each other. It is not just about him being humble and smart, it is whether you are comfortable with him. As you have been told by others, personality and compatibility are important factors in determining if someone is right for you.

Does he respect you as a person and the choices you make in your life? Do the two of you share the same values? Do you want the same things in life? These would be the more important things to look at when considering if someone is suitable as a partner.

You want to save; he seems to have a lax attitude towards money. Did you stop to consider the fact that he would rather go out because he does not want to trouble you to cook? He may think that it is an easier option.

Communication is very important. You have to communicate clearly what you want. He has to consider what you say, and speak his mind. Then the two of you have to work out a compromise. Perhaps you can start by cutting down the number of times you eat out every week. You are not going to completely stop going out. You are just cutting back. This is compromise.

Compromise is so important in relationships, especially when you are just starting out and learning about each other. He has to understand that sometimes he cannot be so laidback. And you have to understand and accept that sometimes you have to slow down to his pace. This is the essence of building a relationship because you will never find someone who is perfect for you. There will be differences which you need to deal with. Accepting the other person for who they are is one step. Then, there is the willingness to work on the relationship to make it work. And that calls for both of you to put aside your ego sometimes. This is where the two of you grow together.

You talked about the future and children. Have you discussed these with him? Perhaps if he knows what your concerns are, he can address them and realise that these things are necessary if you want to build a relationship that leads to a future that both of you want.

Then there is the issue of gender roles and expectations. You are the one who does the picking up and driving. You earn more than he does. What is the problem here?

We live in a day and age where women are making strides in many areas. Women are breaking barriers and stereotypes that have long held them back. Women are striving for equality with men.

Don't you want a relationship of equals? If you do, then you have to start addressing the stereotype expectations you have of men and women, and the roles that you and your boyfriend will play in this relationship. Surely you would want someday for your husband to change the baby's diaper or prepare the children's dinner, or maybe just wash the dishes sometimes - things which are usually deemed women's work. If that is what you want, then why can't you do some of those things that are deemed men's work?

Stereotypes are created by society and perpetuated by people who do not stop and question these expected behaviours. You do not have to accept them. Neither are these things a real measure of what you should expect from a relationship. Dare to be different and challenge the norm.

The last problem you posed is that you do not know if you love him. Well, there is no answer for that. Just go with your gut feeling. There is a saying that love is not something you fall into. It is something you do. Perhaps the question you should ask then is, can you love him? Can he love you? Is the kind of love he shows you what you need? Is it what you want?

You are in a relatively early stage of your relationship. You have plenty of time to think about these things. You should not rush into it.

Matters of the heart have perplexed even the most learned philosophers. If there is anything that can be learnt from this, it is that love is not an easy subject. It is not a matter that should be taken lightly. The best person to discover these things with is your partner. Perhaps it is time you started the long conversation with him about how the two of you feel and what you want for the future. That would help you determine if you have space for each other in your life. - Thelma