Tell Me About It: They often stay in the guest house of his lakefront home free of charge
PROBLEM: I have a relationship that is a little less than a year old. My boyfriend is retired whereas I am still working. He has the financial means to allow his long-time friends since school for 40 years now to visit him frequently every other weekend and they stay in his guest house.
On occasion those friends will take the liberty to invite other friends or their adult children families to join the gathering at my boyfriend’s guest house. They usually bring their own food.
My boyfriend enjoys the company and it doesn’t matter to him that he pays the utilities and other incidental costs of the guests who stay in his guest house. This occurs on an every-other weekend basis and sometimes back-to-back weekends. To me, it appears to be his friends’ weekend getaway at my boyfriend’s property. The friends use his boat and other accessories, etc, since it is a lake-front property. Who wouldn’t want to have a friend like that?
My concern is I feel they take advantage of the friendship and amenities at his operating costs, but he doesn’t see it that way because he enjoys the company. I once liked these friends of my boyfriend that I barely know, but now I have a different opinion of them as I feel they are taking advantage of him but he doesn’t see it that way.
It’s not my money so why should I care other than I feel protective of him and it doesn’t seem fair to me as a newcomer to the group. My boyfriend told me not to think of it as a business transaction that it doesn’t have to be even because he has occasionally used their vehicle or spent the night at their house when flying back home.
I would like to find a way to let this go. But it’s difficult because I am still working and watching pennies and while he is not. Can I get past this?
ADVICE: It seems that you feel injustice and unfairness on behalf of your boyfriend and are struggling to let this go but as your boyfriend does not have an issue with any of this, it is really your own self you have to work on.
You know the value of money as you say you are counting pennies, so this is a chance for you to look at your attitude to money and see if it needs changing. For most couples, money and finances play a big role in their adjustment to each other and it is worth engaging with this early in the relationship so that it does not become a huge stumbling block later.
Our attitudes to money can be formed in our childhood families and can prove difficult to change – even when we are trying to do the opposite to what our parents did. Very often one person can have no problem spending, or living in debt, while the other is very cautious and has savings. In the extreme case, this can result in one person hiding their spending while the other feels that they have to monitor their partner in order to stay financially afloat.
Because you feel that unfairness is happening, it is difficult for you to let go of your judgment
What is important is to bring this out into the open and keep the conversation live and ongoing until the issue is teased out – both people have a lot to learn from this. Can you have a look at your family’s attitude to money and in the talking about it, you might find that there are aspects of it that you can let go of.
There is a danger that you will force your partner to choose between his friends and you – even if you try to hide your scrutiny of their use of his property, it could easily become known to them and they will feel your disapproval. It is not up to you to act as an adjudicator on behalf of your partner, it is his right to do what he wants with his property and money.
So how can you manage your strong emotions? Firstly, you need to accept fully his right to gift his guest house as he wants plus you need to accept fully his friends’ use of that gift. Without this acceptance, you will be full of recriminations and resentment and the only person who is guaranteed suffering is yourself. If you want to demonstrate gratitude, then you can influence others by your genuine pleasure at your partner’s generosity but if you are doing this with the sole intention of making others look bad, that too will be picked up by all involved.
Because you feel that unfairness is happening, it is difficult for you to let go of your judgment, but in this situation your role is to receive with magnanimity and be there to support your partner with his choices. If you feel that this is a long-term relationship, it would be great if you could have regular conversations about money, such as every second Monday for half an hour – this would mean that you could let things go as you know a time is booked for discussion.
Initially do not look for agreement on anything but simply seek to understand where the other person is coming from, and then reflect on this and discuss again, and again.