“If he doesn’t make some progress I will have to end our 6 year relationship.”

by J. Money - Published January 7, 2020

wonder woman

Got this email last week and it sure took a different turn than I was expecting!

Are any of you feeling like this in your relationship too?!

Could you be on the OPPOSITE side of the equation and blissfully ignoring the trouble that’s brewing ahead?!

Was waiting to hear what happened so I didn’t leave you with a cliffhanger, and just got the update so here’s the convo in case it helps inspire/scare any of you who need it too ;)

From “Elle” (appropriately anonymized, haha…):

Today is day 1 of the Uber Frugal Month (aka buy nothing / challenge everything / drink less diet soda month).

The only thing I asked for as a Xmas gift was that my guy participate in this with me. I’m mainly trying to break our dependence on eating out since it’s my largest optional category, but also trying to help him see he needs to make some changes on his side of the budget (he won’t cancel the cable even). Maybe, if I’m lucky he’ll see that he doesn’t need all of the stuff he can’t bear to get rid of like suit jackets that are two sizes too large… (side note, he doesn’t wear suits).

So tall order, I know. Trying to keep those expectations low. But, if I’m being honest, if he doesn’t make some progress I will have to end our 6 year relationship. I am 47 and on track to retire by 57, but at this rate I’ll be tied down since he won’t be ready ever. I had a child at 21 and her father died when she was young. I’ve never gotten to truly live my life or spend my quite generous salary. I don’t have a sad story as I consider myself pretty lucky. BUT, I don’t intend to let someone else f*ck up my retirement like I allowed in my 20s. Fool me once and all..

As I’m writing all of this to a perfect stranger my guy is sitting across the room watching YouTube videos on his phone. I realize that I should be saying this to him. So… thanks for letting me “talk” this out… even if you were an unwilling participant! ;)

I’m going to go do the hard thing…

As you can imagine I was quite surprised by the end of this, haha, but I wished her all the luck in the world and hoped she’d update me if she indeed pulled the trigger :)

It’s funny how big things like this can creep up in unexpected places, but what I appreciated the most out of this was that Elle not only realized it’s better to be talking to HIM about this than me (because she’s right, I’m a stranger to everyone involved!), but also for the fact that once she came to this conclusion she ACTUALLY DID SOMETHING about it instead of once again pushing it off for the umpteenth time.

I know I just spilled it there, sorry, but this is exactly why I love the New Years because it inspires us to make moves, even if it all goes out the window come February ;) And while I wish us men were better in the listening/picking up on hints department, sometimes we *do* need it spelled out clearer so we can adjust accordingly. We’re slow at times and not nearly as evolved as you women!

So how did it go?

I did it. Maybe not that well though as there were a few tears (mine) and some exasperated hands (his).

BUT hopefully I was clear that this is a make or break decision and he can’t keep blowing me off. I make a LOT more than him and while he’s super proud of me I know he feels a little like he’s not pulling his weight. I’ve tried being sweet and subtle, but like you said he needs a kick in the pants sometimes to wake up.

You are right about something else too, I do “got this”. One way or another. I’ve always done everything on my own so I can do this too. The 10 year clock started ticking in June… so game on!

We’ll have to see how it pans out, but Game On indeed! To all of us, really!! Just because someone agreed to partner up with us doesn’t mean we get to slack off now, haha…  Always gotta be trying to be the best versions of ourselves as possible!

In fact, that’s actually my personal motto for the year – to be a better person at the end than when I started. In terms of relationships, body, mind, etc. Not all areas will improve much, but just like savings the wins will stack up and help propel the momentum! Compounding interest, but for LIFE! :)

I hope it ends up working for you, Elle, but either way huge congrats for pulling the trigger and setting things into motion there… We can’t control everything, but we sure can our actions! And here’s to all of us doing the same in this beautiful new year!

j. money signature

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 MK January 7, 2020 at 6:45 am

To Elle: I was married twice. Both of my ex’s are spenders, I am a massive saver. Cue lots of financial drama. I’ve been accused of not knowing how to have fun, worrying too much, being too uptight, etc. Since turning single, I am now chasing $1 mil net worth, have doubled my 401k contribution, paid off my mortgage & pay off my credit card in full each month. Ex #1 is getting married for the 5th time & has zero for retirement. Ex #2 has focused on increasing his debt – bigger house, vacation property, massive truck & trailer, custom theater room. I am SO glad I’m not dealing with his debt! I got this – you do too!

Reply

2 J. Money January 7, 2020 at 9:40 am

UGHH!!! Good riddance! Way to stay strong and just DO THE THING yourself. $1 mil is no joke, especially being single!!

Reply

3 Jacq January 7, 2020 at 7:42 am

To Elle, I applaud you! I dated a guy for 7 years who wasn’t good with money. While the break up was his choice, and I was sad for a while, I’ve been much happier since. It can be really tough to have those serious talks, but once you know what you want / need, it’s so important to keep your guy in the loop. All the best, you’ve got this!!

Reply

4 Debt Free in RVA January 7, 2020 at 7:58 am

I loved to read this story and the comments!

DEBT is NOT SEXY!!!! I’m a guy, married for 14 years, frugal and drive a 16 year old car.

I see all these guys around me buying big $ 50,000 trucks with 7 year loans. Dropping $100s per week on entertainment, and I shake my head.

It just blows my mind that people are so careless! But, we are a free country and people can make choices….

My advice to author of article is dump him! You are not going to change him. He may improve temporarily but you will probably be better off in the long run finding a guy who is like-minded.

Reply

5 Scooze January 15, 2020 at 2:07 pm

I agree with this. If you have talked to him about it before and he didn’t change, it’s because it’s your issue, not his. You can try to “convince” him of the benefits of saving money, you can manipulate him through tears and guilt trips, and you can even give him ultimatums. But you can’t make him change. If you don’t see concrete steps (ie him reading books on personal finance, making a budget, talking to you about it) within a couple of weeks, I’d say it’s a lost cause.

Reply

6 Gio January 7, 2020 at 8:48 am

I would give him a few days to come up with a game plan of what he’s committed to do in 2020 to improve his finances and then hold him accountable for hitting those goals by year end, no matter what. Also, make sure to sit with him each month to discuss his progress and how you can tweak the plan to get him where he wants to be. If he falls through By December I would leave him as he’s clearly not serious about being in this with you 50/50 and is just saying things to make you happy for the time being. Tough love is important sometimes and you’ll need to be tough yourself too, so he doesn’t take advantage of you.

Reply

7 J. Money January 7, 2020 at 9:45 am

I like the commitment game plan :) Not sure how easy it will be to get someone like him to have a meeting once a month, but def. regular check-ins so it doesn’t go right back to normal as always… Maybe bring some beer or take him to a nice restaurant or something for best chances of peaceful talks, haha…

Reply

8 Jackie January 7, 2020 at 10:22 am

Was married for 33 years to a spender (along with quite a few other issues), divorced 4 years ago, and after I was separated back then, all he could think about was “his” money (I was a SAHM at the time, with still one home)…..Anyway, it’s sad that my Dad died after our separation and well, I being only child, received the estate, not my ex, but me. He tried to get so much out of me, and well, I let him keep everything accumulated during the marriage and quite a bit more, but THANK GOODNESS, the estate was mine, because otherwise I’m sure it would have been spent foolishly and well, it would have been so sad. I’m in charge now, learning so much through FI and finance podcasts (and you too J. Money!), but I am a saver, and I have a duty to my Dad to be a good steward of all he left me and if I’m careful, it will keep me FI now. I have remarried, I’m careful, we did the right steps keeping things separate (I have adult children and he doesn’t, my estate would go to them, he knows this too!). I have learned I am strong and able and can take care of finances. Anyway, I think it’s important to be on the same page with your finances or it can be a life of regret!!

Reply

9 J. Money January 8, 2020 at 11:41 am

YESS!! GO GO GO Jackie!! You are strong and the new steward of that money!! Your father would be proud!! :)

Reply

10 Megan January 7, 2020 at 11:34 am

I won’t tell Elle what to do, but I will say that having a partner who is on the same page when it comes to finances is priceless.

My husband and I are both savers at this point, though I am a recovering spender (never anything huge, but I used to be bad about spending $5 here, $10 there – it adds up!). He is even more of a saver than I am, and helps keep me accountable and it is such a blessing. In the 16 months we’ve been married, we’ve paid off over $16,000 in debt and grown our emergency fund to cover 3-6 months’ expenses. Neither one of us make a lot of money either, our combined income is about $80k now but was more like $70k when we were married. I am so grateful I married someone who understands the value of living within one’s means.

Reply

11 JP January 8, 2020 at 8:56 am

Agree and I have a similar story here. We’ve been married 3.5 years and have progressed further down this path with similar income trajectory. Congrats to you, Megan and hope that everything continues well for you!

Reply

12 Megan January 9, 2020 at 11:31 am

Thank you JP, I hope things continue well for you also!

Reply

13 Amy January 7, 2020 at 12:24 pm

Really enjoyed this post and am cheering for Elle to make the right decision for her, whatever that ultimately may be. As a single 20-something who is a saver paying off student loans aggressively while cash-flowing grad school (while working full-time) I find it hard to meet men who align with me financially along with all the other things (values, morals, long-term vision for life, kid-free, shared interests). However, stories like this remind me that relationships are heavily romanticized in our culture, and it is better to be happy and single than unhappy dating the wrong person who is making you a lesser version of yourself.

Reply

14 Amy January 7, 2020 at 12:25 pm

Whoops, that should have said ‘single 30-something’, haha, 20’s were a few years back!

Reply

15 J. Money January 8, 2020 at 11:47 am

I still feel like I’m in my 20’s too, though I just hit the big 4-0 (!!!).

When you’re old like me you’ll have all those debts paid off and sitting much prettier :) Keep on going!

Reply

16 Mandyt January 7, 2020 at 2:32 pm

Truth Alert: Elle only has herself to be mad at. Unfortunately we have this human nature to be mad at others closest to us for what WE OURSELVES have failed to do. Elle is redirecting her frustration at the wrong person. She is coming on 50 and is personally responsible for her financial insecurities (and non-financial weakness of eating out). Getting mad at her partner for not cancelling cable and keeping suits are insignificant failings on his part, and you can’t force a partner to be frugal without them resenting your control. If she makes more money, she has more power to change. I suspect it is more will power that she needs and to go more extreme on what she has control over, such as getting an additional source of income and decline to go out to dinner with him. She’s expecting him to come up with the will power she doesn’t have.

I have found my spouse is willing to work with me when I present a set, quantifiable goal with rewards and deadlines such as “If you give up cable today and I pick up an extra shift each week, then in 2022 WE will pay off our student loans which gives us an extra $700/month and then you can get the ultimate cable package you want and I can work less”. Dual sacrifice, both win. Not worth breaking up over.

-Mandy, married 25 years to “Not Frugal Guy”

Reply

17 J. Money January 8, 2020 at 11:50 am

Could be correct there, if you’re assuming all men are tameable ;) We also don’t know how much – or long – Elle has been bringing this up over time, though I am glad we are seeing different opinions here as you’re right that it takes two to tango.

Reply

18 Dani January 7, 2020 at 6:15 pm

I would only suggest to put a time limit on it, but to not expect perfection right out of the gates. Personally, at the presumed age you both are, I would wager that he’s not likely to change his habits, and I would move on. It’s so difficult to have another rise to your expectations when they haven’t for SEVEN. YEARS. Age being one factor, your relationship habits being another; I don’t really see that he’ll ever be where you need him to be–sure, maybe he’ll make some improvements, but the odds of him rising to your standards are slim, indeed.

However, if he–and you–are willing to give it a go, then set REASONABLE but MEASURABLE expectations, and absolutely have monthly meetings. Feel free to call them budget meetings or whatever it takes, but be sure to set goals for yourself as well as for him, and hold each other accountable. Perfection isn’t the goal, but progress certainly is. You’ll know in 3-4 months–certainly 6–if he’ll be able to commit to it and actually follow through, or not.

Reply

19 J. Money January 8, 2020 at 11:52 am

Amen on that last one…

If he’s not motivated after “the talk” then there’s no hope.

Reply

20 Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life January 8, 2020 at 1:36 pm

I did this after college when my BF at the time wouldn’t stand up and grow a spine (not financially), and it was wonderfully freeing to stand up for myself and stick to the standards I wanted in my life.

I couldn’t disagree more with MandyT’s assessment from the lens of my experience. I was willing to work with him and compromise and grow together, but when I laid out very basic principles that were important to me, he told me point blank he wasn’t willing to try changing anything. That’s so frustrating – why should I be the only one in the relationship to change and grow? How does that make sense? We’re all flawed and we should all be addressing our faults, but it’s not one partner’s job to do all the changing and growing, nor should they have to direct all the change. That’s exhausting. We should accept our own responsibility, naturally, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get to be frustrated if our supposed partner won’t work with us as part of a team until we’re perfect.

Grow together, y’all!

Reply

21 J. Money January 10, 2020 at 7:33 am

Preach!

Reply

22 FinanceFTW January 11, 2020 at 10:43 pm

Yes, you go girl! No need to babysit someone who can’t be financially responsible!

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: