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Published: Sunday July 27, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Sunday July 27, 2014 MYT 5:16:15 PM

Dear Thelma: She's broke and bossy, I'm frustrated and weak

One man can't decide if his poor girlfriend is using him for money or if he's using her to stay in a relationship.

Dear Thelma, 

I’m in my 30s, and I'm at the crossroads of my career and relationship. When I started working in the city, I accumulated high debts through credit cards, personal loans and hire purchase. I spent 10 years repaying those debts. Today, I’m better informed in terms of financial planning, and beginning to enjoy the fruits of my labour.

Then I met A. She was employed in my company as a temp. She's eight years younger and of a different race. Because of my empty life, I was obsessed with her and pressured her into a relationship after several months. We have been together four years now. 

I’ve always advised her about proper financial planning so that she wouldn't suffer like I did. But we always end up in a serious argument every time, probably because of hard approach and her lackadaisical attitude. She comes from a less educated background and her uneducated parents also expect money from her. Material things are very important to her, despite not having the means to afford them.

Recently, she got into financial debt after purchasing a car, not to mention her credit card bills. She's also taken personal loans to cover her card debts. This leaves her financially very tight. Despite this, she’s still not managing her finances well.

A year ago, I caught her texting an ex-boyfriend. Her explanation was that she needed someone to talk to about her financial woes, and he came at the right time. She said she couldn’t talk to me as I would get angry with her. She said her intention was to “prostitute” herself to this married man as a way out of her problems. She said she had met him twice, only for drinks. But she finally stopped contacting him and our lives went on.

The problem is, we’re always arguing and it’s usually due to differences of opinion and the way we do things. I’m losing my temper a lot, I'm very stressed, and I'm looking forward to a vacation alone. She controls everything I do and everywhere I go, and she's very dependent on my company. She keeps saying she loves me but she’s suffocating me. She’s putting her financial burdens on me by telling me about her lack of funds. I've loaned her some money, but I feel I’ve supported her enough.

She's not contributing much to the relationship as I pay for everything and do the housework, while she behaves like she owns my house. I’m not sure I still love her. I feel like I'd rather be alone and happy. I’m hanging on though because of my fear of not being able to find someone else. I don’t want someone else to have her. Besides, there are too many memories of us together.

In the past, when she wanted to leave, I stopped her. But now, she’s toying with my heart as she knows my weakness. I’ve contemplated suicide and leaving for another country to work. Is there a way out of this mess I got myself in?

Can’t Let Go

Dear Can't Let Go, 

There are several different issues. Firstly, you are right in saying that her financial problems are not your responsibility. You have tried to advise her after learning from your past experience. Yet, it seems to have come to naught. She seems bent on doing what she wants to do and it seems there’s little you can do about it now.

The question is, why do you feel burdened by this problem? You didn’t mention that she asked you for money to help her out. It seems that she's managing despite digging deeper holes for herself. Perhaps it was a sign of her desperation when she considered “prostituting” herself. But that seems to have passed and she seems able to see the folly of that decision. 

But then again, you can’t blame her for wanting to turn to someone else when you won’t listen. You don’t have to dish out advice every time. Perhaps, this is the time for you to learn the value of not saying anything. Listen without prejudice. Unless she asks for your advice, keep it to yourself. What is the value of a relationship anyway, if your partner is constantly lecturing you about how you spend your money?

It appears you have done your best to guide her. Perhaps, you could get her to meet with a financial planner who may be able to help her sort out her financial woes. Your responsibility stops there, though.

Of course, it’s not unreasonable to expect one’s partner to carry her share of the weight in a relationship. The burden of housework often goes unnoticed in a relationship and the person who ends up with the bulk of it also ends up with feelings of resentment. Try having a fair and workable division of labour at home. Each person would have their own idea of what's fair, and the only way would be to discuss it. You are allowed to be pedantic and actually work a schedule. That way, no one forgets.

In any relationship, arguments are normal. You have to figure out if the increased arguments are due to your differences, or if you're irritable because of other stresses present in your relationship. The most obvious one is your partner’s financial problems.

The fact is, neither of you have properly thought about, let alone talked about, the future of your relationship. That you're thinking you may need a new partner indicates a general ambivalence about where you think your relationship is heading. Perhaps, that's also why you're finding her attention suffocating. 

Not every relationship ends with wedding bells. And, there are many relationships that aren't conventional or traditional. For many people, this is acceptable. With that decision, however, comes a lot of thinking and maybe changing of expectations. 

This ambivalence about your relationship is also reflected in your fear of intimacy with your partner. Why else would you talk about letting her know your “weakness”? When in a relationship, we allow the other person to see our vulnerabilities. That's how we build trust and intimacy. Not allowing the other person to see us with our defences down isn't uncommon in relationships. It's usually due to fear of pain and loss should the relationship end, and the fear that these vulnerabilities will be used against us.

If it's the latter, it's an indication of a fear of trusting the other person. That means you would either have to take a good look at yourself and your past, and what you bring to the relationship. Or consider the fact that perhaps you're not in the right relationship. 

Perhaps what you need right now is that quiet and alone vacation you find so tempting. You can use this time to think about the many decisions you're facing right now. Most importantly, who you want your future to be with, and if you'll be happy with that decision. Consider whether you're ready for the challenges that your decision will come with. 

The central figures in this conundrum should be you and your partner. Don't worry about what others will think. Don't think about how you'll make others happy or unhappy. The most important thing is your happiness. If people really care about you, that's all that should matter to them.

Thelma. 

Tags / Keywords: Thelma, relationship, problems

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