Supporting A Partner Financially – What I Know Now


A few weeks ago the 40-something panel answered a question about how to navigate when relationships change course. The twenties are full of transitions – from college to job, from home to own apartment, from living with roommates to living with a boyfriend. This list goes on.  This particular 20-something just got her first job and is experiencing the excitement of that step to adulthood while her boyfriend (not the “one” but a supportive partner who shares her values) still has many years of school in front of him. Her question – do I support him, perhaps even let him move in with me, or embrace a post college lifestyle on my own?


Today I’m sharing another perspective on the question from a 40-something, recently married COO in the creative industry. She taps into the reality of supporting another partner and some of the things you should think about – from a practical, your relationship right now perspective as well as from a broader societal perspective.

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Dear 20-something,


You may decide to end the relationship now. You have had a great partnership and you wish to take a break and re-evaluate.  You may meet again later in life when you are both older.


Or you can continue the relationship and see how you feel. You will know yourself within a few months if his lack of funds is bothering you.  If it does, there is nothing wrong with you. It is simply a reflection that you are at different points in your life. You either choose to remain partners and accept his current lack of funds and acknowledge that your roles may be reversed in future, or split.


If you choose to stay together, you have to consider both non-financial contributions to the relationship as well as budgets. Some thoughts:


A) It may be best (for both of you) to not live together.  When one partner feels they are covering the rent, it’s easy for that be a source of arguments and actually cover up the real tension in the relationship.  You already mentioned already he would stay “rent free” therefore it is on your mind.  If you do live together you need to agree how he will contribute to the household such that both partners feel a stake (e.g. household chores).


B) I suggest that you clearly outline a budget with your partner. You both need to understand what funds are available for dates or together time so that you don’t pick expensive bars or restaurants when you can’t afford it  It can actually become a fun challenge to think of inexpensive dates (biking round a city).


C) Keep some funds for yourself to do things with work colleagues or friends who are working so that you have that time for yourself.

A broader perspective…on supporting a male partner:


Several decades ago it was accepted as part of our western culture that a man would support his partner and family.  It was part of his manly role to be the breadwinner.  But times have changed and there are now more female than male graduates. Women are earning more and playing an stronger role in the workforce, increasingly becoming the higher earner or supporting the partner. In fact since the 2008 recession we are seeing this scenario having to work in order for households to make ends meet.


There are several things to consider when supporting a male partner:


Even when both parties are accepting of the situation and make it work for them, it is still not the norm and cultural mores play a role in our expectations both consciously and sub-consciously. Even when on the surface you are both comfortable with it, age-old (outdated) norms and social expectations may raise their ugly head…both for the male and female.


In my 20s I experienced supporting my partner.  He became very depressed, he eventually told me that he hated me when I gave him money (we had no option since he wasn’t working), and he ultimately stole from me.  This may seem an extreme scenario but from what I’ve seen and know of other women, I consider that I got off lightly. There are woman I know still paying off their partners debt 13 years later.


I have seen examples where the male ego does not get in the way and he is confident in what he is doing, but then you have the scenario where the female gets frustrated that that her partner is not contributing financially and that the burden is on her.  The social norm is hard to break – that she wants to be treated and taken out once in a while and this can build up resentment over time.



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