DEAR AMY: I am a lawyer. I am financially secure, but I’m dating someone who has a lot more discretionary income than I do. He is the co-owner of a business with offices in several states. We have a lot in common and enjoy our time together, but as we have grown closer, I am noticing that the wide gap in income disparity is bothering me. I am not low-income, but I know my limits. He has the ability to take frequent international trips and has asked me to accompany him. I have a limited ability to pay for travel (perhaps three or four times a year). He has offered to pay my way, but I am adamantly opposed to such an arrangement. I know I value my independence, and think that relying on someone else’s income creates a power dynamic that I do not wish to experience. So we are left with him traveling alone several times a year and wishing I was with him. Before he left for his most recent trip, he asked if we can revisit this situation. I am trying to figure out a way to accompany him more often without overspending my budget. Is there a compromise here that I am not seeing?
DEAR WONDERING: I’m going to ask you to imagine what it would be like to have enough money that you could freely share your bounty with people you care about. Perhaps, if you had enough money, you would enjoy sharing it — with no strings attached.
In many relationships, people give and share freely without creating a “power imbalance,” simply because it feels good to use your gifts to benefit others, without any expectation of a quid pro quo. Healthy relationships are not competitions, where everybody measures how much they have, but collaborations, where people freely share their gifts and talents.
I can imagine that as a successful lawyer, you probably can’t run off to Europe several times a year. That is reason enough not to go on every trip. If your guy tries to control you through his spending, then this is a red flag. If accepting this largesse is something you are “adamantly opposed” to, then you shouldn’t compromise your own values, but I do believe that you might benefit from a shift of perspective.
At the very least, this is worth having a conversation, which is all he is asking you to do.
DEAR AMY: I have three sons. Two have cut me out of their lives, because my oldest is smoking dope, and my middle son’s wife has mental problems and causes trouble wherever she goes. My third son has a nice family with two children. The problem is whenever I offer to do something, they give her parents and family top priority. I don’t know how to approach this subject and feel like I am walking on eggshells. Some days I feel like “what’s the use” and think about moving to Florida, which would make my husband happy. This is my second marriage, and I have grandchildren from his side, but his ex-wife made it clear when we were dating that I should stay out of her kids’ lives. I really value my grandchildren and would like a closer relationship with them, as well as my son and daughter-in-law. Help!
DEAR C: You have a lot of people in your life telling you to keep your distance. First you should ask yourself if there is anything about your own behavior, or your approach, that compels people to ask you to stay away.
Your husband’s ex does not get to control your relationship with his children. This contact should be up to the parents of the children, and you and your husband. You might try to reframe and refresh these relationships by sincerely asking all of the adults involved, “What can I do differently so our relationship can improve?” If you try this approach with an open attitude, you might be able to alter the dynamic.
DEAR AMY: “Not Nosy Neighbor” faced a dilemma when she and her husband saw footage on their home’s security system of the neighbor’s teen son apparently buying drugs every day in front of their house. I can’t believe you neglected to tell them that they should call the police!
DEAR DISAPPOINTED: The question posed was whether to talk to the teen’s mother, and I believed they should. If this apparent activity continued beyond notifying the mother, then a call to the police would be appropriate.